One of the most outstanding and contemplating icons of Hinduism is the worship of murtis (idols). The Divine Spirit is perceived in an image. In this perceptive role murtis are an integral part of Hindu institutions and traditions.

In its colorful and expressive craftmanship, a murti is an adorable symbol of identity in Hindu iconology. From an object of worship, a murti becomes divinity in itself. The Lord is in the idol too.

Idolatry establishes a direct one-to-one relationship between a devotee and the divinity. And in that connection, a dialogue is possible when the mind of an Upasak (devotee) is earnestly invoked in the Upasana stage (sitting near a murti) to seek Divine guidance and blessings.

A blissful bond of non-duality can be realized between an Atma (individual soul) and Paramatma (Supreme Soul).

Image formation is a very natural trait in human psychology. In our conscious state all our feelings, ideas, and impulses manifest images. The genesis of an image is a cognitive imagination influenced by perception of an object.

In the Philosophy and Significance of Idol Worship, a Divine Life Society publication, Sri Swami Sivananda says:

“Idol is a support for the neophyte. It is a prop of his spiritual childhood. A form or image is necessary for worship in the beginning. It is an external symbol of God for worship. It is a reminder of God. The material image calls up the mental idea. Steadiness of mind is obtained by image worship. To behold God everywhere and to practice the presence of God is not possible for the ordinary man. Idol worship is the easiest form of worship for the modern man.

“A symbol is absolutely indispensable for fixing the mind. The mind wants a prop to lean upon. It cannot have a conception of the Absolute in the initial stages. Without the help of some external aid, in the initial stages, the mind cannot be centralized. In the beginning, concentration or meditation is not possible without a symbol.

Pratima (idol) is a substitute or symbol. The image in a temple, though it is made of stone, wood or metal, is precious for a devotee as it bears the mark of his Lord, as it stands for something which he holds holy and eternal. A flag is only a small piece of painted cloth, but it stands for a soldier for something that he holds very dear. He is prepared to give up his life in defending his flag. Similarly, the image is very dear to a devotee. It speaks to him in its own language of devotion. Just as the flag arouses martial valor in the soldier, so also the image arouses devotion in the devotee. The Lord is superimposed on the image and the image generates divine thoughts in the worshipper”.

Besides offering a symbolic presence of divinity and its psychological proximity, murtis enrich the diversity in Hindu iconology. The liberal credentials of Hinduism are reposed in its murti representations.

Moreover, creating an ambiance of sanctity and offering a channel of devotion, murtis play a significant role in projecting Hinduism in the field of fine arts.

Shilpa Shastra, the school of art, is an academy in itself. The Hindu faith in its immensity welcomes members of the art community irrespective of their religious affiliations to pursue their talents in murti kala (art). It is the faith in spirituality which motivates an artist irrespective of religion to create and shape a sacred murti.


The secular character of Hinduism reflects in the domain of art.

In the world of both early and contemporary Indian arts, one of the most popular godhead is Lord Ganesh. He has been a favorite and popular subject taken up by artists to create their artworks. Metal, stone, drawings, ingenious material like pipal leaves and even fruits and vegetables arrangements are used to create His multi-posed images.

(Excerpts from the book: Hinduism beyond rituals, customs and traditions, Chapter 6 “Worship of Idols”).

From The Pen Of Baba Bulleh Shah

Parh parh Alam te faazil hoya
Te kaday apnay aap nu parhya ee na

Translation: You read to become
all knowledgeable
But you never read yourself
You read so many books
to know it all,
yet fail to ever read your
heart at all.

Bhaj bhaj warna ay mandir maseeti
Te kaday mann apnay wich warya ee na

You run to enter temples and mosques
But you never entered your own heart)
You rush to holy shrines to play a part,
Would you dare enter the shrine of your heart

Larna ay roz shaitaan de naal
Te kadi nafs apnay naal larya ee na
(Everyday you fight Satan

But you never fight your own Ego)
You are quick to attack the evil one,
yet pride is a battle you have not won.

Bulleh Shah asmaani ud-deya pharonda ay
Te jera ghar betha unoon pharya ee na

Bulleh Shah you try grabbing that which is in the sky

But you never get hold of What sits inside you

Why it’s easier for India to get to Mars than to tackle its toilet challenge

By Shyami V. Ramani

In 2013, India became the fourth country in the world (after Russia, the United States and the European Union) and the only emerging nation to launch a Mars probe into space. But it remains part of the group of 45 developing countries with less than 50% sanitation coverage, with many citizens practising open defecation, either due to lack of access to a toilet or because of personal preference.

