Why I am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor (Book Summary)


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“Secularism” is frequently characterized as a development different from religion. Things work somewhat contrastingly in India, a nation wherein Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Sikhs have mingled together for a considerable length of time. There, the thought has for quite some time been tied in with keeping the people of the state from getting connected to one faith and favoring it over others. 

Today, that model is enduring an opposition by advocates of Hindutva or “Hinduness,” the belief system of India’s leading party – the BJP. At both the neighborhood and national levels, it’s initiated a crusade to rethink Indian national character along religious lines and leave out non-Hindus, especially Muslims. 



The outcomes, Shashi Tharoor contends, represent themselves. Narrow mindedness, viciousness, and discrimination are on the ascent while monuments of the nation’s non-Hindu past like the Taj Mahal have been forced to go up against social wreckage. 

That, he surmises, needs to change. How? Indeed, that is the place the historical backdrop of Hinduism comes in. As Tharoor appears, Hindus are the inheritors of over a thousand-year-old convention of resilience and heterogeneity. On the off chance that they grasp that legacy rather than the BJP’s troublesome patriotism, they can put their nation on the way to an improved future.

1 – Hinduism is a rich religion brimming with multifariousness.

Each faith is singular. Take the Semitic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the most well-known faiths in the Western world. Every one of them has its own particular collection of convictions about the world and the heavenly. However, they have some beliefs in common: every one of the three, for instance, accept that there’s just a single God and that he’s an existent and immaterial being. A genuine devotee must acknowledge that basic tenet. 

Hinduism, with regards to the mentioned tenet, is a totally contrasting religion. In opposition to their monotheistic partners, Hindus affirm the existence of several divine beings. These include Ganesh, the remover of deterrents, and Shiva, the destroyer. There is likewise a wide cluster of holy scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita and the Rigveda. Each Hindu is allowed to pick which gods she adores, which writings she upholds and when and where she supplicates. 

That makes Hinduism a profoundly individual-specific faith that differs from one adherent to another. The well-known belief? Each Hindu works towards self-actualization and unity with Brahman, a genderless soul that speaks to a definitive truth penetrating all existence. The nonexistence of specific rules implies that Hindus can pursue various ways toward that objective: nobody except the individual devotee can figure out which one is most appropriate to accomplishing their spiritual purpose. 



This thought is profoundly established in the convention itself. Take Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), a monk whose religious enlightenment have profoundly affected the author’s comprehension of his own creed. As indicated by Vivekananda, anybody can accomplish heavenliness on the off chance that they read, supplicate and keep up their control. How precisely they did that, he contended, was in their hands – all things considered, the way to heavenliness can’t be foreordained. 

Creed and tenet along these lines were relegated in Vivekananda’s comprehension of Hinduism. What truly made a difference was uniting one’s spirit with Brahman and accomplishing genuine independence. 

As we’ll find in the following section, this significant responsibility to decent variety and independence implies that Hinduism even admits the worth of following various religions.

2 – Hinduism generally regarded and acknowledged every single other religion.

The present Hindus are the inheritors of a convention which was long tantamount to resistance. For a large number of years, adherents lived together with followers of other religions without wanting to avow their own beliefs. Truth be told, Hindus much of the time venerate other religions’ consecrated writings, seeing them as one of the numerous potential ways to self-actualization. 

That is something the author experienced firsthand. When he was a youngster, he was encouraged that books other faiths like the Quran or the Torah were as heavenly as Hinduism’s hallowed writings. That is on the grounds that they all contain significant bits of knowledge that can help an individual’s profound advancement. It’s a thought that still shapes his standpoint. On the off chance that he drops a book and coincidentally steps on it, for instance, he’ll petition God for absolution for having slighted an origin of knowledge! 

This appreciation for different customs assumed a fundamental function in Hinduism’s association with different religions. As soon as  Buddhism and Sikhism rooted themselves in the Indian subcontinent, Hindus accepted them as kin plummeted from a similar antiquated lesson they themselves drew on as opposed to labeling them as foes. That frame of mind induced a lot of cross-pollination between various religions. 



Take Sikhism. It was established in the fifteenth century by Guru Nanak, an individual from the Bhakti Hindu movement – a religious gathering which underscored demonstrations of affection and commitment to individual divine beings. Sikhism in the long run advanced into a monotheistic statement of faith fixated on the conviction that all people are equivalent. That made it particularly appealing to individuals from India’s lower-status order and outcastes who yearned to get away from Hinduisms’ inflexible framework. 

Swami Vivekananda later contended that the religion was a reaction to the rise of Islam after Muslim crusaders took over most of India between the twelfth and sixteenth hundreds of years. By embracing sound thoughts found in Islam – an equitable ethos and, most importantly, the idea that there’s just a single God – Sikhs had the opportunity to hold onto important elements of their Hindu legacy. 

