In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Hindu Nationalism

  • Introduction
  • Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Politicized Hinduism
  • Sangh Parivar
  • The Origins of Hindu Nationalism
  • Contemporary Hindu Nationalism/Hindutva
  • Ram Temple or the Ayodhya Movement
  • Gender Politics and Women Activists of the “Hindu Nation”
  • Dalits, Tribals, Geographical Peripheries, and the Hindutva World
  • Ghar Wapsi and Love Jihad
  • Hindutva, Digital Media, and Technology

Hinduism Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Hindu Nationalism
Manjari Katju
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 July 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 July 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0275


The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a religio-nationalist organization formed in 1964, evolved with the ostensible purpose of protecting and preserving Hindu dharma. The central role in floating the VHP was played by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), itself a Hindu nationalist organization formed in 1925, which also closely handled VHP’s organizational work in its initial years. The VHP was visualized as a religious platform with a global (vishva) reach that would be an assembly of Hindu religious leaders and theologians of various Hindu monastic orders—the sadhus, sants, swamis, acharyas, and yogis—working to preserve the cultural specificity and distinct identity of Hindus. Its founders saw it as a leading ecclesiastical body of Hindus with a cultural authority that would mark and articulate the tenets of Hindu dharma. Its task was to strengthen Hinduness and samskaras (cultural and moral conduct with an emphasis on training in tradition and customary practices) among Hindus, especially those who were seen by it as gradually moving away from the Hindu fold, such as sections of the tribal communities in India and the Hindu diaspora. It saw Islam, Christianity, and communism as the three “alien ideologies” that posed a challenge to the survival of Hinduism by “luring” Hindus away from it. Associated with Hindu majoritarianism, the VHP leans toward right-wing nationalist standpoints that exclude the minorities of India, notably Muslims and Christians, from the national ambit and ideas of Indian citizenship. Its antagonistic standpoint vis-à-vis these two communities is particularly noteworthy. The VHP represents Hindutva (exclusive Hindu nationhood) in its quintessential form; it has been spearheading Hindutva campaigns as one of its main “spokes-organizations.” It built its campaigns elaborately and with much fanfare around certain Hindu religious myths and icons, foremost among them the Hindu deity Ram. It led a sustained campaign for the “liberation” (mukti) of Ramjanmabhoomi (believed by some to be the birthplace of Hindu deity Ram and a belief popularized by the RSS group of organizations) in the 1980s, making Ram a household name and Hindutva a known ideology. Its message to the Hindus was that the Nehruvian outlook of viewing all religions on a par and granting them equal rights in India was akin to appeasement of the Muslim community. It viewed this inclusive secular nationalism as misplaced and harming the country, but something that was suited to and taken forward by the Congress Party because of its “vote-bank” politics, especially among minorities that helped it (the Congress Party) consolidate its political position.

Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Politicized Hinduism

A scholarly look at the VHP began in the early 1990s with the publication of Hellman 1993, a doctoral dissertation. The VHP was a little known organization until it became vociferous on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri mosque controversy in the mid-1980s. Thereafter, it found a place in the popular mind and became widely known through its strident agitations to “recover” Ramjanmabhoomi at Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The issue was controversial and contentious as at the exact spot where the VHP claimed that Lord Ram was born stood the Babri masjid—a 16th-century mosque. The VHP, among others, argued that the mosque was built after the destruction of a Ram temple. It took upon itself to reclaim the site and build a Ram temple on it again. The mosque was razed to the ground in 1992 by mobs at the site mobilized by the leaders of the VHP and its associate Hindu nationalist organizations. The incident led to large-scale religious violence in the country. Studies in this section look at VHP’s role in radicalization of the Hindu psyche and creation of a politicized religion. Basu, et al. 1993 is an insightful discussion of the structure, strategies of work, and ideology of the RSS and VHP. This is taken further in Jaffrelot 1999, along with an exploration of Hindu nationalism in post-independent India. The VHP organization and functioning is elaborated further in Katju 2003, with an emphasis that the Ramjanmabhoomi campaigns brought not only the VHP, but also the Hindutva ideology, to the center stage of Indian politics in the late 1980s. Today, the VHP’s aim to see a Ram temple at the site is being accomplished under the current Bharatiya Janata Party government. The VHP is revisited in Katju 2017, which elaborates its changed work orientation in a transformed political setting. The website of the VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad: Official Website), details and updates its activities, views, and programs.

  • Basu, Tapan, Pradip Datta, Sumit Sarkar, Tanika Sarkar, and Sambuddha Sen. Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman, 1993.

    A hugely insightful tract on the Hindu right, this pioneering work focuses on the institutional structures, work styles, modes of disseminating messages, and language of mobilization of the RSS and the VHP. It discusses the history of these organizations and critiques the politics of Hindutva that came up around the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri mosque issue. A must-read book for researchers of Hindutva.

  • Hellman, Eva. “Political Hinduism: The Challenge of the Vishva Hindu Parishad.” PhD diss., Uppsala University, Sweden, 1993.

    A pioneering academic work on the VHP published in 1993, it looked at the VHP as a precursor of radicalization of Hindu politics and a major player in transforming classical Hinduism into an aggressive political religion. For the author, the VHP represents political Hinduism as a religion of opposition in the strong sense as it challenges the established political order and its way of legitimizing political power.

  • Jaffrelot, Christophe. “The Vishva Hindu Parishad: Structures and Strategies.” In Religion, Globalization and Political Culture in the Third World. Edited by Jeff Haynes, 191–212. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.

    The author details the background of the formation of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, its close association with the RSS, its structure, and the strategies it uses to influence contemporary Indian politics. The chapter explains the dominance of Hindu nationalism and the fading of secular-socialist political culture in post-independent India by analyzing the role of Vishva Hindu Parishad in politics.

  • Katju, Manjari. Vishva Hindu Parishad and Indian Politics. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2003.

    An organizational study of the VHP, the book showcases its transformation from a body dedicated to promoting Hindu dharma to a mass organization taking forward the Hindutva movement. Rich in empirical data, the book maps the rise of the VHP, its centrality in mainstreaming Hindutva in India through the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, and its militant activism from its formation to the mid-1990s.

  • Katju, Manjari. Hinduising Democracy: The Vishva Hindu Parishad in Contemporary India. New Delhi: New Text, 2017.

    The author discusses the change of focus in VHP’s work from the mid-1990s to contemporary times when it renewed its grass-roots activities to extend its reach in urban and rural India alike. The author brings to the fore VHP’s engagement with ideas of democracy and freedom that relies on the thought of V. D. Savarkar and M. S. Golwalkar (Hindutva ideologues), which it draws upon to further a Hindu ethnocracy in India.

  • Vishva Hindu Parishad: Official Website.

    The official website of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, it details VHP’s formation, activities, and the work of its affiliates like the Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini. The website has information on VHP conferences, media publications, VHP’s initiative for constructing a Ram temple at Ayodhya, and details of its organizational work abroad.

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