According to the Indian census of 2011, only 46.9% of the 246.6 million households in India had their own toilet facilities, while 3.2% had access to public toilets. In this context, the remaining 49.8% households had no option but to defecate in the open. As a point of comparison, in 2011 53.2% of households had a mobile phone. In rural areas, where nearly 69% of India’s population lives, 69.3% of households lack toilets; in urban areas that number falls to 18.6%.

At first glance, such statistics and technological capabilities alongside large-scale open defecation is a puzzle. On the supply side, it does not seem difficult for a country that can construct sophisticated and complex cell phone technology to develop the capacity to build simple low-cost toilets. And for users, a toilet evidently offers more social benefits in terms of health and human dignity than a telephone.

Yet the citizenry has not enthusiastically adopted low-cost toilets, especially rural households. Why? Let us explore the reasons for this paradoxical outcome.


At a systemic level, economists have pointed out that technical and commercial availability and consumer acceptability of an innovation are the two main drivers of its diffusion. Evidently both are a problem in India.

For firms, it makes business sense to provide mobile phones in a variety of quality-price ranges as the network infrastructure is well developed and demand for this communication tool is assured. However, they are not interested in selling low-cost toilets to the poor, as the need for that product is not supported by a willingness or capacity to pay for it.

State programmes for sanitation coverage

Because companies are disinclined to market a product that requires investment in awareness and demand creation, the state must step in.

From the mid-1980s till the late 1990s, when India adopted economic reform, toilets were distributed free via the top-down state-funded Central Rural Sanitation Programme. But the programme, which assumed that availability would automatically lead to usage, failed because most beneficiaries did not see the need or have the desire for sanitation.

Consequently, in the new millennium, the Indian government switched to demand-focused interventions. Today, the state is a financier for public-private partnerships involving NGOs, micro-finance companies and other social enterprises that interact closely with the targeted beneficiaries to provide accompaniment and education for sanitation literacy and use.

The Total Sanitation Campaign launched in April 1999, emphasised that “Information, Education and Communication” should precede sanitation construction to ensure sustained demand and behavioural change.


State investment in sanitation thereafter received another fillip under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is the first politician since Mahatma Gandhi to emphatically underscore, through major media campaigns, that a “clean India” is necessary for the well-being of its citizens.

On October 2 2014, to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, Modi inaugurated the Swachh Bharath Mission, or the Clean India Mission. Unlike the earlier state programmes, it recognises that “availability” does not guarantee “acceptability”. The central objective of the mission is to eliminate open defecation in India by 2019, not just to ensure universal sanitation coverage.

The target is to transform villages and cities into “open defecation-free” communities, meaning they demonstrate: toilet access, toilet use and toilet technology that keeps both people and the environment safe. The programme invests in capacity building in the form of trained personnel, financial incentives and systems for planning and monitoring to ensure behavioural change. States are given flexibility in terms of implementation. Today, a variety of experiments, from the national to village level, are underway to achieve Modi’s Clean India mission.

It’s not just about building toilets

But for India, providing access to some form of a toilet is the easy part. What’s harder is getting people to use them. In rural areas, toilet-rejection varies by gender.

An ongoing study based on 300 focus groups with men across the country revealed that they prefer open defecation to a toilet because it: saves water; provides access to fresh water and a breezy environment; lowers the wear and tear of the toilet; protects women from getting embarrassed by the sight of men; and offers a handy excuse to escape importunate wives and mothers.

Public agencies try to persuade families to invest in toilets for the safety of their young girls. But in Tamil Nadu villages, another focus group-based study – this one with female teachers and girls – revealed that a central advantage of open defecation is that it offers opportunities for same-sex social interactions for females.

Girls and women in many regions are not allowed to gather in public places to debate issues, exchange ideas or simply relax together. Adolescents face even greater restrictions, because older women often sanction free discussion among youngsters. In this regard, open defecation rendezvous offer an excuse to talk and spend time together free, from other constraints.

In the isolated villages we visited with largely Dalit and fisherfolk populations in Tamil Nadu, the risk of sexual harassment is not perceived to be high enough to make toilets a safe haven. Thus, to eliminate open defecation in such villages, alternative safe gendered spaces for social interactions are needed first.

