The term ‘Hindutva’ has a bad reputation and not without good reason. A most unholy concoction of unscientific claims by right-wing leaders, mob lynchings, casteism and communal hatred has come to define Hindutva. The term has become so contemptible, especially to the well-educated and well-to-do of Indian society, that anyone who has slightly Hindutvavadi inclinations is automatically branded a ‘Bigoted Bhakt’ or ‘Sanghi’. This is, however, a sad state-of-affairs, for a political ideology like ‘Hindutva’ can be so much more than ‘Mandir Wahin Banayenge’. This article is an attempt at defining (not revising) Hindutva. It is our attempt at showing the world that Hindutva can be a profoundly positive contributor to our lives and to the life of this diverse and great nation called India.
Hindutva as a political ideology manifests the ‘Hinduness’ of the Indian people. On a primitive level, Hindutva means the ‘Inherent Hinduness’ of all Indian people. Savarkar, who coined the term Hindutva, was an atheist himself and defined Hindutva in a strictly geographical and cultural sense. The word ‘Hindu’ comes from ‘Indus’ (the river around which we started off as a civilization) and the common bond which all Indians inherently share is hence called ‘Hindutva’. Simply put, any person born within the boundaries of the subcontinent is a Hindu and his inherent ‘Bharatiyata’ is called Hindutva.
This definition of Hindutva is, historically, the only true answer for Indians to the question “Who are we?” All other answers divided Indians into different religions, castes, regions and even races. In fact, the Hindu Code Bill defined a Hindu as someone who is “NOT a Christian, Jew, Parsi or Muslim”! Clearly, we need this ‘Bharatiya’ definition of Hindutva to have a true, positive consciousness of our identity as an extremely diverse nation. Socially, the concept of Hindutva, or there being a certain kind of Hinduness which we inherit from the fact of us being born in this holy land looks beyond divisions of caste and religion to unify the Indian masses. It brilliantly distinguishes Indians from the rest of the world. An American does not start possessing Hindutva if he converts to Hinduism (Sorry David Frawley). But an Indian Muslim has an inherent Hindutva and is very distinct from an Arabic or South-east Asian Muslim.
We are not fashioning an artificial answer here on the question of Indian identity based only in geography. Instead, we are verily identifying the common culture and syncretic tradition that exists only within that geography. The Hindutva we speak of is not simply due to the happenstance of people living in a piece of land, it’s due to the overarching unity among diversity they have developed, the story they have told themselves. This Hindutva is manifested in the numerous public holidays of Eid, Christmas and Diwali we Indians enjoy together― whether we are Hindu, Christian, or Muslim. It is found in the consistent requests for Biryani by Hindus to their Muslim friends. From the Rig Veda’s declaration (RV 1.164.46) that “Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni…The wise speak of what is One in many ways” to Kabir’s elegant verses on religious unity, Hindutva is about the rich cultural inheritance of all Indians.
The first key aspect of Hindutva is the fact that we have overcome so many foibles and problems, skirmishes and conflicts to emerge as one nation. Yes, there was once a time we officially designated people as ‘untouchable’ but still, our Constitution was written by a ‘Dalit’ man. Yes, Mahmud Ghazni plundered the Somnath Temple 17 times, but Ghalib’s verses would be non-existent without Muslims. It is through the schisms between us that we have developed this complex and unique identity. We have been through multiple disagreements on grounds of caste, faith, state and language. And in overcoming them we have discovered our underlying unity. Therefore, the first theme of Hindutva involves a sense of Indian pride, a feeling of common triumph of having risen above so many conflicts.
The second aspect of Hindutva is religion, or rather the peculiar part it plays in making us so distinct. Religion is very strongly present in India’s public life, from the raucous dispute surrounding the Babri Masjid to the controversy on beef and mob lynchings. However, even if religion is a cause of conflict in India, it is undeniably the bedrock of its cultural identity too. Without Hinduism and its multiple gods, esoteric texts and ancient hymns, India is unimaginable. Without the Buddha its culture is barren; and without an Indian version of Islam, there would be no Sufism, no qawwalis. Faith is a wonderful thing in India that makes us separate from the barren West. In the West, as Nietzsche states (in The Gay Science), “God is dead, he remains dead, and [they] have killed him”. In India, the ‘Samudra Manthan’ of religions yields the nectar of meaning, whether it be in the form of Khwajaji’s sermons, Adi Shankara’s works, or Lalan Fakir’s songs, all we need to do is share it equally.
The third historical aspect of Hindutva explains how our unity exists through our diversity, and not despite it. We Indians may have had our problems, but just like a big Indian joint family, we are one. Hindutva ideologues like Golwalkar (in his Bunch of Thoughts) and Deendayal Upadhyaya (in his Integral Humanism) have time and again emphasised how Hindutva is broader than Hinduism because Indians following ‘Avaidik’ Dharmas like Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and even religions like Islam and Christianity have Hindutva in them. The reason for that is cultural intermingling. Arjuna’s marriage to Naga princess Ulupi and Manipuri princess Chitrangada in The Mahabharata is a classical and literary example of how we Indians cherish a mixing of traditions in our rich mythology. Even the Indian Supreme Court noted in 1995 that Hindutva is a way of life (and a ‘state of mind’). This way of life has been accepting of all people (both the oppressed and the oppressors), and even ‘foreign-origin’ rulers like the towering Mughal Emperor Akbar have patronised this way of life that epitomises a unity that stems from diversity. While the Parsis immigrated to both China and India, it was the latter where they finally found refuge in. The Jews have thanked us enough for being the only country without an instance of anti-Semitism. In fact, the Jewish quarters of Kochi stand right next to the Palace of the King of Kochi. The Hindu philosophical idea of every creature being a part of the Supreme Brahman (irrespective of his faith) has made us an all-welcoming people. And the word Hindutva embodies that openness of mind ever so poignantly.
The bottom line of this article is to tell the reader to embrace Hindutva. Why? Because Hindutva is India’s gift to the world. It was Hindutva which ‘Indianized’ parts of Iran, Afghanistan, Tibet, South-East Asia and even Japan. Thailand’s erstwhile capital is named Ayutthaya, after Lord Ram’s capital Ayodhya. What makes India stand out is not its history, its philosophy or its many religions, but an optimum combination of all three. Once upon a time, European merchants wanted to trade with us, hence the mad pursuits by Columbus and Vasco Da Gama to ‘discover’ the magical land called India. But what do we find today? Growing westernization and inferiority complex amongst Indians! The same India which was a shining example of an ideal country to the world is now restyling itself based on western ‘isms’ like Capitalism and Socialism. This cannot happen. Hindutva is India’s ‘Soft Power’. All Indians have to be proud of Hindutva, for we can’t expect the world to respect us if we don’t respect ‘who we are’. Unless India becomes ‘Indianized’ again, ‘Superpower 2020’ (realistically speaking, ‘Superpower 2050’), will remain a distant dream.
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