Great Indian Political Bazaar: Battle for People’s Mind

Religion played the biggest role in the creation of two independent states, India and Pakistan, former around the ethos of ‘secular’ nationalism while later advocating the idea of ‘religious’ nationalism.

Secularism has only a binary – “neutral” versus “religious.” Congress took the position of “neutrality” and successfully positioned Jinnah’s Muslim League as “religious” thereby claiming the majority support of the Hindus, who by default are, the most-secular people in the world; having never despised anyone’s alternative religion or God.

Sanjay Gandhi had run the most blatant anti-Muslim political and administrative agenda during the internal emergency era of 1975-77.  This had alienated the Muslims from the Congress completely. To, Congress started adopting the process of minority appeasement as a way to woo them back and convert them into a captive vote-bank of the party. Thus Congress tried to position its biggest political rival, BJP, as “religious (Hindu)” nationalist party taking for itself the position of “secular” nationalist party.

Wearing the mask of ‘secular’ nationalism, Congress perpetuated a narrative of ‘religious’ nationalism as the ethos of the BJP (erstwhile “Jansangh”). This was an exact replay of its pre-independence strategy wherein Congress had tried to position, albeit successfully, itself as a “secular” nationalist party leading to Muslim League, then its biggest political rival, getting positioned as “religious (Muslim)” nationalist party.

Their strategy fired back this time.

In trying to attribute “non-secular” credentials to Hindu majority, whose support, Congress had earlier gathered successfully, during the pre-independence era by attributing “secular” credentials to them, was a letdown for the Hindus, who rightly felt cheated by the Congress.

Hindus saw through the game of Congress for whom, Jinnah’s Muslim minority was ‘religious’ and Gandhi-Nehru’s Hindu Majority was ‘secular’ until independence. But after independence, the same Hindu Majority became ‘non-secular’ and the left-over Muslim Minority became ‘secular.’ Playing this game, Congress has ended up creating problems and setbacks to the very existence of Muslims within an ever ‘secular’ India.

Notwithstanding the massive grass-root and ground-level effort put in by them, quite a lot of support came to BJP as rejection to Congress. Because people hated the new strategy of minority-appeasement of Congress, the party started accusing BJP of ‘politics of hate.’ Such accusations alienated the secular Hindus still more from the Congress.

Through its own folly, Congress has ended up taking the positioning of “religious (Muslim)” party, in the mind of the citizens, a positioning that was vacated by the Muslim-League after independence. In this transition of Congress from “secular” to “religious” the yawning void which was left behind is now occupied by the BJP.

History is repeating. Congress had evicted Muslim-League from the Indian political arena, using its majority support, the collateral damage being in the form of partition of India.

Congress may be well-advised to rethink its strategy before the BJP evicts it from the bazaar of politics, using its majority-support. BJP and its supporters must be cautious of any similar collateral damages and ensure that no division of India happens ever again.


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‘Bhakt’ and Indian Politics – भक्त और भारतीय राजनीति

Until the 2014-15, the word “Bhakt” meant a ‘religious devotee’ because the origins of the so called “Bhakti movement” are to be found in the religious, devotional trend that emerged in medieval Hinduism and was later revolutionised in Sikhism. It travelled to Islam as Sufism. The Bhakti movement originated in the eighth-century Tamil south India, and spread northwards. It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards. The Bhakti movement regionally developed around different gods and goddesses, such as Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), Shaktism (Shakti goddesses), as well as a wide range of philosophical positions ranging from dualism of Dvaita to absolute monism of Advaita Vedanta.

The movement has traditionally been considered as an influential social reformation in Hinduism, and provided an individual-focussed alternative path to spirituality regardless of one’s caste of birth or gender. Postmodern scholars suggest that Bhakti movement was a revival, reworking and re-contextualisation of ancient Vedic traditions.

The Shvetashvatara Upanishad, the Katha Upanishad and the Bhagavad Gita mention Bhakti. The epilogue verses of the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, uses the word Bhakti as follows:

यस्य देवे परा भक्तिः यथा देवे तथा गुरौ । तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्थाः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मनः ॥ २३ ॥

“He who has highest Bhakti (love, devotion) of Deva (God), just like his Deva, so for his Guru (teacher), to him who is high-minded, these teachings will be illuminating.”

