Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Roderic Camp

Reader 2

Gaston Espinosa

Rights Information

© 2010 Elaisha Nandrajog


On May 16, 1998, under the directives of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition, the Indian government detonated three nuclear bombs in the Rajasthan desert, near a site called Pokhran.1 If the name of India’s inter-ballistic missile, Agni, the god of fire in the Vedic tradition, is inscribed in antiquity, its symbolism in 1998 was entirely new, reflecting the rise of a political party that emblematizes a chauvinistic, majoritarian stance.2 To celebrate India’s accomplishment, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a sister organization of the BJP, ordered the construction of a temple dedicated to Shakti, the goddess of strength, some fifty kilometers away from the testing site.3 The decision is an apt example of Hindutva ideologues’ use of the feminine metaphor of “innate strength” to legitimize aggression against external forces. Shortly after the nuclear tests, Bal Thackerey, the chairman of the Shiv Sena, a Mumbai-based Hindu nationalist ally of the BJP, declared that Hindus were no longer eunuchs—a notion that traces its roots back to the Mughal period which spanned three centuries.4 Thackerey’s statement ironically subverted the idea of female power and reiterated the masculinist theme that has animated Hindu nationalism since its inception in the 1920s. Hindutva’s sacralization of aggression had an anticipated consequence: Pakistan retaliated by exploding five nuclear bombs on May 28, 1998.5


  • Best Senior Thesis in International Relations
  • Best Senior Thesis in Religious Studies

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