Before religion divided us, being a Hindu was not a matter of faith but was a geographical expression to encompass all people inhabiting the land beyond the river Sindhu. As the Persians could not pronounce the sound ‘S’, Sindhu became Hindu.
Aryans, the natives of the Indian subcontinent, called their religion Arya Dharma or Manav Dharma. Their dharma was not limited by specific rules and rituals but was based on moral and spiritual duties. It was meant for the whole of mankind, it was Sanatan Dharma.
Hinduism vs Hindutva
The word Hindu or Hinduism was completely unknown to ancient people. All our Holy scriptures teach about Manav dharma; how life should be lived. The word Hindu was thus used to describe the natives of the land by the Persians. Later on, the Mughals and the British used the term loosely for all non-Muslim native people of Hindustan. Subsequently, in the 18th century, great social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy popularised the word Hindu as a religion.
Hinduism, as a religion embraced and embodied all local religious traditions of Sanatan Dharma worshipping Ram, Vishnu, Krishna, Shiv, Hanuman, Durga, Lakshmi and other deities and divine incarnations. Having no single founder, Hinduism is based on eternal truths pertaining to God and mankind. For several thousand years, it has been enriched by the teachings of saints and divine beings.
In our Holy scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads, are the foundations of Sanatan Dharma, or Hinduism, as the religion is known in modern times. Being a Hindu does not mean believing in a particular deity but believing in the wisdom of truth bestowed upon us and following our spiritual ethos.
Hinduism is the faith that majority of Indians believe in and has for centuries upheld the perennial secular nature of our country with its multiple ethnic, cultural and religious branches entwined with innumerable linguistic identities. As a civilization, the people living in the Sindhu region stood their ground against barbaric invaders who threatened their survival and identity. Our ancestors bled but kept their spirits intact and refused to be subjugated by the Mughals or the British.
Yet, after 70 years of independence we are just a diminishing shadow of what our great nation was meant to be. Today we are not fighting against poverty and hunger as much as we are fighting for our religious identities. Our battles are defined not by the causes but by the colour of the banners.
Mahatma Gandhi, for whose ideals India is known worldwide and whom we so lovingly call Bapu, was perhaps the greatest tragedy of our faith. Not only was he the one with Hinduism, he devoted his life in entirety to following the path of Hinduism. Bapu lived by chanting the name of Ram more than anyone. However, his end came through the hands of a devout Hindu. Or perhaps a Hindu, who had lost his understanding of teachings of Hinduism in the labyrinth of cult Hindu organisations.
Nathuram Godse was closely associated with two organisations – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Hindu Mahasabha. Though RSS’s involvement could never be established, but its influence on the happenings of that fateful evening cannot be denied. Today the Hindu organisations like RSS, VHP, Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal have come to be synonymous with a side of Hinduism which the proponents of the religion like Raja Rammohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan did not envision.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who throughout his life advocated Hindutva, clearly demarcated between Hinduism and Hindutva. In 1923, he penned a pamphlet on his ideology “Hindutva – Who is a Hindu”.
He wrote, “(Hindutva) indicates a person who resides on the Hindu soil. But, that will require all mankind to drop isms and be purely human”.
He clearly defines the term as anyone living in the region beyond the Himalayas to the calm waters of the Hind mahasagar. All religions which have origin in India, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jaininsm including Hinduism have a Hindu tatva(element) in them. There is no more religious connotation to the word Hindutva than Hindi has to Hinduism.
Mockery of “Ram-Rajya” Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of India was not some vague economic or political system, but a return to“Ram-Rajya”, where the ultimate Indian values of dharma would be upheld. He described “Ram-Rajya” as “sovereignty of the people based on pure moral authority”. It is a true democracy, where even the lowest and the meanest would be seen through the unbiased eyes of justice, where there are no barriers of class inequalities and all have equal rights.
Ironically, people who talk of establishing “Ram-Rajya”, are the ones who are the farthest from practising the principles on which Ram conducted his “Rajya”. Shri Ram did not believe in class divide nor did he abstain from showing his genuine love and regard for all humans.
He ate the fruit that Shabri, of a low birth, gave him with gratitude. He embraced a poor boatman, Kewat, for his simplicity and devotion. Today, the hatred and violence steaming in his birthplace, Ayodhya, over the Babri masjid – Ram mandir clashes would have pained and agonised Shri Ram more than anything.
A place of worship has become the reason for blood shed. Religious and class divides are tearing apart the fabric of national unity. The class divide which has been in our society was based on occupation and not on religion or faith.
Modern Indian society is being butchered in the name of caste and subcastes. The animosity between the two religions is slowly and gradually being provoked by political radicals and so called guardians of Hinduism.