The Bhagavad Gita, introduces “bhakti marga” (the path of faith/devotion) as one of three ways to spiritual freedom and release, the other two being “karma marga” (the path of action/effort) and “jnana marga” (the path of knowledge). The word “Bhakt” also finds a mention in chapter 7 of Bhagavd Gita which postulates four types of devotes:-

चतुर्विद्या भजन्ते मम जनः सुकृतिनो अर्जुन, आर्तो जिज्ञासु अर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ ||

Four types of men begin to render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of material wealth, and the one who has already realized knowledge of the Absolute.”

  • Arta (the distressed) – people suffering pain at physical or at mental level.
  • Artharti (Devotees with certain wishes) – desirous of material wealth, kids, name and fame.
  • Jigyasu (Knowledge Seeker) – have faith in God and want to explore more about Him.
  • Jnani (Self Realised) – who have finally realized GOD and have true knowledge of Him.

To the best of my awareness and limitations of memory, the word “Bhakt” did not exist in Indian politics before 2014.  And subject to the same limitations, when BJP was on a roll in 2014 during its electioneering and victory; this term was used by Shri Digvijay Singh of the Congress. [I extend unconditional apologies to the true and real owner of this intellectual capital if the credit has wrongfully gone to someone else.] This term was used in a disparaging and a derogatory sense to humiliate some of the volunteers who were acting as impact-multipliers for social media campaign unleashed by the BJP IT Cell.

When Congress recorded its most humiliating of the performance at any election, rather than gracefully acknowledge the brilliance of work done by the BJP IT Cell, the ungraceful losers, extended the description “Bhakt” to any and every voice attacking the pseudo-secularism, or the hypocrisy of the national media or seen as lending even an insignificant support to Hinduism or the intents of the BJP government. Though signified as “Bhakts”, the signifying meaning is that such people are actually “Sinners” of every political party in general and the Congress in particular, save and except the BJP.

I support neither the BJP nor the Congress in taking pot-shots at each other in public utterances and political debates. I am no one to advise them which adjectives or abuses may not be used in their mutual descriptions and debates. I do resent the whole idea of disparaging a very noble, pious and a religious belief of “Bhakti” and “Bhakt” belonging to my religion. I celebrate “Bhakti” and for me the most auspicious “Bhakt” from my mythology have been “Bhakt-Hanuman”and “Bhakt-Prahalad” while from my rich cultural history, the undeniable “Bhakt-Mira.” If the illiterates are trying to impute any idea of Modi or BJP being the “God” of the “Bhakts”; this is not creative liberty; for in using such metaphor, the illiterates are running down my “Gods” and my “Bhakti”.

For the benefit of the illiterates, “Bhakti” is spiritual, a love and devotion to religious concepts or principles, that engages both emotion and intellection. The word Bhakti should not be understood as uncritical emotion, but as committed engagement. Bhakti movement in Hinduism refers to ideas and engagement that emerged in the medieval era on love and devotion to religious concepts built around one or more gods and goddesses. I find it disturbing that some of the illiterates are actually more Hindu and more nationalistic than I would ever be. While Hindus and Indians could fight the enemies outside, they have always lost to the enemies within. The irony has been that most of the “enemies within” have not been anti-Hindu or anti-India, but because of their unswerving devotion and blind faith in some forces, they have acted in deviant ways and ironically, such forces have turned out to be “anti-Hindu” and “anti-India.”

Time, the “pseudo-seculars” and the “Bhakt-bashers” appreciate that any “anti-Hindu” rhetoric can never be “pro-India” and any “pro-India” speechifying cannot be “anti-Hindu.”


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भक्त और भारतीय राजनीति

2014-15 तक “भक्त” शब्द का अर्थ ‘धार्मिक भक्त’ था क्योंकि मध्यकालीन हिंदू धर्म में उभरी धार्मिक और  भक्ति की प्रवृत्ति में तथाकथित “भक्ति आंदोलन” की उत्पत्ति पायी जाती है, जो आगे चल सिख धर्म के रूप में उपजी और विकसित हुई। यही “भक्ति आंदोलन” सूफीवाद के रूप में इस्लाम में पहुंचा। भक्ति आंदोलन आठवीं शताब्दी के दक्षिण तमिल भारत में पैदा हुआ, और उत्तर की ओर फैल गया। यह 15 वीं शताब्दी के बाद से पूर्व और उत्तर भारत में फैल गया। भक्ति आंदोलन क्षेत्रीय रूप से विभिन्न देवताओं और देवियों, जैसे वैष्णववाद (विष्णु), शैववाद (शिव), शक्तिवाद (शक्ति देवी), साथ ही साथ द्वैतवाद से लेकर अद्वैत वेदांत के दार्शनिक पदों की एक विस्तृत श्रृंखला के रूप में विकसित हुए।

