RELIGION, CASTE AND POLITICS

After the huge success of the biggest democratic process in the world, India is getting ready to install her latest government. Even Mr. Obama congratulated India for completing the election in a competent manner. But, after it has all resided it is now the time to evaluate ourselves and create the report card of the behaviour of our leaders during the election campaigning. To be very frank, we need to realise that a majority of the candidates were very much below the standards.

If not with the ‘To Be’ Prime Minister candidate, then with whom shall we start? In Varanasi, the techniques he employed went very far from the nation’s habitual standards. We are a Hindu majority nation, but we have always shown the quality to accept different religions and consider them all equal. That is why we could accept the arrival of Mughals and empowering us. We did not worry a lot on foreigners bringing in religions like Judaism, Christianity, etc. with them and establishing their places of worship on our soil. We rooted the formation and growth of religions like Buddhism and Jainism and never obstructed its growth. But all of a sudden the Prime Ministerial candidate in his campaigning requests for votes under the label of being a hindu and because he is from a lower caste. It is really true that with people of Varanasi, campaigning with international issues might not yield the same results it would with people elsewhere. Whatever be, there should be some limitation on the use of religion and caste to gather votes.

This is not the case with our destined PM alone. This has been a common scenario all around the nation. In almost all the constituencies candidates use caste and religion as a tool which often seems to be pitiful. Some constituencies in the country have been earmarked as the fortress of particular castes, where a candidate from some other religion would fail for sure. Even the political parties pay immense care while deploying some candidate in these constituencies. This helps to fulfill the theory the framers of our constitution had in mind while drafting it. It ensures participation of all sects of the society. But doesn’t it carry some negative influence regarding the message we deliver to the generation next about our culture.

Its high time we think about it. It is not a college student from some end of the country who should think and jot down about it. But, it is the so called policy makers who need to frame a policy for themselves about the way they would behave in public. And there is something that all these politicians should realise- that there is a growing generation watching them. But they are not as traditional as the previous generations were. Current youth are ready to air their voice when needed!  

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A take on the Hindu Mythology- The Mahabharata

Mahabharata

The Mahabharata- the great Indian Epic, the all-encompassing tale with a plethora of perceptions under its name, is considered to be on par with the four Great Vedas. The fable that is said to have taken place in the Dwapar Yuga, the time with half virtue and half evil, unveils a deeper and greater meaning as we delve into its secrets.

Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu emerged on the Earth free from the chains of being a fair, just, humble King Rama was (His seventh incarnation). He was a crafty idol who found an answer that satisfied the situation and manipulated the minds. Such was the necessity of the time with Evil prevalent in the world like never before. In this light, I point to the flaws of each Pandava and their wife Draupadi and how they were human after all, and not any better than their supposedly darker side of the family- The Kauravas.

The Pandavas Road to Hell.

 

No, I’m not making up a fictitious story to suit my argument and sending the Oh-so-righteous Pandavas to hell on the way. It is a true but not quiet known fact that the Pandavas went to Hell while the Kauravas reached the abode of heaven safely.

King Kuru, the great ancestor of the Kauravas and Pandavas ploughed the fields of the Kurukshetra and spent his heart and soul into energizing the land. The mightily impressed Devas granted him a wish. Every warrior who dies fighting on the battlefield will reach Heaven, they declared according to his request. That explains the part of the Kauravas going to Heaven.

The five heroes of the Epic along with their wife began their ascent to Mount Meru and on after the other fell off the cliff into the arms of death and thus, Hell. Draupadi led the way. She preferred Arjuna over the other Pandavas, a believable and acceptable sin. What is worse is that she secretly desired Karna which increased double fold after her knowledge of his Kshatriya lineage.

She was followed by Sahadeva for his pride in his knowledge and Nakula for his narcissism. (The two brother’s whose activities are not very well known to us owing to the dominance of their step mother. More on this, later)

Then comes Arjuna, the man had the unforgivable feelings of envy, the want to destroy anything more of a master than him and a pride in his charm to even forget the names of his wives. Bhima went next as he was, subtly putting it, a glutton.