From a radical view, any “outsider” which came to the Indian soil does not belong to this element. Rightly so. But does it not defy our age old wisdom and belief in “Sanatan dharma”? Fuelled by aggression and rigid sectarian thinking, Hinduism is being replaced by Hindutva, which is an ideology and not the religion itself. Hinduism is boundless, with an ever expanding fluidity which has accommodated changes and embraced diversity as no other religion in the world has.
Hindutva, on the other hand, is giving rise to violent and aggressive Hindu nationalism. The staunch supporters of Hindutva ideology believe that if one is Hindu, one is anti-Muslim.
Nathuram killed Gandhiji for being soft on Muslims. The assassination and the partition severed the Hindu-Muslim bond. As the Hindutva philosophy is gaining grounds, secularism is losing its foothold from the Indian soil. Sadly, the perceived suppression of Hindus (natives of land beyond the river Sindhu) over centuries is reviving the feeling of hatred and communalism. Revival of Hindutva is getting confused with radicalism.
Hindu fanatics are threatening Indian secularism. Hindu organisations and political outfits directly or indirectly associated with BJP are taking undue advantage of the situation. Minorities are being targeted and communal sentiments are evoked in the name of Hindutva.
The purity of the term is being maligned by the suppressed feelings of foreign invasion over centuries. Citizens of India, who follow Muslim faith are as much the native of the land as we, the Hindus are. Other minority faiths have as much right to worship and follow their faith as any other majority.
Cultural purification or threat to secularism, The RSS backed Hindutva mindset, carried out in the name of “cultural purification”, is perceived as a threat to the secularism due to its increasing influence and religious fanaticism.
Demolition of Babri Masjid, Godhra Massacre, attacks on Christians, and forced reconversions in the name of“homecoming” are just a few examples of this threat. Through the organisation’s (RSS) agenda, a false sense of religiousness is being implanted in the minds of the masses which has led to communal riots where thousands of people have clashed and died.
The RSS is stirring hate for religious minorities behind the pretext of destroying Indian civilisation in the past. The basis of Hindu unity, as propagated by RSS and other Hindutva organisations, is exclusion of Muslims and other minorities and subjugation of Dalits.
The sentiments of Hindus are being provoked by fanatics, who have forgotten that it is the secular thread of our constitution which has held the nation together. Right-wing Hindu fanatics are exploiting the fundamental principles of equality and justifying their actions.
The pseudo-secularist believers in Hindutva are dividing Hinduism. The real threat to Hinduism is not from minority communities like Muslims or Christians, but from right wing demagogues who are raising an army of bigots in the name of cultural revival. Being a true Hindu and Hindustani, those fearing the end of Hinduism through other religions, should know that Hinduism does not require any political organisation for its survival.
Neither has it relied on men to strengthen its roots. It is a self-perpetuating tree deeply rooted in the soil of humanity, nurtured by the eternal truth that all spiritual paths lead to the same divinity. Thus anyone on the path of spirituality, as per Hinduism, will attain “moksha” by surrendering to God.
As Shri Krishna asked Arjun to surrender to him, a true Hindu surrenders all fears and prejudices to the Supreme. Most of all, a true Hindu will not demean other faiths to show supremacy.
“Sanatan dharma” teaches us to achieve what is just and true and be endearing to all fellow human beings, irrespective of their chosen path. Believing in Hinduism does not make me or others anti-Muslim or anti-Christian. And being a Hindu does not necessarily mean that every Hindu believes in Hindutva propagated by RSS or Bajrang Dal, who have been carrying out terror campaigns in many parts of the country. If we believe that a Hindu nation means a nation inhabited only by Hindus, we will be entering another dark age.
Hind Swarajya, freedom from oppression and foreign rule should not be confused with establishing a Hindu Rashtra. Religion should not become an instrument of politics same as politics should not become an outlet for religious sentiments. Strictly speaking, Hindus who have uprooted themselves from their traditions and belief are the most vulnerable. If we follow our traditions, we will learn that the very basis of our religion is acceptance of all. If we let fanatics dictate how we should dress or behave, we subjugate ourselves to a myth of false nationalism and enslave ourselves to their views.
The future of our nation is dependent on it being a secular and democratic society. The world looks for stability in chaos. If we live with restricted mentality, our economic, social and cultural growth will be reduced. We are hiding behind the mask of our religion and disrupting the harmony of cultural pluralism which has existed in India for centuries. Minorities make our nation absolute,for without them, we will be another Pakistan.
(Views expressed here are the author’s own and Janta Ka Reporter doesn’t necessarily endorse them)