Busting the Myths of Hindutva: The ‘Golden Age’ of the Vedas never existed, was manufactured
Dr. J. Kuruvachira
One of the reasons for the phenomenal spread of the ideology of Hindutva in a short span of time can be ascribed to the ability of its ideologues to indoctrinate the masses with myths1 of Hindutva. Typically, myths deal with various dimensions of human life that are considered to be essential for the social, cultural and religious life of people. Myths have special emotive appeal to the masses, they ignite their imagination and project ideals for them to pursue. Myths are also ambivalent in their nature in the sense that, they have the power to misguide the illiterate, the ignorant and the naive. Therefore, if myths are not subject to rigorous hermeneutics, there is danger of people mistaking myths for reality, fiction for historical facts, a means to propagate falsehood and a method to justify many superstitious beliefs and practices that are detrimental to the progress of civilization and dignity of human beings. Below we examine some of the notorious myths of Hindutva that have a sway over the Hindu masses, and offer a critique of the same.
The myth of a Vedic Golden Age
The endorsement of a ‘Golden Age’ is a pre-requisite for claims to civilization. Civilizations are said to have a Golden Age when virtually every manifestation of life reaches a peak of excellence2. In ancient historiography, the ‘Golden Age’ was generally in the distant past, in the beginning of time, so distant and so mythological that none could question the historicity of the age and it was imbued with whatever values the historian wished to propagate3. The projection of a Vedic Golden Age is one of the corner stones of the Hindutva ideology and the period from 1200–600 B.C. is popularly considered as the Golden Age of the Vedic period4. The proponents of Hindutva project the Vedic Age as an unblemished ‘Golden Age’ of greatest material prosperity, development in all branches of science, purity of religion, highest spirituality, perfect knowledge of the truth and unambiguous practice of morals, social equality and harmony.
History tells us that it was Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who, seeking to reform Hindu religion and Hindu society, first propounded the idea of a Vedic Golden Age and asked Hindus to ‘return to the Vedas’. Thus, he spoke of a Golden Age in which the Aryans of the Vedic era are presented as the chosen people to whom God revealed the perfect knowledge of the Vedas5. He further argued that, the Vedas are the sources of all knowledge and that it is consistent with modern science6. Aurobindo endorsed the view of Swami Dayananda and stated that the Vedas contain truths of science as well as religion7, and the contemporary proponents of Hindutva continue to give to this myth wide publicity and diffusion8.
However, Koenraad Elst opines that the theme of the Golden Age is quite common in Hindu writings and is by no means a modern device of the Hindutva ideologues but an ancient Hindu tradition. The characteristics which each author attributes to his Golden Age is dependent on his own ideological position9. For example, many Hindus consider the reign of Ram (if he existed at all) as a Golden Age. In certain parts of India, the reign of the legendary Maha Bali is described as a Golden Age10. The sixth century B.C., which witnessed the advent of Gautama Buddha the founder of Buddhism, Vardhamana Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara or prophet who occupies a unique place in Jainism, and the great Upanishadic thinkers, can also be considered as Golden Ages of Indian philosophy and spirituality. Savarkar, with a rare mix of ignorance of historical facts and stretch of imagination, describes the reign of Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka as Golden Epochs of Hindu history11. Many historians maintain that the age of the imperial Guptas was a Golden Age12. If one is objective about the achievements of the Mughal emperor Akbar, his reign can be rated as the Golden Age of the Muslim rule in India. From the above discussion, it is evident that the conception of a Golden Age is not anything unique to the Vedic Age.
But how ‘golden’ was the so-called Vedic Golden Age? A close examination reveals that the Vedic Age hardly deserves the appellation of a ‘Golden Age’. The Vedic culture was an amalgamation of many influences, especially the Indus Valley civilization and the Indo-European immigrants called Aryans who came from Central Asia to northern India, probably in a number of waves13 and eventually subjugated the indigenous people. Romila Thapar maintains that groups of Indo-Aryan speakers gradually migrated in small numbers through the passes in the north-western mountains from the Indo-Iranian borderlands and Afghanistan to northern India. The impetus to migrate was a search for better pastures, arable land and some advantage from an exchange of goods14. Historians tell us that the Aryans were nomadic pastoral people, and their religious traditions were portable. The earliest of the Vedic texts, the Rig Veda reflects a pastoral, cattle-keeping people unfamiliar with urban life15. As a community they were concerned with the mundane things of everyday life16. Their religious practices were centered around fire sacrifice and a hierarchical social structure. They also worshipped a pantheon of deities, many of them representing forces of nature. In the NCERT school textbook for Class VI we read: “Rig Vedic people worshipped many gods representing forces of nature such as fire, sun, wind, sky and trees”17. Hence it has been remarked that, the highest religion of the Aryans was epitomized in primitive animism, fire worship, propitiation of agricultural deities and above all sacrifice (yajna)18, and their literature consisted of a liturgical corpus developed around the Vedic sacrifices19. K.M.Panikkar holds a similar view. He states: “The religious ideas [of the Vedas] were mainly based on sacrifices to native gods like fire, sun, the Lord of the thunderbolt”20. Bal Gangadhar Tilak also affirms that the hymns of the Rig Veda show that sacrificial ceremonies must then have been considerably developed in the Vedic times21.
Again, it has been observed that the original Vedic religion was not centered around the Vedas as books, but instead around the institution of sacrifice22. The Rig Veda portrays a world of many gods which were propitiated with elaborate public sacrifices. The sacrifices, which evolved into increasingly elaborate rituals, often involved the immolation of an animal (or even human) victim as a food offering to the gods. The pastoral roots of the sacrifice were evident in the centrality of the cow, which was the preferred sacrificial food for both gods and humans23. Besides, as a scripture the Vedic hymns are fragmentary and inconsistent. Benjamin Walker says: “The corrupted quaternary of the Vedas, fragmentary and inconsistent as they are now, is referred back to as a Golden Age when the Veda was one and immaculate”24. T.J.S. George observes that the Vedas were not religious texts to begin with, just as Hinduism was not a religion to begin with. The main gods deified in the samhitas were natural forces such as Agni (fire), Varuna (wind) and Surya (sun) besides Indra and Soma25.
Orthodox Hindu tradition believes that the Vedas are eternal (nitya), beginning-less (anadi) and authorless (a-paurusheya). But as far as critical reasoning is concerned such claims stand without foundation. The myth-makers of the timelessness of the Vedas conveniently forget that whatever belongs to our finite world is limited in nature and that they have a beginning and an end, even if they contain revelations of ‘timeless’ truths. It has been established that the earliest religious compositions in India were the Sanskrit texts called the Vedas which belonged to the Indo-European immigrants, probably composed between 1500 and 600 B.C.26. Bal Gangadhar Tilak dates the oldest Vedas to around 4500 B.C.27 Here it must also be stated that, like any other sacred scripture, the Vedas too had human authors28. Therefore, the claim that the Vedas are eternal, beginningless and authorless is to be taken only as a pious belief.
Again, it is a fact that very few Hindus know the contents of the Vedas, and for their practical life they are quite irrelevant. David Frawley says: “Even Hindus who speak of the glory of the Vedas generally can’t explain Vedic teachings in detail. By the Vedas they usually mean the Upanishads or the Bhagavadgita, not the older Vedic texts”29. In addition, the Vedas have hardly anything to do with popular Hinduism. Koenraad Elst notes that, the Vedic gods like Varuna and Indra have practically disappeared from the Hindu collective consciousness in favour of restyled minor Vedic gods like Shiva and Vishnu and non-Vedic gods like Ganesha and Kali. The major festivals of the Hindu calendar are based on the epic feats of Rama and Krishna and on the Puranic lore pertaining to Shiva and the Goddess30. Thus, to believe in a Vedic Golden Age is to take refuge in a myth that has no historical foundation.
As is evident from what has been said above, there is nothing really ‘golden’ about the so-called Vedic Golden Age. In fact, there does not seem to have been anything akin to a golden age in the Vedic times. But the projection of the myth has much to do with the political and the ideological dimensions of Hindutva. Romila Thapar observes that there is always an inevitable search for a Golden Age often identified as the period to which the currently dominant group traces its roots, and it is painted in the glowing tints of cultural resurgence. The protagonists of this age became the heroes of history and act as eponymous ancestors to those in power31. Yvon Ambroise observes that, in order to build the Hindu cultural nationalism, it was the Arya Samajists who first mooted the myth of a Vedic Golden Age, and Savarkar pursued it and Golwalkar gave it finishing touches32. One may also maintain that the nostalgia for the Vedic Golden Age is reminiscent of Adolf Hitler’s concept of the Third Reich (Das Dritte Reich), which scholars speak of as a ‘mythical notion’ (mythischer Begriff) that was already prevalent among the Germans from the Middle Ages onwards33.
The myth of Aryans as the original inhabitants of India
In the new nationalistic view of history advocated by the Hindutva, Indian culture could not have come from outside, especially not the Aryans, so that the Aryans are presented as the original inhabitants of India. As we have seen, Golwalkar was the first prominent Hindutva ideologue who proposed this theory. He says: “the Hindu has been the resident of this country from times immemorial.”34 Some of the Theosophists like Colonel Olcott also held that the Aryans were indigenous to India35. This view is today widely accepted by practically all the contemporary proponents of Hindutva, as it is of great advantage to their ideology. Hence Romila Thapar observes that the amended theory of Aryans as the indigenous people of India has become axiomatic to the belief of Hindutva36. If this theory is not propagated, it would mean that the Aryan Hinduism is as much a foreign import as Christianity or Islam or Judaism or Zoroastrianism, as the Hindutva ideologues claim.
Further, it should be emphasized that the claim itself is a new addition to the list of the myths of Hindutva. In fact, Savarkar, who gave systematization to the Hindutva ideology himself did not maintain that the Aryans were the indigenous people of India37. Yet for Savarkar, a real Hindu is a person whose religious faith must have an indigenous origin. Hence Edwin Bryant makes an insightful remark: “It is puzzling that Savarkar, who must have been aware that some of his contemporaries and predecessors had challenged the Aryan invasion theory, did not aggressively oppose it. Taken to its logical conclusion, his acceptance of the Aryan invasion theory seems incompatible with […] the concept of Hindutva.”38
Bal Gangadhar Tilak also shared the same view as Savarkar. He claims that the ancient Aryans lived near the North Pole (i.e. in the Arctic regions) and later in the course of history they came and settled in India39. He also argues that, prior to the coming of the Aryans to India, around 5000 or 6000 B.C., they had settled on the plains of Central Asia40. Even Swami Vivekananda was inclined to believe that Aryans were not indigenous to India41. Jyotiba Phule, an authority on the Dalits in the late nineteenth century argued that the lower castes were the indigenous people of India and not the Brahmins who descended from the Aryans who were alien to India42.
It is to be reiterated that during the past few years, attempts to produce literature denying the Aryan invasion theory has become an obsession with the Hindutva authors. Their argument is that if the Aryans are indigenous to India, there was no Aryan invasion either. The nefarious agenda of re-writing Indian history also serves to propagate the myth that Aryans are indigenous to India. The Aryan invasion theory is therefore projected as a concoction of European scholars, missionaries and Marxist historians. Even the school textbooks prepared in 2002 under the auspices of the Hindutva historians and organizations make strenuous effort to propagate this myth. In the NCERT sponsored textbook on Social Sciences for Class IX we read: “Max Muller did his maximum to popularize the idea of an Aryan race and the Aryan invasion of India. […] This Aryan invasion theory was used as an intellectual instrument to further the well-known British policy of divide and rule”43. J.S.Rajput, NCERT Director during 1999-2004, said: “A group of historians has emerged to prove that Aryans did not come from outside. That argument should also be given due weight for the children to judge or infer the right history”44.
Some Hindutva ideologues also speak of the distinction between Aryan and Dravidian races and cultures as non-existent45. But historians tell us that the distinction between the two cultures was great. For example, A.D. Mattam says: “Many people in North India are not aware of the ancient culture and civilization of the Dravidians, [….] The curriculum in North Indian schools should include the study of Tamil or another Dravidian language, and the history and civilization of the Dravidians, in order that the children may get a correct vision of the rich variety of cultures and languages of India”46. Some other Hindutva writers argue that the Indus Valley civilization is the same as the Vedic Civilization, and that it belonged to the Aryans. In fact, some have begun to call it the ‘Indus-Saraswati Civilization’47. Edwin Bryant says it is the centrality of the river Saraswati, both archaeologically and culturally, that has led some Indian archaeologists to propose, and to begin to adopt, the term Indus-Saraswati Civilization in lieu of the labels Harappan or Indus Valley Civilization48. In the NCERT textbook for Class VI we read: “You have already read that some scholars believe that Harappan and Vedic civilizations are the same”49. But Bryant does not hesitate to say: “Saraswati’s rediscovery, although arguably suggestive of considerable Vedic antiquity […] cannot be used to prove absolute synonymity of the Indus Valley residents and the Vedic Aryans”50.
However, it may be maintained that the myth that Aryans are the indigenous people of India, and the other theories that are corollary to it, form part of the concept of the ‘Big Lie’ of Hindutva―a notion ‘borrowed’ from Adolf Hitler and his National Socialism. Paradoxically, the ‘Big Lies’ are propagated in a country that has accepted ‘Satyameva Jayate’ (‘truth alone triumphs’) as its motto!
Michael Witzel argues that all the subcontinents of Asia have been constantly entered and criss-crossed by new waves of peoples. It has also been established that the speakers of the old Indo-Aryan language too must have come from somewhere in Central Asia, as their language reflects cool climate plants and animals. The same Central Asian loan words for village life and religious items as in Rig Veda are also found with the Mitannip Indo-Aryans in Northern Iraq and Northern Syria (1450-1350 B.C), whose language and religion are very close to but slightly older than Rigvedic. There are also well-known reminiscences of Afghanistan and Central Asia in the Rig Veda51. In addition, the deities mentioned in the Rig Veda include some that go back to Indo-Iranian origins, such as Mitra and Varuna52.
T.J.S. George affirms that important archaeological discoveries in 1922-1923 and subsequent excavations elsewhere in India have established that the Indus Valley Civilization dating back to about 3000 B.C. was radically different from the Aryan culture in the Indo-Gangetic plains. This conclusion flew in the face of the earlier belief, spread largely by Aryan texts that the starting point of Indian civilization was Aryan or Vedic culture. Scholars hold that the Aryans, after capturing the Gangetic plains, renamed the region Aryavrata to distinguish it from the south of India which had by this time become the home of the Dravidians53. The noted historian of ancient India, Romila Thapar, has also repeatedly argued for the fact of the coming of the Aryans to Northern India54. Another eminent historian, K.M. Panikkar, also maintains a similar position55. Thus, historical facts go against the claim of Hindutva that Aryans were the original inhabitants of India56. Once again, the propagation of this myth is motivated by ideological and political interests, and a mechanism to exclude some sections of Indian society, especially the Muslims and Christians by arguing that they are aliens.
But the theory that Aryans are indigenous to India has inherent problems. First, if by Aryans is meant only the caste Hindus, then all the lower castes and Dalits would have to be excluded from Hinduism, and it would reduce the numerical count of Hinduism and consequently also Hindutva’s vote bank. This would further imply that Hindus do not constitute the majority of India, and if Hindus are not the majority in India they cannot also claim that India should be a Hindu nation. Secondly, if the lower castes and Dalits are included among Hindus, it would upset many caste Hindus.
The myth of racial purity and superiority of the Aryans
Hindutva propagates the myth of India as consisting of one race, one religion and one culture, namely, the Hindu, and eulogizes it as the ‘best nation of the Aryans’57. In ancient writings the land inhabited by the Aryans was called Aryavarta and the rest were Mleccha-desa. Romila Thapar observes that aryavarta essentially meant the Gangetic Plain and its fringes, although sometimes expanded to include more of northern India58. W.Halbfass notes that the term mleccha meant the barbarian, the foreigner, ‘the other’, those who were outside the Aryan community, those who did not know Sanskrit, those who were outside the caste system, etc.59 According to Romila Thapar, the etymology of mleccha was related to the indigenous inhabitants of northern India at the time of the arrival of Aryan-speaking peoples. Knowledge of the efficacy of the ritual hymns and the use of correct Sanskrit was crucial to the notion of being an arya. If mleccha epitomized the barbarian, then arya meant all that is noble and civilised. Mleccha areas were considered impure lands and the pure land was aryavarta. The Aryas visiting the lands of the mleccha are ritually impure and so they had to perform expiatory rites60. Savarkar uses the terms Sindhusthan and Mleccahstan to denote the land of the aryas and the land of foreigners, respectively61. For Golwalkar the term mleccha meant all those who do not subscribe to the social laws dictated by the Hindu religion and culture62.