The one person who is the reason behind all the misery, Yudishtira, reached heaven only with his baggage of being technically right. God Himself (Krishna) agreed to face death in the hands of a petty archer and Dharmaraj was forgiven for his obsession with gambling and using his wife and brothers as stake.

Not an equation that balances. This just proves the fact that Good and Evil were just marked by a powerful, clever God to restore peace in the chaotic world. The reasons were just made to justify to the ignorant but the plan is understood only when seen from the larger picture and not under a microscope. Just like we assume a few constants, ignore a few minute deviations and errors, and approximate in the most probable region to reach the destination.

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Why you do what you do

Every law or a rule does have glitches they come with. While there are several pathos of ritualistic thinking, there is always a specific reason as to why the law or rule was framed. Though the principle does have a minority it doesn’t cater to, it is said to be amicable only when it can be changed with time and adapt to the then circumstances for simpler living.

There are several reasons or examples for the same. Taking Muslim practise into account as our first case, the concept of slaying goats or taking bath once a year alone was introduced at a time when there was flu spreading rapidly and goats became conducive for the same. The rule of a yearly bath was enforced to help people care more for their water resources which were minimal in the place where Islam was born.

In Hinduism there is an interesting aspect to prayer.Every morning the elders wake up early by 5am, take a bath and pray to the Tulsi plant and every household that could afford also tamed cattle.  Interestingly, the scientists of the present day have extensively reached and claimed the Tulsi and cow to be only creatures on earth to receive the cosmic energy from space. There are several small practices like sprinkling water around before eating a meal or using rice flour to decorate the house front yard! Sprinkling water is an act of bulwarking yourself against any pest you may invite while feasting. Rice flour decorations on the front yard of houses not only were a treat to the eyes but served a purpose of distracting pests away from the store rooms of the house.

While most of us get engrossed in the world of tension, envy and pressure, we hardly take time away for being with ourselves. Every practice introduced has an important reason. sometimes all they need is moulding or eradication and just as the policy makers of the government, religious thinkers too were thoughtful about the conditions then. So, let’s be prudent, seek the reasons for these practices and discard ones that bear no fruit to this contemporary world and make our living better and progressive.

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An Obsolete Worship ?

The chimes of the church, the bells of the Hindu temples, the prayers of the mosques, the chants in the Buddhist monasteries:  All of them have one thing in common. The sounds create a sense of belonging to this institution.

I am analysing the concept of religion in today’s world. The concept of plethora of religions existing in the contemporary world is to let man freely choose the one that matches his personality closely. Their origin is based on the same concept.

One of the largest followed religions, Christianity had originated after the crucification of Christ. Thought there is a well proved conspiracy of Christ visiting and wandering India, the church dismissed these theories and complacently stuck to propagate otherwise. The birth of Christianity is mostly based on the sympathy for the Lord and little on devotion towards his mercy and miracles.

Many people say it was a way of life that gave birth to this form of religion. Hinduism is the only religion that has a million Gods. The concept as understood now is to respect every living being and force in nature. This not only helped create a better living standard during the uncivilised times but also gave people hope and fear to be righteous.

Not everyone has the patience to meditate under a banyan tree while its roots hang loose and invite a mischievous swinging play. Gautham Buddha is said to have attained nirvana under the banyan tree at Bodhgaya. A prince who was disturbed by the vices of life on earth; he chose to meditate and seek answers to the mysteries of life.  Many true followers of the principles Buddha used to propagate would probably tell you that he never wanted him to be worshiped as an idol but wanted his followers to just pray to the infinite.

The reason we have religions still flourishing in today’s world is merely because of the sense of social oneness and hope in despair they provide. But are the very same religions that cause such social rifts and skirmishes worth the existence in today’s world?

