Posted by: Vikram | September 10, 2008

Which one is the real Hindu ?

I am going to talk about two people I know, both of whom claim to be Hindu, but understand the religion in vastly different terms and give an example of a cinematic tussle between them.

The first person is what I would call a passive aggressive Hindu. He constantly relies on others to dictate Hinduism to him, through television shows and tapes. He listens to these dictations, often drowning out the message itself in chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’. It is as if the proclamation of faith is more important to him than the faith itself.  He never actually reads the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, but claims authority over them. He also criticizes the religion, but mostly for its lack of aggression and surreptitiously tries to imbed his aggression in others around him. He is pious in that he indulges in no great extravagances, pursues knowledge and donates to Hindu missions. He stays away from the celebratory aspects of the religion, prefering solitude and peace as perhaps a Hindu should.

The other person is what I would call a mostly active Hindu. He gets up everyday and chants his prayers. Never content to take dictations, he reads the Ramayana every year. He regularly goes to temple, fasts and practices almost every ritual. He wholeheartedly celebrates Diwali, Holi and Ganesh Chaturthi with gusto. He recognizes that is Hinduism’s tolerance that is one of the best things about India, he also realizes that the Indian nation (with all its constituents) is capable of answering any threat. He is mostly active except in one aspect, he does not stand up for Hinduism when the first person tries to appropriate Hinduism and its symbols for feeding his own aggressive stance.

Do you remember this song from Swades ?

This song is much more than a cinematized version of the Ramlila done across villages in North India. It is attempt by the real Hindu to take Hinduism back from the ones who have appropriated it for their macabre agenda. Sita sings about how she is waiting to be rescued from an evil Ravana by Rama, the emphasis being on Rama’s masculinity in saving a feminine Sita, a ploy used often by Hindu fundamentalists to mislead Hindu youth. However, Shah Rukh Khan (the real Ram in the movie) reminds Sita that Rama is in every heart and home, he emphasizes Ram’s spiritual symbolism and his steadfast adherence to familial duties and responsibilities. He concludes with saying that only one who removes Ravana from his heart, can have room for Ram in it.

It is time for the real Hindus to reclaim their religion.


  1. Hinduism is like an ocean filled by many streams. Get into any one and you will reach the ocean. No one tells you that only one stream will get you there and that the others will dry up en route, leaving you thirsty and dying before you reach your destination.

    It is due to this broad philosophical underpinning that Hinduism is tolerant and accepting of the views and beliefs of others. In fact all indigenous religions and sects say broadly the same thing. Though they may clam that their stream will take you faster and with lesser turbulence, they do not claim exclusive rights, and do not condemn/reject other paths.

    For this reason there has hardly been any religious fights in India akin to the often cruel and violent religious wars the world has witnessed between Christianity and Islam.

    Some Hindus believe that a different response is required to meet the challenge of religions which reject all other paths. One may agree or disagree with this positioning, but I do believe that there is space for all kinds of Hindus to co-exist. Let us not try to straight jacket all of them into the one path we think is ‘right’.

    Remember, Ram fought Ravan and Krishna helped the Pandavs defeat Kauravs in battle. Both Ravan and the Kauravs thought they were right; otherwise they would not have joined battle.

    It is not easy for ordinary humans to correctly identify the Ravans that are present both within and without. But once identified correctly, one has to battle to remove them, whether from the heart or from society, just as was done in the distant past.

    Spot on, Hinduism does not stress conversion, so it is naturally a lot less aggressive than the Abrahamic religions. But who has the authority to identify the Ravana’s ?

  2. I can not really claim to understand religion but what I have observed is that Hindoo religion is not what you would call a religion at all in the strictest of terms. They do not have a singular focus and in the olden days I doubt if such a thing was needed. There is no such thing as a single hindoo faith, so basically a punjabi hindoo is a different practitioner than a tamil hindoo perhaps. In a way that is a good thing because it gives more breathing space to those of us who are not hindoos!