Buddhism, Vivekananda recommended, was likewise intimately interwoven with Hinduism. Together, the two religions balanced and fitted each other. Hinduism gave Buddhism rationale and reasoning while Buddhism reciprocated back in kind by enabling Hinduism to focus more on convictions and matters of the heart. That wasn’t a completely new thought. The Matsya Purana, one of the most significant antiquated Hindu writings, guarantees that the Buddha is a symbol or appearance of the Hindu god Vishnu.

3 – In 1989, the BJP adopted Hindutva as its official ideology.

The BJP or Indian People’s Party has been ruling since 2014. From they assumed power, the nation has seen a flare-up of insularity which would’ve been incomprehensible to its Hindu ancestors. In this highlight, we’ll see what the BJP speaks to and where it originates from. 

We should begin with its belief system. The BJP is focused on Hindutva, signifying “Hinduness.” That’s a thought which previously developed in the mid-twentieth century. At the point when India’s foremost sovereignty leader Mahatma Gandhi advocated for solidarity between the future sovereignty’s different religious societies, he experienced harsh criticism from various commentators. One of them was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a government official, and essayist who promoted the idea of Hinduness with his 1923 book Essentials of Hindutva. 

Savarkar’s seminar in Hindu patriotism asserted that Hindus were the earliest occupants of India. That, he surmised, implied that India was by definition the place of habitation of the Hindus – a controversial move which right away proscribed other different religious faiths from Savarkar’s idea of citizenship. In 1939, a conservative mastermind called MS Golwalkar expounded upon that line of thought in We, or Our Nationhood Defined. 



Golwalkar asserted that nationality was dictated by culture as opposed to geology. India, obviously, was socially Hindu from his point of view. A Muslim may live inside the nation’s physical territory, yet she wasn’t genuinely Indian since she didn’t partake in or identify with Hindu culture. This isn’t only a chronicled piece, nonetheless – truth be told, Golwalkar’s book remains a fundamental content for the present BJP. 

That makes the BJP a great deal like other fundamentalist crusades. Like its partners in different parts of the world, its stubborn and discriminatory assertions about social personality sets up a precedence for an institutionalized abuse of minority groups. Be that as it may, here’s the Catch 22: Hinduism is profoundly dedicated to a reverence for other faiths and religious inclusiveness, putting Hinduness up against an indispensable part of its own legacy. 


In any case, on the off chance that it rejects key parts of Hinduism, where does Hindutva get its objectives from? All things considered, both Savarkar and Golwalkar unequivocally lend credence to the Nazi belief system. Savarkar, for instance, composed the foreword to a book by Savitri Devi – an Indian Nazi supporter who asserted Hitler was a symbol of Vishnu. Golwalkar in the meantime asserted that Nazi Germany’s institutionalized extermination of Europe’s Jews was a case of “race pride at its best,” something from which he trusted India would do well to learn. 

These are the ideological foundations of Hindutva. Be that as it may, shouldn’t something be said about the BJP’s record in government?

4 – The present government encourages the prejudicial treatment of non-Hindu minorities, especially Muslims.

Being a Muslim in the present Hindutva-commanded India is a frightening situation. That is not really astonishing given that individuals from parliament normally espouse Islamophobia. Take BJP member and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath. 

Adityanath first rose to conspicuousness for his intense denunciation of Islam, however, he likewise organized a group of radicals that physically assaulted Muslims. Prior to turning into a government official, he served an 11-day jail sentence for hate speech subsequent to calling the mainstream Muslim Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan a terrorist. In 2017, he imitated Donald Trump and he advocated for a movement restriction to keep Muslims from entering India. 

The intensity of disruptive figures like Adityanath has had a sensational impact. Anything remotely connected with Islam is being focused on. That even goes for structures like the Taj Mahal, a Mughal tomb in Uttar Pradesh and one of the nation’s most popular tourist destinations. 

Adityanath declines to make available, funds fo the upkeep of the site. As a consequence, it’s gradually falling into dilapidation. Contamination has yellowed the once splendid white marble exteriors, and construction work has been prolonged endlessly. At the point when the famed American basketball player, Kevin Durant visited the site in 2017, he was dismayed and portrayed the region’s pitifulness in realistic detail, setting off a minor national outrage. 



The closest city, Agra, isn’t prospering as well. Government disregard has plunged it into the category of the least fortunate and dirtiest urban communities in the nation. That’s left it in a bad circumstance. It seriously needs tourism to develop, however it can’t entice guests going through on their way to the Taj Mahal on the grounds that it’s in such a terrible situation. The author presumes this situation is not a bug, rather it is intentionally created. 

His proof? The most recent tourism leaflets for Uttar Pradesh don’t make reference to the Mughal, pointing to possible sabotage by the chief minister’s office, by the discouragement of guests.

In any case, denying a destitute city of a profitable provision of pay to fulfill derisive biases is an acceptable standard with regards to the BJP. Through the author’s eyes, these spiteful strategies demonstrate that the supposed “people’s party” doesn’t really mind all that much about Indians’ prosperity.

