Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hinduism and fanaticism

It is very difficult to define Hinduism and to establish the boundaries of this religion or a way of life or a way of thinking. Hinduism may have begun as an assimilation of various thoughts and beliefs throughout the sub continent where it encompassed and harmonized the folklore and beliefs of various tribes. Later, it kept on evolving as the Hindu thought conversed with other beliefs in the world.

There are around 330 million gods and goddess in the Hindu mythology and yet one cannot say for sure that Hinduism is not monotheistic. The advent of monotheistic religions saw the decline of many religions and their extinction but when the monotheistic thought reached the sub continent, it became a very elegant and prominent, but yet not dominating, part of the large canvas of thoughts. The Hindu religion maintained its sweet paradox and harmony of contradicting beliefs and tied them together very subtly but strongly. This amorphous form of the multitude of beliefs made it possible for Hindu faith to become a living entity evolving over time and assuming different shapes but with an eternal unchanging soul. This very ever encompassing and never forsaking quality made it possible for the Hindu thought to sail through the rough seas of time comfortably.

Hindu fundamentalism is a contradiction of terms as there are no "the basic tenants" in Hindu religion. Hence apart from inhuman behavior, its hard to do something that can be considered blasphemous in Hindu religion (even atheists form a part of Hindu thought). Yet, today we find this contorted distortion and contradiction of Hindu ethos on the rise and that too in the name of the pride of Hindu faith. Self declared belligerent saints (another oxymoron) and goons have usurped the very personal relation of a man with God. Today, any Tom, Dick and Harry can assume to be the Pope of Hindu faith and declare any art, any argument to be blasphemous.

M. F. Husian, an eminent artist often called the Picasso of India, has painted numerous Hindu gods and goddess and has captured the essence of Mahabharata and Ramayana on his canvas. His work received appreciation from the Government of India in the form of Padama Bhushan in 1973 and Padma Vibhushan in 1991.

One fine day in 1996, someone had a look at a few paintings made by Husain made in 1970's and decided that these paintings hurt the Hindu sentiment. Thus began the tale of harrying the artist. The main objection was that the Hindu gods and goddess were depicted naked in the paintings. There cannot be any argument more absurd. Hindu temples are full of sculptures and paintings of nude gods. We worship the Shiva Lingam and considered the 'Ardhnarishiwar' (the form when Shiva and Parvati become one being) as the source of all creation. In the recent years, voices raised against Husain's work became shriller and forced many exhibitions, across the world, to shut down and pushed the artist to accept Qatar nationality [1].

This sudden change of the texture of Hindu faith from an all encompassing to a narrow faith is frightening. Swami Vevekananda once said in his address to The World Parliament of Religions that "Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now." In the same speech he would proudly state that the Hindu faith has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance [2]. Today, the demagogy and competition with fanatics of other faiths to emerge as as the strongest "protector" has made the cosmos of Hindu faith seem like an imitation of other religions.

Tolerance and universal acceptance form the core of the soul of Hinduism and we must strive to keep it alive. A bunch of goons should not be able to hold our age old faith to ransom. We ought to make sure that the loud and shrill voices of such a lot are not mistaken as the voice of significant number of Hindus, let alone the majority of Hindus. The very protection our faith needs is from the Trojan horse of these self declared protectors.


  1. Good one . I totally agree .

  2. The lack of any one supreme authority at the helm of the Hindu religion, unlike other religions like Islam and Christianity, has led, like you pointed out, to any tom, dick and harry to proclaim the unoccupied spot of the leader of the Hindu masses. The Hindu religion is losing its sanctity at the hands of these perpetrators of crime in the name of Hinduism.

    Very well written article with a solid background in the first two paragraphs, followed by a few examples which steered the article to the direction you wanted. Good work! Kudos! Keep it up.

  3. Lack of a supreme authority is not the only reason if i may point out. Religion by itself is a very innocent discovery/invention of mankind to enforce order into the society. But when politics amalgamates itself with religion to achieve the selfish motives of a couple of high end people, it fails. Religion is like a small cub, politics is the blood. When the cub tastes blood, it becomes deadly.

  4. Very well put! Just to clarify I am not for having a supreme authority for Hindu faith. On the contrary I am against any one usurping the power to define what being a Hindu is and what is the "correct" Hindu way. The very essence of Hinduism is that it is very personal and private with space for every shade of thought and dissent.