    You are certainly right about the Tamil and Punjabi Hindus being different. I have met people from Chennai here in Austin, they certainly seem to have a very different interpretation of Hinduism. I feel though, that their version of Hinduism is perhaps a purer form. They definitely celebrate their festivals in a better way, much less fanfare and much more devotion. It seems more fluid and more pristine. I think its a lot easier for a Tamil Hindu to navigate his identities as an Indian, a Tamilian and a Hindu.

  3. my response to u

    Its the true Indians like me and my mom
    so was Veer savarkar a true indian? was Gandhi a true indian ? was Godse a true indian
    How can u quantify?

    And when the government tries to heal these wounds, the right wing starts shouting ‘appeasement’. I dont see how rehabilitating our own citizens who were affected by a severe tragedy can ever be ‘appeasement’.

    can u define/ quantify healing wonds

    and why one sided rehabilitation before elections of states?
    have the sikhs been rehabilitated properly
    have people suffering from the mumbai cloudburst been rehabilitated properly never mind their religion ?
    Has anyone dying in a riot before been properly rehabilitated ?

    What exactly does the right wing mean when you say, the ‘government is too soft‘ ?

    The problem here is govt interference right from the pmo in routine police investigation , the complete fear psycosys in police while dealing with a muslim even if he is a history sheater and a known jihadi.
    Its casual attitude in prosecuting radical jihadis like simi and the support it derives from politicians from the extreme right (islamist) be it the muslim league or the hydrabadi owaisi family party or pdp or the softer mulayam and laloo who have been fully suppporting simi

    and the complete intelligence failure that we are facing and the ability of the terrorists to act at will without fear something that impedes on the basic human rights of every citizen regardless of his religion

    Why is there no implementation and total silence of the supreme court verdict of a death sentence that too after an attack on parliament ?
    Why is there mcocca then in Maharashtra ruled by congress and not in UP or bihar or gujrat if they wanted to enact it ? isnt this a democracy?

    Why does the home minister ferry Madam around when he is supposed to look after internal security of the nation?

    How would you feel if your brother was arrested and kept behind bars without any evidence ?
    Doesnt this routinely happen never mind ur religion – but if u r of a weak economic status ?
    my response
    Bad and id file a habeas corpus in court but not terrorize people
    and in all certainty each and every cop that did such deeds was hauled up in court…in India

    Why do the sleeper cells act so confidently mocking the police at times ?

    Justice is common for all – but i dont see hindus putting bombs in markets to avenge injustice

  4. ps i have left u a rather big comment on my blog…

  5. i would rather consider prernas method of righting wrongs
    read her post and comments including mine


  7. And then there are the insecure, aggressive, violent, narrow-minded, funadamentalist Hindus.
    They fear that Hinduism will be swallowed by conversions, they claim Taj Mahal was Taj Mahalaya, Babri Maszid was created on Ram Temple – they don’t wait for any legal action on these urgent matters and resort to aaosn and killing to teroroise the minorities.
    They create their own – oppressive, unethical and NON-Hindu ways to RECONVERT economically and socially backward converts back into Hindism!!! There is no such concept in Hindusim but being politically inclined they are making sure there is someone who would vote for them…

    I would have said reconversion is fine if 1.) it was willingly done. 2.) The convert was allowed to choose a higher caste to get out of the hell of being a chamar, bhangi, mochi (all these are abuses in Hindi, you hate someone you call them by these and many other such names.)
    These Hindus have sentiments that get hurt very easily, they are violent and aggressive, they thrive on caste divide, and are against the very ethos of Hinduism which has helped it thrive for ages, the reason many (like me) will never convert, the freedom to question, argue, bargain, demand and criticize their gods. or the freedom to refuse to do any of he above. To be a Hindu and claim atheism and still remain a Hindu 🙂
    But these politically inclined Hindus have created new definitions, like, re conversions and Hindutva. Some of the things they do:
    1. They are staunchly casteists and also insist that caste-based reservations are the root of all our problems. So how do they solve the problem? By reconverting – but not helping in any other practical ways, the converted lower caste Hindus. Problem solved?
    2. They hate all other faiths, which is their business, but unfortunately they also insist on killing and burning other humans alive and like many other murderers they claim to do this self defense/or they claim they were provoked.
    3. They are basically fundamentalists, their role models seem to be Hitler and Ayatollah Khomeini, unfortunately not Gandhi.

