My previous post, on whether Hinduism is the only thing to unite India, to which my answer was negative, was based on the idea that Indian culture is quite distinct from 'Hinduism'. It is this point that needs further elaboration, as the apologists of the Hindu India, both the traditionalists and the new liberal kinds, claim that they are one and the same.
I was brought up in a Brahmin family, and read Sanskrit - primarily as my grandmother was a 'Pandit' and a Sanskrit teacher - and read the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. For a year of my life, after I went through the 'Upanayana', I performed a puja three times a day. Later in life, I read Upanishad and Gita out of intellectual curiousity. And, yet, this still does not cover the core texts of Hinduism - most critically, the various commentaries by later Holy men, which, for many Hindus, represent the revealed religion.
But this is perhaps the key point: That someone may grow up in a Hindu milieu but never see Hinduism as a religion at all. In fact, one can have quite the opposite: The Upanishads and the Gita may be read with an entirely secular point of view, or at least allowing for a non-intervening God. In fact, those texts, despite their age, are not too far from a rule-based universe, which the modern science would demand. But it is not the timelessness of the texts that I am arguing about here: My argument is that the philosophical basis of Hinduism stands in contrast with the idea of revealed religion.
I acknowledge that for many practising Hindus, it is a revealed religion, a set of somewhat ideosyncratic guidelines prescribed by one holy man or the other about how to live one's life. Many of these holy men are alive - or their followers or successors run institutions in their name. While they all like to claim the heritage of the Upanishads and its apparent agnosticism, each one of them represent a parallel universe, with cosmic reasons provided for every ritual, tying down their followers into a tight system of dynastic loyalty through trivialities of everyday. This system of revealed religion is just as intolerant of anything that falls outside its purview. So, it is not just one caste that consider another sub-human, one sect may consider another heretical, and one text may contradict another. Hinduism never had its equivalent of the Council of Nicaea, nor it had the schism of Karbala. Rather, the whole religious ecosystem of Hinduism continued as a quarrelsome large family, with different branches being envious, resentful or indifferent of one another.
Now, Indian culture reflect more of Upanishad's agnostic worldview than the particular way of life of one or the other sect. It is the House, rather than the family branch. Now, this does not automatically equate it to Hinduism, because this worldview automatically allows acceptance of many other cultures and worldviews. In fact, the current confusion about what India is, and is not, arises out of the very conscious attempts to erase important cultural heritages from Indian history - not just of a thousand year of Islamic culture, but also Budhdhist, Jainist and other traditions (including a strong atheistic tradition) - somewhat influenced by British attempts to construct modern Indian history 'ex nihilio', in simple terms of barbarism and civilisation. Indian culture, therefore, is defined by its all encompassing nature rather than purity. With some exceptions, rulers in India, Hindu, Budhdhist or Muslim, have always ruled over different faiths, always keeping the secular and the spiritual realms separate (there were no 'divine monarchs' in India). India was constituted to be a secular society, and did not need a first amendment to guarantee such diversity.
This is my essential point. I am not claiming that Hindu traditions have not influenced Indian culture - that will be ridiculous - but that the philosophical tradition that may have shaped this culture has nothing in common with 'Hinduism' as a revealed religion, which it stands for to its advocates. The Indian culture, based on a stoical yet responsible engagement with the world, is built of many layers of ideas and beliefs, absorbed from all the peoples who came to India and who carried ideas from it, from the ancient Arabic and Chinese visitors to the later-day Western scholars and administrators. To try to recast it in the mould of a 'religion', and to try to find heretical ideas to exclude, is as against its grain as anything can be.
The constitution of India, reflecting the optimism of an Independent country, claimed the creation of a democratic republic based on religious freedom ('secular' was added to it later). But this reflected, paradoxically, the British idea of civilising and creating a modern India, allowing for, as the optimism fades, a new search for deep India. But this deep India was always there - the Constitution might have been written by English-trained modern leaders but they were reflecting the ideas wholly consistent with Indian culture - and while 'secular' may be an alien word, the idea was not. In fact, I despair why the Hindu nationalists of India feel inclined to claim the credit for ancient airplanes based on flimsiest of evidences (poetic descriptions of flying chariots in ancient texts), but always disregard the all-encompassing worldviews of their own scriptures and never protest the ancient Indian origins of 'secularism'.
So, in summary, 'Hinduism' of the modern imagination, a revealed religion, can not unite India. Rather, there is a lot in Indian cultural tradition that is unifying. The two are not the same, and the claims that Hinduism can unite India is based on ideas constructed essentially on the basis of British imagination, just as English language as the unifying force was.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.