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The introduction of English as the medium of instruction for higher education in India in 1835 created a ferment in society and in the religious beliefs of educated Indians—Hindus, Muslims, and, later, Christians. There was a Hindu renaissance characterized by the emergence of reform movements led by charismatic figures who fastened upon aspects of Western thought, especially science, now available in English. The publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859 was readily assimilated by educated Hindus, and several reformers, notably Vivekananda and Aurobindo, incorporated evolution into their philosophies. Hindu scientists such as Jagadish Chandra Bose were also influenced by Darwinian evolution, as were a number of modern Hindu thinkers. The results of an investigation into the religious beliefs of young Indian scientists at four centers were also summarized. The view that “what goes around comes around” appears increasingly to be open to doubt. Many educated Indians, not only Hindus, are raising more probing questions that call for deeper dialogues between science and religion, especially about what each believes it means to be truly human.

Keywords: Darwin; Hindu; Vivekananda; evolution; reincarnation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: David L. Gosling was until recently Principal of Edwardes College, Peshawar, and is a Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 9AL, UK;, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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