Savarkar maintained that bond of common race or common blood is an important aspect of a Hindu. He says: “Racially and Culturally they [ancestors of the Hindus] were called aryans”63. He adds: “We feel we are a JATI [sic], a race bound together by the dearest ties of blood”64; “no people in the world can more justly claim to get recognized as a racial unit than the Hindus and perhaps the Jews”65. For him mlecchastan meant those who are foreigners nationally and racially66. He further speaks of the Hindu race as the great race that inhabits and owns the land of India67, and Sanskrit as the mother tongue of the Hindu race. Savarkar says: “We Hindus are not only a Rashtra, a Jati, but as a consequence of being both, own a common Sanskriti expressed, preserved chiefly and originally through Sanskrit, the real mother tongue of our race”68.
For Golwalkar, race means a hereditary society69 and he considers it as the body of the nation so that if it falls the nation ceases to exit70. Race (jati) for him means people who have a common origin and common fellow feeling71. He calls the Hindu race the ‘ancient race’72. He holds that the ancient rishis (sages) proudly called themselves Aryas and had resolved to Arynaise the whole of humanity73. The Aryans also possessed a great civilization so that it could claim superiority over other cultures. He says: “We built a great civilization, a great culture and an unique social order. We had brought into actual life almost everything that was beneficial to mankind. […] in trying to distinguish our people from others, we are called ‘the enlightened’―the Aryas―and the rest Mlecchas”74. It has been observed that, more than anyone else, it was Golwalkar who propagated the myth of Hindus being a pure race, and in this he was inspired by Adolf Hitler75.
In the writings of Savarkar and Golwalkar the term ‘Arya’ often stands for ‘race’76, and expressions like ‘Aryan blood’77, ‘ancient blood’78, ‘common ancestry’79, ‘common blood’80, ‘our blood’81, ‘Hindu blood’82, ‘pure Hindu blood’83, ‘blood of the forefathers’84, ‘hereditary society’85, ‘our racial being’86, ‘mother race’87, ‘inheritance of the blood of the great race’88, ‘race-spirit’89, ‘bonds of race’90, ‘our race’91, ‘national race’92, ‘Hindu race’93, ‘one race’94, ‘great race’95, ‘common race’96, ‘race spirit’97,‘ours by blood and by race’98 are frequent.
In the course of history, often appeal to caste system has been made in order to maintain the racial purity of the Aryan stock. The convention of tracing a person’s descent as preserving genealogical trees, showing his pure lineage from Vedic period and Epic heroes, is a medieval expedient. But history tells us that the ancestors of the great Hindu dynasties do not shine as examples of racial purity or religious orthodoxy, although there are large numbers of educated Hindus who are carried away by sentimental attachment to the heroic names of the legendary past, and like to think of them as pure Brahmin or pure Kshatriya. The fact is that almost all the great families of ancient India were of mixed origin, Brahmin as well as Kshatriya. Hence concepts like ‘pure race’, ‘pure families’, ‘pure caste’, etc. are mere fiction99.
Benjamin Walker maintains that there have been ties of blood between Aryans and non-Aryans through a steady process of intermarriage. This process is reflected in their pantheon, for the Aryan deities also began to contract matrimonial alliances with the goddesses of the native people soon after their arrival in the Indian plains. In fact, the Rig Veda laments the prevalence of marriages between ‘black’ and ‘white’. One prayer goes as follows: ‘O Indra, find out who is an Aryan and who is a Dasa and separate them’. Again, another hymn in the Atharva Veda has been interpreted as referring to the seduction of Indra himself by an asura woman100.
Social mobility was possible in the early period of Indian history. Even Savarkar spoke of the intermingling of races. He affirms that the Aryans and the indigenous populations intermingled when the former entered India101. He says: “For first of all the racial stock of the Aryans used to inter-marry amongst themselves. Even a casual acquaintance with the Vedic literature can convince―has convinced, everyone, of the fact”102. He also exhorted the foreigners who aspire to become Hindus to marry Hindus and have Hindu children. He maintained that any non-Hindu converted to Hindutva can be a Hindu, if bona fide he or she adopts India as his or her country and marries a Hindu, thus coming to love India as a real Fatherland, and adopts Indian culture and considers India as the Punyabhu (‘Holy Land’). The children of such a union would, other things being equal, also be Hindu103. He also advocated that foreign converts to any sect of Hinduism be considered as Hindus, and he held in high esteem well known converts to Hinduism like, Sister Nivedita (Margaret Noble) and Annie Besant104. From this it is clear that Savarkar did not insist on the maintenance of pure race, though the concept of Aryan race was important to him.
The myth of racial purity and superiority of the Aryan race is also evident from conclusions of scholars like Romila Thapar. She argues that the Aryans were not a distinct racial group with a recognizable assemblage of material culture. In fact, they were not a race but Aryan speakers105. Again, the roots of India’s legendary past go back to the time before the Aryans to the Dravidians, to the pre-Dravidians, to the primitive Proto-Australoids and Negritos. It is also traceable to races outside India, such as, the Egyptians, Babylonians, Jews and Phoenicians. Substantial contributions have also been made to the ‘racial treasury’ of India by peoples of the post-Aryan period: the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Chinese and Central Asians106. Thus, absorption of aliens was a permanent feature of Indian society.
Further, history attests to the fact that there were Greek-Indian intermarriages after Alexander’s invasion. Many Macedonian soldiers married local women. Chandragupta Maurya married a Greek princess belonging to the family of Seleucus. Many Greeks settled down in India and must have had Indian wives. Greek women were brought to north and west India for centuries. Many Indians who could afford bought and maintained women of the Greek race. It is said that there were even flourishing markets in India for European women in the second century B.C.107
The myth of a pure Aryan race is further exploded by the findings of K.M. Panikkar who argues that the racial composition of India’s population is highly mixed. Every racial group, Caucasian (Aryan), Mediterranean (Dravidian), Austric, Semetic, Mongoloid and Negrito seem to have gone up to make the Indian people, and representatives of all these could be found in India. In the Punjab and Western Gangetic valley the Aryan element may be predominant though here also a considerable dilution not only through mixture with indigenous tribes but with invading stocks is noticeable108. Panikkar further notes that in the later literature of the Aryans too there is clear evidence of the Aryans intermingling with other races and cultures109.
From the seventh century onwards Arab and Persian traders who had settled in large numbers in Malabar and the west coast took as their legal wives Indian women and founded important dynasties and families. Under the Mughals foreign elements predominated the royal courts. The Pathan Khiljis, the Turki Tughluqs, the Arab Sayyids, the Afghan Lodis, the Georgian Bijapuris, all made dynastic alliances with converted Hindu royal houses. The Mughals, especially Akbar, was noted for their policy of promotion of intermarriage. The final phase of miscegenation came with the advent of British, French, Dutch, and Danish colonizers some of whom married Indian women110. Hence Benjamin Walker asks a pertinent question: “How many Greek, Persian, Parthian, Chinese, Saka, Kushan and other foreign names lie concealed in the ponderous syllabary of Sanskrit, who can tell?”111.
The influence of the Mongolians in India has also been extensive and substantial although its significance has been consistently understated. They too played a major role in the evolution of Indian history and have contributed much to the development of Indian thought and religion112. Mongolian characteristics are found in some of the skulls and terracotta figurines unearthed at Mohanjodaro. The Vedas, the epics and the Puranas preserve the names and customs of several tribes which ethnologists have identified as belonging to the Mongolian race113. All these facts go to show that the claims to racial purity and superiority of the Aryans of India is yet another myth of Hindutva. B.R. Ambedkar says: “the object of caste was to preserve purity of race and purity of blood. Now ethnologists are of the opinion that men of pure race exist nowhere and that there has been mixture of all races in all parts of the world”114.
The myth of Aryan India as the mother of all civilizations
Another widely circulated myth of Hindutva is that Aryan India is the mother of all cultures and civilizations of the world. Dayananda Saraswati seems to have been the first person in modern times to propagate such a view. He advocated that all knowledge including all sciences originated in India and then spread to other countries, first to Egypt, then to Greece from there to Europe and finally to America and other countries115. Golwalkar also maintained that the Aryans were the only enlightened and civilized people on earth and the rest were mlecchas116. He claims that authentic ancient records conclusively show that Indians were many centuries ahead of the times in every branch of science and art. He says: “No race is endowed with a nobler and more fruitful culture surely. No race is more fortunate in being given a Religion, which could produce such a culture”117. According to him brain surgery, modern plastic surgery, the concept of ‘zero’, the idea of God as ‘one’, the decimal system, etc. are products of the ingenuity of Hindus118. The benign influence of Hindus extended over vast regions of the earth and pilgrims came from distant lands to have a glimpse of India’s glory and students flocked from far and near to drink from the springs of human knowledge119. Thus the influence of Hinduism reached as far as America long before Columbus ‘discovered’ that continent. Then it went to China, Japan, Cambodia, Malaya, Siam, Indonesia and all the South-East Asian countries and right up to Mongolia and Siberia in the North120.
Aurobindo calls India the apex of human civilization, the perfection of good government and settled society, and the mother of all religions121. Ram Swarup argues that Hinduism once represented a great civilization and that Hindu dharma went abroad from time to time and vitally influenced the cultures and religions of many lands and regions of the globe122. David Frawley claims that India alone as a country has the potential to take the role of spiritually guiding the world123. The NCERT school textbook on ‘Ancient India’ states that all substantive scientific discoveries, the zero, the decimal system, the discovery that the earth moves on its own axis and around the sun were already made in the Vedic civilization124. But critics and scholars tell us that, in the Brahmi script, until the sixth century A.D., there was no symbol for zero. Aryabhata who first presented the hypothesis that the earth moves around the sun lived in the late fifth and early sixth century A.D125. In addition it may be remembered that these days many scholars speak of Africa and not Asia as the original home of the humans126. Shereen Ratnagar, Professor of Archaeology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and author of many books on the Harappan civilization argues that the oldest known civilisation is the Sumerian and not Indian127.
Since vast sections of the Indian population are illiterate and ignorant, myths, falsehoods and superstitious beliefs will have great acceptance among them. However, K.N. Panikkar reminds us that misrepresentations and falsifications propagated by the proponents of Hindutva are not due to ignorance alone but are as much a product of their ideological preference. Thus, it traces the lineage of the nation to the ancient Hindu past, claims the Hindu scriptures as the source of all knowledge, the Indian civilization as superior to every other civilization, and ancient India’s achievements in science, mathematics and other branches of knowledge as unsurpassed by other civilisations128. David J. Kalupahana argues that the Aryan culture was mundane in its outlook as is evident from some of the hymns extolling the soma-drinking, fun-loving gods129. Savarkar admits that the Aryans who were responsible for the development of Vedic civilization were essentially cultivators. He speaks of them as engaged in reclaiming vast waste and thinly populated lands, felling of forests and practice of agriculture130. Romila Thapar opines that the Indo-European speakers were perhaps pastoralists or farmers or itinerant traders131. However, the Indus Valley civilization which was pre-Aryan, is widely acknowledged as far superior to that of the Aryan immigrants. Besides, the contribution of foreigners to Indian culture has been considerable which no competent scholar can deny.
Further, the Hindu astrology, as in fact all astrology, was deeply influenced by the Chaldeans, the greatest mathematicians and astrologers of antiquity. The Atharva Veda contains many curious terms and notions that are attributed to pre-Aryan and Mesopotamian influences. A number of hymns in the Vedas bristle with foreign words, and scholars like Bal Gangadhar Tilak believed that they were of Chaldean origin. It is probable that the famous creation hymn that was later added to the tenth book of the Rig Veda, bears traces of Sumerian origin. The custom of urn-burial found in India is also, in all probability taken from the Babylonians132.
Mahabharata, (Mahabharata-yuddha ‘The Great Battle of the Bharatas’) one of the two epic poems of the Hindus is a vast anthological miscellany of pre-Aryan and Aryan material. It is believed to have been started as a short ballad in prose and verse, first composed in Prakrit, with some early additional material also in Prakrit. The language in which it is now preserved is something between Vedic and classical Sanskrit. The chief protagonists of the epic, long deemed to be of ‘pure Aryan decent’, are now believed to have been ‘mixed Aryans’ if not totally non-Aryan133.
Mantra is a word of Persian origin and in the Vedic literature it means those portions that consist of the material psalms of praise as distinct from the liturgical prose134. Mudra (seal) is a word of Iranian origin meaning ‘gesture’135. The Laws of Manu (Manusmriti) has references in the tenth chapter to the Yavanas (Greeks), Sakas (Scythians) and Pahlavas (Persians)136. Marathi is a modern Indo-Aryan language which bears many traces of Austric and pre-Dravidian borrowings many Chinese words, and even some Hebrew terms137.
The Maurya age, like most Indian civilizations during its finest period, welcomed new ideas from abroad. Chandragupta Maurya (320-297 B.C.), had contact with Greece. He received a Greek embassy headed by Megasthenes at his court, and married one of the daughters of Seleucus138. Pataliputra was a cosmopolitan town with crowds from various parts of Asia, Greece, Egypt and the Middle East. In his advance Westward, Chandragupta occupied territories which had been under Persian rule and which were ripe for the transmission of Persian ideas to India139. Hence B.Walker affirms: “India borrowed extensively from the Greeks, […]. The ‘barbarian’ debt is overwhelming, yet nothing in Sanskrit writing betrays this fact. […] Sanskrit and vernacular histories of the Muslim and European periods where they exist at all are conspicuous for the paucity of their information and for their marked xenophobia”140.
The social mobility of the ancient Indians has also been considerable. There are records of Indian merchants, travellers, seamen, scholars, monks and mercenaries having been to Persia, Greece, Asia Minor, Rome, Egypt and North Africa, as well as to Central Asia, China, and Japan, but all evidence of such movement is obtained from outside and not from Indian sources141. For example, the Mahabharata uses certain Greek words and in the first and the last books there is mention of the Roman denarius142.
Thus, upon close examination, the myth of Aryan India as the mother of all civilizations and cultures of the world cannot but be a hollow claim without any historical foundation.
The myth of Hinduism as ‘eternal religion’ (sanatana dharma)
Hindutva ideologues project Hinduism as eternal religion (Sanatana Dharma)143 and make tall claims like the world’s oldest and most complex religion’144, the mother of many religions145, the mother of all religions146, the original religion of the Indians and the oldest of all living religions of the world147, etc. Today even ordinary Hindus freely use the expression Sanatana Dharma without knowing what it truly signifies. The NCERT school textbooks teach that Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma or the eternal spiritual tradition of India. It says: “Hinduism is a very old religion. It is also known as Sanatana Dharma i.e. the Eternal Spiritual Tradition of India”148. Ram Swarup states that Hinduism is a comparatively recent word but it is the popular name for the ancient Sanatana Dharma149.
According to the proponents of Hindutva, ‘sanatva’ is a quality that belongs to India above all other nations150. ‘Sanatva’ means ‘ancientness’, a term signifying the sacred and unique quality of something that has come down from immemorial antiquity and something that has in fact always been151. When Hindus refer to their religion as Sanatana Dharma what is implied is that it is the mother of all religions and the fountainhead of all faiths. K. Krishnamacharya says: “There was no religion in this land [India of today], nor was any religion necessary for the Indians. The ancient Indians had a code of law for man to follow. This was framed in accordance with various truths working in nature. […]. This was called Dharma […]. Any attempt for religion is naturally limited and narrowed when compared with this”152. David Frawley says that Sanatana Dharma stands for the universal form of spirituality which Hinduism stands for with its perennial wisdom and universal light153. He argues that Hindu Dharma sees itself not as man-made but as part of cosmic creation154. N.S.Rajaram, an RSS ideologue, maintains that Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma has neither a historical beginning nor a historical founder. Its greatest figures are sages and guides who discovered basic truths about man’s place in the cosmos155.
It is to be reiterated that the designation of Hinduism as ‘eternal religion’ is a pious notion important to the Hindus. India has no indigenous one word to designate what is meant by the western concept ‘religion’. The term that comes closest to it is dharma which means duty, law, virtue, justice, etc., and it refers to both religious and social obligations and behaviour. In fact, Hinduism’s self-designation has been Sanatana Dharma―‘eternal religion’/ ‘eternal law’. However, from a rational point of view the notion ‘eternal religion’ (sanatana dharma) is a semantic misnomer, and the belief that Hinduism is ‘eternal religion’ is a myth, which cannot stand the test of reason. Reason tells us that whatever is an aspect of the human reality has a beginning. All religions are empirical in nature in as much as they are revelations of some great truths that occur in time and space through the mediation of empirical realities. Hinduism, though it is called ‘eternal religion’ is no exception to it. Therefore, Hinduism cannot claim any exception to other religions just because it has the tag of sanatana or ‘eternal’ attached to it. Here, the question of Kumkum Roy seems pertinent: “Hinduism is defined as eternal. One wonders what is the place of a timeless phenomenon in the mundane framework of a school history book”156―a reference to the new NCERT school textbooks. The same criticism is applicable also to the Vedas, which are propounded as ‘eternal’, ‘beginningless’ and ‘authorless’. Like all other sacred texts, the Vedas also had human authors―often anonymous―who wrote in a language which was prevalent in the culture of the time.
