Presupposing the apolitical, spiritual character of the Indian masses gave narcissistic license for the colonial and Brahmin elites to lead a revolution of the people, while separating the imagination of society, state and economy from the profanity of ordinary politics by ordinary people.The orientalist codification of upper caste Brahminical practices into the central tenets of Hinduism, or in the historian Romila Thapar's term, ‘Syndicated Hinduism', was thus central to consolidating the British Empire's hegemonic rule in India, yet it would also instigate the genesis of Hindu nationalism. In the first of a two-part analysis of neoliberalism in the subcontinent, Neil Gray traces the history of Hindu cultural nationalism, from a colonialist mystique of pure spirituality to today's fascist pogroms and economic polarisation The abject poverty and extreme economic polarisation created by neoliberal regimes requires national ideology to legitimate and obfuscate its violence.
Thus Swami Dayananda of the late 19th century socio-religious Arya Samaj organisation could concoct an influential mythic ‘Vedic Golden Age': an empty signifier par excellence, and a myth of which so little was known ‘that all fictions could be accepted as valid'. Among parts of the European public, the works of the German orientalists produced distinctly idealist, romanticist readings of India. Kiernan, this was ‘Europe's collective day-dream of the Orient', lurking in such places as ‘...
The romanticist conception of the subcontinent set India for a role as ‘spiritual heroine' in the 19th century European anti-modern critique of utilitarian rationalism and crude universalism, and India was widely constructed in the Western imagination as a locus of pure essences, of immobility, of high spirituality, and an embodiment of an organic, unfragmented community. the "Oriental" tale, the mythology of the mysterious East, notions of Asian inscrutability ...'.
Sangh Parivar and Hindutva forces exploit this highly constructed mystical carapace as a counterfeit response to contemporary expropriations under neoliberalism.
In this they are facilitated by Western orientalist perceptions of India as an ‘essentially' religious civilisation.
In a typically orientalist formulation of the time, Friedrich Schlegel, the German idealist philosopher and linguist, could happily exclaim that ‘spiritual holism' was the defining feature of Indian culture.