Cooperation between the players

India’s additional challenge is to diffuse not just any toilet but a high-quality, long-lasting, non-contaminating product that minimises water and soil pollution and promotes sustained use. This will require that the sanitation subsystem (i.e. the part under the toilet seat/slab), and its waste-processing technology design to be adapted to the geo-physical features of the targeted zone, taking into account soil type, rainfall, water table, water availability, wind velocity and slope.

Thousands of toilets lie abandoned in India either never used or abandoned after short use, due to poor construction quality or inappropriate technology design.

When a toilet’s superstructure begins to deteriorate or the toilets stop working well, problems can emerge. For example, if the family can’t afford or doesn’t want to invest in repairs, or if there isn’t a local agency to repair toilets (which is often the case), foul odours and leaks may begin. This, in turn, creates negative perceptions about toilets, which may trigger a bandwagon effect such that whole the community ultimately returns to open defecation.

Thus, it is imperative to ensure quality construction in sanitation drives and trained rural masons for individual construction initiatives.

A Tamil woman and her mother-in-law in front of their toilet whose roof caved in – hence the thatch. FAL

To address this need, various institutions are teaching masonry to youth with little formal education. But there is no common standardised programme that focuses on sanitation systems. Moreover, illiterate rural masons may be intimidated by formal courses and thus fail to attend.

At the same time, since masons learn their craft by doing, or through apprenticeships, their learning is slow, shaky and tacit – meaning that two people with the same skill set may execute a project differently. There is a need to address these issues while promoting skills building.

For an emerging country like India, it is easier to take part in exploratory missions to Mars than to tackle its sanitation challenge. The former can be addressed through a linear process spearheaded by the advanced, well-resourced Indian Space Research Organisation, while the latter calls for systemic change encompassing thousands of towns and villages.

For India to meet its goal of eliminating open defecation, it will need cooperation and coordination between a diverse variety of systemic actors, generation of knowledge products in the form of accessible curriculum for masons, and community engagement to build only safe toilets – and to use them well.

Courtesy: The Conversation


American Election Scene

donald-trump-phone-2011Let us dump Trump and not see his face again.

With American politics at an all-time low, it’s no wonder that game developers are taking to their art to express their discontent with the presidential race. The last time we had a presidential race, social media wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today, but now I see Donald Trump all over my newsfeed on Twitter and Facebook. So it’s no wonder that Trump has also leaked into the video game world. Trump Dump is a mobile game that lets those take their anger out on Trump.

Trump Dump works a lot like Flappy Bird, except…backwards. In Flappy Bird, you tap the screen to bounce the bird upwards, but in Trump Dump, you tap the screen to bounce the bird downwards. It feels really weird at first and makes gameplay pretty difficult. The trick is to get through the hole in the wall. Once you finally make it through the hole, you get the opportunity to drop a dump on Trump. Check out the gameplay below.


A universal truth

Agony, misery, pains or sufferings, both physical and emotional, and in all degrees of intensity, are the realities of life. These are the experiences faced by all without exception. Life means jitters of distress, grief and worries going along with moments of peace and pleasures.

Stresses and strains in our lives for one reason or the other give enough turbulence as smooth ride remains an ambition.

Unpleasant realities are littered all along the journey of life, and there is no escape from them. The sufferings could be innocently or naively self-inflicted or by others. Elements of nature and karmas have influences as well.

So, who resides in absolute peace. Unquestionably, nobody.

Since we can not shake them off, we redefine peace where tensions and sufferings are accepted as part of the game plan of life.

In this exercise, as one seeks the serenity and tranquility in a field shared by torments and troubles, a practical understanding of that guiding force from whom we often seek answers to our whys, is worth attempting. Here, the line “so sukhiya jis naam adhaar” needs some interpretation in line with the practical approach.

The guiding force we are talking about is the Eternal Spirit which in the first place advises us to accept the adversity.

Nanak calls it “hukam razaai”, meaning acceptance (razaai) of the Order (hukam) of the Supreme. The Order prepares us to tackle a calamity with cool mind effectively and decisively. In this acceptance we don’t agitate or get scared.

Miracles from that Eternal Spirit need not be expected, but what is expected is the courage and strength to tackle suffering with grace and dignity.