Lack of historical sense among many Indians is a direct consequence of the concept of sanatana, and all Hindu records were made to conform to the notion of its self-sufficiency. For example, in the new NCERT school textbooks on the Vedic Civilization there is no reference to dates. The students are expected to believe that the Vedic texts are timeless157. The poor historical sense is again manifested in the effort of Hindutva historians to invent history and trace the origin of Hinduism to pre-Indus Valley and Indus Valley civilization, the claim that the Aryans are the original inhabitants of India, etc. Belief in the uniqueness of Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma is also said to be responsible for the extreme reluctance of Hindus in acknowledging the cultural debt they owe to others, the reason being that, such a confession would undermine their Dharma and vitiate their claim to priority and pre-eminence158.
As A.D. Mattam has suggested, in discussing the religions of India we should begin with the religions of the earliest inhabitants or Adimvasis which survive in some way among the present day tribals or adivasis, followed by the religion of the Dalits (Scheduled castes and Outcastes), of the Harappan people, religion of the Tamils and finally the Arya Dharma or Vedic religion159.
The myth that Hinduism is a continuation of the Vedic religion
The proponents of Hindutva staunchly argue that Hinduism of today is a continuation of the Vedic religion. In fact, strenuous efforts are made to make a neat and uninterrupted link between the Vedic religion and the Hinduism of today160. In the NCERT Social Sciences textbook for Class VI we read: “They [the Vedas] are also called the Hindu religious literature and are revered”161. What is argued here is that the Aryans created the Hindu religion and civilization so that the Hindus of today are the lineal ancestors of the Aryans.
But it is a well-known fact that the Vedic people not only did not call themselves Hindus but also did not possess the essential characteristics of the Hinduism of today. However, in order to legitimise the antiquity of Hinduism, Savarkar argued that the word ‘Hindu’ is derived from the Vedic appellation of Saptasindhus162. Swami Vivekananda claimed that Hinduism is the religion of the Vedas163. Aurobindo believed that the Vedas are the foundation of the Sanatana Dharma164. David Frawley argues that Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world with a tradition going back to the very beginning of what we know of as history over five thousand years ago165. Frawley also equates the Vedic religion with Hindu dharma166. This view of Hinduism is also systematically taught in schools. In the NCERT school textbook for Class VI the students are told: “Hinduism is a very old religion. It is also known as Sanatana Dharma i.e. the Eternal Spiritual Tradition of India. On the basis of material remains found in the Harappan Civilization it can be said that many of the religious aspects of Hinduism began then”167.
But the above explanation is too simplistic and it neglects many doctrinal and practical differences between the Vedic religion and modern Hinduism. Modern Hinduism has drifted miles away from the Vedic faith so that the two seem to be two distinct faiths. When we carefully examine the two faiths, it is not difficult to discover that there is no noticeable continuity of Hinduism from the religion of the Vedas. In other words, the distinctive characteristics of Hinduism of today cannot be traced in the Vedic literature. Besides, although the Vedas are revered as sacred texts, there are many in India who do not know what ‘belief in the Vedas’ means. In most cases, the acquaintance of the Hindus with the Vedas is limited to the few hymns that are recited in temples and household liturgies168.
The Vedas as a body of scripture contain many contradictions and they are fragmentary in nature. For most Hindus of today, scriptures like the Bhagavadgita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas are more attractive and appealing than the Vedas. In addition, the gods and goddesses they worship differ considerably from the Vedic ones. The collection of hymns called Vedas written in praise of certain deities by poets over several centuries does not seem to have much significance for the Hindus of today, except for scholars, though currently frantic efforts are being made by the proponents of Hindutva to revive the study of the Vedas like, the Vedic rituals, Vedic mathematics, Vedic astrology, Vedic Sanskrit, Vedic astronomy, etc.
There are also other reasons to question the theory that the Vedas are the foundations of modern Hinduism. Dayananda Saraswati was the first modern Hindu thinker to emphasise the importance of ‘going back to the Vedas’ in order to bring about social reforms in Hindu society and to purify Hinduism of its many aberrations. Much of the modern Hinduism is ‘puranic Hinduism’. Vedic gods like Indra, Varuna, Agni, Soma and the like, whom the Vedic people worshipped, hardly have any significance in present day Hinduism. The gods and goddesses important to the Hindus of today are Ram, Krishna, Kali, Ganesh, Hanuman, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and the respective consorts of the last three, namely, Saraswati, Lakshmi and Shakti. None of these deities figured prominently in the Vedic pantheon and some of them are clearly non-Vedic. The major gods of Hinduism like Vishnu and Shiva are non-Aryan in origin169. Though they may have belonged to the Vedic tradition they played no major role in the Vedas. K.M.Panikkar, says that it is proved beyond doubt that the more important religious sects among the Hindus, like Vaishnavism, Saivism and so on, did not have a Vedic origin, but had come into existence in comparatively recent times170.
Again, there are evidences that originally Shiva and the cult of the Mother Goddess belonged to the religion of the Indus Valley people171. Heinrich von Stietencron is of the opinion that the substance of the Vishnu and Shiva cult is a melting of at least two cultures, if not three, namely, the Aryan culture, the pre-Aryan culture of the Ganges Valley (probably indirectly), and the Indus Valley culture. These three cultures were closely knit by the first century of Christianity and in the later period underwent further developments, and probably also a fourth tradition of the indigenous tribes that stood outside the four classes of the caste system as outcastes172. Besides, the Vedic worshipper did not use temples and idols as Hindus of today do. For them, the sacrificial rituals were more important than temple or idol worship. In addition, as Koenraad Elst observes, the major Hindu feasts of today are based on the epic feats of Rama and Krishna and the Puranic lore pertaining to Shiva and the Goddess173.
Belief in reincarnation which is central to Hinduism is not really attested to in the Vedas, though they hint at life after death. B.Walker says: “The doctrine of transmigration as elaborated in Hinduism has no place in the Vedic hymns”174. C.K.Raja also affirms that in the early Vedic literature, there is no express mention of the doctrine of transmigration. It is in the Upanisads that it appears for the first time. The Rig Veda speaks of two paths for the souls of the deceased, namely, the path of the gods (devayana) and the path of the fathers (pitriyana). Those who go by the former enjoy immortality and there is no return to physical life after that. In fact, the Vedic man longed for this state of life. Whereas those who go by the latter path, unite with the fathers and then return to earth, after having enjoyed the fruits of his deeds. Raja further states that in the entire Rig Veda―consisting of about 10,500 verses―there is only one occasion where there is mention of a return to this world after death. What is implied here is that it cannot be taken as an important teaching of the Rig Veda175. B.G.Tilak also notes that the Vedas speak of the ‘path of the gods’(devayana) and ‘path of the fathers’ (pitriyana) for the souls of the deceased176.
The theory of avatara (‘descend’) of gods which is important to modern Hinduism is non-Vedic. B.Walker observes: “Significantly, the term avatara […] is not found in the earlier Vedic texts, and is absent from the older Sanskrit glossaries”177. The caste system which is so integral to Hinduism, was also not practiced in the Vedic times. There is hardly any evidence of rigid caste system in the Vedas. It is argued that the purushasukta hymn of the Rig Veda (X.90) which is often referred to in order to give a religious sanction to caste system, was a later interpolation. The Vedas, however, speak of various classes of people, which appear to have been names of professions, and they were not hereditary178. O.P.Gupta says: “The very concept of castes by birth, upper/lower castes, superior/inferior castes, outcastes, untouchables, dalits, etc. are clearly prohibited by Rigveda”179.
The taboo on cow slaughter and beef eating which have become sensitive issues for the Hindus of today did not exist in Vedic times. Here the observation of Koenraad Elst is apt. He says: “criteria like taboo on beef-eating or belief in reincarnation might stamp the Vedic seers as non-Hindus”180. The question whether the Vedic people practiced cow slaughter is debated among Hindu revivalists and traditionalists. Elst opines that it was precisely because the cow was a sacred animal that the authors of the Vedas sacrificed cows and ate beef on special occasions181. This argument only substantiates the view that cow was not an inviolable animal and that beef eating was not a taboo in Vedic times182.
As is clear from the above, several aspects that are intrinsic to the Hinduism of today, such as, the doctrine of re-incarnation, avatara (‘descent’) of gods, caste system, taboo on cow slaughter and beef eating were absent in the Vedic religion. K.M.Panikkar holds a similar view. He says: “It was shown by a critical study of the Vedas that the Aryans had no developed idea of caste system, [.…] The taboo on the use of beef was shown to be of later origin, that the cow was freely killed for ceremonial and other purposes in ancient India”183. On close examination we also discover that the religion of the Vedas was not the religion of the Hindus, nor were the Vedic people Hindus, nor will the Hindus of today approve the replacement of the term ‘Hinduism’ with ‘Vedic Religion’. None can say exactly when the Aryans became Hindus because neither the name Hindu nor its major beliefs and practices existed in the Vedic times. To this one must add the marginal place the Vedic gods occupy in today’s Hindu pantheon. In addition, as we have seen, the Vedas themselves are not attractive to most of today’s Hindus as sacred texts. The Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavadgita, Puranas and Manusmriti, may have more to do with the Hinduism of today than the Vedas. Thus, it is clear that there is no direct ancestry of modern Hinduism traceable in the Vedas, though it does have some influence on it. Romila Thapar says: “The Vedic corpus reflects the archetypal religion of those who called themselves aryas, and which, although it contributed to facets of latter day Hinduism, was nevertheless distinct”184.
Hence, it follows that the Vedic religion deserves to be treated on its own as a distinct religion with its own sacred texts, rites, rules of social life, beliefs and practices without inter-linking it with modern Hinduism. Perhaps it is right to maintain that the Mimamsa school which is concerned with the investigation of the Vedic texts, their correct interpretation and the meticulous performance of the Vedic rituals and ceremonies185 has preserved and defended a part of the heritage of the Vedic tradition. The Vedanta school also may have received a part of the inspiration from the Vedas. For the rest of the Hindu philosophical schools and religious sects, the influence of the Vedas is nominal. However, in as much as elements from the Vedas have influenced some aspects of Hinduism, it may be considered as one of the many factors influencing modern Hinduism. But by no means can it be maintained that Hinduism of today has its direct ancestry in the Vedic religion. Therefore, Hinduism of Vedic times is an imagined religion. Hinduism of today is of a much later origin, and a historical view of Indian religions would endorse a dichotomy between Vedic religion and contemporary Hinduism.
Hinduism does not have a long ancestry as is often presumed or propagated by the Hindutva ideologues. In fact, historically, religions like Buddhism and Jainism can claim greater antiquity than the Hinduism of today186. Romila Thapar states that the term ‘Hindu’ is originally a geographical nomenclature. Inscriptions of the Achaemenid empire refer to the frontier region of the Indus or Sindhu as Hi(n)dush. Its more common occurrence many centuries later is in Arabic texts where the term is initially used, refers to the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, the land across the Sindhu or Indus river. Al-Hind was, therefore, a geographical identity, and the Hindus were all the people who lived on this land. Thus, the term ‘Hindu’ essentially came to mean ‘the other’ in the eyes of the new arrivals. It was only gradually that the term was used to describe those who professed a religion other than Islam and Christianity. It is also noteworthy that the use of the word ‘Hindu’ in non-Islamic sources is known probably only from the fifteenth century A.D.187 Gerald James Larson argues that the term ‘Hindu’ became a term of administrative convenience when the rulers of Arab, Turkish, Afghan and Mughal origin–all Muslims–had to differentiate between ‘the believers’ and the rest188.
Hinduism began to take a systematic form from the time of Adi Sankara (8th century A.D.). In this sense, he may be considered as the ‘founder’ of Hinduism. Ninian Smart affirms that Hinduism as we know today is of recent origin. He states: “Hinduism did not really achieve its status as a coherent, though still baffling, religious complex until after the establishment of the [British] Raj”189.
In discussing the Vedic religion it is also to be remembered that in the course of history, many non-Aryan elements entered into the Vedic religion. The Vedic Aryans freely borrowed elements from the culture and the society around them. But we cannot say with precision, which are the non-Aryan elements in the Vedic religion. Therefore, the thesis of the direct ancestry of Hinduism of today from Vedic religion is to be considered as a myth purported by Hindutva.
The myth of Hinduism as a single religion
Today, in many circles, people speak and write about Hinduism as if it is a single religion and lend it the status of a world religion. Consequently, people have begun to believe that such a religion really exists. Thus there are many Hindutva ideologues who insist that Hinduism is a single religion, and their vast literature deliberately present Hinduism as the one and the only religion of the majority population of India. For example, Ram Swarup claims: “there is one Religion, one Perennial Philosophy, one Sanatana Dharma, the old name for Hinduism, […]. Different religions and sects that come and go in history are facets of the same Religion”190.
However, there are Hindutva ideologues who visualise Hinduism as a family of many religions, although they continue to retain a single name–Hinduism–to designate all. For example, Aurobindo describes Hinduism as a religion which is all-inclusive because it admits all beliefs, allowing even atheism and agnosticism and all possible spiritual experiences191. David Frawley is willing to admit that there are more religions inside of Hinduism than outside of it192. Then he goes on to claim that Hinduism is the world’s largest pluralistic tradition and it believes in many paths and recognises many names and forms for God, both masculine and feminine and contains many sages, many scriptures and many ways to know God193. Here, the term ‘Hinduism’, though it functions more clearly as an umbrella term for many beliefs and practices, continues to project the idea that Hinduism is a single religion.
Unfortunately, the concept ‘Hinduism’ has already acquired certain connotations and it is not easy for us to get rid of them. In reality, Hinduism is not a single religion but a collection of many religions194. As Heinrich von Stietencron remarks, Hinduism is like a synthetic plant that does not exist in nature195. G.J.Larson argues that terms like ‘Hindu majority’, ‘Hindu religion’ and ‘Hinduism’ are largely an ‘artificial categorization’196. Wilfred Cantwell Smith observes that the term ‘Hinduism’ is a false conceptualization, one that is conspicuously incompatible with any adequate understanding of the religious outlook of Hindus, and the term refers not to an entity but to a prodigiously variegated series of facts197. The idea of considering Hinduism as one religion is the creation of the Europeans.
Hence it is a mistake to consider Hinduism as a single religion. Hinduism is a collection of many religions, which are in relation with each other, and all of them are found in the same geographical space. They have also many elements in common which in the course of history have influenced each other. Further, Hinduism does not speak of one official position but many positions―which are sometimes mutually contradictory. This is an added reason to maintain that Hinduism is not one philosophy around which are built up various philosophical opinions, but many separate and independent philosophies, each with their founders, authoritative texts, doctrines and commentaries, schools and followers, propagators and defenders. For example, Hinduism is complex and pluralistic in its conception of the nature of the absolute, paths to liberation, nature of the liberated state, etc. The six philosophical systems (darsanas) are the clearest example of it. All the six systems accept the authority of the Vedas and are considered as schools of Hinduism―whether they be atheistic or theistic, monistic or dualistic, pantheistic or panentheistic. Their metaphysical speculations and epistemological positions also differ considerably. Thus their distinctiveness and differences, the debates and the quarrels among them all through history, show that there are many philosophical systems within Hinduism.
Romila Thapar observes that it is not long ago since Vaisnavas, Saivas, Lingayats and others began to refer themselves as Hindus and until then these had maintained their multiple identities. But the attempt to force them into unchanging, static entities would seem to contradict the historical evidence198. History of religions in India shows that there have been serious conflicts, theological competitions and debates to assert the superiority of one religion over the others. Several religions have also made exclusive claims to the extent of declaring the others as false and heretical. Many religions have also produced scholarly treatises in order to affirm their separate identity and to distinguish themselves from others. Each of these religions has also their own separate traditions, doctrinal aspects, sacred scriptures, rites, festivals, myths, theologians, holy places and followers. Again, within Hinduism, we can make distinctions like ‘village Hinduism’, ‘temple Hinduism’, ‘devotional Hinduism’, ‘popular Hinduism’, ‘philosophical Hinduism’, ‘militant Hinduism’, and so forth. These reasons are sufficient to maintain that there are many independent religions under the name ‘Hinduism’.