5 – The BJP has succeeded in turning an essentially liberal culture against liberal standards and has prevented advancement.

Hostility towards Islamic tradition isn’t the main break with India’s customs of liberality that can be attributed to BJP. Verifiably, Hinduism didn’t simply acknowledge homosexuality, a transgender character, and sexual variance – it commended them. Simply think about the old legendary figure Ardhanarishwara, a god with a half-male, half-female body, or the numerous homosexual artifacts made by Hindus. 

That is altogether changed with the ascent of Hindutva, in any case. Take the law proscribing gay marriage, a vestige of the times of British rule. At the point when the author endeavored to have it corrected in parliament, the proposition was closed down without being considered – a rejection he ascribes to the huge impact of Hindutva philosophy. 

At that point, there’s the juridical battle over the status of cows. The BJP has moved to stop Indians deciding for themselves whether to devour meat – a dietary decision that keeps running toward the Hindu conviction that cows are hallowed. Laws have been passed that direct everything from the taking care of and transport of meat to what ranchers are permitted to do with dairy cows that can never again produce milk. 



The outcome has been an enormous upward increase in viciousness against non-Hindus as fanatics endeavor to enforce such rules. With everything taken into account, 136 individuals have been executed because of disagreements about cows. In one case, a 16-year-old Kashmiri Muslim kid was ruthlessly killed for no other explanation than that he’d hitched a ride on a truck carrying dairy cattle. Obviously, these episodes have turned out to be increasingly rampant since the BJP took control. 

In addition, there’s India’s universal standing. Although she is known for the development and splendid innovations, India currently assumes an inexorably flighty figure on the world stage. The main offender? BJP politicians’ humiliating and deductively ignorant comments. In 2014, for instance, the PM Narendra Modi guaranteed that Ganesh – a Hindu divinity with an elephant’s head on a human body – was confirmation that Indians were pioneers of plastic surgery. 

Interestingly, he wasn’t entirely off-base. India truly was a trailblazer in plastic surgery, as the unearthing of surgical apparatuses going back to the first century CE and references to rhinoplasty in antiquated Hindu writings highlight. Modi, in any case, wasn’t satisfied with glorifying India’s accomplishments – he likewise pressed on connecting them to the BJP’s Hindutva principles.

6 – To come back to a Hinduism of acknowledgment and inclusivity of which they can be pleased, Hindus must reject Hindutva principles.

The author is a self-pronounced nationalist and appreciative Hindu. That makes the change of those two convictions into something as poisonous and risky as Hindutva principles significantly all the more annoying. Be that as it may, what’s the best counteraction against the ascent of the BJP? All things considered, from his perspective, there’s just a single answer: if Hindus desire to spare their religion and nation, they need to begin standing up in opposition to the horrors being perpetrated in their names. 

Those incorporate disclosed cases where Hindus have assaulted Muslim young ladies and cheered at non-Hindus being burned alive. That shows exactly how much Hindutva has perverted the religion– all things considered, by what other means could individuals who prize vegetarianism to such a degree, that they actually wouldn’t hurt a fly wind up encouraging such distasteful demonstrations of viciousness against fellow humans? 

The most ideal approach to put a stop to such violations is to understand that Hinduism is being assaulted from inside and that the result will be ruinous for both the religion and Indian culture. That doesn’t mean customary Hindus shouldn’t invest wholeheartedly in their religion and legacy, in any case. What it means is that they need to desist from endeavoring to force their convictions on others. 



As we’ve seen, Hindus can be appreciative of their 4,000-year-old tradition and history. However, in the event that they need to pay respect to that, they ought to underscore the best elements of that legacy: Hinduism’s open-mindedness. That frame of mind went was closely associated with India’s most noteworthy accomplishments. 

Take astrology. Hindus determination that the Earth must be about 4.3 billion years of age dates back to the fifth century. To place that in context, English researchers 1,400 years after assumed it was only 100 million years of age. The world only just drew level with what early Hindu scientific pioneers knew in the twentieth century! We could say the same for numerals, a development generally ascribed to Arabs. Truth be told, it was Hindus who sent their discoveries over to the court of the Caliph al-Mansur around 773 CE. 

Ultimately, Hinduism in all its achievements has not been overbearing. Not at all like Hindutva principles, it hasn’t attempted to change over others and uphold its standards over various religions. That, as indicated by the author, is the thing that Hindus need to come back to – their ideology’s accomplishments, all things considered, are self-evident.


Why I am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor Book Review 


Hinduism has consistently been a religion established on open-mindedness, yet it’s been adopted by devotees and fanatics to abuse minorities and expunge the nation’s multicultural history. That isn’t simply hurting non-Hindus – it’s likewise an existential danger to all Indians, the inheritors of a broad-minded custom which has since groomed freethinkers and pioneers. On the off chance that Hindus desire to see their faith and nation flourish, they should dismiss the prejudices of the Hindutva principles and hold onto their religion’s enduring reverence for diversity.


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