The utmost and unshaken faith in our resolve to accept, face and tackle unfortunate circumstances leads us to a perception of the Supreme power which demands action.

The nature of this perception encourages us to respond to an unpleasant event. That is where God can be redefined in terms of action. When we seek or gather courage and strength to handle any calamity or suffering that very activity itself is god in live manifestation.

And once that foundation (adhaar), meaning God in the image of action, is created and secured one can get inspired to be in His (naam) peaceful (sukhiya) abode.

It is true “Nanak dukhiya sabb sansar”, but it is also true “so sukhiya jis naam adhaar”.

-By Promod Puri


“Koi bole ram ram; koi khudae….

One of the spiritual gems of Guru Nanak Devji, which portrays the essence of all religions: “Koi bole ram ram; koi khudae….” Here is the English translation of shabad:
Some call the Lord ‘Ram, Ram’, and some ‘Khuda’.
Some serve Him as ‘Gusain’, others as ‘Allah’.
He is the Cause of causes, and Generous.

He showers His Grace and Mercy upon us.
Some pilgrims bathe at sacred shrines, others go on Hajj to Mecca.Some do devotional worship, whilst others bow their heads in prayer.

Some read the Vedas, and some the Koran.Some wear blue robes, and some wear white.
Some call themselves Muslim, and some call themselves Hindu.Some yearn for paradise, and others long for heaven.Says Nanak, one who realizes the Hukam of God’s Will, knows the secrets of his Lord Master”.


By Promod Puri

The 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, close to his death, sealed the continuity of human gurus. He declared that henceforth the holy book Adi Granth would be the eternal Guru of Sikhs.

The hymn composed by him for that declaration encourages a devotee to study, research and contemplate the enlightenments contained in the sacred book.

The hymn says:

Agya bhai Akal ki tabhi chalayo Panth
Sabb Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru manyo Granth
Guru Granth Ji manyo pargat Guran ki deh
Jo Prabhu ko milbo chahe khoj shabad mein le
Raj karega Khalsa aqi rahei na koe
Khwar hoe sabh milange bache sharan jo hoe.”

While the first three lines of the hymn translate like this: the Sikh Panth (meaning a path) was created by the orders of the Supreme Being whereby all Sikhs are asked to accept the Adi Granth (Sikh holy book) as their Guru which is also an embodiment of all the gurus.

The fourth line emphasizes that whosoever wishes to “milbo” (meet or seek) Him can realize Him thru “Khoj” (search) in the “Shabad” (words) of wisdom explicit in the scriptures.

And the last two lines of Guru Gobind Singh’s hymn mean “The pure shall rule, and the impure will be no more; those separated will unite and all the devotees of the Guru (the Sikh holy book) shall be saved”.

“Khoj shabad mein le” are the keywords in this advice. It has rationality in the expression which conveys the message that the acceptance of the Adi Granth as Guru, involves studying and following this treasure of revelation and inspiration. The hymn also encourages a follower to seek consultation from the Guru (Adi Granth).
As such, along the lines of the hymn, Guru Gobind Singh emphasizes that one should do his or her own studies (khoj) to understand and convince oneself while accepting the words of wisdom offered by the Adi Granth.

As Guru Gobind Singh does not believe in blind following he offers to reason in his abiding declaration of “Guru Maneyo Granth”.

Seeking Divine Spirit

ॐ भूर्भुवस्व: | तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् | भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि | धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्
Aum bhur bhuvah swah, tat savitur varenvam.
Bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prochodayay.
The four-part mantra is addressed to God (Aum) and the translation goes like this:

Oh God, you are the giver of life, you can free us from all the pains, you are present all over, you give happiness, you are the creator of this universe and beyond. We humbly submit to You and concentrate on your pious, sin-quelling and pervading ENERGY.

This ENERGY produced and released by You illuminates our mental faculties. We seek from you that this Energy resides in all our thinking processes so our thoughts are always inspired to undertake only those actions which can lead us to be on the path of righteousness.

Read more about Hinduism


Composition Of God In Hinduism

By Promod Puri

Besides His numinous and varied perceptions God also offers a meaningful perspective which can be created by the assembly of good thoughts. And the divine residency begins in that on-going construction.

Basically it is an eloquent temperament we are trying to build which gives rationality and practicality to the institution of God.

