Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Exposing the Saffron Scheme: A Popular outline-lll

The myth of Hindu pride

Comrade Vinod Mishra

One of the popular slogans of the Sangh Parivar is Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain (Proudly say we are Hindus), exhorting Hindus to proudly proclaim their Hindu identity. According to the Sangh ideologues, the loss of Hindu pride was mainly responsible for the Hindus’ meek submission to successive foreign invaders. Therefore in order to retrieve Hindu pride it is all the more necessary to demolish the monuments of Hindu humiliation. The Hindu crusade, at the fag end of the 20th century, has thus begun with the demolition of the Babri Masjid and obviously the list runs longer to include masjids at Kashi and Mathura to the Jama Masjid and even the Taj Mahal.

Let us recount the history of evolution of Hinduism to unearth the essence of this so-called Hindu pride. Ironically, the first known invaders of India were none other than the Aryans themselves, who came from the Iranian highlands around the middle of the second millennium B.C. To buttress its claim of Hindu India, the Sangh Parivar is engaged in a grand design of falsifying history and disproving all known historical tendencies in dishing out new theories of Aryans being the original inhabitants of this country. This is utterly false. The original inhabitants of India were people of the Mohenjodaro and Harappan civilisation in the Indus valley — a civilisation higher than that of the Aryans. India’s pre-Aryan population was most probably Dravidian. The Aryan tribes were semi-nomadic pastoral tribes with a developed patriarchal clan system and military democracy. In other words, they were at a transitional stage from a pre-class to class society. From the Indus basin and Northwest, they gradually spread out to the Gangetic basin and Northeast. This advance, however, involved innumerable battles with the local population. This whole transitional phase is reflected in the Rig Veda and other Vedas.

The religion of the Aryans at this stage is termed as Vedic religion. In the early stages, Devas and Asuras were both Vedic gods, albeit belonging to two hostile camps. Later on, Asuras became evil spirits, the opposite of what happened to other Iranians. The local hostile tribes of Dravidians were personified as Rakshasas.

Vedic Aryans practised polytheism where gods representing forces of nature, particularly Indra, occupied the central position. There were no temples, no professional priesthood, and no concept of retribution after death. The idea of the soul’s separation from the body too had not developed by then. A varna system had come into being reflecting the emerging pattern of social division of labour. In short, Vedic religion was reflective of the transitional stage of Aryan society and it was more concerned with life on earth than after-life.

As Aryan tribes evolved into settled agricultural communities, a number of despotic, early slave-owning kingdoms emerged in the beginning of the first millennium B.C. At this stage, Vedic religion gave way to what is known as Brahmanism.

The Varna structure acquired a social rigidity and there emerged a separate social group of Brahmans — specialists in the Vedas — with a good deal of authority. The laws of Manu, in 5th century B.C., gave divine sanction to the varna and caste system and the Brahman caste was virtually deified. Vedic gods were relegated to secondary positions and new deities came to the forefront, Brahma being the foremost among them. As the local population gradually merged with the Aryan conquerors, their deities too entered the Brahmanic pantheon. With the development of a rigid caste system, gods too became caste gods. With the arrival of Upanishads, the idea of immigration of soul became dominant and the idea of karma became the theoretical foundation of reincarnation.

The Brahmanical period is also described as the Upanishadic period where six classical schools of thought developed. Vedanta, advocating the merger of Atma with Bramha, a profoundly mystical philosophy, was the mainstay of Brahmans. The kshatriyas, who had been competing with the Brahmans, sided with Sankhya, a philosophy closer to materialism.

Beyond the sphere of classical philosophy, there emerged materialistic philosophies of Charvaka and Lokayata which rejected even the existence of god. They were reflective of the common people’s rejection of Brahmanic domination.

Brahmanism was collapsing under its own weight and the broad masses of people in the form of unconscious protest against oppressive caste system started rallying behind the rival religious trends of Buddhism and to an extent Jainism by 6th and 5th century B.C.

