Thursday, April 16, 2015


In the first part I dealt with individual instances, where people of other religious faiths followed the faith that the Hindus hold in reverence. One reason may be, all the religions in India co-exist and other religions are but an off-shoot of Hinduism imposed by foreign invaders or by voluntary conversions by those who did not like the ways of Hinduism or other reasons like plum positions in the kingdoms or monetary benefits conferred on them. All said, my analysis might be brushed aside with a simple nod of head that these or other such instances are but individual preferences and religions have nothing to do with it.

Hinduism is more than a religion and it is a way of life, as defined by many scholars. Hindus believe that God has no form, no color or no odor. He is Omnipresent. Hinduism further believes that existence of God can not be proved but without cause as there is no effect and as the effect is visible, there must be a cause and that cause is Omnipotent and Omnipresent, we call as God. Or else, there is no further explanation, either scientific or otherwise, of the creation of umpteen number creatures and animate and inanimate objects. Efforts of science to prove the creation otherwise explained it only half way through and for questions raised by religious scholars there are no tangible answers.

Before I embark upon various mundane superstitions supposed to have been perpetuated by zealots in Hinduism represented by Brahmins, let me deal with the larger aspects like idol worship, the 33 crore Gods, Sati, child marriage, imposition of strict penance on widows while male chauvinism ruled roost, not allowing widows to remarry, ill treatment of girl child etc., and explain these vis a vis the other important religions like Islam and Christianity who are in constant discussion about secularism whenever an issue is raised about Hinduism.

We had a constituent assembly to frame a constitution and after prolonged discussion a constitution was adopted on 26th January, 1950. It did not say India was a secular country. The reason might have been that constitution makers believed that religions in India would co exist post independence and that sufficient safeguards were already provided in the Constitution for minority religions. Allowing the minority religions to follow their personal laws as existing before India became Republic is one such, against demand for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). This was enough to create a religious divide in India and this was fruitfully used by the then rulers, the Congress, to fan communal passions and throw the blame on the majority. After all, it is a natural law that when there is an unequal fight and the weak suffers injury, the strong is blamed even though the weak might have been the one to instigate the fight. So, Indira Gandhi devised a plan by which she incorporated the word secularism in the preamble to the constitution,to protect their vote bank and to perpetuate the religious divide in the country to their advantage. This fanned further passions among religions and the purpose of the ruling party was served for some years.

Secularism in India means equal treatment of all religions by the state. Unlike the Western concept of secularism which envisions a separation of religion and state, the concept of secularism in India envisions acceptance of religious laws as binding on the state, and equal participation of state in different religions. (sic.)

India does not have an official state religion. The people of India have freedom of religion, and the state treats all individuals as equal citizens regardless of their religion. In matters of law in modern India, however, the applicable code of law is unequal, and India's personal laws - on matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, alimony - varies with an individual's religion. Muslim Indians have Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law, while Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other non-Muslim Indians live under common law. The attempt to respect unequal, religious law has created a number of issues in India such as acceptability of child marriage, polygamy, unequal inheritance rights, extrajudicial unilateral divorce rights favorable to some males, and conflicting interpretations of religious books.

Secularism as practiced in India, with its marked differences with Western practice of secularism, is a controversial topic in India. Supporters of the Indian concept of secularism claim it respects Muslim men’s religious rights and recognizes that they are culturally different from Indians of other religions. Supporters of this form of secularism claim that any attempt to introduce a uniform civil code, that is equal laws for every citizen irrespective of his or her religion, would impose majoritarian Hindu sensibilities and ideals, something that is unacceptable to Muslim Indians. Opponents argue that India's acceptance of Sharia and religious laws violates the principle of equal human rights, discriminates against Muslim women, allows unelected religious personalities to interpret religious laws, and creates plurality of unequal citizenship; they suggest India should move towards separating religion and state.

Secularism is a divisive, politically charged topic in India. (Sic.) Source: Wiki.