The ecumenical concept of God of being the supreme governor who creates, sustains and destroys the universe, and everything else including what influences our lives, does not reveal the reasons behind all the puzzles and mysteries of His or Her observable deeds.

In other words our perception of God as being a creator with His mystical powers which sustains the universe, can not comprehend many universal and natural phenomenons.

One reason is that man is just one of the millions of creatures who in actuality is microscopic in His infinite and colossal universe. Still our imaginations and metaphysical attempts know no boundaries to fathom His magnanimity.

For a moment let us compare a human being to a small ant who is trying to study God up there in the celestial world.

But we don’t. Because this has been ingrained in our cognitive senses that man is the favored work of God as being the most intelligent among all His living creations. And that we are the only ones capable of studying His multi-dimensional but conceptual-based existence.

Perhaps, that little ant may be thinking the same. It may be believing humans walking tall up on the ground are the unintelligent creatures. Or we are the gods for the ant. Who knows!

Philosophers, saints, scientists and even common man have all tried to study God and came up with varied perceptions and explanations. Imagination is very basic part of human psychology.

However, these discernments seldom explain what role God plays or His reasons of our happinesses, sorrows and everything else we come across in our day to day lives. We see, face or endure tragedies around us everyday in this world of turmoil. And then ask God ‘why’.

While respecting some or most of the known realizations and imageries about Him, we take another view of God which we assemble by intelligent and ethical thoughts to helps us in explaining His involvements in the events we experience in our lives.

In this endeavor by mobilizing rational and moral thinking we are creating those karmas which can rationally explain the cause or causes of events personally experienced by us or happening around us where God may be involved or may be not.

We are the major players to generate events and thus know the reasons of their results. Nevertheless we can leave unexplained experiences as part of His mysterious ‘lila’ or play.

Instilling nobility or divinity in our thoughts is a continuous exercise of creating virtuous karmas. And that is where the grammar of God is involved both as a verb and as a noun merging into one entity.

It is a disciplined and conscientious undertaking to attain the practicality of God in our midst.

We are told to be honest, humble and sincere, be considerate and helpful to others, be merciful, forget and forgive, love fellow beings and care for the environments, including animals, plants and the nature. And everything else which is pious, pure and morally firm to bring us closer to God realization.

While retaining the truism of these universal teachings we can contextualize them through our intellective senses to guide our day-to-day personal lives. This is where the blueprint of our construction begins to apprehend His pragmatics.

We start our project by following the Gyatri Mantra, which besides being symbolic in spiritual invoking, stimulates the very basis of our thought processes towards righteous karmas or deeds which we are seeking.

ॐ भूर्भुवस्व: | तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् | भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि | धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्

Aum bhur bhuvah swah, tat savitur varenvam.

Bhargo devasya dhimahi, dhiyo yo nah prochodayay.

Attributed to goddess Gyatri, the hymn from the Rig Veda, is one of the most recited and highly revered mantras in the Hindu theology.

In its unique composition Gayatri mantra has three approaches to spiritual realization. First, it establishes the nature of God and praises His attributions. Second, it is a mantra for meditation and contemplation. Third, it expresses sentiments of divine prayer seeking an illuminated path of righteousness thru His energetic light.

The mantra is addressed to God (Om). And the translation goes like this:

Oh God, You are the giver of life, You can free us from all the pains, You are present all over, You give happiness, You are the creator of this universe and beyond. We humbly submit to You, and concentrate on your pious, sin-quelling and pervading Energy. This Energy produced and released by You illuminates our mental faculties. We seek from You that this Energy resides in all our thinking processes. Consequently our thoughts are always inspired to undertake only those actions which can lead us to be on the path of righteousness.

The key word in the mantra is Energy. And by recognizing the presence of the divine energy that our mental faculties are enlightened. We pray for the residency of this very Energy to keep guiding us in creating, adopting and following noble thoughts.

As we understand thinking is a mental activity of brain. And thought is a product of thinking. Creation of one’s own thought, import of thought, its acceptance or its rejection are all considered as thought. In other words the act involved in all these considerations is a thought in itself.

Thought has multiple executions like establishing a reason, imagination, understanding, judgement, remembering, opinion, belief or just being conscious of time and place, etc.

According to the biology of thought, the latter’s processing and transmission happens in the nerve cells of brain. These cells are called neurons. With a population of close to 100 billion, neurons while communicating with each other receive and deliver information. Neurons function along with trillions of connectors called synapses transmitting signals among neurons.