If one can consider Judaism, Christianity and Islam as distinct religions, having their own founders, holy books, rites, names for the Absolute, etc., there is reason to consider the various sects within Hinduism also as distinct religions. For example, Saivism, Vaishnavism and Saktism can easily be considered as distinct religions. Further, if we use the seven dimensional analysis of religion propounded by Ninian Smart, namely, the ritual, mythical, doctrinal, experiential, ethical, social and material199, we will discover that all these dimensions are present in each of the above ‘sects’ of Hinduism. The discovery of these dimensions of religion is an additional reason to consider them as separate religions.
Hence we may argue that the projection of Hinduism as a single religion is misleading, phenomenologically, historically, philosophically, theologically and religiously. Hinduism, as we have seen, is a mix of pluralities and contradictions and is a common designation for many religions. Consequently it is one of the most difficult religions to define. Though Hinduism is generally considered as a religion it does not have clearly defined doctrines, dogmas, beliefs, practices and a central authority which Hindus in general are expected to accept. In fact, this has led some to speak of Hinduism not as a religion but as a way of life200; but this idea is a rather new phenomenon, and it is ideologically and politically motivated―just as Hindutva is described as ‘a way of life’.
The myth of India as a Hindu nation from time immemorial
Hindu nationalism ultimately aims at liquidating any culture that does not fall within the purvey of Hinduism. Savarkar wrote ‘Hindutva’ with the premise that India is a Hindu nation from time immemorial201 and constantly propagated this view in many of his writings and public discourses. He says: “Down to this day the whole world knows us as ‘Hindus’ and our land as ‘Hindustan’, as if in fulfillment of the wishes of our Vedic fathers who were the first to make that choice”202. According to him, no other nation in the world can claim such an unbroken continuity, except perhaps the Chinese203. He argues that in ancient times the Hindu nation was called Saptasindhu or Sindhu. Savarkar says: “The most ancient of the names of our country of which we have a record is Saptasindhu or Sindu”204. This Sindhustan was not merely a piece of land but a nation and the best nation of the Aryas, as distinguished from the mlecchastan or the land of the foreigners205. Golwalkar also propagated the idea that Hindus were one nation from ancient times206 and that the concept of a Hindu nation is as old as the Vedas207.
It must be reiterated that views such as the above are products of imagination without any foundation in reality. The historical fact is that there was no clear pan-Hindu cultural unity at any period before the Indian renaissance in the 18th and early 19th centuries. K.M. Panikkar rightly observes that Indian Nationalism is an idea which is the outcome of the impact of Europe. He says: “[Indian] Nationalism is another idea which is the outcome of the impact of the West. [….] It is Mazzini who provided the theory; it is the Irish nationalists that provided the technique and it is French and British liberalism in the 19th century that sustained the spirit of nationalism in India”208. Then he goes on to add that three factors have influenced the conception of India as a nation: a) the combination of the newly created self-image through reconstructed history; b) the concept of nationalism as a mystique uniting the people of a single territory into something different from the rest of the world; and c) the doctrine of the state as the embodiment of the people. All these three originated due to India’s contact with Europe209.
In a bid to accommodate the non-Hindu cultures and religions of India some new and liberal interpretations of Hindutva have also emerged. Today there is an attempt to interpret Hindutva simply as ‘Indian culture’ or ‘as a way of life’. But these go beyond the concept of Hindutva propounded by Savarkar and Golwalkar. For example, some Hindutva ideologues like L.K. Advani speak of the followers of Islam as ‘Mohammadi Hindus’, Christians living in India as ‘Christian Hindus’ and the Sikhs as ‘Sikh Hindus’210. Advani was only repeating what the Hindu Mahasabha had already demanded in 1951. N.B.Khare of the Hindu Mahasabha declared in his presidential address:
The Hindu Mahasabha believes in militarizing Hinduism and Hinduising politics. I say, ‘Go a step further, and Hinduise all foreign faiths. [….] It can therefore also include in its fold the four foreignborn religions which are practiced in India, viz. Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Jewism. [….] They must call themselves Hindus. They must align themselves with the Hindu group for better or for worse, [….] They must abstain from cow-killing and beef- eating. And they must regard the ‘Ancient History of India’ as their own; and respect the heroes of Indian history [….] In short, these faiths must not look for their culture to Arabia, Europe, Persia or Palestine, but must adopt Bharatiya culture, which, in essence, is not different from Hindu culture211.
Often Hindutva perceives Muslims, Christians and other non-Hindus of India as ‘prodigal sons of Hinduism’ who should return to their original home which is Hinduism. Hence one of the aims of the re-conversion (shuddhi) movement or the ceremony of ‘home coming’ (ghar vapasi) is to claim the non-Hindus of Indian origin to Hinduism. False notions such as these are widely employed by Hindutva ideologues and organizations all over India in order to indoctrinate and confuse the simple and the illiterate people.
The political agenda of Hindutva is to make India a Hindu nation so that it functions like a theocratic State with the accompanying denial of religious freedom, fundamental rights and cultural pluralism. But such an attempt obviously pauses a serious threat to the cultural plurality of India guaranteed in the Indian Constitution, because Hindutva in essence advocates a kind of cultural nationalism where the concept of Hindu race, i.e. Hindus as descendants of Aryans, occupies the central place and all others are treated as subordinate to them.
But the fact about India is that―as Praful Bidwai has rightly observed―India was never a Hindu Nation in any real sense. For about 2,000 years, non-Hindus have been integral to what is called India―Buddhists, animists, Jains, atheists, Christians, agnostics, Muslims, ancestor or nature worshippers212. Katherine K. Young reminds us that the emperor Ashoka almost succeeded in making Buddhism a State religion in the third century B.C. 213 Ninian Smart maintains a similar view. He criticises in strong terms the tendency to consider the story of India as the story of Hinduism. He affirms: “For one of our modern optical illusions is to see the story of India as being the story of Hindus, forgetting the so powerful effects of Buddhism, Jainism and other movements during the periods of India’s history”214.
There was never a political unity in the Indian subcontinent under the banner of Hinduism―for that matter there was never a political unity in the true sense of the term at any time in the past; India of today was a conglomeration of numerous petty kingdoms215. It is said that there are three major epochs in history when India attained some degree of oneness or at least moved towards a pan-India empire: the time of Ashoka (c.273-236 B.C)216, Akbar (1556-1605)217 and the British, and none of these was Hindu. There never was the much-eulogised one Hindu nation from time immemorial. Instead there were numerous independent kingdoms whose vision of the ‘nation’ did not go beyond the borders of their individual kingdoms. Besides, the Hindu rulers had no time to pursue the vision of one Hindu nation for they were too busy with wars and petty quarrels among themselves or betraying one another to the enemies and invaders. Hence the theory that India was a Hindu nation from time immemorial is a myth.
The myth that animists, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are Hindus
Koenraad Elst in his book ‘Who is a Hindu? Revivalist Views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Other Offshoots of Hinduism’ (2002), argues that the follower of Animism, Buddhism and Sikhism are Hindus218. There are scholars who insist that the Jains too are Hindus. But these claims can be contested.
In the first place, the argument is new and it came into prominence only since the emergence of the Hindutva ideology. Until then, neither the Buddhists nor the Jains nor the Sikhs nor the animists were aware that they come under Hinduism. Not even the Hindus themselves knew that such a possibility existed, as they had always treated them as independent faiths having their identities separate from Hinduism. For example Aurobindo says: ‘There were also religious communities like the Buddhists, the Jains, etc. Each followed its own law–svadharma”219. But the claim that animists, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are Hindus is ideologically and politically motivated, and it has much to do with Hindutva’s concern with numbers and vote bank.
It was Savarkar who maintained that one can be a true Hindu even if he does not accept the Vedas, as is the case with the Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and others220 including the so-called aboriginal or hill tribes221. Golwalkar also held a similar view and considered these religions as the various sampradays within the Hindu fold. Referring to a Vishva Hindu conference held at Udupi in 1969 Golwalkar says: “All the various sampradayas [sects] in the Hindu fold–the Shaiva, Veerashaiva, Madhwa, Vaishnava, Jaina, Buddha and Sikh–were represented in the conference”222. Other Hindutva ideologues soon took up this theory and gave it wide diffusion. For example, Ram Swarup considers Buddhism as Hindu in its origin and development223. He says: “Buddhism forms an intimate part of Hindu consciousness. Buddha was a Hindu, Buddhism is Hindu in its origin and development, in its art, and architecture, iconography, language, beliefs, psychology, names, nomenclature, religious vows and spiritual discipline”224. Sita Ram Goel affirms: “The term ‘Hinduism’ is used […] to cover all schools of Sanatana Dharma–Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism which includes the Santa-mata and Sikhism”225. D.N.Singh says: “Lord Buddha was born a Hindu and made some changes in the Hindu religion. He founded what is now known as Buddhism. Lord Mahavira also made some amendments in Hindu religion, and Jainism in its present form was born”226. David Frawley is another Hindutva ideologue who treats Buddhism, Jainism and other religions of Indian origin as part of Hinduism227.
Theoretically, definition of a Hindu in Savarkar’s Hindutva (1923) and M.S. Golwalkar’s We or Our nationhood Defined (1939) was formulated to suit the claim that the above religions are part of Hinduism since they have their Fatherland (pitrubhu) and Holy land (punyabhu) in India. Savarkar says: “Hinduism is a word that properly speaking should be applied to all the religious beliefs that the different communities of the Hindu people hold”228. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee also maintained a similar view. Mukherjee says: “The word ‘Hindu’ is used in the widest sense possible, and includes every son and every daughter of India who regards this land as their fatherland and profess a religion of Indian origin. From this point of view a Buddhist, a Jain, a Sikh are welcome to stand united for the common good of the country”229.
However, the fact is that, all the above religions are distinct faiths and most of them came into being as revolts against Brahmanism and its spiritual and philosophical traditions. Katherine K. Young says that Buddhism and Jainism, for instance, began as extremely critical attacks on Vedic religion and campaigned against it and its subsequent form as Hinduism for centuries230. A.D.Mattam says: “Jainism was the result of the reaction against the ritualistic religion of the Brahmanas and the supremacy of the Brahmin class”231; “Like Mahavira he [the Buddha] too rejected the Vedas, Vedic sacrifices and rituals”232. Orthodox Hindus like Adi Sankara, Dayananda Saraswati, Vivekananda and so on considered Buddhism and Jainism as arch rivals of Hinduism and denounced them outright in their writings and discourses. For example, Adi Sankara’s Vedanta Sutra Bhasya contains numerous passages which reveal that he was inimical towards Buddhism and Jainism. About Sankara’s involvement in the disappearance of Buddhism from India Vivekananda says: “Buddhism degenerated, and Shankara lopped it off!”233. Chapter 12 of Dayanada Saraswati’s Satyartha Prakash, is entitled ‘Atheistic Cults of India Carvacas, Buddhism and Jainism’, and Dayananda engages in systematic criticism and refutation of these schools of thought234. Vivekananda says: “wherever he went, Buddha tried to pull down every old thing sacred to the Hindus to the dust, […] So did the Jains, who laughed at the idea of God”235; “Every page of Buddhism is a fight with the Vedas”[…]. But he had no authority to do so”236; “Buddhism was extremely iconoclastic; and much of its force being spent in merely negative attempts, it had to die out in the land of its birth, and what remained of it became full of superstitions and ceremonials, a hundred times cruder than those it was intended to suppress”237.
Savarkar also did pass some harsh judgement on the Buddhists stating that some of the Buddhist Viharas sheltered loose, lazy and promiscuous crowd of men and women who lived on others and spent what was not theirs on disreputable pursuits of life238.
Golwalkar, in some of his writings, does not hesitate to call the Buddhists fanatics and traitors of Indian culture. He says: “After Buddha, his followers here degenerated. They began to uproot the age-old national traditions of this land. The great cultural virtues fostered in our society were sought to be demolished. […] the Buddhist fanatics invited and helped the foreign aggressors who wore the mask of Buddhism. The Buddhist sect had turned a traitor to the mother society and the mother religion”239; Arun Shourie openly denounces B.R.Ambedkar, one of the outstanding leaders of the ‘untouchables’ and a convert to Buddhism240. But today, the proponents of Hindutva seldom mention these facts, as it can be embarrassing to their ideology and upset their ‘number game’.
The reason for Hindutva claiming that ‘animists’ are Hindus is not difficult to understand. So far, the BJP’s electoral support has been mainly from its middle class and upper caste base, which, as the general elections in the country have shown241, is not adequate to gain a majority in the Parliament. Given that the minorities and the lower castes are almost out of reach, the tribal communities are a possible social group to fill the gap. With this aim the Sangh Parivar has initiated social and religious works in tribal areas through a network of organizations known as Vanvasi Kalyan Samitis242. Savarkar’s far-reaching and influential definition of ‘Hindu’ as those who consider India as their Fatherland and Holy land is effectively used for winning over the tribal populations. Today in many cases the Hindutva groups are patronizing the Vanavasis and the Dalits and promising many concessions to them, primarily for political ends. For example, in order to mobilize support of tribals and Dalits who form a major vote bank in Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, during assembly elections held in 2003, BJP held a two-day Dalit Morcha in Mhow (Madhya Pradesh), the birthplace of B.R.Ambedkar243. Thus, the tribals are welcomed to the Hindutva fold because of the concern with numbers and the political benefits accruing from it and not because they are keen to ensure upward social mobility for them. Golwalkar said: “The Hindus should not remain ignorant of the potency of numbers. […] all Hindus, to whatever sect, caste, clan, or tribe they may belong, must put down their community as ‘Hindu’ only”244.
But history tells us that, in the early period, there were two major religious groups, namely, Brahmanism and Sramanism, with fundamental distinctions between the two as regards doctrines, beliefs, rituals, social norms and sacred texts. To the former belonged the twice born upper castes and they accepted the Vedas; the latter consisted of Buddhists, Jains, Ajivaks and other sects, which denied the authority of the Vedas. From a phenomenological point of view, we observe that, the adherents of Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and ‘animism’ maintain their identity as separate religions, and are convinced that they do not belong to Hinduism. In addition, it is also not difficult to discover that each of these religions has its own typical religious experiences, founders (except perhaps the animists), doctrines, practices, rituals and the like, which are distinct from Hinduism.
Ninian Smart argues that, as a religion, Buddhism is prior to Hinduism. According to him, what we now know as Hinduism had not yet come into existence at the time of the Buddha in the sixth century B.C. Hence, it is misleading to see the Buddhists as a kind of breakaway group from Hinduism. Besides, for a long period of Indian history, the forces of Buddhism and other movements such as Jainism, lived side by side with the developing religiosity of the Hindu tradition245. K.M.Panikkar reminds us that the recovery of the Buddhist texts, mainly as a result of the works of European scholars showed that the Indian tradition was not exclusively Hindu, and that a rival religion, namely, Buddhism, had flourished in India for over a thousand years and had contributed greatly to Hindu culture246.
Referring to the separate identity of the Sikh religion from Hinduism, Nonica Datta argues that, historically the Sikhs always maintained clear differences between their religion and Hinduism, and that the Sikh consciousness invariably followed an independent course of its own247. The same argument can be extended in favour of Jainism248 and ‘animism’ and both of them cannot be considered as sub-sects of Hinduism.
Hence to treat Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and ‘animism’ as part of Hinduism is to deny them their inalienable right to maintain their own religious and cultural identity. Jawaharlal Nehru says: “Buddhism and Jainism were certainly not Hinduism or even the Vedic dharma. […] A Buddhist or Jain in India is a hundred per cent product of Indian thought and culture, yet neither is a Hindu by faith”249.
Tribals of India cannot also be considered as Hindus because they have their own distinct religious identity with beliefs, practices, rites, sacred traditions, which distinguish them from Hinduism, and they have all the characteristics found in the major religions of the world―at least in a nutshell250. In modern times instead of the term ‘animists’ they are generally designated as ‘traditional religions’. But it can happen that under the process of Sanskritization, the entire tribe or part of it can get integrated itself into Hindu religion or use certain aspects of Hindu religion without much reflection, such as rites, festivals, myths, rules of purity, social norms, etc. These factors make it easy to consider them as part of Hinduism―which in reality can hardly be justified.
But why is there such an insistence on the part of Hindutva ideologues that Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and animists are Hindus? The answer is to be sought in the political agenda of Hindutva which aims at establishing a Hindu rashtra (Hindu nation) out of secular India for which ‘the number’ is a crucial factor. We present below a statistical study carried out by G.J.Larson. He says that about 23 per cent of India’s population come under the category of Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Scheduled Castes (SC). If one combines the SCs and STs with other ‘minority’ religious communities, namely, Muslims (11.5 per cent), Christians (2.5 per cent), Sikhs (2 per cent), Buddhists, (0.75 per cent), Jains (0.50 per cent), and Others (0.50 percent), one comes very near a total of 40 per cent of India’s population. This still leaves some 60 percent for the category of ‘Hindu’ but of these 60 percent, only 18 per cent constitute the so-called ‘forward castes’ (Brahmins, Bhumihars. Rajputs, Marathas, Jats, Vaishya Banias, Kayasthas and so on), leaving 40 per cent for the undetermined category known as ‘Other Backward Classes’251. Larson’s study reveals, to some extent, why Hindutva is concerned about bringing as many religious groups as possible under the umbrella of Hinduism―it is related to the strategy of its number game252.
