23 Dec Is “Indian culture” really as conservative as portrayed?
The more humans have evolved, the more obscurely primitive they have gotten. Our most primal instincts have just been concealed better. In short, we’ve evolved into hypocrites.
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world. It is also an extremely philosophical, liberal, and horrifyingly misunderstood philosophy. India today, is a land of hypocrites trying their best to hide behind their masks of righteousness.
Hinduism began around 1500 BC. It is one of the oldest religions of the world. There is very little actually known about the true teachings of Hinduism by practising Hindus. Hinduism is based on upholding Dharma, or the moral code. It is believed that humans are superior to all animals because they are blessed with intelligence. A tiger hunting a deer is not wrong or guilty, because the tiger does not know right from wrong. The animal kingdom works on the jungle law, or Matsya Nyaya, wherein the small fish are eaten by the big ones and that is just the way of life.
Humans, however, have been blessed with the ability to feel empathy, thus making them able to create a society where strong and weak can survive together. This is precisely what Dharma teaches. An inclusive society where the strong are bound to protect the weak and establish a society that allows everybody to thrive.
Conservative Hindus lead a lifestyle very different from what the Vedas teach. Women are oppressed and treated as inferior, minorities are mistreated, and homosexuality induces heart attacks.
First of all, women were given complete freedom to choose and do what they wanted to. There was no concept of “monogamy” and “patriarchy” until Shvetaketu, who is considered as the father of patriarchy. Women in those days were allowed to be with whoever they wished, and polygamy was allowed, if not encouraged. However, Shvetaketu’s mother had him with another man and he couldn’t bear the trauma of not knowing who his father was, and out of this anger, he decided that women did not deserve control over their own bodies.
Furthermore, Dharma dictates that the privileged have to use the privilege given to them to bring others to their level, which will help them rise towards moksha. People these days believe that praying, doing rituals and offerings is what makes them a Hindu and negates all their sins. However, this is grossly untrue. Shiva, an ascetic god, the destroyer of the world, time and again reminds his devotees that rituals have no meaning if you don’t uphold your duties as a human being.
Daksha was a king who performed sacrificial rituals necessary to sustain society, called yagnas. He had a daughter named Sati, who fell in love with the ascetic Shiva and went ahead and married him without the permission of her father. Daksha hated Shiva because he did not contribute to any of the rituals and renounced worldly pleasures, and in the king’s eyes such a man was a coward, running away from his duties.
One day a huge sacrificial ritual was organised. All the gods and kings were invited, except Sati and Shiva. Sati was naive and insisted that her father did not mean to insult them but this was merely an oversight and went to her father’s abode anyway. Shiva, certain that this was not an oversight but a deliberate insult, refused to follow her.
After seeing his daughter, Daksha made her feel unwelcome and insulted her husband. When, despite her repeated requests her arrogant father refused to listen to her, she jumped into the sacrificial fire out of anger. When news reached Shiva, he lost his mind and slaughtered every man and god at the ritual, and beheaded Daksha. He eventually cooled down and restored everybody’s life, but attached a goats head on Daksha’s body because without giving importance to emotions, or dharma, he blindly followed rituals which eventually did not gain him anything.
The definition of moral and immoral in Hindu scripture is also very different from what is conventionally followed. Alcohol and other intoxicants are not forbidden and showing skin are not reconsidered as a crime. The freedom of choice is emphasized greatly as every action is judged by the intention behind it.
Homophobic Hindus believe that homosexuality is a sin, however, once again, that is untrue. Shiva and Vishnu father a child together, named Ayyappan, who goes on to defeat the demoness Mahishasuri. Shikhandi, who is the cause of death of Bhishma, thus the reason for the victory of the Pandavas over the Kauravas, is transgender. Born a woman, he later becomes a man. The temples of Khajuraho have sculptures depicting heterosexual as well as homosexual copulation. There are also depictions of polygamy.
After the British invasion, the graphic depiction of gods and goddesses, nudity, and gore was shameful for the learned educated Indians who were well versed in western ways. Our mythology and culture were much too explicit for the westerners, and so we learned to cover it up. We have been fooled into thinking that what we follow mindlessly is Hinduism. Hinduism is a philosophy that gives utmost importance to the mind, and it is time we start following it that way.
Pattanaik, Devdutt. Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata. Penguin India, 2010. Print.