Neurons are “electrically excitable”, meaning they live by some energy.

How thinking is created or triggered in the first place, what goes on in the brain neurons to process a thinking, what stimulates that thinking, are the questions for which the answers are being sought by academic disciplines.

One explanation is that thinking is a subconscious brain activity for which the neurons and synapses are just the tools to handle that activity for transmitting a thought or thoughts. Other theories are that the creation of thought is an un-explained biological process, or it is the conversion of energy particles into an object called thought.

In whatever means a thought is created the role of the divine energy is to bestow the enlightenment in establishing common sense and logic in a thought. It is in this enlightenment that the nature of thought is underlined. Its acceptance or rejection can be exercised.

As thought begets more thoughts or ideas, the process arouses our intelligent and psychological senses of understanding, experiencing, interpretation and behavior. A cognitive arrangement is thus developed.

It is in this arrangement that we undertake our karmas.

A karma is an intelligent and conscious act leading toward path of more karmas which influence and determine the nature of destiny. Good karma leads to good future, bad karma leads to bad. “As you sow, so you reap”, is true in the working of karma.

Newton’s law of motion: that every action leads to a reaction, is an application of the law of Karma.

Karma is not a deep philosophy. Rather it is a working assignment for the thinker of a thought or doer of a deed, and accepting the outcome of that executed assignment.

karma is a doer’s consciousness which initiates and directs an action, as well as registers its aftermath. It is an infallible fact that consciousness after inducing an action always acquires its reaction.

Virtuous karmas directed by enlightened consciousness produce the results we are seeking to realize that particular perspective of God which offers His involvement and guidance in every moment of our day-to-day lives.

Read more about Hinduism


What Is Hindutva And Why It Conflicts With Hinduism

By Promod Puri

The expression Hindutva emerged from Hinduism which simply means a state or quality of being a Hindu. However, going through its etymology Hindutva sought a wider demarcation to move free from Hinduism but keeping a bonded identity with it as well.

The Hindutva ideology was first introduced in 1923 by Maharashtra-based Hindu social and political activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. As an advocate of sovereignty, Savarkar started his public life as a radical freedom fighter for the liberation of India from the British rule. In this stint, he spent several years in jail, including the infamous and torturous cells of the Andaman Islands from where he sought clemency with a promise to renounce revolutionary activities. After the release, Savarkar’s temperament turned to create Hindu nationalism by identifying and promoting its heritage and civilization.

Savarkar had inherent conservative vision of Hindu social and political consciousness in order to perceive a Hindu Rashtra (nation). His Hindutva doctrine is based on the hypothesis that India’s religious and cultural diversities are fundamentally rooted in its collective Hindu identity.

“Common Rashtra, common race and common culture” are the three cardinals identifying Hindutva nationalism

In line with the Hindutva’s concept, Hindu means a nationality of Hindu Rashtra, a motherland or fatherland with its geographical boundaries. And in terms of “common race and common culture” Hindu means a correlative genealogy or ancestry, sharing its cultural heritage, beliefs, and ethics.

Correspondent to that the followers of all the India-born religions and sects are included in the Hindutva fold. But it excludes those who belong to foreign-born faiths like Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.

Hindutva tries to portray itself as a cultural and nationalistic conception to mark itself as India’s identity. Still, it does not assume a theological categorization. In its expansive role, Hindutva believes in the existence of a collective Hindu culture or way of life which is also being shared and practiced by compatible non-Hindu communities. In social environs, Hindutva is everything which is Indic.

Savarkar explicitly proclaimed, “Hindutva is not a word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with the other cognate term Hinduism, but history in full”.

Savarkar’s approach incidentally confined Hinduism within its religious and spiritual order. And let Hindutva play a wider role to define India’s nationalism, its people, history, culture and traditions.

Savarkar argued “Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or creed. Had not linguistic usage stood in our way then ‘Hinduness’ would have certainly been a better word than Hinduism as a near parallel to Hindutva”.

He declared “Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. … Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race”.

In India’s cultural, linguistic and religious diversities, Savarkar believed an existence of a strong underlying Indian tradition based on his vision of Hindu values. In his views Hindu reflects a cultural and political nationality of India.

With that premise Savarkar tried to secularized Hindutva. Under that platform he could include Muslims, Christians and Parsis believing these communities were Hindus too from cultural and historical perspectives.