इस आंदोलन को परंपरागत रूप से हिंदू धर्म में एक प्रभावशाली सामाजिक सुधार के रूप में माना जाता है, और आध्यात्मिकता के लिए व्यक्ति-केंद्रित, जन्म जाति या लिंग से परे, वैकल्पिक मार्ग प्रदान करता है। आधुनिक विद्वानों का मानना है कि भक्ति आंदोलन ने प्राचीन वैदिक परंपराओं का पुनरुत्थान कर नए सिरे से पुन: संदर्भित किया था।

श्वेताश्वतरोपनिषद, कठोपनिषद और श्रीमद्भागवतगीता में भक्ति का जिक्र है। श्वेताश्वतरोपनिषद के उपसंहार छंद, भक्ति शब्द का प्रयोग निम्नानुसार करते हैं:

यस्य देवे परा भक्तिः यथा देवे तथा गुरौ । तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्थाः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मनः ॥ २३ ॥

“He who has highest Bhakti (love, devotion) of Deva (God), just like his Deva, so for his Guru (teacher), to him who is high-minded, these teachings will be illuminating.”

भगवत गीता, आध्यात्मिक स्वतंत्रता और मोक्ष के तीन रास्तों में से एक के रूप में “भक्ति मार्ग” (विश्वास/भक्ति का मार्ग) पेश करती है, अन्य दो रास्ते “कर्म मार्ग” (क्रिया/प्रयास का मार्ग) और “ज्ञान मार्ग” (ज्ञान का मार्ग) हैं। भगवत गीता के अध्याय 7 में भी “भक्त” शब्द का उल्लेख मिलता है जो चार प्रकार के समर्पणों को प्रस्तुत करता है: –

चतुर्विद्या भजन्ते मम जनः सुकृतिनो अर्जुन, आर्तो जिज्ञासु अर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ ||

“चार प्रकार के पुरुष मेरे लिए भक्ति सेवा प्रदान करना शुरू करते हैं- अर्त (परेशान), जिज्ञासु, भौतिक संपदा के साधक, और जिसने पहले से ही पूर्ण ज्ञान का ज्ञान प्राप्त कर लिया है।”

Four types of men begin to render devotional service unto Me— the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of material wealth, and the one who has already realized knowledge of the Absolute.”

मेरी याददाश्त के अनुसार, 2014 से पहले भारतीय राजनीति में “भक्त” शब्द मौजूद नहीं था। जहां तक मुझे याद आता है, इस शब्द का इस्तेमाल कांग्रेस के श्री दिग्विजय सिंह ने 2014 में जब भाजपा चुनावी जीत की ओर बढ़ रही थी, तब किया था। इस शब्द का इस्तेमाल बीजेपी आईटी सेल के सोशल मीडिया अभियान के प्रभाव-गुणक के रूप में कार्य कर रहे स्वयंसेवकों को नीचा दिखाने, अपमानित करने, निरुत्साहित करने के उद्देश्य से अपमानजनक और हस्यास्पद अर्थ में किया गया था। [यदि मैने अनभिज्ञता में यह श्रेय श्री सिंह को दे दिया हो तो मैं इस बौद्धिक पूंजी के सच्चे और वास्तविक स्वामी से बिना शर्त माफी मांगता हूं]

जब कांग्रेस ने 2014 में किसी भी चुनाव में सबसे अपमानजनक प्रदर्शन का रिकॉर्ड स्थपित किया तो भाजपा आईटी सेल द्वारा किए गए काम की प्रतिभा को गहराई से स्वीकार करने के बजाय, गरिमाहीन हारने वालों ने,  “भक्त” का बिल्ला हर किसी ऐसी आवाज़ पर चस्पा कर दिया जो छद्म-धर्मनिरपेक्षता पर या राष्ट्रीय मीडिया की पाखंडता पर हमला करने वाली हो, या जो भूले-भटके ही कुछ ऐसा कह दे जिसे हिंदू धर्म या बीजेपी सरकार को समर्थन के रूप में पेश किया जा सके। यद्यपि “भक्त” एक सांकेतिक संज्ञा के रूप में प्रयुक्त शब्द था, परंतु, इस संकेत में “पापी” अर्थ का समावेश था, “भक्त” से तात्पर्य था भाजपा को छोड़कर, सभी राजनीतिक दलों के प्रति और विशेष रूप से कांग्रेस के प्रति पाप करने वाले।

