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Hindutva versus Hinduism

Saral Jhingran

Hinduism is the most difficult religion to define as it does
not have a Book, a prophet or a common creed. Consequently,
both its supporters and critics can take up any one of its
various aspects and present a conception of it that is
nowhere near the reality. This is exactly what is being
done by the protagonists of Hindutva.

First, let us take up the conception of Rama. They project
Rama as the sole Deity of Hinduism, a symbol not only of
Hinduism, but of nationalism. This is a fantastic assertion.
Rama cannot be a symbol of nationalism, because religious
faith and nationalism belong to two entirely different
conceptual frameworks. Nationalism is a modern
conception and is territorial and political in its connotation.
Religious faith is a matter of heart, or soul if you wish,
and is not related to territory or political sovereignty.

More importantly, Rama could not be a symbol of
Hinduism even, as the latter has so many gods, and Rama
is but one of them, and that too a later entrant in the
Hindu pantheon. If at all the votaries of Hindutva want
to establish the historicity of Rama, they must depend
on Valmiki's Ramayana; and there is no suggestion of
Rama's divinity therein. It is in Tulsidas's Ramacharita
Manas that Rama is declared divine. But this was
written approximately one and a half millennia after
Valmiki's Ramayana and cannot be cited to prove
Rama's historicity.

Second, granting that Rama is probably a historical
figure in view of the depth of feelings for his story; also
granting that Rama was born in Ayodhya, it is hard to
believe that the exact spot of Rama's birth can be
pinpointed with accuracy. The declaration that the spot
at which Rama was born is determined by faith is
stretching the meaning of faith.

Here it should be remembered that the greatest
difference between Hinduism and the Semitic religions
is that, unlike the latter, Hinduism has no historical
beginning. If tomorrow, it could be proved that there
was no historical Jesus Christ, Christianity would be
destroyed. But if it were to proved that Krishna was
not a historical person, it would not diminish the Gita's
authenticity. The same holds true for Rama. Hinduism
is Sanatan dharma, marked by its content, attitudes
and values, and not by its historicity.

Thirdly, the Hindutva people have destroyed the
conception of Rama which the Hindus have worshipped
through the ages. Rama is maryada purushottam, the
embodiment of all Aryan virtues. An extreme dedication
to duty, respect for elders, affection for juniors,
compassion for all and peace (shanti) characterise him.
He hardly ever gets angry and is unwilling to attack
anybody unless absolutely necessary. His idols have
traditionally portrayed Rama in shanta or abhaya
mudra - with the right hand raised in a gesture of
blessing and a beatific smile on his face.

Also, traditionally, Rama, like Krishna, is never worshipped
alone but always with his consort. The Rama of Hindutva
stands alone, with bow held aloft, ready for aggression.
Both innovations go against the traditional conception
of Rama.

Fourthly, there is hardly anything common between
traditional Hinduism and Hindutva. Traditional Hinduism
worships many gods, and declares that all Gods are but
different names of one Supreme Divine Reality. But the
ideology of Hindutva seems to declare that there is but
one God called Rama, who is the symbol of both Hindusim
and Indian nationalism.

The core of traditional Hinduism is religious toleration and
even ahimsa which, though borrowed from heterodox sects,
has been so internalised by Hinduism that it can be safely
assumed as belonging to the core of Hinduism. In contrast,
Hindutva's central message is aggression and destruction
of enemies, real or imagined.

Fifthly, Hindutva has distorted the meaning of religious
symbols. The project of distributing trishuls is an example.
That Shiva has been portrayed holding a trishul does
not mean that every Hindu should carry one. Vishnu is
portrayed as carrying four things in his hands-shanka,
chakra, gada, padma, Rama carries a bow and arrow,
and Kali is supposed wear a garland of skulls. Does it
mean that a Hindu should carry these things?

The Hindutva people have randomly picked varied
elements from all these traditions to project Hinduism
as an aggressive religion, without learning about the
intrinsic characters of their Gods. Rama is God of
righteousness, compassion; Krishna of Vrindavan is a
God of love; Krishna teaches one to do one's duty
selflessly; and Shiva is declared Hole nath, a simple-hearted
God who is easily appeased. None of this holds value
for the Hindutva lot.

Hindutva is an attempt at semitising Hindusim. The
uniqueness of Hinduism lay in its extreme liberalness,
toleration and vision of one Divine Reality residing
in all. By trying to project Hinduism as a self-assertive,
aggressive, and strictly monotheistic religion, Hindutva
could destroy it.