 

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Hercules Of The East

Many of us are aware of Megasthenes, the Greek envoy to India who travelled to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, the ruler of the Mauryan Empire. He wrote accounts of the glories of the empire which gave rise to greats like Bindusara and Asoka the Great and gave the rest of the world the outsider’s perspective of the beauty of India. However, very few people are aware that Megasthenes wrote about a certain ‘Heracles’ or Hercules as we know him which add an interesting tale about the history of India.

When Megasthenes visited Madurai, he happened to be upon the Pandyan territory. He noticed that a certain tribe called the Shourasenas worshipped a deity of great stature who he could only describe as Heracles. The Shourasenas descended from a very ancient clan called the Yadu clan, which interestingly, is the Yadava clan in which Krishna was raised. Hence we can see that Krishna is neither a mere myth nor a god, but a man in the flesh.

The interesting part about the name Hercules was how it came about. Krishna was often referred to by the tribe as Hari and was the lord – ‘es’ of his creed – ‘kula’. Hence Hari-kula-es went on to become Hercules. It is said that when Alexander the Great invaded the territory of Porus, he found that many of Porus’ soldiers carried an image of Krishna in their vanguard.

This raises one question – if Krishna was truly a man, what part of his life is fact and what is fiction? While the Megasthenes account is a spectacular account of how Krishna could possibly be a real person, he was still yet a deity at that time. Could the myths of Krishna being an avatar of Vishnu be unfounded? Does it implicate that all gods we worship are merely just mortals? The answer is blowing in the wind.

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Hinduism: A Way of Life.

An introduction to Hinduism. Though it seems ideal, this is how it is believed to once have been.

Religion is a way of life. A simple statement, but one who’s value has been lost in today’s world. What do you mean when you say that a religion is a way of life? it means that by following its path, you raise yourself above your circumstances and fears, and discover what is truly important and to dedicate yourself to this goal.
Hinduism has no creator, and was named centuries after people practiced it. One of the core principles behind Hinduism is renunciation, or sanyasa. Contrary to common belief, it does not refer to living in the wild, considering wine, women, wealth and comfort as sin. It focuses on raising the mind from these pleasures, to partake of them without becoming their slave, to clear the mind’s eye from the fog of the senses. Hermits in India have left the comfort of home for the bare earth and frugal life of the mountains, but only because they saw true peace can only come from within. Those hermits who actually managed to conquer desire were respected, and when they requested food from any house, it was given with respect and honor, because they played the most important part of all in society: of teaching the world the essence of life. The holy scriptures known as the Bhagavat Gita, and the Upanishads are said to contain their wisdom. However, not anyone who seeks their secrets finds them.

Hinduism: A Way of Life

There is a caste system in India; this is true. It divided people into the Brahmanas, the Khatriyas, the Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Contrary to popular belief, it was not meant to divide based on birth. It was to divide them based on their understanding of wisdom.
The Brahmans, who have imbibed knowledge the most, were meant to teach, and guide others along the path. It is said that true Brahmans were so learned, that they managed to surpass the greatest fear of them all: the fear of death. They embraced death as they would embrace their God. The word Brahman is said to also mean ‘the one god’. When one conquers the senses, and thus gains true knowledge, he commands the respect of god himself. This is portrayed in many Hindu stories.
The Kshatriya are ones who have not reached the learning of Brahmans, but have adequate learning to rule and take care of his subjects, who has lost the hold of selfishness.
The Vaishyas are merchants, traders and artisans, who have gained freedom from greed and desire, to trade fairly, and desires to raise himself to a Kshatriya or a Brahman not for riches, but for enlightenment, a state of knowing. The meaning behind this statement is not easy to grasp.
Finally, a Shudra is one who is still clouded by his existance, senses and desires. It is said that the first man, Manu decreed that Shudras should not read the Bhagavat Geetha or the Upanishads. This is because they simply would not grasp their true meaning, and might misguide others. This system might seem rather ideal, but it lasted for a period known in Hindu mythology as the Satya Yuga, or the golden age. It was also predicted that it would one day end, going on to the Treta Yuga, the Dwapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga, when greed, desire suspicion and hate would cloud the inner eye. The Yugas are cyclic, However, and it is believed that the Satya Yuga will once more return.
Hindus do not, again contrary to common belief, worship many Gods. They worship the one God through his many forms. The requirements of so many forms? There are numerous stories behind these forms, for they show how a God, or anyone for that matter cannot remain static. When creating, God is the kind and selfless Vishnu, while sustaining, the wise teacher Brahma, and while destroying the embodiment of fury and remorseless Shiva. They did not see the forms of these Deities as they did now, but saw the qualities within them. Imagine a stern teacher giving birth to a child, while death taught a student the secret of life, and a loving mother dragging her child beyond this life. That ought to give you a picture of what I mean.

