Peace, War, and Violence in Hinduism

Christopher Key Chapple

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:
Peace, War, and Violence in Hinduism


To understand issues of peace and violence in Hinduism, one must take into account a long and complex history. As many as 600 kingdoms are thought by historians to have been in existence simultaneously at various phases of Indian history. To maintain peace among kingdoms, governance through the principles of dharma helped ensure social stability. Hindu empires included the Gupta in the north (320–550 ce) and Vijayanagara in the south (1336–1614). On occasion, neighboring kingdoms entered into disputes leading to warfare, to be conducted according to the rules laid out in religious texts such as Kautilya’s Arthasastra. Peace within the Hindu kingdoms was also disrupted when Central Asians or Europeans invaded and sought to replace Hindu traditions with their own faith, Islamic or Christian. Waves of invaders included Persians, Greeks, Shakas (Scythians), Afghans, and Huns, as well as British, French, and Portuguese. A sizable portion of the subcontinent’s population converted to Islam during the Delhi Sultanate (1211–1386) and the Mughal Empire (1526–1750). The Sikh religion, founded by Guru Nanak (1469–1537) in the Punjab, developed a militaristic tradition starting with its tenth leader, Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708). Christianity entered South India in the decades immediately following the death of Christ, gaining followers in some areas. A small number of individuals converted to Christianity during the European incursions (1650–1947). Violence of various forms has arisen among religious faiths in India, pitting Hindu against Muslim, Muslim against Sikh, Sikh against Hindu, and most recently, Hindu against Christian. The ideal of peace was advocated by many faiths within India, particularly the Jainas, who continue to observe a personal commitment to nonviolence. Their model helped to inspire Mahatma Gandhi as he developed a political movement based on nonviolence and truth. In this article, readers will be able to find information on ancient, medieval, colonial, postcolonial, and contemporary India.

Article.  4723 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »