Since Islamic terror or Muslim terror has been so much in news, the term ‘Saffron Terror’ was coined by some so-called secular people and brought into political and media discussions to bring in an “equal-equal” balancing act to emphasise their own secular credentials.
In 1966, Chief Justice of India, PB Gajendragadkar, writing on behalf of a five-member Constitution Bench, had observed, “We find it difficult, if not impossible, to define Hindu religion or even adequately describe it.” Continuing in the same vein, 10 years later in 1976, the Supreme Court, disposing of another case, noted, “It is a matter of common knowledge that Hinduism embraces within itself so many diverse forms of beliefs, faiths, practices and worships that it is difficult to define the term ‘Hindu’ with precision.”
Does this mean that no Hindu can be a terrorist? No. But given the nature of Hinduism, to brainwash and programme large numbers of its adherents to attack others will not be easy. As Justice Gajendragadkar had observed in his judgment, “Unlike other religions in the world, the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet, it does not worship any one god, it does not subscribe to any one dogma, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances, in fact, it does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion or creed.” Yet, when it comes to branding Hindus as “terrorists”, everyone seems instantly to know and agree upon who a Hindu is. The branding, it would seem, is more important than any evidence to support it.
Of course, there are criminals, rapists, murderers and much worse people who happen to be from practicing Hindu family or just have a Hindu name. But ‘Hindutva terror’ or ‘Hindu terror’ is mostly meaningless as hardly any Hindu would go out and commit terrorism for the glory of the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ or for attaining heaven, or chant a ‘Vedic Mantra’ before blowing up a group of people. Hindu criminals surely exist, but ‘Hindu terror’ is mostly imaginary.
The word “Hindu” does not exist in any of the four “Vedas,” the fountainhead of the so called “Hinduism.” The reference to the land mass of so called “Hindus” which was also referred to as “Hindustan” on some later date, is to be found in Hymn 24 of the 8th Mandala of the Rig Veda.
(Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation)
य रक्षादंहसो मुचद यो वार्यात सप्त सिन्धुषु | वधर्दासस्य तुविन्र्म्ण नीनमः ||
ya ṛkṣādaṃhaso mucad yo vāryāt sapta sindhuṣu | vadhardāsasya tuvinṛmṇa nīnamaḥ ||
Who will set free from ruinous woe, or Arya on the Seven Streams: O valiant Hero, bend the Dasa’s weapon down.
Mandala 8 is a prayer to God Indra and in this hymn the prayer invokes God Indra to protect the Aryas and the land of the Sapta-Sindhu (meaning 7-rivers) by blunting the weapons of fate. Sapta-Sindhu was referred to as Hapta-Hindu by Persians. The people of this region and their culture, the Sapta-Saindhavas were referred to as hapta-Haindavas by Persians. The term is found in ‘Avesta’ of Zoroastrians. “Hindu” is thus a geo-demographic descriptor for the people from the Sapta-Sindhu region without religious connotation. The language of these people was ‘Sanskrit’ and the script was ‘Devnagari.’ The language and the script also do not have any religious connotations.
The ‘dharma’ (poorly translated as religion) of these people was Sanātana dharma (Devanagari: सनातन धर्म meaning “eternal dharma” or “eternal order”). The root of the word dharma comes from ‘dhri’ in Sanskrit, which means to uphold or maintain. The Sanskrit says ‘dharayati iti dharmaha’ which translates as dharma is that which upholds. However, not only what is supported is ‘dharma,’ but that which does the supporting is also ‘dharma.’ So ‘dharma’ is the means as well as the goal. When the word ‘Sanatana’ is added to ‘dharma’ it expands the meaning and purpose. ‘Sanatana’ means eternal. So Sanatana-dharma can mean the ancient path that has existed from time immemorial. It is the eternal path which has been given to humanity and comes from beyond the material dimension. Thus, Sanatana-dharma is the inter-dimensional path of progress for all living beings.
With the passage of time and the onslaught of invasions from the Persia, the expression in Persian, ‘Hindu’ got currency. Their religion – Sanātana dharma became “Hinduism” – an alien and a restrictive and also a limited expression. Europeans were happy to follow and propagate this expression “Hinduism” unfortunately and ignorantly treating it as a synonym, which has resulted in an interesting ambiguity – is it Bharat or Hindustan or India, what is the proper name, isn’t name a proper noun and are proper nouns to be translated?
Obviously, the word ‘Hindutva’ comes from the words Hindu and Hindustan (Bhaarat and not just the land of the Hinduism). It is “Bharatiyataa” or Indian-ness or Indian-ism, the social and cultural ethos and the way of life of citizens of Bhaarat or India. It is the essence of India. Hindutva, to serve as a word, must appeal to the geographic source of India’s cohesion. This word is understood as Americans understand the word “India,” without religious connotation. But what of the Hindu derivation of the word “Hindutva” Well it goes back to the word Sindhu meaning a citizen of Hindustan. Thus it has no more religious connotation than the word “Hindi.”