Hinduism does not force its followers to simply follow a god, or a brahmin. There are countless stories where a mere mortal abuses the Gods when he feels he has erred, an example being the dialogue by Daksha Prajapati, the father of Sati, the first birth of the Goddess Parvati, Shiva’s wife. Dakha held a large Yajna, a grand ritual of offerings. When Daksha arrived, all except for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva rose out of respect for him. These three Gods are hierarchically superior to Daksha, yet he fumed at the sight of his son-in-law sitting, and let flow a string of abuses: poiler; mental dwarf; a refuge of the refuse, destitute and poor; boorish demigod; monkey’s eyes; a Sudra unfit to learn Vedas; a crematorium-dweller; wearer of a garland of skulls and bones; sloven. Sure, not quite the sort of abuses you expect today, however they are truly insulting. Shiva, the destroyer remained calm, showing meagre respect towards his father-in-law, but holds his words, valuing their worth.
Hindus do not believe in a seperate creation of the universe. Not only do the legends describe Vishnu as taking forms of a fish, a tortise, an animal, a midget, human beings, and finally as a Divine, the stories are meant to guide people in values, and not to be taken at face value.
Hindus do not worship Idols. Similar to the worship of many Gods, idols are meant to act as a medium, though even many followers have lost awareness of this fact. There have been many incidents in history where true devotees have expressed their regret in giving a form to god, for it limits perception. However, just as one may not be able to sprint without first learning to crawl and then walk, (I say may not, because I do not want to be bombarded by examples proving the contrary), one may have to pray using an idol before recognizing that existence itself is but a part of God. One does not simply jump from being a Sudra to a Brahman.
Hinduism happens to be one of the most tolerant religions in the world as well, conceding that the path to salvation or enlightenment is not single. It tells its followers to remember their successes, their failures, their joys and sorrows, and even their sins, but not to be clouded by them. It tells followers that penance is not punishment, but a way of life that leads to greater fulfillment. It does not force devotees to go to temples, but advises them that the true temple is always within and around them, in not just things, but in actions and intentions as well. It tells them to do their duty, no matter how unpleasant, and expect no rewards, a perfect formula for inner peace.
There are depictions in Hindu mythology referring to asuras, or deamons and their vanquishing. These depictions represent desire and other negative influences, and how righteousness always triumphs, and were not meant to promote wars, or other negative inferences.
Hinduism denies women rights: another misconception. Did you know that during a fire ritual, the constant utterance of the word ‘Swaha’ calls upon Agni(the Lord of fire)’s wife? Not only this, almost all the major Gods are said to be invoked through their wives. Women have been portrayed in many stories as besting men, whether it be in intellect, or in the art of war. Women have become rulers as well. Hinduism as a religion has always encouraged equality beyond gender or race.
I know this seems pretty ideal, but this was the true vision, and as I initially stated, it is a way of life, connected to everything around you, and not something to be pushed off as simply one aspect of what you are.

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