According to Heinrich von Stietencron, “Statistics have taught us to regard Hinduism as the third largest contemporary religion in terms of the number of adherents, after Christianity and Islam. Hindus make up 89 percent of the population in Nepal, 82 percent in India, 52 percent on Mauritius, 38 per cent and 37 per cent in the South Pacific and the Caribbean; and they also live, as extremely large and, for some years, rapidly growing minorities, in the USA and Canada, Australia, Southeast Asia, the Arab countries, Africa and Europe. The Hindus number around 900 million in total.”
François Gautier, a French political writer and a journalist based in India mentions about the challenges faced by Hindus in just 10 points. In the present day scenario, a huge mass of Hindus has come face to face with a number of challenges posed by the 21st century. It is essential that we look at the following-
- Polytheism and Difficulties: Hindus have a large number of deities, whom they worship in an elaborate manner. The practice of polytheism has led the Christians and the Muslims, who are devout monotheists, to question Hinduism.
But we have to remember that since the very beginning, Hinduism has believed in monotheism. It believed that there is one God and the others are just reincarnation or manifestations of his one true self. This belief of Hinduism had been persistent since the Vedic Ages. However, in the modern times, the ritualistic worship and narrow sectarian outlook towards other religions have brought Hinduism at loggerheads with people from other beliefs.
Hindus must reassert and reinterpret their religion and set an example for religious tolerance which had been preached by the Vedic sages in ancient times.
- The Image of Impoverished India: The foreigners have an image of India which is highly stereotypical in nature. They believe that India is a nation of poverty-stricken people and therefore they disregard the Hindus and treat them with contempt. They are not taken seriously anywhere outside India. There is definitely, an economic crisis in India and there is a recurring issue of deficit budget in India but the fact that India has grown over the years is undeniable.
According to Gautier, the economic liberalisation of 1991 has changed the face of trade, insurance, and banking. There has been no famine since Green Revolution. Unemployment is being dealt with schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme. Thus, it is the time that the people residing in abroad start taking Hindus seriously, feels Gautier.
- Hinduism and Caste: The Caste System of India had been there since the ancient times. What’s new? The concept of reservation that came into being after India became independent in 1947. B.R. Ambedkar fought for the emancipation of the lower castes and against caste discrimination. But never did he once disregard the question of merit while talking about reservation for them in educational and occupational institutions, feels Gautier. But time and again, first world countries look down upon India due to the system of caste that prevails in our society. Yes, it is definitely not desirable but at least we have a system to try to help them develop themselves.
- Hindu Fundamentalism: According to Gautier, while studying comparative religion, we learn a simple truth. No religion in its core is violent or preaches violence. It is through the ages of transformation and the influence of people who practice the religious fundamentalism that a religion comes to meet ends through violent means. India has always been home to a multitude of other religions. As Rabindranath Tagore had pointed out that India never had the racial or any kind of unity like Europe or America. But the basis of unity in India was something entirely different, rooted in the brotherhood of men.
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On the other hand, Gandhi was devout Hindu who believed in Satyagraha and abstained from all kinds of violence. The British Press created a hullabaloo over the Babri Masjid incident but what they never care to see that not one Muslim was killed in the process unlike the attacks and bombings of Mumbai in 1993, where a number of Hindus were brutally killed in vengeance. Not only that, history remains witness to the narrow parochial nationalism of Europe and its results. The Holocaust and the World Wars were the events which destroyed mankind.
- Hindus in the West and their Lack of Respect for India: Hindus in the West have sought to blend in with the foreigners, forgetting the importance of their own culture. After all, Britain should still be indebted to India because of all the riches that belonged to us and was taken away by them. Their civilization became rich owing to our wealth. Yet, they never seem to utter a word of gratitude. The Hindus is west, instead of spreading the best of their culture in abroad, feeling ashamed of their origin. That is unacceptable and cruel. They have to keep in mind that theirs is a culture not worth forgetting. They should try to retain their originality instead of becoming an Anglophile.
- Political Power: Hindus look down upon politics as a dirty field of work, riddled with corruption and crime. They tend to stay away from participating in politics apart from casting a vote on the day of the election. Often, India is deprived of bright young people who would have been an asset to Indian politics because they have been raised with the notion that politics is not a desirable career option for them. Top foreign companies like Google and Apple are led by Hindus. Therefore it is essential that they run for political offices as well.
- Modi Agenda: America often brings up the issue of Gujarat riots in order to malign Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But what they choose to overlook is the noticeable development Modi brought about in his own state Gujarat and how not only Muslims but hundreds of Dalits and lower caste Hindus got killed in the riots of 2002 in Gujarat.
- India Equivalent to China: Foreign investments have found their way to China but refuse to happen in India. India is China’s geopolitical partner. But the West seems to ignore that fact and donate everything to China, turning a blind eye to the sub-continent of India. It is unfair for India. Modi is aiming for liberalisation of the economy and it is the primary duty and opportunity for countries abroad to help India. China is a democracy just for the sake of calling it one, however, India is a democracy for real and that never seems to be the concern of the foreign countries.
- The Greatness of Indian Mythology: Whilst, the westerners are occupied with their illustrious Greek and Roman myths, Hindus have their own series of mythological epics. They possess the Iliad and the Odyssey like we boast of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These are not only amazing reads but these are epics that teach you everything and every value that you need to know about Bharatvarsha. The myriad of characters and their personalities are no less than the Gods and Goddesses of Greece and Rome. Not only that, our history has witnessed great warriors like Shivaji, Maharana Pratap, Lakshmi Bai who are at par with Alexander, Porus, and Joan of Arc of the West.
- Spreading Happiness in the West: Tagore had said, India had been under the influence of spiritual people like Chaitanya , Nanak, and Kabir, which is why the minds of the Indians are quite a bit different from that of the people in the West. Swami Vivekananda had enthralled the audience in Chicago Conference by his speech on Hinduism and India. Thus, the concept of spirituality had always remained an integral part of Hinduism. We had Ayurveda treatments i.e. natural cures for illnesses and pranayama, a form of yoga, from the very beginning. India is a nation of people who want to practice the art of tolerance and peace as preached by Hinduism.
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Hinduism is by large misinterpreted and mistaken to be something it is not. With the change of time, the religion should also alter its age-old rituals which have become meaningless today. Otherwise, it will be difficult for Hinduism to survive in a world where people look down upon the politics of religion.
-Modified by Aitreyee, a staff-writer at the Newsgram. The article was originally published on the official blog of Francois Gautier
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