Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The Bhagavadgītā, the most popular religious text of Hinduism, has become the social and political gospel of India in the Twentieth Century. What is attempted in this study is an examination of the Hindu religious consciousness as reflected in the various recent interpretations of this religious text. In this, we have examined the writings of Twentieth Century national and religious leaders of India and their reinterpretations of the age-old Hindu concepts of dharma, karma and mukti. The main line pursued is to discern the attempt by the moderns to integrate dharma and mukti and to render the message of the Gītā relevant to the problems of contemporary India. We examine this attempt by these national leaders against the background of recent ideologies such as nationalism, socialism and secularism that have made deep inroads into the sub-continent. The "counter-ideologies" (à la Harry M. Johnson) that sprang up from the new interpretations of the Gītā by national leaders such as B.G. Tilak, M.K. Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo and others are examined in depth. The modern commentators also attempt to relate the teachings of the Gītā to the needs of a modern secular society, and in particular to the problems of religious pluralism which confront modern India. These commentators however, did not limit the relevance of this text to India, but have been eager to point out its relevance for a wider humanity.
This study aims to be both descriptive and critical. I have sought to describe what modern Indian thinkers selected as essential to the tradition and have also sought to understand their determination to come to terms with not only spiritual but also national and social issues. It is clear that they understood that reconsttuction work in India could not be envisaged without giving it a basis in religious tradition which in their mind was most succinctly represented by the Bhagavadgītā. The writer after critical study, has come to the conclusion that these commmentaries taken together have successfully pointed out the significance of the Bhagavadgītā as a text that can accommodate varieties, and as a text which, without losing the clarity and rigour of its central spiritual perception, can provide legitimation, for the social and political forces that underlie a secular state.
Thomas, Phillachira Mathew, "Twentieth Century Indian Interpretations of the Bhagavadgītā: A Selective Study of Patterns" (1974). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3015.