A.D. Mattam has challenged the claim of the proponents of Hindutva that the majority of the people in India are Hindus. He argues that the census of India inflate the figures of Hindus. The actual percentage of Hindus must be less than 40 per cent or so of the population of India if strict criteria are followed253. Mattam also refers to V.T. Rajashekar who makes a list of those who are not Hindus or were never Hindus, namely, Scheduled castes (20%); Tribals (10%), Backward castes (40%) which makes a total of 70% of India’s population. Then there are Muslims (15%), Christians (2.5%), Sikhs (2%) which adds up to a total of 19.5%. Hence a total of 90% are not ‘Hindu’254.
The myth of Hinduism as the most tolerant religion
There is a widely popularized belief that Hinduism never indulged in religious persecution, and that it is the most tolerant of all the world religions. For example, David Frawley claims that Hinduism is the super tolerant religion255. Savarkar calls India the ‘land of toleration’256. Golwalkar claims: “There has never been […] a conflict or intolerance in our country either in the past or in the present”257. D.N.Singh argues that the secret of the survival of the Hindu religion, in spite of the many invasions it encountered, lies in its tolerance of outsiders and their beliefs258.
It must be emphasised that Hinduism’s claim that it is ‘the most tolerant religion’, ‘a religion which never indulged in persecution of others’ and so on are false. In July 2003 the international ministerial conference on ‘Dialogue among Civilisations’ concluded with the adoption of a resolution which accepted ‘tolerance as a fundamental value common to all civilizations’259. If a religion conceives non-violence or love as a fundamental virtue, tolerance has to be one of the hallmarks of that religion. The virtue of ‘tolerance’ is implied in the teachings of practically all the great religions of the world. In India we have examples of emperors and national figures who have been great models of religious tolerance: Ashoka’s tolerance was founded on Buddhism, Akbar’s on Islam, Mahatma Gandhi’s on Hinduism and Mother Teresa’s on Christianity.
However, if we go by evidences from history, Hinduism does not deserve the honor of being the most tolerant religion. André Béteille notes that in Hinduism the principle of hierarchy clashes with that of toleration260. History tells us that Hinduism has been intolerant towards those religions, cultures and ideologies that did not allow themselves to be dominated by Hinduism. Often, for Hinduism, tolerance means conceding to the non-Hindus a subordinate role without rights and privileges. Again, tolerance for Hinduism implies assimilation, integration and domination of the Other. This aspect of Hinduism is clearly stated by Aurobindo. He says: “But she [India, Hinduism] assimilates only when her central truth is recognized by the other party, and even while assimilating she does it in such a way that the elements absorbed are no longer recognizable as foreign but become part of herself”261. In 1952, N.C. Chatterjee, the president of the Hindu Mahasabha also emphasized this aspect of Hinduism:
The Huns, the Scythians, the Greeks were all absorbed into the great Hindu fold. The great Dravidian people were also brought under the influence of Hindu civilization. So long as Hinduism was a living organism, it could both absorb and resist; it could both be aggressive and at the same time it could assimilate and elevate to higher level the unAryan or non-Aryan tribes or peoples whom it sheltered262.
When the proponents of Hindutva argue that Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and animism are part of Hinduism, it is an attempt to assimilate and dominate these religions. Perhaps in the history of India, the religions that have resolutely resisted this process are Christianity and Islam, and this explains to some extent, the intolerant attitude of the Hindu revivalists and Hindutva ideologues towards these religions, and the reason for branding them as ‘foreign faiths’ and ‘internal threats’ to India.
It is to be reiterated that, ahimsa or non-violence became a normative value of Hinduism only in recent times. It was the Buddhists and the Jains who made this virtue foundational and absolute to their faith. In fact, the Bhagavadgita which is acclaimed as the ‘gospel’ of Hinduism presents a different teaching on the matter. It clearly endorses the use of violence. In modern times, it was Bal Gangadhar Tilak who effectively utilized the teachings of the Bhagavadgita to support his extremist views, and his Gita Rahasya (‘the secret of the Gita’) is a witness to it. In fact, we are told that considering the ‘dynamite that the Gita contained –as K.M. Panikkar puts it―the British government for a time seriously entertained the idea of proscribing the Gita263.
The history of Brahamanic intolerance towards other faiths is long. For example, the Aryan emigrants were intolerant towards the indigenous population and reduced them to the status of the serving class. Several Hindu kings in the past have been intolerant. In fact, up to the time of the Gupta dynasty, Buddhism was one of the leading religions of India, which almost overshadowed the Vedic religion and puranic Hinduism, and some scholars even claim that at one time Buddhism was the most prominent religion of India264. Romila Thapar reminds us that, in the second century B.C., Pushyamitra Sunga, the Brahmin ruler, disapproved the heterodox sects and persecuted the Buddhists265. In fact the Buddhist tradition describes Pushyamitra as a cruel persecutor of Buddhism. He is said to have destroyed monasteries and killed the monks in the course of his march to Sakala (Sialkot in Punjab) where he declared a price of one hundred gold coins on the head of each monk266.
Writings in the seventh century A.D., Hiuan-Tsang attests to the Saivite persecution of Sramanic sects in Kashmir267. The historian Kalhana writing in the twelfth century refers to the earlier destruction of Buddhist monasteries and killing of Buddhist monks by the Huna king Mihirakula who patronized Saivism268. From the seventh century A.D. onwards in Tamil Nadu, the Saiva sects attacked Jain establishments and even succeeded in driving out the sramanas269. In Karnataka, the Virasaivas or Lingayatas persecuted the Jaina monks and destroyed Jaina images270. The Buddhists and the Jains of ancient Kerala too experienced persecution from Brahaminic Hindus especially since the emergence of Adi Sanakra271. A.D. Mattam says: “The decline of Buddhism and Jainism in Tamizhakam began by 8th century A.D. as a result of the vigorous propaganda led by missionaries like Sri Sankaracharya. The Buddhists and Jains it appears were sometimes subjected to violent persecution at the hands of the followers of Hinduism”272. It is said that, on the whole, Saivisim was more prone to persecuting competitors than Vaisnavism273.
Adi Sankara who preached the exclusive religion of the Advaita Vedanta, was primarily responsible for the disappearance of Buddhism from the land of its birth. In fact, Bal Gangadhar Tilak makes no secret of the fact that Buddhism and Jainism were overthrown by Kumarila Bhatta and Adi Sankara274. The intolerant king Sasanka burnt and destroyed the Bodhi-tree at Gaya as Hiuan-Tsang the Buddhist pilgrim from China narrates275. In Manipur, Northeast India, when the Meithei king Pamheiba (Gharib Nawaz,1709-1748) was converted to Hinduism, he made Hinduism the State religion. Any religious dissent was treated with the same ruthless severity as was meted out to political opponents, and wholesale banishment or execution forced the people into accepting the tenets of Hinduism276.
Caste system and untouchability are also expressions of the religious intolerance of upper caste Hindus towards the lower castes and outcastes. In 1934, when the British Government wanted to introduce the untouchability abolition bill, several Hindu organizations and groups objected to it. For example, the Sanatana Dharma Sabha of Nainital wrote to the Governor General thus:
That the untouchability bill is against the principles of the Sanatana Dharma and anti-religious and the Sabha requests the Governor-General-in-Council not to allow it to pass into law as it interferes with Hindu religion. [….] Sanatana Dharma is Eternal Law therefore this Sabha requests the Government that its religion, customs, ways of life enjoined by its followers from time immemorial may be preserved277.
The many discriminatory laws, especially those imposed by The Laws of Manu against women, are also marks of Hindu intolerance. About the laws of Manu it has been said: “the Manu-smrti is today execrated by the lower castes, who regard it virtually as a blueprint of brahmin domination, a flagrant piece of brahmanical imposture”278. In other words, the long tradition of tolerance of many ‘crimes against humanity’ and violation of human rights within Hinduism is itself a species of intolerance. In spite of all this, paradoxically, Swami Vivekananda states: “in India there never was any religious persecution by the Hindus”279. He says further: “Before the Mohammedan wave came into India, it was never known what religious persecution was”280. Aurobindo claims that Hinduism is the most tolerant and receptive of all religious systems281.
Dayananda Saraswati in his controversial work Satyartha Prakash clearly demonstrated his intolerance towards all non-Hindu religions and philosophies in the criticism he leveled against the Carvacas, Buddhists, Jains282, Muslims283 and Christians284. This work, even today, remains as a notorious ‘masterpiece’ and testament of Hindu intolerance. Savarkar, besides projecting Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism as foreign religions, presented the Muslims as the greatest enemies of Hinduism and of the Hindu nation. He often used such epithets as ‘Muslim goondas’ and ‘Muslim hooligans’285 in his writings and speeches. In 1945 B.S. Moonje wrote to Mahatma Gandhi that he had no choice but to reject the latter’s non-violence because the Hindu Mahasabha was for ‘violence organized and disciplined on modern scientific lines’ as opposed to the charka (spinning wheel) because ‘it emasculates manliness’286. In 1952, during the presidential address of the Hindu Mahasabha N.C.Chatterjee stated: “We must make Hinduism aggressive and militant”287. He went on to add: “Swami Vivekananda preached aggressive Hinduism. He wanted us to make our faith aggressive, not only internationally, by sending out missionaries; but also socially, by self-improvement”288. For Golwalkar, Muslims, Christians and Communists are internal threats to India289 and Buddhists are enemies of Hindu culture290.
Arun Shourie is another Hindutva ideologue who has manifested his intolerance towards the minority religions and secular ideologies of India in his numerous writings. His main targets are the Christians, Muslims, Communists, Dalits, and the secularists in general291. Hindutva writers like Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel, leaders of Hindutva organizations like Giriraj Kishore, K.S. Sudarshan, Pravin Togadia, Ashok Singhal, Bal Thackeray, political leaders like L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, A.B. Vajpayee, Uma Bharati, Narendra Modi and so on are also some of the outstanding ‘intolerant faces’ of contemporary Hinduism.
When Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, visited England in August 2003 some of the protesters in London carried posters with such captions as: ‘Narendra Modi the butcher of Gujarat’, ‘Mr.Modi you are murderer not friend of Gujarat’, ‘Arrest and jail Modi’, etc292. The Guardian placed Modi in the tradition of Hitler and Milosevic and carried a title ‘He is blamed for the death of 2,000 Muslims in India. So why is this man in Wembley?’293. In April 2004 in a Supreme Court verdict the judges described Modi one of the modern-day Neros294. Some have even suggested that Modi should see a psychiatrist for he seems to be mentally ill295. In spite of this, some of the BJP leaders projected Narendra Modi as a possible candidate to succeed the former Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee and widely used him for the party’s election campaigns. To this list one can add the numerous Hindutva organizations that profess intolerance towards nonHindus and secular ideologies like the RSS, VHP, BJP, Shiv Sena, Bajran Dal and the Sangh Parivar as a whole.
History has recorded many instances of Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam and tribal religions resisting Hindu domination. Yet, Buddhism, which was once a powerful religion in India, succumbed to the combined attacks of Hindu religious leaders and Hindu rulers. This explains to a great extent the reason for the ‘disappearance’ of Buddhism from India. Hindutva is now waging a similar battle against Christianity, Islam and secular ideologies, and it does not make secret of its objective of obliterating them from India, so that the Hindutva plan of establishing a Hindu nation becomes a reality.
The Brahmanical ideology of ‘swallowing up’ other religions is also a sign of Hindu intolerance. Already in many Hindutva writings, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and ‘animists’ are declared as Hindus. Even the legal system of India supports it. In fact, legally Buddhist, Jaina and Sikh religious groups are considered Hindu296. In certain Hindutva circles the attempts at assimilation of the ‘Other’ consists in naming the Indian Christians as ‘Hindu-Christians’ and Indian Muslims as ‘Mohammadiya Hindus’. There is also a talk of creating a Christian hierarchy controlled by the Hindutva government after the model of the Chinese Church. It may also be recalled that in South India, the Christians were persecuted and St. Thomas the Apostle was killed by the Brahmins in 72 AD297. All these facts challenge the claim of Hinduism calling itself a tolerant religion.
The demolition of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya by the Hindu karsevaks (1992)298, the burning alive of Graham Staines and his two minor sons in Orissa (1999) and the numerous other incidents of attacks against the Christian community and the post Godhra events of Gujarat against the Muslim community (2002) raised serious questions against Hindu tolerance. VHP leader Pravin Togadia had called the Muslim madrasas atheist seminaries that hate God299. The then RSS chief K.S.Sudarshan had publicly stated in Nagpur that the Jesuits had been known for their violent, aggressive and exclusivist religious beliefs. Hence he had urged the then Indian President A.P.J Abdul Kalam to desist from attending the inauguration of the sixth World Congress of the Jesuit Alumni, in Kolkota in January 2003300. Sudharshan had said: “It is our considered opinion that fanatical religious groups like the Jesuits should not be allowed to gain legitimacy in this land until they clarify their position on pluralism and respect for other religions”301.
To the above, we may add the aggressive re-conversion activities carried out by the Hindutva activists and organizations in many parts of India, the passing of the so-called ‘Freedom of Religion’ Bill in some of the States which denies people their right to freedom of conscience, the selective intellectual attacks on Communists and other secularists, the innumerable ways in which the minorities in India are maligned and persecuted and so on are also examples of Hindu intolerance. Here the observation of the late Indian author and journalist Khushwant Singh is pertinent. He says: “They burnt books they did not like; they beat up journalists who wrote against them; they attacked cinema houses showing films they did not approve of; they smashed the equipment of film-makers ready to shoot film scripts cleared by the government; they vandalized the studio and paintings of India’s leading artist […]; they perverted texts from history books to make them conform to their ideas”302.
On 26 March 2004 Frontline reported some of the writings found on the walls in Orissa. They read:
“Hang those who are trying to convert people from Hinduism” “Awakening of Hinduism is the awakening of the country” “Beware ! Conversion will not be tolerated in the land of Jagannath” “Beware! Those who are converting are anti-nationals” “Stop conversion. Our sacred duty is to preserve Hinduism”303.
Again in Orissa in February 2004 six Dalit Christian women and the pastor of the village were dragged out of their homes by other residents and publicly tonsured. As they shaved their heads they kept taunting them saying: ‘Call your Jesus now. He will come and save you’304. A Christian youth of the village later said: “Most of us feel scared to move about alone. Any time we can be attacked for our religion”305.
In the face all these and many other facts, the argument that Hinduism is the most tolerant religion stands without foundation. It may be recalled here that, though the presence of Christianity in India dates back to the year 52 A.D., and Islam to the eighth century AD, both these religions are still considered as foreign faiths by Hindutva. In many Hindutva writings Judaism and Zoroastrianism, in spite of their presence in India from ancient times, are also treated as foreign religions. Such an attitude also smacks of the intolerance of Hinduism.
Rajmohan Gandhi observes in his book Revenge and Reconciliation that revenge and reconciliation is a grand sweep of Indian history. Its fundamental premise is that India’s past, far from being tolerant and pacific, suggests a history and continuing culture of settling scores306. Arvind Sharma observes that, Hinduism tends to be tolerant of doctrines and practices within it so that it can be called internal tolerance. But Hinduism tends to extrapolate this internal tolerance when it comes in contact with other religions307. Thus, it is clear that the much tainted notion of Hindu tolerance is in reality a myth308.
The myth of taboo on cow slaughter in Vedic times
The taboo on cow slaughter is one of the pillars of the Hindutva ideology. In the past, several futile attempts have been made by proponents of Hindutva to pass a law to ban the slaughter of cows at the national level. In 2003 an attempt was made to introduce in Parliament a bill entitled ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Cows Bill 2003’. Interestingly, the bill covered also a ban on bulls and bullocks. The bill was intended to prevent cruelty to cows and their progeny. It called for a ban on the export of cows and prohibition of sale of beef. It wanted to make causing injury to or killing of cow a cognisable and non-bailable offence. It also stated that anyone who kills or abets in the killing of a cow shall be awarded rigorous imprisonment for a term that may not be less than two years and may extend up to seven years and pay a fine up to Rs. 10,000 on each cow. For causing injury to a cow a person would be liable to pay a fine up to Rs 5,000. But critics of the bill argued that there was an obvious communal slant to the bill which was a reassertion of Hindutva politics of the BJP. In fact some strongly suspected that it was against certain communities309.