Both these trends rejected the caste system as well as the organised priesthood. Buddhism, in the main, replaced Brahmanism and between 3rd century B.C. and 1st and 2nd century A.D. it even became the state religion under Maurya and Kushan dynasties. With its complex rituals, alienated from the masses, the Brahminic aristocracy was no match for the Buddhists’ populism.

In the course of its struggle with Buddhism, Brahmanism drastically reshaped itself under the leadership of Adi Shankaracharya. Thus began the phase of what is known as Hinduism. The Buddhists were the first to introduce the concept of temples. To overwhelm the masses, grand Hindu temples were built with huge idols of gods. Pilgrimage sites were introduced, and to ensure mass mobilisation, public ceremonies and religious processions were initiated. To bring gods closer to the masses, there came into being the concept of Avatars. Mythical heroes like Ram and Krishna were elevated to the status of avatars of god and thus were treated as saviours. Buddha too was incorporated as one of Vishnu’s avatars. Strange enough, while Buddhism spread far and wide and became a world religion, in the country of its origin it was virtually wiped out.

Hinduism essentially came to mean the preservation of the old caste system supplemented by new methods of influencing and controlling the masses. With the growth of social stratification, caste, ethnic and racial diversification and complexities of class relations, Hindus went on splintering into various sects, marked by unending mutual schisms.

While futile attempts for sarva panth sambhav — later translated as sarva dharma sambhav and proclaimed as the basis of Indian secularism — were made by some, in later periods there emerged religious reform movements, first under the impact of Islam, and then Christianity. Kabir, Nanak, Chaitanya and a host of other reformers — making up what is known as the Bhakti Andolan in the Middle Ages — attacked the caste system and the complicated rituals of Hinduism. Kabir stands out as the most outstanding among all these reformers, who, on behalf of the common masses launched scathing attacks against the superstition and hypocrisy of the Brahmans.

In the British period, Raja Rammohan Roy, Dayanand Saraswati and Vivekanand were the major advocates of reform. They all championed the pantheistic philosophy of the Vedanta school and tried to get rid of the rigid caste system. However, each one of these trends ended up only adding another sect to Hinduism and nothing more. Hinduism, with its rigid caste system, supposedly with divine sanction, closed its doors forever and remained essentially a national religion. Buddhism, Christianity and then Islam grew into world religions. Vishwa Hindu Parishad therefore is a misnomer, a pretence, to project Hinduism as a world religion.

More than upholding a false Hindu pride, all progressive reform movements in Hinduism have tried to give Hinduism a liberal, modern outlook with particular emphasis on doing away with the rigidity of its caste structure. Hindu orthodoxy has all along resisted it more or less successfully on the strength of traditions and traditional institutions. Now for the first time, there has emerged a counter-movement under the auspices of the Sangh Parivar, which aims at annulling whatever effect the reforms have had. Those who are expecting a social reform in Hinduism out of the current upsurge of Hindutva are living in a fool’s paradise. This movement has so far offered us only wilful distortion of history, consolidation of the social and political clout of the sadhus and mahants, renewed aggressiveness of upper caste Hindus and of course a lumpen army of Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sainiks. This is what is being hailed by the ideologues of the Sangh Parivar as the upsurge of Hindutva, the rise of a Kshatriya cult in Hinduism on the lines of Khalsa, and, of course, as the assertion of Hindu pride.

Religion, as has been rightly said, is the expression of man’s powerlessness vis-a-vis his environment. Religious fantasies do provide illusions of breaking through the limits imposed by the environment and people, therefore, have always flocked to religion, particularly in times of distress. But illusions are only illusions, they can never replace reality. Invoking the Hindu pride and the super-human role of a monkey god, it is possible to demolish a dilapidated structure, kill and maim thousands of unarmed innocent people but not to resist the invasion of neo-colonial powers which is going on unabated, ironically with the complicity of the forces of Hindu pride.


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