Breaking the colonial mind-cuffs

An exploration on how language continues to play a role in cultural understanding

This essay explores how the English language has had an impact on the Hindu psyche and whether it continues to shackle the diaspora and its thinking.

Amar Trivedi
Tattva Press
June 23, 2018

Colonising Language

Colonisation did not end when the British flag came down and the Indian flag was raised. Its debilitating effects linger in the psyche, where self and identity become subjected to a second, more pervasive form of colonisation: language.

Wittgenstein discussing ‘language games’ in ‘Philosophical Investigations’ posited that the meaning of words and languagecan only be understood once the context is understood. Words have hidden connotations based on culture andexperience. By itself, the word has no meaning; the ‘meaning of the word is in its use in the language’. Without immersion and understanding of a group’s culture, traditions and history which bring with them understanding, wordsmerely carry with them concealed, unquestioned conjectures and values, like a linguistic Trojan horse.

The Colonised Mind

The aim of this essay is to explore how narratives formed through language continue to have a long-lasting, detrimental effect of colonisation on the Hindu psyche. The focus upon Hindus, those that follow the cultural traditions originating from what is often termed as ‘Hinduism’, is apt since the problem of linguistic colonisation is most evident within this segment of the former colonised peoples.

Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, Hindus make up the largest of the recognisably non-monotheist pagan civilisations, therefore, how they acknowledge and respond to narratives about them is a useful lens through which to address the wider problem. Perhaps more pertinently, the study of Indology by early anthropologists has is so well established that we need to cross-examine whether it has (unconciously) acted as detrimental to understanding these civilisations in the most accurate way.


Long established are the detrimental and devastating effects of colonialism on indigenous communities, destroyingcultures into extinction in its path. What will it take for the artefacts and edifices to re-nurture, re-grow, overwriting the covertly sub-textual colonial ways out of mind, body and action, awakening the sleeping self-respect of Hindu culture? It is not only about reclaiming one’s own culture, but about ensuring diversity in the cultural genetics of global society.