Today Gau Seva is considered as one of the greatest works of charity and huge funds are set aside by some States for the welfare of cows, for example Madhya Pradesh310. In the NCERT school textbook for Class VI we read: “Among the animals the cow was given the most important and sacred place. Injuring or killing of cow was prohibited in the Vedic period. The cow was called Aghnya (not to be killed or injured). Vedas prescribe punishment for injuring or killing cow by expulsion from the kingdom or by death penalty, as the case may be”311. According to Golwalkar, cow slaughter in India began with foreign domination. The Muslims started it and the Britishers continued it312.
The theory that in Vedic times there was no cow slaughter is historically inaccurate. Although cow was revered and treated as sacred, beef was offered as food to guests and persons of high status313. Besides, in ancient times, non-violence (ahimsa) was central focus of Jainism and Buddhism and not of other religious sects, and sacrifice of animals was essential to the Vedic religion314. Romila Thapar observes that to deny, for example, that on certain occasions the Aryans ate beef and drank alcohol is to deny the evidence of both literary and archaeological sources315. According to Kunkum Roy, the claim that injuring or killing of cow was prohibited and the Vedas prescribe punishment for injuring or killing cow by expulsion may not be accurate. The Vedic text (which by the definition of the NCERT textbook includes the Veda, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads) are not prescriptive. Hence, they do not mention punishment for violations of norms. This was introduced much later in the shastric literature. In addition, there are plenty of archaeological evidence from a number of sites, including Hastianapura, to suggest that cattle were slaughtered for meat in ancient India316. B.Walker says: “The cow is spoken of in the Rig-Veda as aghnya, ‘not-slayable’, but this prohibition was chiefly directed against the killing of the milch-cow, and did not preclude the slaughter of bulls and cows for a variety of religious and communal reasons”317.
Consumption of beef was clearly prevalent among the Vedic Aryans. K.N. Panikkar argues that the scholarship on the subject of Aryans eating beef is abundant―both literary and archaeological―and it has been conclusively shown that beef was part of the food of the Aryans, particularly on ritual occasions and when entertaining important guests318. B. Walker observes: “Several Vedic sacrifices demanded the slaughter of bulls, after which a piece of the flesh was eaten by the sacrificer. Beef in those days formed part of the regular diet of the Hindu, rishis (sages) and Brahmins excluded”319.
Cow meat came to be prohibited because cattle provided both labour and fertilizer, besides milk, in an agricultural society. Ritual recognition of the cow as a holy animal began spreading during the 6th century B.C. under the influence of Jainism. However, it was only in the brahmanical period in the early centuries of the present era that the worship of the cow took on the aspects of a basic belief in Hinduism320. Some scholars even say that when Hinduism sought internal reinforcements in the wake of the Mughal invasion, the cow became a symbol of religious and cultural self-assertion. Today, as an issue, cow-protection is strong mainly in northern India, and this is one of the reasons for considering that part of India as the ‘cow belt’321.
The myth that proselytisation is alien to Hinduism
Hindutva ideologues often argue that Hinduism is the only religion in the world that does not engage in proselytization. Golwalkar says: “Our religious missionaries who reached distant lands in ancient times did not force their religion on other people”322. P. Venugopal writes in the RSS weekly Organiser: “Hindu religion […] does not believe in conversion or go to other countries to market their religion. Hinduism does not preach conversion. Hinduism is the only religion in the world that does not go for conversion”323.
But the above claim is far from true. In 1952, N.C. Chatterjee the then president of the Hindu Mahasabha stated: “There is no greater historical truth than that the Hindu religion had been a proselytizing religion”324. In 1964, N.N. Banerjee, president of the same organization said: “The Hindu India in her glorious days used to send her colonists and missionaries to Pegu, Siam, Combodia, China, Tibet, Japan, Borneo, Syria, Egypt, Greece and Rome”325. In the 1965 revised constitution of the Hindu Mahasabha we read the following among its aims, objectives and rules: “To establish cultural contacts, and cohesion with the Hindus abroad and to intensify Hindu Missionary work all over the world”326. Again, in 1966 N.N. Banerjee–to whom we have already made reference–exhorted the Hindus saying: “We must train in [sic] thousands of energetic and intelligent young men and women and send them all over the world as traders, teachers, technologists, tourists etc. who should be our ‘experts’ on foreign countries”327; “We need Hindu missionaries, to work in these areas [Assam, NEFA, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and other parts of India]. To train these missionaries, to maintain their families (because most of them may not be sanyasins) and then in remote areas, to open and run properly schools, hospitals etc. in these areas, huge funds are required”328.
Hinduism is undoubtedly engaged in the conversion of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, tribals and others. The only difference is that they call it by different names, such as, shuddhi (‘purification’), ghar vapasi (‘home coming’), ‘paravartan (‘turning back’), ‘reclamation’, etc. For example, on 29 February 2004 in Baghpura village of Rajasthan 650 Christian tribal people were ‘re-converted’ to Hinduism through the ‘home coming’ ceremony. They were sprinkled with Ganges water and given an OM inscribed locket and calendars and made to take a pledge in the name of Maharana Pratap329. The philosophy behind all these activities is that a Hindu converted to another religion is not only a friend lost but also an enemy and a traitor created330.
Subtle forms of assimilation of other cultures into Hinduism is also a method of proselytization. This process is often known as ‘sanskritization’. Today, practically all over India, Hindu missionaries and the Sangh Parivar volunteers work among the illiterate and the ignorant tribals and the so-called low-castes, in order to sanskritize them and thus absorb them into Hinduism. In fact, many RSS-affiliated organizations are working in tribal areas with the same intention. The Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram activities is a typical expression of it. For instance, between April 13-15 2003, in the name of promoting cultural tradition of Northeastern States of India, Sanskar Bharati organized a function in Guwahati, Assam, to celebrate the Assamese new year―Rangali Bihu―under the title ‘Our Culture ― Our identity’331. From 13-15 December 2002, a conference for preservation of the culture and traditions of the tribes in the Northeast was held in Guwahati, Assam, in which 245 representatives from 47 tribes covering all the seven Northeastern States and Sikkim were present332. In January 2003 a Vanavasi Sangamam was organised in Manantawadi, Kerala333. The Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram and the Hemphu Mukrang Amei jointly organised a Hindu Aikya Sammelen in Karbi Anglong district, Assam, for the Krabis and Vanavasis in which over 45,000 people are said to have participated334. Again, inspired by the proponents of Hindutva, a huge gathering of Khasi-Jaintia youth who follow their traditional religion was held at Mawsynram village in Meghalaya between 18-20 April 2003335. However, it must be reiterated that the difference in the labels used by Hinduva ideologues does not change the subject matter. In fact, the so-called ‘purification’, ‘reclamation’, ‘homecoming’ ‘sanskritization’, ‘preservation of tribal culture’ and so on are substitute tags for what is generally called ‘religious conversion’ by others. Sumit Sarkar, a leading historian, argues that from the late nineteenth century onwards, Hinduism developed a whole battery of terms―reclamation, purification, re-conversion, homecoming, turning back, etc.―as its expansion directed towards marginal groups and tribals became more organized. Common to all these labels is an insistence that all that is being attempted is to bring people back to their ‘natural’ state, which for all the targeted groups is always assumed to be being Hindu336.
Sumit Sarkar also poses some pertinent questions to the Hindutva ideologues who claim that Hinduism does not proselytize. It is generally accepted that one can become a Hindu by birth alone, since caste is crucial to Hinduism, and according to the laws of Manu one’s caste status is hereditary. However, Sarkar asks, for instance, where did all the Buddhists of ancient India go? How did Hindu icons and myths spill over into large parts of South East Asia?337
Engagement in direct conversion activities is also part of the agenda of Hinduism. In fact history is replete with many such instances. In ancient times, there was much mobility of the Indians as traders, merchants and colonialists, and often they were accompanied by missionaries of Brahmanic religion. Thus, the Brahmanical religion went from India to Malay Peninsula, Cambodia, Annam, Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo and so on and flourished in these regions. There is also much historical data about the spread of specific varieties of Hindu traditions, like for instance, Chaitanya bhakti from central and western Bengal into Orissa and the uplands of Jharkhand.338
The Ahoms of Assam were converted to Hinduism during the reign of Rudra Singha (1696-1714) through the proselytizing engagements of Brahmins from West Bengal. It is stated: “The religious leaders responsible for the import of the Hindu rites and rituals [to Kamarupa] were the Brahmins”339. Many of Rudra Singha’s predecessors had taken Hindu as well as Ahom names, and had shown great respect for the Brahmins. But Rudra Singh was the first to announce publicly his intention to become a disciple of a Hindu Brahmin340. But we are also told: “The change was disastrous: it involved the loss of the old martial spirit and pride of race with which Ahoms had till then been animated; their patriotic feelings thenceforth became more and more subordinated to sectarian animosities and internal dissensions and intrigues, and their power soon began to decay”341.
The Meitheis of Manipur became Hindus due to the large scale preaching activities of Hindu missionaries. About the year 1717 king Pamheiba (Gharib Nawaz) accepted Vaishnavism from Guru Gopal Das. He also made Hinduism the State religion. Since then large scale preaching of the new faith was carried out by ascetics, pilgrims and Brahmins who arrived there in large numbers. A certain Shanta Das from Sylhet remained at the court as a royal guest and directed the proselytization activities342. The Tripuris also had their tribal religion modified by Hinduism. In Tripura we find many tribes influenced by Hinduism. An overwhelming majority among the important tribes such as the Tripuris, Reangs, Jamatias, Noatias, Halams and so on are to all intents and purposes Hindu343.
Hindutva ideologues clearly teach that it is necessary to proselytize, and it is part of their effort to make Hinduism a universal religion. Savarkar says: “The Hindus also must continue to reconvert the Christians and carry on the Shuddhi movement”344.
Golwalkar spoke of the Hindus as a ‘great people charged with a World Mission which has the duty of bringing home to the entire humanity the sublime truths embedded in Hindu dharma345. D. Frawley affirms that Hindus should create educational movements all over the world promoting Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda, Jyotish, Sanskrit, Indian music, and all aspects of the culture of Hinduism346. Hindutva organizations like the RSS, VHP, Sangh Parivar have many full-time missionaries who are engaged in conversion activities especially among the tribals. There are instances of their using every device possible, including force, fraud and inducements. David Frawley in his preface to his book How I became a Hindu states that the purpose of his writing the book is that others may also be inspired to take a similar path347. Everyone knows that Margaret Noble alias Sister Nivedita was converted to Hinduism by Swami Vivekananda. Romain Rolland writes that Margaret Noble was twenty-eight years old when she made up her mind to place her fate in Swami’s hand. He made her come to India, forced her to become a Hindu, to Hinduize her thoughts, her conceptions, her habits and to forget even the memory of her own past. She took the vow of brahmacharya (celibacy)348.
Many of the Hindu organizations and gurus in the Western counties are engaged in proselytization activities and they consider the notion that Hinduism does not proselytize as something totally ridiculous and a Christian conspiracy against them349. Today, perhaps the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (I.S.K.CON) is the best symbol of Hinduism engaged in proselytization in the West. The I.S.K.CON is an aggressively proselytizing Hindu organization and is very much active in the US, Europe and other continents. For example, the I.S.K.CON reached Italy in 1973 and it has centers in such cities as Asti, Bari, Bergamo, Bologna, Florence, Milan, Naples, Padova, Palermo, Rome, Siena, Turin, Vicenza, etc. It employs many creative techniques to proselytize, such as open preaching, especially through what they call ‘Centri di Predica’, signing and dancing in public squares, sale and distribution of books and booklets (often free) that explicitly deal with their society, the celebration of the so-called la ‘Festa della Domenica’ (reception of the public on Sundays in order to introduce the people to the thought and style of life of the Hare Krishna Movement), ‘free’ invitation to vegetarian meals, celebration of the ‘Maratona di Natale’ (a period in which all the Hare Krishna centers engage in distribution and sale of books and booklets on the movement), celebration of ‘Festival dell’India’, organization of Rath Yatras, use of electronic media especially the ‘Radio Krishna Centrale’, assigning to devotees areas of both countryside and cities (streets, railway stations, industrial zones, beaches, etc) and other places where they can find prospective converts350.
Subtle forms of proselytization goes on also through many other Hindu-affiliated organizations. For example, the Ananda Marga association is active in about 120 countries of the world, especially in the counties of South-East Asia, Europe, North America, South America, etc. In Italy they have centres in Verona, Treviso, Trento, Bolzano, Bologna, Milan, Parma, Casalmaggiore, Pisa, Bari, Nettuno, Vibo Valentia, etc. They regularly hold symposiums, seminars, round table conferences, translations and publication of their literature, social and humanitarian activities and education. In some countries they have tie-ups with the government organizations like the health ministry and the ministry for public instruction351.
The Self Realisation Fellowship (SRF) founded in California in 1920 is now present in 48 counties of the world. In Italy itself it has some 10,000 registered members and it runs 29 meditation centres. Its famous centres in Italy are found in Genova, Milan, Padova, Rome, Palermo and Turin. It diffuses its message through the publication of books, sale of audiocassettes, humanitarian activities, prayer groups, periodic organization of conferences, seminars, etc. There is also a formal initiation ceremony for those who wish to join the organization352.
Sanatana Dharma Samgha was officially recognized in Italy as L’Unione Induista Italiana in 1996. Currently it is engaged in a variety of activities, such as the teaching of Yoga, Ayurveda, organisation of conferences, congresses, seminars, debates, publications, etc. on Hindu religion and Indian culture353. The Sai Baba movement has some 60 centres in Italy alone with thousands of active members354.
During the Global Dharma Conference held in New Jersey, USA, in July 2003, Murli Manohar Joshi, the former Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister, told the Indian Americans to utilize their heritage from the East and resources from the West to show a new path to the world355. What Joshi actually intended by his statement is everybody’s guess. Then there are Yoga and Transcendental Meditation centres, the Ramakrishna Movement, communities of Bramakumaris, Aurobindo centres, Rajnesh Ashrams, and the like which also carry out proselytization in subtle ways. In short, today the Hindu missionaries are practically all over the world, and their presence is especially noticed in North America and Europe356. Khushwant Singh remarks: “Hindu savants like Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Swami Prabhupada, Osho [Rajneesh] and the sadhus of the Ramakishna Mission took the message of Hinduism abroad, built temples and made many converts to Hinduism”357. Yet, paradoxically, Hinduism claims that it does not proselytize. But, as we have seen, facts prove otherwise.
The myth of Indian culture as synonymous with Hindu culture
There is a strong tendency in Hindutva to appropriate the entire cultural past of India for itself and to declare it as Hindu. The electronic media, pamphlets, journalistic writings and public discourses are used to disseminate this idea. Thus, claims are made that Indus Valley civilization was Aryan (therefore Hindu), medieval monuments like the Taj Mahal, Qutab Minar and Red Fort are Hindu buildings358. Savarkar, with the intention of propagating his concept of India as a Hindu nation argued that Indian culture is Hindu culture from time immemorial359. Golwalkar was also never tired of stating that India is one country, one people, and one nation360―obviously Hindu361. For him, an Indian who is not a Hindu is either a guest or an invader. For Golwalkar the Jews and the Parsis are guests and the Muslims and the Christians are invaders362. The NCERT school textbook on Ancient India projects the Indian civilization as having its sole fountainhead in the ‘Vedic civilization’ so that they disallow any tarnishing of the Brahmanical system363. But it is too naïve to think that disciplining the memories of youth through saffronized education does not affect the texture of India in the future. In fact, criticism of the court verdict in favour of introducing the NCERT school textbooks has been pungent. Praful Bidwai wrote: “The verdict has major implications for the Rights of the Child to unbiased information, and for the issue of tolerance and respect for difference in India’s plural, multi-cultural, multi-religious society. It raises a fundamental question: do we want our children to be taught a viciously prejudiced version of history which privileges India’s ‘Hindu past’ while berating its ‘non-Hindu’ periods?”364
According to Hindutva writers, Rig Veda and Rigvedic Sanskrit are fully indigenous to India and classical Sanskrit is a direct descendent of Rigvedic or Vedic Sanskrit. Hence neither the proto nor the evolved Sanskrit can be called an Indo-European language. Further, Sanskrit went West to help evolve Western and Indo-European languages of today365. According to S.P.Mukherjee, whatever is of abiding value in Indian culture is preserved in Sanskrit366. For Arun Shourie, Sanskrit was the one all-India language and Brahmins were the one all-India caste. They were also the group which preserved the cultural elements of India367. Some even go to the extent of making the audacious claim that the whole world from the beginning of time up to the rise of Christianity spoke Sanskrit and followed the Vedic way of life368.
