Hinduism is one of those philosophically engaged religions in the world which can lay a claim to being best oriented towards human interest. My pride with being a Hindu is also associated with the freedom with which the religion can be practiced. The sacred texts give a series of rituals, rites and ceremonies none of which are imposed on the devotee.
A true Hindu has his/her own way of understanding and performing religious rituals. A few sacred mythologies are based on lives of exemplary Gods. These texts are remarkable works which not only narrate the lives of Gods and their incarnations but also present the example of ideal living. These texts are devoid of a clear cut series of do’s and don’ts.
They offer you an insight into the lives of Gods, their valour, families and lifestyles. This sort of ‘humanisation’ of Gods is done in Hinduism for the specific purpose of identification. The reader is supposed to identify with the Gods so that he/she feels that it is doable for a human being too to walk the path of Dharma.
This is a very liberating and progressive thought in many ways because these texts reveal the seemingly imperfect side of Gods. In Mahabharata, for example, whether it is Bheeshm or Arjun, they do not present an unrealistic idealistic image. In fact, even Krishna, as the beat suited guide, the Saraathi, is not the epitome of righteousness. He tells Arjun how to manipulate a few situations on the battlefield in order to defeat the Kauravas. My religion, therefore, is far from the other religions which are based on commandments for comportment. Hinduism shows us the ideal Hindu way of life by showing us examples of that life in the sacred scriptures.
If we examine any of these scriptures carefully, we will find that the Gods were never in favour of constructing big buildings as a form of self establishment. For instance, when Ram is exiled, he lives in a small hut. He does not construct a ‘Jungle palace,’ which he could have easily done, being a God. He misses his father dearly but does not construct Dashratha’s statue. He lives a simple life and, in the end of the epic, brings down Raavan. The Lanka, which is burned to the ground goes down as a symbol of arrogance and superficial grandeur. The maker of Lanka, Raavan, is the antagonist who instead of improving his actions, decides to up his lifestyle by a huge palace.
Similarly, Shiva, the widely revered member of the Hindu Trinity, is someone who has completely detached himself from constructions. He lives on the Kailash with very basic facilities. Being a God, he too, could’ve created a huge palace to win the hand of Parvati from her father Himavan whose palatial home is left behind by the goddess in order to marry Bhola Shankar.
The repeated reference in our sacred texts about shunning external grandeur are aplenty. And we, as good Hindus, are to take lessons from this.
Even Krishna who was born inside a prison cell lived in a small house in Nandgaanv. He brought an end to his own maternal uncle, Kansa since his arrogance had because a cause of great worry for the subjects. There are many stories of Krishna’s humility, be it in the way he treats Sudama, or how he finds best solace in a cow-shed with his preferred cattle. He is someone who, even till the time he becomes the navigator of the biggest Dharma-yuddha in Hindu history, remains very closely connected to the anti-construction idea.
After the Great War, when Krishna settled back in Dwarka, he knew that sooner or later, Gandhaari’s curse would come true. The prosperity in Dwarka was short-lived and so were the man-made structures. Everything was soon submerged under the final deluge.
There are many examples of this anti-construction sentiment in the Hindu religion and it is the basis of the Hindu simplicity. Our idea of happiness and prosperity is not linked to opulence by building. Our idea is an altruist one closely embedded in helping others and including diversities. Why else would we have monkey God (the mighty Hanuman), Elephant God (The benevolent Ganesh), Narsimha, Goddess Durga’s lion and God Kartik’s peacock? A Yadav flute bearer (The farsighted Krishna) and the Raghuvanshi Ram, the Dalit Shabri and the mountain-resident Shiva who is away from any notion of caste? It is empowering to think what a rich religion Hinduism is…
The BJP has recently erected a Rs 3000 crore statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the first home minister of the independent India. Even though, for them, politics is more important than dharma, this has gone out of hand. The BJP head office in Delhi was being criticised for its size and obscene opulence but with this Patel statue, the government has proven that Hindus’ interests are not at all dear to them.
(Pratishtha Singh is the author of Voter Mata Ki Jai. Views expressed here are the author’s own.)