  8. Vikram, I am giving you insight of a Book : ‘The Indians’ By Sudhir Kakar & Katharina Kakar. It defines about Indians, Hindus and Muslim identity ver well. Quite long but worth reading :

    The inner experience of caste

    The preoccupation of the caste system with high and low has been associated with suffering and humiliation for several millions through the centuries. As the Marathi poet Govindraj puts it, Hindu society is made up of men ‘who bow their heads to the kicks from above and who simultaneously give a kick below, never thinking to resist the one or refrain from the other.’ The hierarchy is so fine tuned that even a low caste will always find another caste that is inferior to it, thus mitigating some of the narcissistic injury suffered by it at being seen as inferior. Thus for instance, ‘among those lowest scavenging sections which remove night soil there is still a distinction: those who serve in private houses consider themselves higher than those who clean public latrines.’ [pp 27, 28]

    Hindu image of the Muslim

    For many Hindus, the Muslim is powerful not only because he is united, but also because he is armed, favored by the state of India, and in times of conflict supported and even armed by Pakistan. ‘Muslims have a constant supply of weapons coming from Pakistan, or maybe they are locally made. They have at least a butcher’s knife because they all eat meat.

    […] It is interesting to note that generally a Hindu’s self-identification as a Hindu occurs only when he talks of the Muslim; otherwise the conversations on his affiliation are more in terms of caste. A Hindu is born only when the Muslim enters the scene. Hindus cannot think of themselves as such without a simultaneous awareness of the Muslim’s presence. This is not so for Muslims, who do not need Hindus for self-awareness. The presence of the Hindu may increase the Muslim’s sense of his religious identity but does not constitute it. [pp 157]

    Muslim image of the Hindu

    Besides the inevitable attribution to the ‘other’ of immorality and lack of control over impulses — a dirtiness of the soul — Muslims also see Hindus as a cruel and cowardly people.

    If a Hindu woman or child walks through the a Muslim street, the Muslim will let them go, thinking the fight is between men and should not involve women and children and the aged. A Hindu does not think like that. It is enough for him to see the other person is a Muslim before he strikes without regard for age or gender…

    Hindus are cowards who can fight only when they are in a large group. [pp 159, 160]

    The Hierarchical Man

    The need to be noticed , to stand out from an anonymous mass, is, of course not uniquely Indian but a part of the narcissistic heritage of all human beings. What makes this phenomenon particularly ubiquitous — and poignant — in India is that a person’s self-worth is almost exclusively determined by the rank he (alone or as part of a family) occupies in the profoundly hierarchical nature of Indian society. If the perception of another person has first to do with gender (‘Is this individual male or female?’), followed by age (‘Is he/she young or old?’) and by other such markers of identity, then in India the determination of relative rank (‘Is this person superior or inferior to me?’) remains very near the top of subconscious questions evoked in an interpersonal encounter. Indians are perhaps the world’s most undemocratic people, living in the world’s largest and most plural democracy.

    […] You must be ‘somebody’ to survive with dignity, since rank is the only substitute for money. […] Retired judges, ex-ambassadors and other sundry officials of the Indian state who are no longer in service are never caught without calling cards prominently displaying who they once were. India is not a country for the anonymous… [pp 7,8]

    Fair Skin

    The psychological association of fair skin with everything ‘clean’, ‘regal’ and ‘desirable’, together with memories of being ruled by fair skinned invaders and the presumption of wealth associated with the fair skinned visitors, makes most Indians fawn over the goras (‘whites’). A dark skinned African, on the other hand, will often be an object of condescension, even ridicule. Little wonder that many a gora leading an anonymous, run-of-the-mill life in his own country feels like a special ‘somebody’ in India, the admiring gazes and flattering tones of voice constantly feeding his self-esteem, his narcissism. [pp 37]

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