Hindus have been subjected to nearly a thousand years of slavery. The struggle for existence that Hindus faced during this long period is unique in human history. To understand this glorious struggle, one must compare Indian history with American history. It was approximately the same time when a group of persons reached America and another group of persons reached India. Both the groups were from the same part of the world and were of the same white race. At that time, population of America and India was nearly equal. Today, the original inhabitants of America have become almost extinct. Their civilization, culture and religion is almost dead; there are of course some remnants which are objects of wonder and are kept as curios displayed in a museum. The atrocities in India were identical to those in America, but the original inhabitants of India survived. A magnificent building that was an inspiration to many has been demolished completely and what has been left behind is only a mass of rubble.
All the traditional institutions of the Indian society were systematically destroyed during nearly a thousand years of foreign rule (first Islamic and later British, Portugese and French). Books were burnt. Persons who were active in preservation and growth of knowledge were forced by all possible means to give up their pursuits. Attempts were made to remove all symbols of Hindu religion from the surface of the earth. A grand civilization was reduced to ashes. Today, Hindu finds himself sitting with these ashes and a few semi-burnt pieces of what was once a magnificent building. He has a dream to reconstruct the grand building, to get back to the glory that seems almost fictional. Hindus have survived the long arduous journey but have lost a lot. The biggest loss has been of self-identity. A person who has just escaped from a big terrible fire is primarily concerned with his burnt skin and the wounds rather than the torn clothes. The first fifty years of post-independent India have been spent on arranging for essentials for livelihood. Forgetting the old wounds, taking control of the life as it is, the Indian psyche has slowly started looking at its own identity and has started asking questions about itself. The question “Who is a Hindu?” is the first step in this search for self-identity. It is an attempt to seek the foundation stone for Hindu Reconstruction and Renaissance.
Often attempts have been made to define Hinduism on the basis of some beliefs and/or symbols. For example – Hindu is one who worships Ram; Hindu is one who worships the cow; Hindu is one who worships Krishna; Hindu is one who considers Ganges to be sacred; Hindu is one who considers the plant of tulasias sacred; Hindu is one who begins his worship with OM. Each of these is a belief of a section of the Hindus. However, any one of the above individually or some/all of the above taken together cannot be considered to be the fundamental basis of Hinduism. The diversity of opinions and contradictions are too strong. A worshipper of Ram is a Hindu just as a worshipper of formless Supreme Being is also a Hindu; Ganges is considered sacred by many Hindus while there are others who have ridiculed it; idol worshippers are Hindus while there are some Hindus who are opposed to all idolatry worship; the devotees of OM and Gayatri Mantraare Hindus just as someone who considers Krishna to be his/her lover is also a Hindu; there are Hindus who follow a devotional life and there are Hindus who believe in self-attainment through work or knowledge. Clearly, Hinduism cannot be defined on the basis of any one belief or tradition or symbol.
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Jai Hind, Jai Hindu