Drawing upon missionary writings, Geoffrey Oddie shows how the early view of Hinduism as pagan or heathen settled into the dominant paradigm of Hinduism as a unitary, brahman-controlled `system`, ridden with idolatry, ritualism, superstition and sexual licence. This `other` was compared with evangelical Christianity, in which inward devotion counted for more than outward ritual, and where the individual was free from oppression and `priestcraft`.
Finally, this book looks at the impact of these representations of Hinduism in India and the West. By the late nineteenth century, as the author demonstrates, the missionaries` increasing acquaintance with Hinduism not only prompted a more sympathetic approach, but also a revision of the unitary model. Some even spoke of `the many Hindu religions`. Among Hindu leaders, in contrast, the notion of being Hindu and of Hinduism as one system had taken hold.