Many of my Hindus friends seem wary to be associated with Hindutva, in spite of the fact that Hindutva simply means Hindu-ness or being Hindu. They tend to accept the view which mainstream media has peddled for long – ‘Hindutva’ is intolerant and stands for the ‘communal’ agenda of a political party that wants to force uniform Hinduism on this vast country which is fully against the true Hindu ethos. Several of my friends with Hindu names keep ridiculing Hinduism without knowing anything about it. They have not even read the Bhagavad-Gita.
Some other friends claim that Hinduism is the most immoral of all religions and responsible for the ills India is facing. They refer to caste system and ‘ManuSmriti’ as proof. ‘ManuSmriti’ has become the favourite pasture for scavengers keen on bashing Hinduism and Vedas. This becomes among the most potent tools for promoting conversion away from Hinduism. And interestingly most of these Manu bashers perhaps never ever gave ‘ManuSmriti’ a serious reading! Let us examine the truth behind just one such unfortunate tendency in modern society, which is to project Manu as ‘anti-woman’. In fact, Manu holds women in high esteem. One may refer to Verse 3.56,
Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and contextual English translation (the verse is from the chapter titled “Duties of the Householder”) –
यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः। यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः ॥ ५६ ॥
yatra nāryastu pūjyante ramante tatra devatāḥ | yatraitāstu na pūjyante sarvāstatrāphalāḥ kriyāḥ || 56 ||
Where women are honoured, there the gods rejoice; where, on the other hand, they are not honoured, there all rites are fruitless.—(56).
The statement “Na stree svaatantryam arhati” from verse 3 in Chapter IX is often provided as an example for Manu’s anti-woman stance. It is important to refer to this complete verse here – Verse 9.3,
Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and contextual English translation (the verse is from the chapter titled “Duties of the Husband and Wife”) –
पिता रक्षति कौमारे भर्ता रक्षति यौवने । रक्षन्ति स्थविरे पुत्रा न स्त्री स्वातन्त्र्यमर्हति ॥ ३ ॥
pitā rakṣati kaumāre bhartā rakṣati yauvane | rakṣanti sthavire putrā na strī svātantryamarhati ॥ 3 ॥
The father looks after her during virginity, the husband looks after her in youth, the sons look after her in old age; the woman should never be depending on one’s own self for sustenance.—(3)
In Manu’s perception, a woman is, by her very nature, so divine and unique that she should never be left to fend for herself. It is the duty of society to protect and take good care of her — by her father during childhood, husband in her youth, and son in her old age. Interpretations stemming from inadequate or improper understanding of the original Sanskrit text often lead to distortions and generate hard feelings in a cosmopolitan society like ours. Unfortunately the Sanskrit verse is wrongly translated as if woman does not deserve independence. If Manu had intended such a meaning, there would never be verses like 9.31 – Child belongs to mother, 9.33 – Woman is akin to the soil of the mother earth, 9.88 – man will marry his daughter to a bridegroom who is of exceptionally distinguished appearance, and her equal, 9.118 – sons inherit the father’s property as equal shares but each son needs to give away a quarter of his share to his sister; and so on.
The caste system as propounded by the ‘ManuSmriti’ is the least understood and the most abused. Let us refer to Verse 10.4,
Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and contextual English translation –
ब्राह्मणः क्षत्रियो वैश्यस्त्रयो वर्णा द्विजातयः। चतुर्थ एकजातिस्तु शूद्रो नास्ति तु पञ्चमः ॥ ४ ॥
brāhmaṇaḥ kṣatriyo vaiśyastrayo varṇā dvijātayaḥ| chaturtha ekajātistu śūdro nāsti tu pañcamaḥ ॥ 4 ॥
The Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya are the three twice-born castes; the fourth is the one caste, Śūdra; there is no fifth.—(4).
Everyone is casteless by birth. They need to be born again – to become a Brāhmaṇa, or a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya by choosing to be so no later than the age of 8 years, 11 years and 12 years respectively. Not choosing to be born again by the stated age would by default assign them to be Śūdra. (One can also begin with the position and argue that everyone is Śūdra by birth). The second birth is marked by taking a vow to be so at an event referred to as the ‘Yajñopavītam’ and ‘Upnayana’ (start of formal education) ‘Samskar.’ It is mandated for each of the three – twice-born to read and study the Vedas but the right to teach and interpret the Vedas would remain with the Brāhmaṇa. Those who do not make a choice through the ‘Upnayana’ are not deprived of making such a choice any time later. However, the entry to the professional caste of a Brāhmaṇa, or a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya is not allowed. ‘Upnayana’ is not restricted by gender or by ancestry. It is a choice. There is a clear recognition of differences in individual calibre and capabilities, and the ‘ManuSmriti’ is only making it mandatory to exercise the choice to be a Brāhmaṇa, or a Kṣatriya or a Vaiśya by a particular age and then devote the balance of time for preparation for the profession. Nowhere does it prevent Śūdra from reading and studying the Vedas. In present day systems, Judiciary alone can interpret the Constitution and the law, and entry into different public services require prior commitment and have an age limit hurdle. Clearly ‘ManuSmriti’ was a much advanced system of social order and not a tool for social discrimination. Quite possibly, like most constitutional provisions and laws, this was also abused by the unscrupulous.