Let us come to the main part. An issue on which Hindus are sought to be erected on a defensive pedestal is the 'idol worship'. Hindus are a heterogeneous group. They adopt various cultures and hence various methods of worship in various states, in various regions of states, in various villages of each region and various caste/sub-caste groups of various villages. There are family deities in the same caste and they may differ. In spite of this Hinduism survived many an onslaught from invaders in the name of religion from various parts of the world. The simple reason is Hindus believe in the existence of one God, in whichever form He is worshiped. They believe the Unknown and Unseen God as Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent. They do not have messengers of God to issue Fatwas or Commandments saying, 'You follow this diktat or you are a sinner or a Kafir' and liable to punished by the Satan or the representatives of the Satan sent to earth for the purpose. Hindu scriptures prescribe a way of life, 'Live like this. Or your Karma accrues and you will enjoy/suffer in your next birth as per the debit or credit balance in your Karma'. No religious Guru imposes these scriptural diktats on the faithful. They only preach what is stated.

Like Muslims turn towards Mecca to pray and Christians go to Church where various forms of the messenger of God is depicted, Hindus go to temple to pray a Monkey God, an Elephant God, a Snake God, a Tree or a Flower that he sees as manifestation of the Unseen God. For that matter, no religious believer has ever seen the real form of God. Each sees Him in one form or other and Hindus see it as an Idol form which is nothing but nature.

I will reproduce the words of Swamy Vivekananda on the subject, as He was the first ever Saint to have propagated the real value of Hinduism in modern times.

He spake thus.

"God is eternal, without any form, omnipresent. To think of Him as possessing any form is blasphemy. But the secret of image worship is that you are trying to develop your vision of Divinity in one thing.

The Christians think that when God came in the form of a dove it was all right, but if He comes in the form of a fish, as the Hindus say, it is very wrong and superstitious. The Jews think if an idol be made in the form of a chest with two angels sitting on it, and a book on it, it is all right, but if it is in the form of a man or a woman, it is awful. The Mohammedans think that when they pray, if they try to form a mental image of the temple with the Caaba, the black stone in it, and turn towards the west, it is all right, but if you form the image in the shape of a church it is idolatry. This is the defect of image worship.

Superstition is a great enemy of man, but bigotry is worse. Why does a Christian go to church? Why is the cross holy? Why is the face turned toward the sky in prayer? Why are there so many images in the Catholic Church? Why are there so many images in the minds of Protestants when they pray? My brethren, we can no more think about anything without a mental image than we can live without breathing. By the law of association the material image calls up the mental idea and vice versa. This is why the Hindu uses an external symbol when he worships. He will tell you, it helps to keep his mind fixed on the Being to whom he prays. He knows as well as you do that the image is not God, is not omnipresent.

Every other religion lays down certain fixed dogmas, and tries to force society to adopt them. It places before society only one coat which must fit Jack and John and Henry, all alike. If it does not fit John or Henry, he must go without a coat to cover his body. The Hindus have discovered that the absolute can only be realised, or thought of, or stated, through the relative, and the images, crosses and crescents are simply so many symbols---so many pegs to hang the spiritual ideas on. It is not that this help is necessary for every one, but those that do not need it have no right to say that it is wrong. Nor is it compulsory in Hinduism.

On the other hand it is the attempt of undeveloped minds to grasp high spiritual truths.

In some parts of India, the existence of personal laws for Muslims are a cause of child marriages. For example, in Kerala, 3400 girls of 13-18 age were married in 2012 in the district of Malappuram. Of these, 2800 were Muslim (82%). Efforts to stop this practice with law enforcement have been protested and challenged in courts by Indian Union Muslim League and other Islamic organizations, with the petition that setting a minimum age for marriage of Muslim girls challenges their religious rights.[10]

Man is to become divine by realising the divine. Idols, or temples or churches or books are only the supports, the helps, of his spiritual childhood; but on and on he must progress."

Idol worship, hence is as ideal as worshiping God turning in one direction, with restrictions on timing, the dress one should wear, the cap one should on his head, the way one should sit, bend, stand or the way one should sermonize, the way one should say "Amen", the form in which they see God or the messenger of God. Our idol is for us what  a 'Cross' or ' Holy Book' is for others.

There lies the equality of religions and the existence of one and only God. There is no our God or their God and the whole exercise of converting people in the name of blind faith is a sham and intended to spread an economic philosophy where other religious groups remain subservient to those who preach hatred in the name of "Our God" and " Your God". Hinduism never encouraged conversion or expansionism. Those that remain faithful are Hindus and those who converted are ex-Hindus. They too are part of us.

Continued in Part 3