by Acharya S.P.Dwivedi
Promod Puri is a distinguished South Asian journalist and prolific essayist. In his book- “Hinduism,” he tried to cover the historical evolution of Hindu dharma and its major philosophies, theistic doctrines, social codes, rituals, and practices.
He admits openly, “Hinduism is a democracy of conflicting, contradicting and controversial thoughts and theories” (Preface iii) with that feeling it would have been trying for him “to pick and choose” the paths, philosophies, or doctrines. He neither claims that the book is an academic research paper nor meant for teaching.
Furthermore, Puri admits that the understanding and facts he acquired about Hinduism were based mostly on the internet and his personal experiences, and that reflects his humbleness too.
As far as methodology is concerned, Puri has applied an analytical approach. He interprets everything rationally and denounces irrational snobbery.
Being a Hindu, the author doesn’t use any smokescreen to hide his anguish, frustration, or guilt-consciousness. He outrightly condemns centuries-old decayed, dis-functional, and torturous Hindu social traditions and customs. He dealt in length demonic treatment of untouchables and downtrodden (Dalit) segments of society.
He focuses on issues and challenges which the modern person of the Hindu community is facing. Commendable job in putting Hindu religion from historical development to present practices.
He did it on his terms without compromising with the classical Hindu philosophical and theistic obsessions. He identified the tumult of terrific inhuman practices and racked the truth, which is all spread over the religiously regulated life of an ordinary person of the Hindu community.
He writes thoughtfully and straight from the heart. Just because he repeated on the subject of untouchables, his intelligence is not vague. His book and its contents will motivate not only Hindu reform-loving people but all those also who will cherish his banner of equality, dignity, and justice to all living beings on earth. He moves from the Hindu problem and turns it a global one. Puri emerges as a vanguard of Hindu reforms.
Puri came up with the categories of philosophies, yogas, scriptures, and sciences, music, dance, and drama and thoroughly explained it. Of course, he cited several quotations from Manu Smriti to bolster his arguments. It would not be out of the way to say that- ‘one life is not enough to cover all Hindu scriptures.’ Of course, Puri does not commit to any particular Hindu creed or ideology. However, Puri seems to be leaning on Western scholars while describing the period of the development of the Hindu religion and writings of scriptures but adhered to the fundamental values.
As for the symbolic significance of worship, spirituality, karma-dharma, and temple rituals are concerned, he picked up the true spirit of the Hindu belief system and offered impressive interpretations. For example- “Idolatry establishes direct one to one relationship between a devotee and the divinity”(p.36), “ Arti and several other elaborate adorations generate a spiritually charged atmosphere of reverence and sacredness” (p.45), and “ Hinduism’s democratic framework the management of self is what we call a way of life” (p.122). He quoted three verses/mantras 1. Om purnamidam…2.Aum bhur bhuvah… 3.Aum dyauh shantI because of their sublime quality of universality, peacefulness, harmony, and secularism. He enriched Hinduism by adding the scientific interpretation of the above mantras, including Aum and Naad, etc.
He dealt in length the caste and class problem in Hindu society, which has degraded and contaminated the social and religious fabric. I have discovered two traits. 1. He was exposing the social imbalance and 2. I hope for the improvement. In support of the latter feature, he has described the reform movements and invaluable contribution of the Messiah of Acchoots and Dalits- Dr. B.R.Ambedkar. Puri ultimately rejected the irrational and non-logical writing of Manu and appeared as a radical and anti-traditionalist.
There is a marked difference in the present Hindu society because of an enhancement in education, urbanization, and constitutional laws that are en-cracking upon the inflexible traditions. (p83) People are severing their relationship with evil Hindu customs and rituals. It can be safely admitted that the reform movement in the Hindu religion is gathering momentum. “Consequent to Hinduism’s democratic framework, the management of self is what we call a way of life,” a mantra to be enchanted. (p.122)
His clarity of language carries the freshness and clearness that is immensely impressive, and easily understandable. Puri is a writer of uncommon brilliance and interpretive innovations, and he applied effectively appropriate terminology to strengthen his arguments.
This book appears to be his life’s work and carries a delightful blend of scholarly and analytical explanation. Further, it provides the general reader concisely and easily understood facts of Hinduism. It fulfills the need for an authentic exposition of Hinduism. Finally, I would like to conclude that Promod Puri’s works stand out before us to be complimented and appreciated.
I have not read Promod Puri’s Book “Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs and Traditions”. But I have gone through the Book Review by Acharya S.P. Dwivedi. It is my privilege to know intimately these two secularists of repute for many years. Mr. Puri’s regular contribution to popular, tough and topical issues to The Link Newspaper (His Issue) speaks volumes about his journalistic erudition on political, social and religious matters. He is clear in his thinking at the cost of annoying the establishment if need be. With these qualities of his head and heart, I can say, without reading the Book that he has done well to touch upon a matter like Hinduism which according to Acharya Dwivedi cannot be understood during one’s lifetime. Secondly, when a person like Dwivedi writes about the Book, it should be taken in earnest. He is another man of courage and conviction. He is a promoter of Interfaith in the ambit of Indian values. My understanding of Hinduism or any other religion is shallow. To comment on any religion without deep and intricate knowledge is not safe. However, the words “democracy, equality and justice” used in the Review needs to be understood in their proper context. Ambedkar, in his knowledge, described Hinduism as ‘undemocratic, unequal and unjust’. I hope, there is a list of Rituals and Customs in the Book which are detrimental to Hinduism. The caste system in Hinduism has been talked about in the Review. It is neither a ritual, a custom nor a tradition but a pivot of Hinduism. There are many takers of caste-system in its refined form. The Book is the right step in the process of “Reformation of Hinduism” which Mr. Puri has tried, but at the same time an agent of aghast to many hardliners.
Thanks a lot, Mr. Zile Singh-ji, you have made my day with nicely-worded testimonials loaded with compliments. It is indeed quite encouraging.