सार्वजनिक कथन और राजनीतिक बहस में, एक-दूसरे को आड़े हाथों लेने में जैसी भाषा का उपयोग बीजेपी और कांग्रेस की ओर से हो रहा है, मैं उसका समर्थन नहीं करता। लेकिन मैं उन्हें कोई सलाह भी देने की कोशिश नहीं कर रहा हूं कि उनके पारस्परिक वर्णन और बहस में कौन से “विशेषण” या “दुर्व्यवहार” का उपयोग नहीं किया जा सकता है। पर हिन्दू होने के नाते, मैं अपने धर्म से संबंधित एक बहुत ही महान, पवित्र और धार्मिक धारणा “भक्ति” और “भक्त” के अपमानित करने के भाव में उपयोग से आहत हूं। मैं “भक्ति” को एक अनुष्ठान के रूप में मनाता हूं और मेरी पौराणिक कथाओं से सबसे शुभ और श्रद्धेय “भक्त”  “भक्त-हनुमान” और “भक्त-प्रहलाद” हैं, तथा  मेरे समृद्ध सांस्कृतिक इतिहास के दौरान निर्विवाद “भक्त-मीरा” हैं।

“मोदी” या “बीजेपी” पर हमलावर होते हुए, यदि कुछ अशिक्षित और अज्ञानी “भक्त” शब्द का उपयोग उनके अनुयायियों को बदनाम करने के लिए प्रयोग में ला रहे हैं तो यह रचनात्मक स्वतंत्रता नहीं है। इस तरह के रूपक का उपयोग करके यह जाहिल और हेकड़ दीवाने मेरे “देवताओं”, मेरी “भक्ति” और मेरी आस्था का दुष्प्रयोग कर रहे हैं।

शिक्षित जाहिलों के कुछ ज्ञान-लाभ के लिए – “भक्ति” आध्यात्मिक है, धार्मिक अवधारणाओं या सिद्धांतों के प्रति प्रेम है, इसमें भावना और बोध-प्रक्रिया दोनों शामिल हैं। भक्ति शब्द को अनैतिक भावना के रूप में नहीं, बल्कि प्रतिबद्धता और वचनबद्धता के रूप में समझा जाना चाहिए। हिंदू धर्म में भक्ति आंदोलन उन विचारों और वचनबद्धता को दर्शाता है जो मध्ययुगीन युग में एक या एक से अधिक देवताओं और देवियों के प्रेम और भक्ति की धार्मिक अवधारणाओं के निर्माण के लिए उभरे। कुछ शिक्षित वास्तव में अधिक हिंदू और अधिक राष्ट्रवादी हैं जितना मैं कभी भी हुआ, और यह सच मुझे अधिक परेशान करता है। जबकि हिंदू और भारतीय बाहरी दुश्मनों से सदैव लड़ सकते थे, वे हमेशा अपनों के विश्वासघात से हारे हैं। विडंबना यह है कि “आंतरिक-दुश्मनों में से अधिकांश” हिंदू विरोधी या भारत विरोधी नहीं हैं, लेकिन कुछ शक्तियों में उनकी अविश्वसनीय आसक्ति और अंधविश्वास के चलते उन्होंने विचलित तरीकों से काम किया है। और दुर्भाग्य यह है कि ऐसी ताकतें “हिंदू विरोधी” और “भारत विरोधी” निकली हैं।

समय आ चुका है जब इस बदलते माहौल में झूठी-धर्मनिरपेक्षता का मुखौटा पहनने वाले यह समझने लगे कि हिंदू-विपक्षी तेवर कभी भी भारतीय-हित में नहीं हो सकते हैं और कोई राष्ट्र-समर्थक व्याख्यान हिंदू-विरोधी नहीं हो सकता है।


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Weird Ways of Indian Secularism

No secular nation can segregate and discriminate its people based on their religion. Indian Constitution does not define the word Minority, but under Article 30, it has provided fundamental rights to religious minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice and right to equality of such institutions in the matter of receiving aid from the State.

