Gandhi and the Christian Imperialists

'In my Father's house there are many mansions'... but whether or not they could accommodate Gandhi and Hindu nationalist aspirations was a question that exercised British theologians and Christian politicians between the wars. Gerald Studdert-Kennedy charts the relationship between them and the apostle of non-violence against the British Raj.

The British have learnt only recently to think of Islam in the modern world in political terms, as a vigorous international and domestic threat, rooted in complex and alien psychological forces. In the first half of this century, particularly in South Asia, Islam seemed to be moribund, and it was Hinduism that the British associated with a menacing fusion of mass politics and religion. At the turn of the century in western India Bal Gangadhar Tilak politicised elements of Hinduism through his proliferating Ganapati societies. These celebrated a promiscuous combination of gods and legends around two central figures, the elephant-headed Ganesh, remover of obstacles and son of Shiva, and Shivaji (d.1680), hero of military resistance against the Moghuls and inspiration for the Chitpavan Brahmins who had led resistance to the British in Maharashtra.

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