A religion’s origin, that is lost in time. A religion, that has survived the influx of many other religions, cultures, its own corruption and foreign invasions. After several thousand years, Hinduism is still the predominant religion in today’s India. It is more a way of life than a religion. It permeates into everything that’s Indian. That is why it is hard to separate India from Hinduism. Everyone who is born Indian does have a degree of Hinduism within them doesn’t matter the religion they are born into currently.
My fascination with Hinduism starts from the time when I was a child and fell in love with the stories of ‘Amar Chithra Katha’ or ‘Rathnabala’. The simplified child’s version of “Ramayana” and “Mahabaratha” which comprise endlessly fascinating stories about the numerous gods that make up the complex and extraordinarily interesting religion called Hinduism.
In Hinduism, there is a god for everything. A God who creates, a God who destroys the evils of this earth and the God who protects all that is worth protecting. This is the Holy Trinity that keeps balance and harmony in the Universe.
There are gods for the five elements, there are gods for wisdom and knowledge, gods for every little thing in nature. Then there are gods customized to the local population. There is even a god for the misfortunes that befall us. Gods have hierarchies and a certain pecking order. Their lives are complicated by fellow-celestials and from time to time, a fervent devotee or two. Even the gods are not immune from domestic problems.
The domestic clashes of Shiva and Parvathi are common knowledge in the world of Hinduism. The result of one such argument resulted in the creation of an entirely new deity called ‘Arthanaareeswarar’* which is the conjoining of the equal halves of Siva and Parvathi.
Every celestial being have specific duties and purposes to fulfill. The gods can fall from grace if they violate the celestial codes while, the kindest of demons can be elevated to the level of gods. Hence, nothing is certain even for the gods. When the earth takes a turn for the worse the gods assume avatars and come to the earth to protect us from the evil that has befallen.
It’s a religion about cause and consequences about what is sown and reaped; about human frailty. It accepts the constancy of change. It ponders and examines human evolution through the fascinating stories it weaves.
The tales of Hindu mythology are the stories of everyday core human values that are universal and timeless – values that are essential for humanity to go forward in civilization. It teaches personal responsibility, humanity and above all a deep love of nature. There is a child-like innocence to these stories of gods and humans and demons.
If only today’s Indians would look into their own rich mythology for the wisdom they have forgotten. With excess and avarice the rule of the day, with over seventy percent of its population still suffering in poverty, with growing intolerance, with human rights and its women ripped to shreds; it is time to stop the empty rituals and prayers, it is time to shut the door on all its religious divisions and fragmentation.
It is time to ponder on these simple stories that teaches how to weave a rich tapestry of diversity; how to love our fellow-human; how to love this earth and all its creatures; to be humbled and awed by this incredible blessing that is the human-experience.
* ‘Artha’ means half. ‘Naar’ is woman. ‘Eswar’ means man or God.