The National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 defines “minority” as a notified community. Through a notification of 22 October 1993, government notified Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikhs, and Parsis (Jains were added later on) as “Minority Communities.” Of the six, 3 are Indic-religions while other 3 are from foreign lands. The most interesting ‘act of commission’ by the government was in notifying “Minority Communities” in place of communities which are “Minority” thereby very surreptitiously creating a ‘legal basis’ for religious affirmation and appeasement in a secular country. Followers of every other religion other than Hindu religion have been granted a legal status of a religious minority.

Caste and class are inherited. Is religion inherited? Can a citizen change ones inheritance? Can one convert from one religion to other? Then why would one not convert from one caste/class to other?

Can one become an atheist? Would it be possible to add Atheists to the list of already notified minority communities? Should some of us who are Hindus but not from any SC/ST/OBC attempt to become atheists to partake the joys of support provided by the Ministry of Minority Affairs?

Would the respected leaders and the intelligentsia, or any other Bharateeya be so kind to guide and advise?



Caste System– An Indian Rather Than a Hindu Phenomenon

The caste system is beyond Hindu society and it exists in all religions in India.

The Muslims who came to the subcontinent during the 12th century were already divided into social classes such as priests, nobles and others. Further, a racial segregation demarcated the local Muslim converts from those of foreign origin. The foreigners claimed a superior status as they were associated with the conquerors, and categorized themselves as Ashraf (“noble”). Over time, the Indian Muslim society also split on the basis of the existing Hindu caste system. As per Ghaus Mohiuddin Ansari, a scholar of urban anthropologist of international acclaim, there are following broad categories of Muslim social divisions in India [See Ghaus Ansari (1960) “Muslim Caste in Uttar Pradesh: A Study of Culture Contact”]:


upper-class Muslims who claim foreign-origin descent from Afghans, Arabs, Persians, Turks etc. E.g. Mughal, Pathan, Sayyid, Sheikh


who converted to Islam to escape India’s caste system Converts from upper caste Hindus, E.g. Muslim Rajputs;


Converts from other “clean” castes, E.g. Darzi, Dhobi, Dhuniya, Gaddi, Faqir, Hajjam (Nai), Julaha, Kabaria, Kumhar, Kunjra, Mirasi, Manihar, Teli


Converts from untouchable castes, lowest caste of Hindus, E.g. Bhangi

Indian law does not provide benefits for “Untouchable Christians”, however Christians have been agitating for the same rights given to Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh Scheduled castes. Justice KG Balakrishnan a former Chief Justice of India had asked: “Could the Christians admit that they practise caste system and that Dalits (among them) face social discrimination requiring reservation to uplift their cause? This is not all that easy. The caste system among Indian Christians often reflects stratification by sect, location, and the castes of their predecessors. [Encyclopaedia Britannica]

There are separate seats, separate communion cups, burial grounds, and churches for members of the lower castes [Webster, John. 1994, The Christian Dalits: A History] especially in the Latin Catholic Church. Catholic churches in India are largely controlled by upper caste priests and nuns. Presently in India, more than 70 per cent of Latin Catholics are Dalits, but the higher caste Catholics (30% by estimates) control 90 per cent of the Catholic churches administrative jobs. As per, out of the 156 catholic bishops, only six are from lower castes.

Does America have a caste system? Surely, at least while camping!



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Bharat, which is India and Hindustan

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 (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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Greetings on Indian Independence Day

My Brothers and Sisters of Hindustan,

Greeting on the festive occasion of the National Day, 72nd Independence Day!

Being a Hindustani means knowing the deep insights of the sages of Hindustan, giving importance to them and following their recommendations in our own life. Being Hindustani means keeping the welfare of all creatures including animals and plants in our heart. Being Hindustani means following our discretion and using our intellect. Fanaticism gives the same pain to Hindustanis as much as it gives to others. Being Hindustani means to be intelligent – not confused or foolish or gullible. Trumpeting religion or religious fervour is not the proof of being Hindustani.

Hindustaniyat is Insaaniyat, a ‘Dharma‘ (much larger than the connotation of a religion) which is the rapid flow of the seven rivers (Sapta Sindhu), one which has absorbed all the attacking foreign invaders and insurgents in its might and forced them to either flow with the current, or to turn their backs and run away. All those who came from foreign lands, religiosities and cultures were either forced to go back or get assimilated in Hindustan. What is ironic is that foreigners have become Hindi, Hindu and Hindustani, but whatever Hindus, under duress or other compulsion, but not under a free will, converted to the religion of foreign invaders, are opposing their ancestral religion and talking about defending foreign religions adopted by them in due course.