However, it must be remembered that when exaggerated emphasis is given to Sanskrit, it neglects in the process other classical languages of India which have also made significant contribution to Indian culture. Tamil for example, is one of the most ancient languages of India and the most cultivated of the Dravidian languages with rich and varied vocabulary and a refined medium of communication with extraordinary subtlety, precision and sense of logic369. K.M. Panikkar observes: “Tamil for example had a classical literature rivaling that of Sanskrit and its development covered over two thousand years”370. Again, Prakrits were used by Buddhists and Jains for their works. In fact Pali, which is the earliest of the literary Prakrits, is the language in which the Buddhist canon was preserved. It is also remarkable that there were also vigorous secular poetic tradition in Prakrits371. To this we must add the so far undeciphered Harappan script (‘language’), and Syriac which was the cultic language of the St.Thomas Christians of South India for several centuries372. Besides these, there are also other ancient Indian languages that have made great contribution to Indian culture373. Here A.D. Mattam reminds us that the ancestors of the Dravidians or Adivasis or Mongoloids did not speak Sanskrit or Prakrit374. In this context it is to be remembered that one cannot speak of any unique role Sanskrit exerted on Indian culture without implying a high degree of Brahmanical hegemony.
The claim that Indian culture is synonymous with Hindu culture irons out diversity and insists on conformity and distorts historical facts. The theory, besides being clearly communal, imposes the Hindu culture over the others. It also declares as null and void the contributions of Buddhism, Jainism, Materialists, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Islam to Indian culture. The fact remains that Indian culture is plural and it is the common patrimony of all Indians, and not of one race or one caste or one religion alone. Jawaharlal Nehru says: “It is, therefore, incorrect and undesirable to use ‘Hindu’ or ‘Hinduism’ for Indian culture, even with reference to the distant past”375.
We have seen how Hindutva has invented many myths and with what diligence they are propagated in order to indoctrinate the Indian masses with false notions and utopias. Basically they are designed to make the Hindutva ideology percolate to the masses by appealing to their emotions. The forms of the myths that are circulated, the messages they convey, the ideals they project and the increasing number of people who uncritically accept them as truth, reveal that many persons in India are already ‘converted’ to Hindutva both intellectually and spiritually. But the realisation that the myths of the Hindutva are fabrications intended to brainwash the masses, especially the ignorant and the illiterate for the political advantage of the upper caste Hindu elite, would assure that we have won half the battle against the dubious ideology of Hindutva.
Myths are the foundation on which Hindutva rests. Through numerous myths it has resurrected many obsolete symbols and beliefs of Hinduism in order to buttress the ideology, such as, belief in an imaginary Vedic Golden age, a pure Aryan race, Aryan culture as the fountainhead of all civilizations, Hinduism as the eternal religion, Sanskrit as the mother of all tongues, India as a Hindu nation from time immemorial, Indian culture as monolithic Hindu culture. and so on. Unfortunately, the governments with strong Hindutva sympathies give to this backward-looking ideology political and financial support. But as we have already seen, the grandiose claims of the myths have little foundation in history.
The myths of Hindutva have the power to stimulate passions, diffuse hatred and awaken the villain dormant among certain sections of Indians. Hindutva’s ultimate aim is the creation of a Hindu nation based on a monolithic Hindu culture, and the methodology for achieving this end is summed up by L.K. Advani who quotes with a rare knowledge of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi ideology, when he said: “Success is the sole earthly judge of right and wrong’”376.
With the spread of the myths of Hindutva, many truths concerning Indian history and culture have also been distorted or erased. But what India needs today is an enlightened public that can distinguish between myth and reality, fact and fiction, truth and falsehood, Hindu religion and Hindutva. As long as Indians continue to believe in the myths of Hindutva the nation will never rise to the heights because the backward looking ideology of Hindutva has nothing in it that can take India forward. On the other hand, if the people of India are liberated from the narrow-minded, communalist, nationalist, militant and fundamentalist ideology of Hindutva, India has every chance of progress. Hence, what India needs today is persons with rational and critical mind and scientific temper wh have the courage to explode the myths of Hindutva and expose the falsehood they propagate. Are there persons with a vision for a secular, pluralistic India who possess such calibre and courage? Until such people come to the fore, Hindutva will continue to fabricate more myths and utilize them to enslave and indoctrinate the illiterate, the credulous and the naïve, until a new form of slavery is fully established in India, namely slavery to Hindutva.
This article has been extracted from the author’s original research titled “Myths of Hindutva”. The original paper can be accessed here.
1 Here by ‘myths’ we mean ‘false notions’, ‘fabricated stories’, ‘fantasies’, ‘utopias’ and ‘pious beliefs’ without proper historical foundation.
2 See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 280.
3 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 97.
4 See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 133. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
5 See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 281-288,385,387-391. The term ‘Vedas’ in the plural means the four Samhitas: Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. ‘Veda’ in the singular or ‘vedic literature’ indicates the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanisads. See M.DHAVAMANY, L’Induismo, 8 note 1.
6 See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 292,385,391.
7 See AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 116-118.
8 See for example, R.SWARUP, On Hinduism, 31-32; D.FRAWLEY, How I Became a Hindu, 169177; B.S.PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 88-91.
9 See K, ELST, Decolonising the Hindu Mind, 377.
10 In the State of Kerala, South India, the celebration of the Onam festival is meant to remind the people of the ‘Golden Age’ of the reign of Maha Bali.
11 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Historic Statements, 205-206. It may be noted that, Savarkar’s use of the expression ‘Hindu history’ to refer to the Mauryan age is misleading. From the Brahmanical point of view, the Mauryas were patrons of heretical sects such as the Jains, Ajivakas and Buddhists. Chandragupta Maurya was closely associated with the Jaina tradition, Bindusara, the father of Ashoka, with the Ajivakas, and Ashoka with the Buddhists. See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 422-423.
12 See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 280.
13 See N.SMART (ed.), Atlas of the World’s Religions, 37. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
14 See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 105-107.
15 See R.THAPAR, “Ideology and the Interpretation”, 10.
16 See R.THAPAR, Communalism and the Writing of Indian History, 14.
17 B.S..PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 90.
18 See R.THAPAR, A History of India, vol. 1, 43-44; ID., The Penguin History of Early India, 127-129.
19 See M.DHAVAMANY, L’Induismo, 10.
20 K.M. PANIKKAR, “ A Primer of India”, 6.
21 See B.G. TILAK, The Orion, 9.
22 See N.SMART (ed.), Atlas of the World’s Religions, 35.
23 See N.SMART (ed.), Atlas of the World’s Religions, 37,39.
24 B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 347. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
25 See T.J.S.GEORGE, The Enquire Dictionary, 478-479.
26 See C.SHATTUCK, Hinduism, 20.
27 See B.G.TILAK, The Arctic Home of the Vedas (, 344-345.
28 M.Dhavamany observes; “Sappiamo che, al di là dell’affermazione della loro origine soprannaturale, i sacri testi indù hanno avuto autori umani, anche se ‘anonimi’, i quali ne curarono la stesura nel linguaggio corrente dell’ambiente culturale del tempo”. M.DHAVAMANY, L’Induismo, 9.
29 D.FRAWLEY, How I became a Hindu, 13.
30 See K.ELST, Who is a Hindu?, 9. But A.D.Mattam reminds us that Shiva and Vishnu are non-Aryan gods. See A.D.MATTAM, Religions, 95.
31 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 96-97. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
32 See Y.AMBROISE, “Hindutva’s Real Agenda”, 24. V.D.Savarkar envisaged a flourishing Hindu nation which was racially and culturally homogeneous, and one that went as far back as some 5000 years to the Vedic age. See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 48. Golwalkar says: “Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past”. M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 238; “Hindustan lived a life of unchallenged glory and power for thousands of years and spread its spiritual and cultural effulgence over vast areas of the globe ― right from Mexico to Japan”. Ibid., 161.
33 See M. DOMARUS, Hitler Reden , vol.1, 4 footnote 3.
34 M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 152. See also ID., We, 8. For similar ideas see AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 96,98; D.FRAWLEY, Arise Arjuna, 152-157; R.SWARUP, On Hinduism, 108; K.ELST, Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate (1999).
35 See R.THAPAR, Penguin History of Early India, 15.
36 See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 14.
37 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 8-9.
38 E.BRYANT, The Quest, 272. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
39 See B.G.TILAK, The Orion, 19-20,22.
40 See B.G.TILAK, The Arctic Home of the Vedas, 345.
41 See The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol.IX, 250-251.
42 See R.THAPAR, Penguin History of Early India, 14.
43 B.S.PARAKH (ed.), Contemporary India, 6.
44 P. SENGUPTA, “Education in Mother Tongue”, 17.
45 See D.FRAWLEY, Arise Arjuna, 158-169. For similar ideas see also AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 98,108.
46 A.D.MATTAM, Religions, 63.
47 See AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 101 footnote; B.S.PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 80.
48 See E.BRYANT, The Quest,167.
49 B.S. PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 133.
50 E.BRYANT, The Quest, 169 (Emphasis in the original).
51 See M.WITZEL, “Paradigm Shift’ in History?”, 10.
52 See R.THAPAR, Penguin History of Early India, 127; B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I, 70.
53 See T.J.S.GEORGE, The Enquire Dictionary, 30-31.
54 See R.THAPAR, Penguin History of Early India, 13-15,111,113-115; ID., Cultural Pasts, 337342,1120-1121.
55 See K.M.PANIKKAR, “The Idea of Sovereignty”, 14, 91; ID., “A Primer of India”, 5. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
56 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I, 69-72; J.KURUVACHIRA, “Facts Nail Hinduism’s Claims”, 32-37.
57 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 79. Maximiani Portas alias Savitri Devi who is called the ‘prophetess of Aryan revival’ was a great admirer of Adolf Hitler and a staunch proponent of the Nazi ideology. She came to India in the 1930s in search of the pure Aryan race. See N. GOODRICKCLARKE, Hitler’s Priestess (2000).
58 See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 38.
59 See W.HALBFASS, “La Scoperta Indiana dell’Europa”, 20.
60 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 236,238,538-539.
61 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 32-33.
62 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 53. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
63 V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 48. He calls the Aryans ‘the Aryan patriarchs of our Hindu Race’. See Ibid.,40.
64 V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 89-90 (Emphasis added). He affirms further: “The Hindus are not merely the citizens of the Indian State because they are united not only by the bonds of the love they bear to a common motherland but also by the bonds of a common blood. They are not only a nation but also a race-jati. The word jati derived from the root Jan to produce, means a brotherhood, a race determined by a common origin – possessing a common blood. All Hindus claim to have in their veins the blood of the mighty race incorporated with and descended from the Vedic fathers”. Ibid., 84 (Emphasis added).
65 V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 90 (Emphasis added).
66 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 33.
67 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 97.
68 V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 99.
69 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 21. For Golwalkar the Jews are the example of purest stock. See Ibid., 19,30.
70 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 21.
71 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 53.
72 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 40.
73 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 452.
74 M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 55.
75 See C.JAFFRELOT, The Hindu Nationalist Movement, 55. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
76 However, Romila Thapar reminds us that the term arya does not stand for the notion of biological race, though some indologists have interpreted it to be so. She uses the expression ‘Aryan speakers’ instead of ‘Aryan race’. See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 15.
77 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 12, 90,122.
78 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 89.
79 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 15.
80 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 33,39,84,89,91,92, 120,141.
81 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 84.
82 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 91,121,139.
83 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 100.
84 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 100.
85 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 18.
86 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 84.
87 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 21.
88 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 100.
89 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 10,12,13.
90 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 17.
91 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 34,38,40,79,97,131,139,140.
92 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 21,29,30,33,45,46.
93 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 4,97,99,120; ID., Hindu Sanghatan, 40. M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 12,40,43,44,45,52.
94 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 91.
95 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 97; M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 9.
96 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 116.
97 Golwalkar says: “That race spirit, which has survived all the shocks of centuries of aggression and has time and again thrown up great spiritual and national heroes, is bound to reassert itself”. M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 77-78 (Emphasis added). See also ID., We, 24.
98 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 39, CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
99 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 75-76. 100 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol. II, 74-75.
101 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 49.
102 V.D.SAVARKAR, “Then Who is Who, Pray?”,169.
103 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva 130.
104 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 131.
105 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 344. ID., The Penguin History of Early India, 15.
106 See B. WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 104.
107 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 77.
108 See K.M.PANIKKAR, “A Primer of India”, 3-4.
109 See K.M.PANIKKAR, “A Primer of India”, 6.
110 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 80. B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 78.
112 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 81.
113 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 81. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
114 The Essential Writings of B.R.Ambedkar, 264.
115 See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 284,391. See also B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I, 270.
116 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 55.
117 M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 42.
118 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 207-208.
119 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 208.
120 See M.S.GOLWALKAR , Bunch of Thoughts, 7.
121 See AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 30. When Aurobindo speaks of ‘good government’ we are reminded of K.M.Panikkar’s observation that Hindu political theory approximated the school of Machiavelli of Europe whose counterpart in India was Kautalya (Chanakya) and his successors who cared little for ethics and morals in political life. See K.M.PANIKKAR, “The Idea of Sovereignty”, 74-75.
122 See R.SWARUP, On Hinduism, 24. Ram Swarup’s On Hinduism has a separate chapter entitled ‘India and Greece’ where he claims that Indian thought exerted a great influence on ancient Greek thought. See Ibid., 196-206. CH:IV THE MYTHS OF HINDUTVA
123 See D.FRAWLEY, Arise Arjuna. 12.
124 See B.S.PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 91.
125 See “NCERT Re-invents History”, 5. Aryabhata is said to have lived from 476-520 A.D. See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II,44.
126 See N.G.RAJ, “‘Under the Skin We are African’”, 12.
127 See L.BAVADAM, “Questionable Claims”, 71.
128 See K.N.PANIKKAR, “Introduction”, xii.
129 See D.J.KALUPAHANA, Buddhist Philosophy, 3.
130 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 5,10.
131 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 982.
132 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 64-65.
133 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 8.
134 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 25.
135 See B. WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 85.
136 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 27-28.
137 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 33.
138 See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 177.
139 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 52.
140 B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 347.
141 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 347.
142 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 9.
143 Ram Swarup says: “India was the place where Sanatana dharma flourished. Its people were called Hindus and their religion came to be known as Hindu dharma”. R.SWARUP, On Hinduism, 24.
144 See D.FRAWLEY, Arise Arjuna, 48.
145 See R.SWARUP, On Hinduism, 1.
146 See AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 30.
147 See D.N.SINGH, A Study of Hinduism, 11.
148 B.S.PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 133 (Emphasis in the original).
149 See R.SWARUP, On Hinduism, 48 footnote 6.
150 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 346.
151 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 345.
152 K.KRISHNAMACHARYA, Our Heritage, 16, as cited in K.ELST, Who is a Hindu?, 39.
153 See D.FRAWLEY, Hinduism the Eternal Tradition, 9-15,16-25.
154 See D.FRAWLEY, How I became a Hindu, 15.
155 Rajaram argues that the truths of Hinduism are not different from science. Cosmic laws like gravitation and mass-energy equivalence (relativity theory) existed, but it took sages like Newton and Einstein to ‘see’ them. What they discovered were universal truths that stand on their own. They do not rest on the authority of their discoverers; they can be verified by anyone willing to study. The same is true of great Hindu teachings See N.S.RAJARAM, “Spiritual Freedom”, 2.
156 K.ROY, “What happened to Confucianism”, 70.
157 See K.ROY, “What happened to Confucianism?, 70. See also B.S.PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 133.
158 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 347. See also J.KURUVACHIRA, “Facts Nail Hinduism’s Claims”, 32-37.
159 See A.D.MATTAM, Religions, 85-92.
160 See D.N.SINGH, A Study of Hinduism, 11,12.
161 B.S.PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 88 (Emphasis added).
162 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 9.
163 See The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol.1, 21.
164 See AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 94.
165 See D.FRAWLEY, How I became a Hindu, 10.
166 He says: “In my case I came to Hindu Dharma through the Vedas, the oldest tradition of Hinduism”. D.FRAWLEY, How I became a Hindu, 12 (Emphasis added).
167 B.S.PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 133 (Emphasis in the original).
168 See C.SHATTUCK, Hinduism, 21.
169 See A.D.MATTAM, Religions, 95.
170 See K.M. PANIKKAR, “Impact of Europe”, 6.
171 See J.KURUVACHIRA, “Facts Nail Hinduism’s Claims”, 34-35.
172 See H.von STIETENCRON, “Hinduistische Perspektiven”, 46.
173 See K.ELST, Who is a Hindu?, 9.
174 B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I,74.
175 See C.K.RAJA, “Vedic Culture”, 206-207.
176 See B.G.TILAK, The Orion, 17.
177 B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I,72.
178 See A.S.ALTEKAR, “Vedic Society”, 225.
179 See also B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I, 202. O.P.GUPTA, “Equality by Birth & Gender”, 17.
180 K.ELST, Who is a Hindu?, 31.
181 See K.ELST, Who is a Hindu?, 29.
182 See J.KURUVACHIRA, “On Cow Slaughter”, 8.
183 K.M. PANIKKAR, “Impact of Europe”, 6.
184 R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 127 (Emphasis added).
185 See WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 70.
186 See J.KURUVACHIRA, “Historical Priority”, 34-37.
187 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 978-979.