According to Hindutva, being a Hindu is more than a religious engagement. It is a cultural concept not only of Hindus but of other communities as well residing within the Hindu social order irrespective of their religious affiliations.

Inspired by Hinduism but having its fundamentals in culture, history and civilization Hindutva finds some parallel with existing Bharatiya and Hindustani appellations. The latter represent the diverse cultural and social values of India in more secular and unequivocal terms than Hindutva.

While restricting it in theological domain, Savarkar’s attempt to whip Hindutva ideology from Hinduism is perplexing to Hindu mind. Neither it can be classified a reform movement in Hinduism.

With his literary background in Indology it is confusing why Savarkar was unable to realize that the uniqueness of Hinduism lies in its totality which covers not only rituals, philosophies and spirituality, but its traditions, cultural and social trends also.

Hinduism is not merely a religion. And it is not only a way of life either. It goes beyond rituals, customs and traditions. The depth and vastness of Hinduism touch every aspect of human observation and activity.

From rituals to murti-puja, mantra and metaphysics, karma and moksha, to meditation and yoga, and all its recreational aspects like music, dance and drama, Hinduism is a disciplinary as well as a comprehensive experience of spiritual development in liberal and progressive regime.

This expanded definition covers the cultural, religious and philosophical aspects to present a collective identity of Hinduism for ritualistic, theological and academic pursuits. Taking out the social segment or any other aspect from it goes against the very spirit and integrated constitution of Hinduism.

Besides treading through its rituals, customs and traditions, being a Hindu is an engagement in philosophies for analytical debate about life and our relationship with nature and the universe. It is a fascinating journey in spiritual knowledge.

This pilgrimage offers a meaningful perspective of the religion which recognizes the universal connectivity existing in the nature including our relationship with fellow human beings. Savarkar’s fenced Hindutva ideology, which bars non-Hindus, denies that universal connectivity.

The Upnishadic vision of our togetherness as one human race irrespective of our color, creed or religious beliefs is very wisely expressed in the following mantra:

“ Om purnam adah purnam idam

purnat purnam udachyate

purnasya purnam adaya

purnam evavashishyate”.

The mantra affirms that the universe is a totality, indivisible and an organic whole where plants, birds, animals, humans, mountains and stars are all together in His manifestation

The mantra’s accent is on complete balance in all of His universal creations from the elements of nature to mankind. For humanity the mantra conveys a message that every human being is equal in his or her completeness as manifested by Him.

Savarkar talks about the exclusivity of membership in Hindutva who shares “common rashtra, common race and common culture”. In all these commonalities the underlying link is a separate rashtra, a separate race and a separate culture of Hindutva.

Culture is a distinctive feature of one group of people comprising of several aspects. One of them is religion, and the others are language, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Obviously, one aspect of a culture does not represent the whole.

The expression “Hindu culture” is as vague as saying Hindu cuisine (except by international airlines referring to “Hindu meal”). And it is as much eluding as trying to contrive a language, music, arts, customs, etc. with suffix of Hindu like saying Hindu music or Hindu language.

Culture in most cases is secular in nature.

When we talk about a cultural community, we mean an all-inclusive explicit way of life. It represents all of the group of people sharing common identities despite belonging to different religious denominations. But all speaking the same language and sharing the same social and cultural traits.

Often people of one cultural community have several religions.

The unity of India lies in its cultural plurality. The denial of that plurality and imposing a monolithic Hindutva hegemony fragments the multicultural fabric of the nation. Social unity and coherence are the natural needs and dependencies of an advancing society.

In its present avatar Hindutva ideology of non-inclusiveness conflicts with the secular, liberal and democratic spirit of Hinduism. Hindutva needs an ideological reconstruction which can be an effective and dedicated institution in the service of Hinduism.

But if it does not, and sticks to its stand that “Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva”, then it can find some archive space in Hinduism. In its vast open structure Hinduism has always accommodated diverse ideologies. And kept them as part of its history and ever evolving constitution. That is the tradition in Hinduism. Hindutva can rest in that tradition.

(Promod Puri lives in Vancouver, Canada. He is a writer and former editor and publisher of the South Asian Canadian newspaper, The Link, and ex editor of Native Indian newspaper, The New Nation. He is author of recently published book titled “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs and traditions”). His website: promodpuri.com

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