In 1857, in the fight to gain independence from the British, Hindustan got independence from the rule of Mughals and the British, but the British crown snatched this freedom away. After 90 years of struggle, 71 years ago, Hindustan got independence from the British rule in 1947 and the Swarajya was established.

The top band in the national Flag of India is of Kesaria or Saffron colour, which reflects the strength, valour and courage of the country. The white band with the blue ‘Dharma Chakra’ indicates movement, progress, strength in unity, peace and truth. The lower band, green in colour, shows the fertility of the land, the development and displays auspiciousness. Saffron is a colour that is most associated with ‘Sanatan‘ and Hinduism. Islam has many traditional associations with green colour. White and blue colour is associated with Christianity. How easily, the Hindustani flag has soaked everybody!

Rather than treating the wounds inflicted on the pride and the suzerainty of Hindustan by the Mughal and the British Monarchies, we have let them remain like the wretched oozing wound on the forehead of Ashwathama, the son of Guru Dronacharya the nephew of Rajguru Krupacharya of Kuru Dynasty in the Hindustani epic ‘Mahabharat.’ All Hindustanis have yet to get free of this irritating disability by treating this gangrenous wound.

I think it was Voltaire who said, “God gave me intelligence. I think HE wants me to use it…”

From a Hindustani, to all my Hindustani brothers and sisters, greetings and salutations on August 15, 2018, the Independence day …

Jai Hind !!

Vande Mataram!!


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Fatwa, FaceBook and Films

The Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur had issued a fatwa prohibiting Muslim men and women from posting photographs of themselves and their families on social media sites on 18 October 2017. Just for reference, fatwa was issued against tennis player Sania Mirza in 2005 and Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman in 2015.

Posters and cut-outs of “bollywood Khans” are on display in nook and corner of the country. Their statues are attractions at Madam Tussauds.  They are all idolised and worshiped. Same is true for cricketers who are also demi-gods for Indians. As an extension, the audio-visual media, be it TV, films, social media thrives on pictures and images. Fatwa department of the seminary and Islamic scholars associated with “madrasas” may like to remove the confusion and ambiguity.



In Sansad Bhawan, a portrait of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is on display in the Central Hall while his statue/bust is installed in the courtyard.  Portraits of Late Zakir Hussain, Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, APJ Abdul Kalam used to adorn every government office while they were Presidents of India.

Photo credit: REUTERS/AFP

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Who am I – an Indian-Hindu or a Hindu-Indian?

The word secular implies three things: freedom of religion, equal citizenship to each citizen regardless of his or her religion, and the separation of religion and state. One of the core principles in the constitution of Western democracies has been this separation, with the state asserting its political authority in matters of law, while accepting every individual’s right to pursue his or her own religion and the right of religion to shape its own concepts of spirituality. In the West, everyone is equal under law, and subject to the same laws irrespective of his or her religion.

In contrast, in India, the word secular does not imply separation of religion and state. Religion in India continues to assert its political authority in matters of personal law. The applicable personal law differ if an individual’s religion is Christianity, or Hindu. Indian concept of secularism, where religious laws supersede state laws and the state is expected to even-handedly involve itself in religion, is a controversial subject.

Indian religions are known to have co-existed and evolved together for many centuries before the arrival of Islam in the 12th century, followed by Mughal and colonial era. Ashoka about 2200 years ago and Harsha about 1400 years ago accepted and patronised different religions. The people in ancient South Asia had freedom of religion, and the state granted citizenship to each individual regardless of whether someone’s religion was Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or any other. Ellora cave temples built next to each other between 5th and 10th centuries, for example, shows a coexistence of religions and a spirit of acceptance of different faiths.

This approach to interfaith relations changed with the arrival of Islam and establishment of Delhi Sultanate in North India by the 12th century, followed by Deccan Sultanate in Central India. The political doctrines of Islam, as well as its religious views were at odds with doctrines of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Indian religions. New temples and monasteries were not allowed. As with Levant, Southeast Europe and Spain, Islamic rulers in India treated Hindus as dhimmis in exchange of annual payment of jizya taxes, in a sharia-based state jurisprudence. With the arrival of Mughal era, Sharia was imposed with continued zeal, with Akbar – the Mughal Emperor – as the first significant exception. However, the descendants of Akbar, particularly Aurangzeb, reverted to treating Islam as the primary state religion, destruction of temples, and reimposed religion-based discriminatory jizya taxes.