Dominant majority has a vested interest in remaining ignorant of the real ‘ManuSmriti’ because they wish to remain oblivious to their complicity in ongoing social injustice in the name of ‘ManuSmriti.’ They resist every chance of becoming knowledgeable about what they do not know and continue to live blissfully in a fool’s paradise of believing that they know. Denial of complicity through culpable ignorance and becoming an apologist is a great escape from getting morally implicated in any crime.
Some of my childhood friends indict me for ‘standing up’ for Hindu Dharma as belonging to the ‘Hindutva brigade’ that is shunned by their sense of political correctness. They obviously don’t doubt that their own perception and views about ‘Hindutva brigade’ and also their perception of my allegiance to the ‘brigade’ to be incorrect. My secular friends can’t really be blamed for their faulty understanding. They were taught that Hinduism is just another religion. Children usually don’t doubt what they learn. They are becoming Hindu apologists- apologist for radical Hindutva- and presenting themselves as a ‘moderate’ Hindu. I urge my friends to pay attention to Voltaire, who rightly said, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
Hindu Dharma was never based on unreasonable dogmas and did not need blasphemy laws to keep its followers in check. It is helpful to society as it imparts wisdom and gives guidelines for an ideal life. It does not strait-jacket people into an unbelievable belief system. It allows freedom of thought and many parallel streams with different ways to connect and co-exist harmoniously. The Supreme Court ruling of 1995 declares, “… Hindutva is indicative more of the way of life of the Indian people. … Considering Hindutva as hostile, inimical, or intolerant of other faiths, or as communal proceeds from an improper appreciation of its true meaning. …” Hindu nationalism, whether dubbed as Hindutva or political Hinduism, should neither lose sight of nor tamper too much with this aspect of our way of life. Hindus must see through various conspiracies to divide and discredit them, including the largely false and fabricated narrative called “Hindu terror”. British colonial authorities, by introducing religious and caste tags in their 1871 Census unleashed a monster which we have not yet learned to tame.
The so-called secularists fight for the rights of religious minorities. India has already seen one partition on religious lines. There is no point in escalating the confusion by asking what was partitioned, Bharat or Hindustan or India, and what were the parts which emerged after the partition – Bharat or Hindustan or India and Pakistan? How can educated Indians be blind to the danger and risk having in future more partitions on the basis of religion, including the risk of more terrible bloodshed? Strangely, the minority religions are not accused of being divisive and communal, but Hinduism is. True secularism will neither favour minorities nor distort the traditions of the majority to demonise the latter. Hindus must see through such ploys while resisting the urge to go to the other extreme in becoming anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, or against any other tradition. To be pro-dharma is more important than to be anti-anything or anybody.
My stand is neither communal nor dangerous for India. Hindu Dharma is indeed not only inclusive, but also most beneficial for the individual and for society and yes, politicians, too, need to base their lives on Hindu Dharma if they want to be efficient in serving the society. I am not advocating any change in their faith in any –ism of their choice. In recent weeks some staunch ‘secular’ Indian politicians declared themselves suddenly as Hindus. Maybe they pave the way for others to follow.
In the national flag of India the top band is of Saffron colour, indicating the strength and courage of the country. The white middle band indicates peace and truth with Dharma Chakra. The last band is green in colour shows the fertility, growth and auspiciousness of the land. Saffron is a colour most associated with ‘Sanaatan’ or Hindu Dharma. The colour Green has a number of traditional associations in Islam.
Being Hindu means to know and value the profound insights of the ‘Rishis’ and to follow their recommendations in one’s life. Being Hindu also means having the welfare of all at heart, including animals and plants. Being Hindu means following one’s conscience and using one’s intelligence well. Fanaticism hurts Hindus as much as it does others. Being Hindu means being wise – not deluded or gullible or foolish.
I think it was Voltaire who said, “God gave me intelligence. I think HE wants me to use it…”
Om ॐ (also written as Aum) is an ancient mantra and mystical sound of Hindu origin (India and Nepal), which is considered sacred in religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. Hindus believe that all the divine and other creation form of consciousness originated from the vibration manifesting as sound “OM”. In Vedas and other Hindu scriptures, AUM is the ‘Sound of the Sun’ and the ‘Sound of Light’.
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