The Heathen in his Blindness...

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"The Heathen in his Blindness..." Asia, the West, and the Dynamic of Religion
Title page
Author S. N. Balagangadhara
Country India, Europe
Language English
Subject Religious Studies, Social Sciences
Publisher E. J. Brill
Publication date

1994 (I edition)

2005 (II edition)
Pages 563
ISBN 90-04-09943-3
Followed by 'Reconceptualizing India Studies (2012)

"The Heathen in his Blindness...": Asia, the West and the Dynamic of Religion by S. N. Balagangadhara, was first published in 1994 by E. J. Brill. A second, hardcover, edition of the book was published in 2005 by Manohar books.[1] A third, paperback, edition came out in 2012, published by the Manohar books.[2] This much discussed book is about religion, culture and cultural difference.


This book has 12 chapters, an introduction and bibliography.[3]



1. Some Puzzles and Problems

2. "Not by One Avenue Only ..."

3. The Whore of Babylon and Other Revelations

4. Made in Paris, London, and Heidelberg

5. Requiem for a Theme

6. "Shall the Twain Ever Meet?"

7. "Guilty as Charged, My Lords and Ladies?"

8. A Human Tragedy or the Divine Retribution?

9. "Blessed Are Those Who Seek"

10. "Imagine, There Is No Religion…"

11. Prolegomena to a Comparative Science of Cultures

12. At the End of a Journey


Understanding the Book[edit]

Scholars[who?] have generally found this book difficult to understand. It has also been suggested[according to whom?] that it is better to begin by understanding some of the following articles written by S.N. Balagangadhara, as they provide independent arguments and epistemic warrants to the claim that Indian traditions are not religions: "How to Speak for the Indian Traditions: An Agenda for the Future" (2005);[4] "The Secular State and Religious Conflict: Liberal Neutrality and the Indian Case of Pluralism" (2007);[5] "Spirituality in Management Theories: A Perspective from India" (2010).[6][7] A detailed "Chapter-wise Questions and Answers" to understand The Heathen in his Blindness is also available freely on the web.

Abridged version of the Book[edit]

In 2014, Manohar publishers brought out a condensed and shortened version of The Heathen in his Blindness... (1994), entitled Do all Roads Lead to Jerusalem? The Making of Indian Religions (2014). Divya Jhingran worked for two years to bring out this simple, easily accessible and a very readable version of the original work.[8][9]


In this “ground-breaking work … SN Balagangadhara … wrote a devastating critique of the very language we use today to describe religious phenomena in India. In his book … Balagangadhara questioned whether it is appropriate to use terms like "religion", "orthodoxy" and "Hinduism" at all. He asked whether what are essentially Christian categories may be imputed to non-Western systems of belief and practice without utterly misunderstanding their content and misrepresenting their function."[10]

Title Page: Kannada version of the Heathen in his Blindness

Kannada Translation of the Book[edit]

A Kannada translation of the book was published in 2010 by Akshara Prakashana (Ninasam), Heggodu (Karnataka, India).[11][12] The title is Smriti-Vismriti: Bharateeya Samskruti (in Kannada ಸ್ಮೃತಿ-ವಿಸ್ಮೃತಿ: ಭಾರತೀಯ ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿ).[13] The translation was done by Rajaram Hegde of the Centre for the Study of Local Cultures.[14]

The basic thesis that this book presents, "that Hinduism does not exist", it has been pointed out, "will alter our notion of Indian culture and social structure fundamentally. This seemingly pulls the carpet out from under the feet of the caste studies. ... [But] it does not leave the caste studies reeling helplessly.Rather,it provides a strong conceptual foundation and shows new directions to caste studies."[15]

A review of the Kannada translation of the work claims that Balagangadhara's book has "prompted an intellectual revolution of sorts and those who have engaged with the questions he raises in the book cannot escape engaging with the answers he provides as well. To put it strongly — any scholar in the field of cultural studies and its related disciplines, will have to respond to his work. ... It traces the history of the two encounters of European culture with other cultures and empirically shows that the existence of religion was assumed both these times. It argues that the ‘universality of religion' is a falsifiable assumption and that religion is not a cultural universal."[16]

Prof. Rajaram Hegde won the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award for the year 2011, for this translation of The Heathen in his Blindness... into Kannada.[17]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Preview in Google books
  4. ^ Balagangadhara, S.N. (2005). "How to Speak for the Indian Traditions: An Agenda for the Future". Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 73 (4): 987–1013. doi:10.1093/jaarel/lfi112. 
  5. ^ Balagangadhara, S.N.; Jakob De Roover (2007). "The Secular State and Religious Conflict: Liberal Neutrality and the Indian Case of Pluralism". Journal of Political Philosophy. 15 (1): 67–92. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9760.2007.00268.x. 
  6. ^ Balagangadhara, S.N. (2010). Sharda S. Nandram, Margot Esther Borden, ed. Spirituality and Business. Heidelberg, Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 45–59. ISBN 978-3-642-02660-7. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  7. ^ VNR1995. "Re: Clarification needed - religion". Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "A New book by Balu and Divya". Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "[Manohar Books]". Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "The Hindus: a celebration of religious variety", The National staff, 31 Jul 2009 [1]
  11. ^ "Smruti, Vismruti: Bharatiya Samskruti". Ghent University Academic Bibliography. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Akshara Prakashana. "ಸ್ಮೃತಿ-ವಿಸ್ಮೃತಿ: ಭಾರತೀಯ ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿ". Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "SMRUTI-VISMRUTI: BHAARATHEEYA SAMSKRUTI". Mera Library. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  14. ^ ಸ್ವಯಂಪ್ರಭಾ (29 August 2010). "ಸಾಂಸ್ಕೃತಿಕ ಜೀವನ ಕ್ರಮಗಳ ಚಿತ್ರಣ". Prajavani. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  15. ^ Jalki, Dunkin. "New Directions to the Caste Studies: Contributions of S.N. Balagangadhara's Smriti-Vismriti". Journal of Karnataka Studies. 5 (2): 160–161. 
  16. ^ Kannan, Sushumna. "Meaningful encounter". The Hindu. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  17. ^ "ರಾಜ್ಯ ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ ಅಕಾಡೆಮಿ ಪ್ರಶಸ್ತಿ ಪ್ರಕಟ". Vijaykarnataka. 18 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 

External links[edit]