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Does the best lack all conviction?
Reacting to ban on her book, 'The Hindus: An alternate History', the author, Wendy Doniger wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times March 05. She wrote, "The Victorian Protestant British scorned Hinduism's polytheism, erotic sculptures, spirited mockery of its own gods and earthy mythology as filthy paganism. They also preferred the texts created and perpetuated by small, upper-caste male elite, and regarded as beneath contempt the vast oral and vernacular literatures enriched and animated by the voices of women and lower castes. It is this latter, "alternative" Hinduism that my book celebrates throughout Indian history."

She continues, "Many of the Hindu elite who worked closely with the British caught the prejudices of their masters. In the 19th century, those Hindus lifted up other aspects of Hinduism- its philosophy, its tradition of meditation- that were more palatable to European tastes and made them into a new, sanitized brand of Hinduism, often referred to as Sanatana Dharma, "the Eternal Law." That's the Hinduism that Hindutva-vadis are defending, while they deny the one that the Christian missionaries hated and that I love and write about- the pluralistic, open-ended, endlessly imaginative, often satirical Hinduism. The Hindutva-vadis are the ones who are attacking Hinduism; I am defending it against them."

I tell you that she is a bit bitter about ban on her book or else she would not have written Op-Ed like this. As far as the word, ?Sanatana Dharma? is concerned it is there since very beginning. Words Hindu and Hinduism are used much later in Hindu texts. She claims that she was misinterpreted to be having zeal of a Christian missionary while in reality she is a Jew. Well, it does not matter in real terms as Jews are mainstreamers in the US and are many times counted with Anglo-Protestant majority. Therefore, her identity does not matter that much in deciding banning her book.

Now let me be frank in admitting that while Indian traditions do have a place for a lot of folklores, but the fact is that there is no parallel mainstream Hinduism for or by lower castes and females. However, the Northern Indian version of Hinduism can be contested though it has more regional tones then having caste-specific and gender-specific tones. While it is true that the way Hinduism is written, there are many-world interpretations, and no part of Indian society or for that matter any text can claim to have absolute authority over more important matters relating to Hinduism and Hindus, yet Hinduism is based on solid foundation just like other major religions are.

Does Wendy not understand this simple fact that Hinduism is mostly a product of Brahmins? writings with absolute faith in Ishvara? Any one, particularly the Westerners, who believe that Hindus do not believe in Ishvara should look at Hindu outcastes who have been denied worship in major temples since Hindus? inception yet they have great zeal to worship in those very same temples and to worship those very same deities. Even historic castration has not made most of the outcastes to be agonistic.

Sure, Hinduism is not Abrahamic religion and Hindus do not believe in Christian God but this cannot make them pagan, heathen or atheist. While Hindus as a group do not believe in God, Christians as a group can never believe in Ishvara.  Anyone suggesting that Ishvara of Ramayana and Mahabharata, El of Torah, God of Gospel and Allah of Koran are same entities then that person must be joking from my point of view. So, what?s the fuss? Nothing, in this conflicting and competing high conscious era!

At the same time it does not mean that Hinduism does not have some inherent flaws in its structure and the way it is practiced. It does have but same is true of other religions as well, from non-believers perspectives. In order to prove that Hindus do not have Ishvara or that Christianity and Islam are superior religions one has to prove that Hindus when they go to worship in their temples none of their prayers are listened to and Christians and Muslims when they go to their churches and mosques respectively and pray, all of their prayers are listened to.

Obviously this just cannot be true. What all need to understand is that Hinduism has same meaning for Hindus as Christianity has for Christians and Islam for Muslims. This is particularly true in this high conscious era. There is no point in damning the majority of India which for whatever reasons has never offended any religion barring discriminating somewhat against Muslims post-independence. In fact, it is no good to damn and curse any majority all over the globe. Equally there is no benefit in persecuting minorities and many times they are self-defeating acts.

Sure, Doniger is no politician but an academician but the alternative interpretation of Hinduism that she wants to cherish has no theological backgrounds. Brahmins made some observations and others made some folklores about Hinduism and their pantheons; most of them having no authenticity as per the laws of religions.

In this copyright and patent protection regimes exponents of Hinduism need to understand that Hinduism was primarily dominated by Brahmins in the ancient times and their successors in reality could only be upper caste Hindus, led by Brahmins of the modern times.

This is not to suggest that others are not Hindus but to say parallelism has no historical backing and in real terms it is the ?violations? of ?copyright laws?. I know it very well that copyright laws do not apply on religions but a vivid reader can understand what I want to convey. In those ancient times, neither lower castes as a caste groupings nor females as a gender group had had any skill to develop meaningful theories and structures.

If Doniger wants to compare alternative interpretation of Hinduism with psychological equivalents of South African miners developing kwaito during apartheid or with Soweto rebellion then it is foolishness of the highest order. Such incidents would be rarest of rare in ancient Hinduism and hardly reported.

If she wants to celebrate these folklores as the defense mechanism against the caste dominations, then she is free to think in her way but would mostly be wrong. But in the passing remarks let me say that all those who believe in one or other tenets of Hinduism, all are Hindus, including outcastes, and I do not believe in any discrimination of any one by any one in any time.

I end this article by quoting from Upanishad:

'This is truth:

'As from a blazing fire, sparks like itself

Go forth in their thousands,

So, good man, many kinds of being come forth

From the imperishable, and go back into it too.

'The person is divine, unshaped.

He is outside and inside, unborn:

Without breath, without mind, pure,

Higher than the highest imperishable.

'From him breath and mind are born,

All faculties too,

Space, air, light, water,

Earth the upholder of all.

The Mundaka Upanishad 2.1-3 (Translated by Valerie J Roebuck)       


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