After Aurangzeb, India came into control of East India Company and the British Raj. By the mid-19th century, the British Raj administered India, in matters related to marriage, inheritance of property and divorces, according to personal laws based on each Indian subject’s religion, according to interpretations of respective religious documents by Islamic jurists, Hindu pundits and other religious scholars. In 1864, the Raj eliminated all religious jurists, pandits and scholars because the interpretations of the same verse or religious document varied, the scholars and jurists disagreed with each other and the process of justice had become inconsistent and suspiciously corrupt. The late 19th century marked the arrival of Anglo-Hindu and Anglo-Muslim personal laws, where the governance did not separate the state and religion, but continued to differentiate and administer people based on their personal religion. The British Raj provided the Indian Christians, Indian Zoroastrians and others with their own personal laws, such as the Indian Succession Act of 1850, Special Marriage Act of 1872 and other laws that were similar to Common Laws in Europe.

In the first half of 20th century, the British Raj faced increasing amounts of social activism for self-rule by disparate groups such as those led by Hindu Gandhi and Muslim Jinnah; the colonial administration, under pressure, enacted a number of laws before India’s independence in 1947, which continue to be the laws of India in 2018. One such law enacted during the colonial era was the 1937 Indian Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, which instead of separating state and religion for Western secularism, did the reverse.

It, along with additional laws such as Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act of 1939 that followed, established the principle that religious laws of Indian Muslims can be their personal laws. It also set the precedent that religious law, such as sharia, can overlap and supersede common and civil laws, that elected legislators may not revise or enact laws that supersede religious laws, that people of one nation need not live under the same laws, and that law enforcement process for different individuals shall depend on their religion. The Indian Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937 continues to be the law of land of modern India for Indian Muslims, while parliament-based, non-religious uniform civil code passed in mid-1950s applies to Indians who are Hindus (which includes Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Parsees), as well as to Indian Christians and Jews.

Supporters of the Indian concept of secularism claim it respects a Muslim person’s religious rights and recognises that they are culturally different from Indians of other religions. Supporters of this form of secularism claim that any attempt to introduce a uniform civil code, that is equal laws for every citizen irrespective of his or her religion, would impose Hindu sensibilities and ideals, something that is unacceptable to Muslim Indians. Any attempts and demand by Indian Hindus to a uniform civil code is considered a threat to their right to religious personal laws by Indian Muslims.

Opponents argue that India’s acceptance of Sharia and religious laws violates the principle of equal human rights, discriminates against Muslim women, allows unelected religious personalities to interpret religious laws, and creates plurality of unequal citizenship; they suggest India should move towards separating religion and state. These differences have led a number of scholars to declare that India is not a secular state, as the word secularism is widely understood in the West and elsewhere; rather it is a strategy for political goals in a nation with a complex history, and one that achieves the opposite of its stated intentions.

Author Taslima Nasreen sees Indian secularists as pseudo secularist, accusing them of being biased towards Muslims saying, “Most secular people are pro-Muslims and anti-Hindu. They protest against the acts of Hindu fundamentalists and defend the heinous acts of Muslim fundamentalists”. She also said that most Indian politicians appease Muslims which leads to anger among Hindus.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Sadanand Dhume criticises Indian “Secularism” as a fraud and a failure, since it isn’t really “secularism” as it is understood in the western world (as separation of religion and state) but more along the lines of religious appeasement. He writes that the flawed understanding of secularism among India’s left wing intelligentsia has led Indian politicians to pander to religious leaders and preachers, and has led India to take a soft stand against Islamic terrorism, religious militancy and communal disharmony in general.

Does India have some Muslims who are Indians or does India have some Indians who are Muslims? Interestingly the weight of this ‘some’ is nearly 10% of all the Muslims in the world and about 15% of the total Indians in the world.

Secularism is a divisive and a politically charged topic in India. Indian secularism is an idea that I fail to comprehend, in spite of my sustained efforts. A question about my own identity intrigues me – who am I – an INDIAN-HINDU or a HINDU-INDIAN?