Questions And Answers Indian Civilization By Sanjeev Nayyar -1

Questions And Answers Indian Civilization
By Sanjeev Nayyar  

Nearly two years ago I gifted a Ganapati ka murthi to a British girl in Hongkong. She thanked me but asked me what it stood for. I was stumped, did not know what to say but regained my composure to say it’s the God of Good Luck. Subsequently, a friend of mine told me what the elephant God stands for. I felt very sheepish and wondered how many of us know the true significance of the Gods we worship and the customs we follow. Since then I have been trying to lay my hands on a book that would teach me about the basic truths of Sanatan Dharam.  Fortunately, I found more than a couple of books.
I have compiled this essay in a question answer format ie a mother answering her daughter’s questions. I have taken content verbatim from many books namely The Bhagwad Geeta by Swami Chinamayannda, Am I a Hindu by ED Vishwanathan, The Composites Works of Swami Vivekananda, Indian History and Culture by Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals by A. Parthasarathy and Why Hindu Rituals and Customs by Pandit Kishan Sharma.

Q1 Mama, I want to ask you a lot of questions about Indian religions, history, philosophy.
Please go ahead.
Q2 What is it to be a Hindu?
Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. Unlike other world religions, it does not
prescribe any do's and don'ts. It allows you to live life the way you like. It allows freedom of thought. You do not have to agree with its philosophy unless you are convinced about it. Buddha questioned the authority of the Vedas, Adi Shankaracharya reformed Hinduism, yet not one of these critics was harmed unlike the Sufi saints who proclaimed they were God. It has a very broad encompassing philosophy and is a tolerant religion. It is a relentless pursuit of truth. You have to discover its philosophy yourself. It absorbs new ideas very easily. Unfortunately, some evils like the rigid caste system, superstitions have crept in over the years. By nature, Hindus are not fanatics, violence is abhorred, they forgive their enemies even those who could be a threat to their lives (Remember how Prithviraj Chauhan set Mahmud Ghazni free inspite of defeating him in battle, only to be killed by the same man later ).You know Hindu religion never persecutes. It is a personal religion. You can pray sitting at home. No need to ask other Hindus to come and pray by using a loudspeaker.
Of the two patriots Mahatma Gandhi and Veer Savarkar, the Mahatma a preacher of non-violence was more popular. Hindus have this great propensity to put the past behind them, move on with their lives (think of your grandfather, a Punjabi refugee who left Lahore without a penny during Partition but is a very wealthy man today), and absorb foreigners in to their culture. Quote Allana Iqbal “There has to be something about the entity of this civilisation that has defied destruction despite repeated onslaught by its enemy’s centuries after centuries.”
Q3 But why are Hindus slaves of idol worship and a large number of Gods?
The Vedas do not talk about idol worship. In fact, till about 2000 years ago Hindus never worshipped idols. Idol worship was started by the followers of Lord Buddha.  There is logic to idol worship. Hinduism speaks of one God that is the supreme self in man i.e. Atman or soul. Different Gods and Goddesses are manifestations of the powers and functions of the one supreme God. The human mind suffers from many diseases that need to be cured by specialists. One God cannot help a Hindu to get rid of all his problems. Every God has his own core competency as Michael Porter says. Man is full of desires. To fulfill these desires he relentlessly pursues acquisition of materialistic objects. Desires create agitations in our minds preventing us from concentrating on any one object. Religion helps us control our desires and concentrate our mind on pursuing the Self within. To make this happen, Hinduism has thought of Gods and rituals, festivals. By this man is reminded of the Supreme even while he is pursuing desires e.g. the Lord of Wealth is Laxmi. Every stockbroker while trying to make money on the stock market has a statute or photo of the Goddess of wealth in his office to remind him that there are is a touch of divinity in his pursuits. By worshipping an idol you are able to converge your thoughts and mind to improve your power of concentration. This helps you clear your mind of desires making it fit for meditation. It helps you peep into your souls, understand ourselves and form conclusions about right and wrong. Idols are a tool to achieve self realization and nothing else.
Q4  What is this I have read about Aryan and Dravidian Gods? Were there different Gods?
Yes, there were different Gods. Aryan gods were Indra, Agni, Varuna, Soma, Surya or Vishnu, Ushas and Dravidian Gods were Shiva, Ma or Parvati, Murugan. There was never any major animosity between their followers. The Tirupati temple in the south is a Vishnuji ka mandir while the temple at Kashi is a Shivji ka mandir. Modern day Hinduism is a synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian cultures. More about that later.
Q5  Please tell when did other world religions enter India?
Jews are believed to have come into India in 5 a.d. Christianity came into India in two phases. Phase one was believed to be around the first century a.d. Phase two was with the advent of the Portugese into India in 1498 a.d. During the first phase Christianity was mainly limited to modern day Kerala; these converts were mostly Brahmans and are known as Syrian Catholics today. Phase two started with the advent of the Portuguese and the British rule in India i.e. when Hindus were forcibly converted to Christianity. Rice Christians as Gandhiji called them. Islam entered the Indian sub-continent around the eighth century a.d. when Sind was conquered by the Arabs. However, Islam entered the Indian heartland only after the eleventh century a.d. Indian Muslims are a mixture of Afghans, Mongols and converted Hindus e.g. Bohri Muslims.
Q6 Does Hinduism have a Pope or a founder like Prophet Mohammed?
No Hinduism does not have either. There is no central authority in Hinduism whose orders Hindus are bound to follow or nor is there one interpretation of Hindu philosophy. Nobody is excommunicated from Hinduism. Being an open and liberal religion, Hinduism is criticized more than other religions.
Q7 Then how did Hinduism take birth and evolve?
An exact date of its birth cannot be given. It is known that Hinduism is as old as this land. Seals of Lord Shiva have been found in Harappa. Some say it is 5000 years old while others say it is 6000 to 7000 years old. I think it is atleast 6000 years old. Ancient India consisted of the Aryans and Dravidians.
The Hindu scriptures were written by the Rishis of ancient times and have got passed down over generations eg the Sage Vyasa, author of the Mahabharat and the Geeta is credited with writing the Vedas too. The word Hindu came originated from the word Sindhu which is another name for the river Indus. May be people who stayed along the Sindhu (Indus) came to be known as Hindus.
An ancient name of Hinduism would be Sanatan Dharam meaning that which has no beginning or an end, righteousness for ever. Today going to a temple would make you a follower of Sanatan Dharam. Sects like the Arya Samajis do not believe in idol worship but in the supremacy of the Vedas. 

Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to  Sri Sanjeev Nayyar ji and hindu samskrit dot com  for the collection)


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