188 See G.J.LARSON, “Discourse about ‘Religion’”, 183.
189 N.SMART, “Religion and Nationalism”, 2.190 R.SWARUP, On Hinduism, 89.
191 See AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 146.
192 See D.FRAWLEY, How I became a Hindu, 14.
193 See D.FRAWLEY, How I became a Hindu, 11.
194 See H.von STIETENCRON, “Hinduistische Perspektiven”, 30.
195 See H.von STIETENCRON, “Hinduistische Perspektiven”, 26.
196 See G.J.LARSON, “Discourse about ‘Religion’”, 184.
196 See W.C.SMITH, “The Concept ‘Hinduism’”, 199-200.
198 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 991.
199 See N.SMART, Dimensions of the Sacred, 10-12.
200 See D.FRAWLEY, How I became a Hindu, 11. This interpretation gives a new twist to the question of ‘what is Hinduism?’
201 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 10. Savarkar says elsewhere: “It is at least some 5000 years ago, to the Vaidic [Vedic] age that the beginning of our Hindu Nation could be historically and undeniably traced. Our national ancestors lived and flourished then on the banks of the seven Sindhus and were laying the foundations of a nation that was destined to grow later on into a mighty Hindu Nation”. ID., Hindu Sanghatan, 48.
202 V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 15.
203 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 53.
204 V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 30.
205 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 32-33.
206 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 82, 97,150.
207 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, We, 51.
208 See K.M.PANIKKAR, “Impact of Europe”, 10.
209 See K.M.PANIKKAR, “Impact of Europe”, 11.
210 “Advani wants Muslims to identify with ‘Hindutva’”, Times of India, 30 January 1995 as cited in K.ELST, Decolonising the Hindu Mind, 480.
211 N.B.KHARE, Presidential Address (1951), 8-9 (Emphasis in the original).
212 See P.BIDWAI, “A Long Haul for Secularists”, 108-109. Quoting Laloo Prasad Yadav, a prominent political leader of contemporary India, Arundhati Roy writes: “Kaun mai ka lal kehta hai ki yeh Hindu rashtra hai? Usko yahan bhej do, chhati phad doonga!” (Which mother’s son says this is a Hindu nation? Send him here, I’ll tear his chest open)”. A. ROY, “Democracy”, 132.
213 See K.K.YOUNG, “The Indian Secular State”, 204.
214 N.SMART, “An Analysis of Hinduism”, 108.
215 K.M.Panikkar states: “The peninsula of India had never been under a single sovereignty at any time before”. K.M.PANIKKAR, “Impact of Europe”, 11
216 We are told: “Ashoka, the Great King and Missionary, unified a greater part of Indian territories”. “Ashoka”, 213. Romila Thapar opines that, imperial idea found expression in India for the first time under Ashoka, and his centralised imperial structure embraced almost the entire subcontinent. See R.THAPAR, “Ashokan India and the Gupta Age”, 38.
217 We read about Akbar: “Akbar was one the great [sic, ‘the one great’?] Mughal ruler who unified India into a single political power”. “Akbar”, 94. The NCERT history textbook for class VIII says: “The Mughal empire, […] had succeeded in uniting almost the entire country”. A.DEV ―I.A.DEV, Modern India,15.
218 Notice the subtitle of Elst’s book. It already implies that animists, Buddhists, and Sikhs are Hindus.
219 AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 175.
220 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 81. See also ID., Hindu Sanghatan, 8-9,130,141.
221 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 130.
222 M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 353.
223 See R.SWARUP, On Hinduism, 60.
224 R.SWARUP, Buddhism Vis-à-vis Hinduism, 1.
225 S.R.GOEL, History of Hindu-Christian Encounters, vii footnote 1.
226 D.N.SINGH, A Study of Hinduism, 11 (Emphasis added).
227 Frawley states: “Since Hinduism as Sindhu Dharma refers to all the religions and philosophies of India, it naturally includes Buddhist, Jain and other Indic traditions”. D.FRAWLEY, How I Became a Hindu, 189. For similar ideas see also ID, Hinduism, 81-83,89-91.
228 V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 105. He said: “Hinduism must necessarily mean the religion or the religions that are peculiar and native to this land and these people: Ibid., 104; “millions of our Sikhs, Jains, Lingayats, several Samajiis and others would deeply resent to be told that they ― whose fathers’[sic] fathers up to the tenth generation had the blood of Hindus in their veins ― had suddenly ceased to be Hindu!” Ibid., 106. It is to be noted that in Savarkar’s writings the statement that Buddhists and hill tribes are Hindus is not very frequent, especially if we compare it with his references to the Sikhs and the Jains.
229 S.P.MUKHERJEE, Awake Hindustan, 2. Note that here, the so-called ‘animists’ are not included in the notion of ‘Hindu’.
230 See K.K.YOUNG, “The Indian Secular State”, 204.
231 A.D. MATTAM, Religions, 102.
232 A.D. MATTAM, Religions, 104.
233 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol.VI, 120.
234 See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 581-681.
235 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol.1. 348.
236 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol.VI,120.
237 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol.IV, 326.
238 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 18.
239 M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 70 (Emphasis added).
240 See A.SHOURIE, Worshiping False Gods (1997).
241 BJP general election results so far: 1984: 2 seats; 1989: 86 seats; 1991:120 seats; 1996:162 seats; 1998: 181seats; 1999:183 seats.
242 See K.N.PANIKKAR, “Introduction”, xviii-xix.
243 See “BJP to hold Dalit Morcha”, 3.
244 M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 362.
245 See N.SMART, World Philosophies, 13-14.
246 See K.M.PANIKKAR, “Impact of Europe”, 6.
247 See N.DATTA, “Are the Sikhs Hindus?, 10. Se also “Sikhs are not Hindus: Tohra”, 6; K.S.NABHA, “‘We are not Hindus’”, 456-458.
248 See “Jains Get Minority Status in Rajasthan”, 5. For a discussion on the separate identity of the Jains from Hinduism see “The Jain Identity”, 17-19; “Lord Mahavir and Jain Religion”, 20-21; “Tenets of Jainism”, 22.
249 J.NEHRU, The Discovery of India, 75.
250 See G.MAGNANI, Religione e Religioni, 470.
251 252 253 254
251 See G.J.LARSON, “Discourse about ‘Religion’”, 186.
252 See J. KURUVACHIRA, “The Numbers Game”, 33-36.
253 See A.D.MATTAM, Religions, 135.
254 See V.T.RAJASHEKAR, Aggression on Indian Culture, Bangalore, 1997, 3 as cited in A.D.MATTAM, Religions, 136.
255 See D.FRAWLEY, Arise Arjuna, 42.
256 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 26
257 M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 162.
258 See D.N.SINGH, A Study of Hinduism,11.
259 See “‘Tolerance Common to All Civilisations’”, 12.
260 See A. BÉTEILLE “Religion and Society”, 8.
261 AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 177.
262 N.C.CHATTERJEE, Presidential Address (1952), 3.
263 See K.M.PANIKKAR, “Hindu Revival”, 15.
264 See A.D.MATTAM, Religions, 105-106.
265 See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 210.
266 See R.D.MOOKERJI, “The Fall of the Magadhan Empire”, 97.
267 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 975.
268 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 975. See also R.C.MAJUMDAR, “The Imperial Crisis”, 37; R.GANDHI, Revenge and Reconciliation, 67.
269 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 975. See also “What happened to Jains”, 25.
270 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 975. See also “What happened to Jains”, 25-26.
271 See also “What happened to Jains”, 23-26. See also R.GANDHI, Revenge and Reconciliation, 65-67.
272 A.D.MATTAM, Religions, 90-91.
273 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 976.
274 See B.G.TILAK, The Orion, 1. See also “What happened to Jains”, 23-24.
275 See R. DE SMET,. “Saivism”, 314.
276 See T.C.HODSON, The Meitheis, 95.
277 “Response of Sanatana Dharma Sabha”, 431-432.
278 B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 29.
279 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol.1, 391.
280 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol.1, 348.
281 See AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 143.
282 For Dayananda’s criticism of the Carvacas, Buddhism and Jains see D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash chapter XII.
283 See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash chapter XIV.
284 See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash chapter XIII.
285 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 104,113; ID. Historic Statements, 3,9,13,21,65.
286 See Moonje Papers, NMML (mss.section), letter of 10 September 1945, as cited in C.JAFFRELOT, The Hindu nationalist Movement, 46 footnote 152.
287 N.C.CHATTERJEE, Presidential Address, (1952), 4.
288 N.C.CHATTERJEE, Presidential Address, (1952), 4.
289 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 177-201.
290 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 70.
291 See for instance his The Only Fatherland (1991), A Secular Agenda (1993), Missionaries in India (1994), The World of Fatwas (1995), Worshipping False Gods (1997), Harvesting our Souls (2000).
292 See M.G.KHAN, “UK Muslims Protest”, 3.
293 See S.SURI, “Now We Wait for the Light”, 32.
294 See “Riot Retrial”, 1.
295 See “Modi should See a Psychiatrist”, 7.
296 See P.D.MATHEW Constitution of India, article 25.
297 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol. I, 238. It is also said: “The envious Brahmins, who had been discredited before the king by the virtue of St Thomas went to kill him”. A.M.MUNDADAN, History of Christianity, vol.1, 45.
298 See A.K.SAHAY (ed.), The Republic Besmirched 6 December 1992 (n.d).
299 See P.TOGADIA, “Hindutva Symbolises Harmony”, 9.
300 See “Jesuits should not be allowed”, 4.
301 “Jesuits should not be Allowed”, 4.
302 K. SINGH, The End of India, 18-19.
303 “Saffronising the Tribal Heartland”, 24.
304 See “Saffronising the Tribal Heartland”, 26.
305 “Saffronising the Tribal Heartland”, 26.
306 See R.GANDHI, Revenge and Reconciliation (1999); A.MALIK, “Look back in Anger”, 73.
307 See A. SHARMA, “On Tolerating the Intolerant”, 30.
308 See J.KURUVACHIRA, “How Tolerant is Hinduism?”, 33-39.
309 See T.K.RAJALAKSHMI, “Politics of Cow Slaughter”, 27-28.
310 “M.P. Enforces Ban on Cow Slaughter”, 3.
311 B.S.PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 89.
312 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 496.
313 See R.THAPAR, The Penguin History of Early India, 115.
314 See R.THAPAR, Cultural Pasts, 868.
315 See R.THAPAR, Communalism and the Writing of Ancient Indian History, 12.
316 See K.ROY, “What Happened to Confucianism?”, 69.
317 B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I, 255.
318 See K.N.PANIKKAR, “Introduction”, xxxii note 14. For similar ideas see also K.M. PANIKKAR, “Impact of Europe”, 6.
319 B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I, 255. For similar ideas see also V.MANGALWADI, Missionary Conspiracy, 120.
320 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I, 256.
321 See T.J.S.GEORGE, The Enquire Dictionary, 419. See also D.N.Jha’s review of the book by Dharmapal and T.M.Mukundan entitled The British Origin of Cow Slaughter in India. Here, Jha convincingly argues against the two authors that cow killing was a fact in ancient times. See Seminar 522, February 2003, 87. See also J.KURUVACHIRA, “On Cow Slaughter”, 8.
322 M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts,189.
323 P.VENUGOPAL, “Why Anti-Conversion Law needed- II”, 9.
324 N.C.CHATTERJEE, Presidential Address (1952), 3.
325 N.N.BANERJEE, Presidential Address (1964), 8.
326 Hindu Mahasabha Constitution (1965), art 4, section 13. .
327 N.N.BANERJEE, The Golden Jubilee Session (1966), 33.
328 N.N.BANERJEE, The Golden Jubilee Session (1966), 37-38.
329 “Saffroning the Tribal Heartland”, 22.
330 See V.P.BHATIA “A Film Focus on Islamic Conversions”, 13.
331 See “Our Culture – Our identity”, 20.’
332 See “Early Solution”, 5.
333 See “Early Solution”, 5.
334 See “Combating Proselytisers”, 19.
335 See “Growing United”, 20.
336 See S.SARKAR, “Hindutva and the Question of Conversions”, 81.
337 See S.SARKAR, “Hindutva and the Question of Conversions”, 81.
338 See S.SARKAR, “Hindutva and the Question of Conversions”, 88-89.
339 H.K BARPUJARI (ed.), The Comprehensive History of Assam, vol. 1, 305-306.
340 See Imperial Gazetteer of India Provincial Series Eastern Bengal and Assam, 34.
341 Imperial Gazetteer of India Provincial Series Eastern Bengal and Assam, 35.
342 See G.KABU, History of Manipur, vol. 1, 252-253.
343 See S.N.G,THAKURTA, Tripura, 43-44.
344 V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindu Sanghatan, 91.
345 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 348.
346 See D.FRAWLEY, Hinduism the Eternal Religion, 237.
347 See D.FRAWLEY, How I became a Hindu, 7.
348 See R.ROLLAND, The Life of Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel, 93.
349 See Hinduism Today October 1987, 8 as cited in J.F.MAYER, “Una rinascita dell’Oriente”, 278.
350 See C.BARTOLI, “Storia, Profili e Mentalità della I.S.K.CON”, 151,153-158. See also V.MANGALWADI, The World of Gurus, 67-86.
351 See G.MASSELLA, “Ananda Marga”, 104-105.
352 See Sister NAMITA, “La Self-Realization Fellowship di Yogananda”, 215,217-218.
353 See S.H.GIRI, “Unione Induista Italiana”, 237-238.
354 See I.ROSATI – S.SORCE – R.SATORI, “Il Movimento di Sai Baba”, 137.
355 See S.CHARI, “Indian Americans”, 10-11.
356 For a brief account of the activities of some of the Hindu gurus and organisations in North America see T.A.TWEED – S.PROTHERO, Asian Religions in America. 241-260; for their engagemen0t in the European countries see M.INTROVIGNE – J.F.MAYER (eds.), L’Europa delle Nuove Religioni, 15-190, See also V.MANGALWADI, The World of Gurus (1999).
357 See K.SINGH, The End of India, 15.
358 See K.N.PANIKKAR, “Introduction”, xii.
359 See V.D.SAVARKAR, Hindutva, 10.
360 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 226, 228.
361 Golwalkar says: “The fact is that the history of Bharat is one long Hindu Period, sometimes in a free and glorious condition and sometimes struggling with the foreign invaders in the cause of national freedom and honour”. M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 136-137.
362 See M.S.GOLWALKAR, Bunch of Thoughts, 138.
363 See B.S.PARAKH (ed.), India and the World, 88-91. See also “NCERT Re-invents History, English”, 5.
364 P.BIDWAI, ”Evidence of Strong Hindutva Biases”, 3.
365 See S.RAJE, “Is Sanskrit ‘Indo-European?”, 8.
366 See S.P.MOOKERJEE, Leaves from a Diary, 165.
367 See A.SHOURIE, A Secular Agenda, 27-28.
368 See “World Vedic Heritage”, 5.
369 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 478-479. See also A.L.BASHAM, The Wonder that was India, 393-394; K.M.PANIKKAR, “Impact of Europe”, 6.
370 K.M.PANIKKAR, “Impact of Europe”, 22.
371 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.II, 232-233. See also A.L.BASHAM, The Wonder that was India, 391-393.
372 Benedict Vadakkekara observes that Syriac was used by the St.Thomas Christians in their liturgy from the early centuries of the Christian era. The New Testament was printed in Syriac and priests read fluently from it. Some of them could also converse in Syriac as if it were their mother tongue. A report belonging to the 16 th century A.D. mentions a Syriac ‘university’ at Angamaly where the Scripture was taught in Syriac. Till late it used to be the mode among the ecclesiastics to sign their names in Syriac. Their use of Syriac for prayer and worship became so characteristic of the St.Thomas Christians that, though erroneously, they have come to be widely known as Syrian Christians. See B.VADAKKEKARA, Origin of India’s St Thomas Christians, 24-27.
373 See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.I, 584-585.
374 See A.D.MATTAM, Religions, 80.
375 J.NEHRU, The Discovery of India, 75.
376 L.K.ADVANI, A Prisoner’s Scrap-Book, 66.