Although I was born and brought up in a family with strong Hindu values, I grew up as a teen influenced with the western culture. In my teens, I used to hate anything that was Indian or Hindu related. I used to hate Hindi Bollywood commercial films and Hindi songs to an extent. I was crazy about western culture and the English pop songs. The influence was so deep that I used to ask my father to get Audio cassettes of English Pop songs from towns he visited for office work. We were raised in a very remote village and a township built by the Central Govt. company my father was employed with. Not sure if it was just me or it was the advent of a culture which was propagated by the then Govt. of India (roughly around 1985 to 2000). Whatever it may be I didn’t feel alone with my views. I had a lot of schoolmates and teachers that had similar views about Indian and Hindu values.
It was in 2006 when I was going through a bad patch of time professionally when I thought I can prepare for the most prestigious examination of India, The UPSC. I aspired to be an IAS then. After one year of hard work and preparation I could realize it was not my cup of tea. It requires hard work, perseverance and brilliance more than what I had. However, I developed a very good habit of reading books during this time. I had always tried to avoid studies as a child but took keen interest in current affairs. As a child in class 3 or 4, I remember, I was interested in news from Israel and Palestine. I knew why USSR was getting renamed as Russia. But I lacked knowledge of my own culture, my own values. It was when I was preparing for the UPSC, I got closer to the Indian values and Hindu culture.
Hinduism, the oldest of all religions has one of the richest values. All the good values that the world is gradually realizing to be the most inclusive and sustainable has been advocated by Hinduism since 2500 B.C. (earliest known to humans) Yes, before Christ was born and ages before 632 AD. This culture may be even older than 2500 B.C. for which we do not have any records. The prophecies of Hinduism has not changed much from the time of it’s beginning. It was tormented and misinterpreted and it’s glory and image around the world was seriously ruptured. We’ll talk about the most popular Dogmas and the probable causes later in this article. But no one can doubt that Hinduism is the only religion that has gave birth and promoted the existence of an equally tolerant and inclusive religion- Buddhism. Jainism and many other religions including Buddhism still is a part of the greater Hindu culture.
Now the question is how the Hinduism got portrayed negatively in the world? Definitely there are a few Dogmas that crept into Hinduism that maligned it’s image worldwide and also this was a coordinated efforts to help rise other ambitious religions of this world. Everyone knows how many countries or land masses Hindus conquered to propagate their ideology and how many countries other religions raided, looted and unveiled their monstrous ideologies just to ensure they have a better headcount following their faith. Yes, Hinduism is not limited only to India and it’s ideologies ahs been accepted by the Far East in the form of Buddhism. But the mode they all spread was way different.
Now let’s take a look on a few of the Hindu practices that has been most debated in order to create a perception against Hinduism.
1. Sati- Practice of Sati or Sati pratha is a practice in Hinduism where a widow sits on the pyre of her dead husband and sacrifices her life. Even the holy books of Hindus talks about Sati pratha. But it was always voluntary. We all know how strong the bonding is between Hindu couples. It’s because of the culture, ideology, belief and faith that is imbibed among the Hindus. Now the question is if it was voluntary how it gradually became a forced culture. Should we not relate this with the advent of Islamic barbaric rulers? Did they not unleashed the most barbarous face they had and killed all men in India and enslaved the women. Few converted and rest thought it would be better to die than to let those beasts lay their hands on them. Gradually it became a practice to die on the husband’s pyre in fear of being enslaved by the Islamic rulers in absence of their only savior. They ruled India for more than 400 years. During this time, they killed all who opposed their rule. They destroyed all Hindu temples, their sacred scriptures that were the only source of the rich culture and technology for the Indians and also for the learned men across the world. India had done really good in recording their wisdom but they probably failed to create protective walls. When the Britishers and other Europeans came to India they saw these Islamic rulers and Islam as the most prosperous religion and Hindus as the most uneducated and culture less human race. They didn’t bother to understand why and how the greatest culture of the world is not what they had assumed when they started their discovery voyage to India. They started writing their own interpretation of Indian history which was a carry forward of the knowledge of the Islamic rulers of that time. It’s worth noting that Indians had universities like Nalanda and Taxila when rest of the world were living a Stone age life.
2. Varnas system- In Hinduism there was four Varnas. Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudras. Based on the birth of a person on a particular varna, as person was supposed to conduct profession. This was not always the same. If you refer to the Vedas and history, you’ll find varna was allotted to a person based on his/her profession and it had no dependency on which varna family a person was born in. They practice changed as during the Islamic rule there were sanctions on practicing any other religion than Islam. The break down of the social system in Hinduism led to a confusion and when, after 400 or 500 years they tried to re-organize practices Hindus had already forgotten most of the good values and they had to start with whatever they found as the existing reality.
3. Pardah system and social status of females- Pardah system is something that got a similar treatment was Sati pratha during the rule of Islamic rulers. Initially it was forced but gradually it became a practice to have pardah or ghoonghat for women. It was during that time when the Hijab or Burkha was forced upon Hindu women in the form Pardah. Social status of women in Hinduism in pre-Islam period (before 1200 AD) was very prominent and women were known for conducting businesses and were also head of families. You’ll still find the practices more prominent in Far East and Asia Pacific regions where Hinduism spread during the glory days of Hinduism.
I believe it’s not only the Islamic rulers and the Britishers who are solely responsible for the present condition of Hindus and Hinduism but also the Govt. of India that did minimum to nil in terms of uplifting the Hindu values and instead portrayed Hinduism in a bad light that many now fear to be called Hindus. They are so mis-guided that they haven’t learnt from their school books how Christianity and Islam spread in the world and how Hinduism and a few religions that Hinduism gave birth to spread across the world. do they still qualify to be compared in terms of love, compassion, social justice, passion for life?
We should be compassionate to Hindus who now love to be called seculars as they are mis-guided. By the way, have you seen seculars coming from any other religion? I see them mostly Hindus. Isn’t that a testimony to the belief that Hindus can also fight themselves for existence of others, Unlike others.