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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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"In India, to be born as a man is a crime, to question a woman is an atrocious crime, and this all because of those women who keep suppressing men in the name of feminism."
Feminism, a worldwide movement that started to establish, define and defend equal rights for women in all sections- economically, politically, and socially. India, being a patriarchal society gives a gender advantage to the men in the society thus, Indian feminists sought to fight against the culture-specific issue for women in India. Feminism itself is nothing but a simple movement that pursues equal rights for women (including transwomen) and against misogyny both external and internal. It states nowhere that women should get more wages than men, that women deserve more respect than men, that's pseudo-feminism.
Pseudo feminists state that women deserve more respect and rights, any other gender deserves no respect. They feel that women should be the ones ruling the world and at higher positions. When feminism takes a turn for extremities it becomes pseudo-feminism and people who label themselves as feminists will bash anyone who speaks against even the wrongdoings of a woman. They'll bash women who're wife and sisters for not speaking up and support any women criticizing political leaders even if it's completely irrational. This is where hypocrisy and pseudo-feminism merge with each other.
They take advantage of the rights given to women to protect themselves to threaten other genders. The rights given to women are supposed to make them feel reassured that they can reach out to the judiciary if their rights are being hampered not to threaten to make the victim sound like the culprit.
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Indian Feminist Movement has made significant progress however, even in the modern world women are still unsafe and are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, land ownership, and access to education. While filling the official papers it is still asked "Wife of /Daughter of:….."
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family. Such injustices make feminism such an important movement, gender equality is worth fighting for to create a safe environment for women. Feminists over the years have been criticized for focusing on the rights of privileged women and not giving equal representation to poorer and lower caste women, which has led to separate caste-specific feminist organizations and movements.
Some notable milestones in the Feminist Movement
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against Sati Pratha (practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre) and child marriage
- Savitribai Phule started the first school for girls at Bhidewada in Pune city in 1848.
- In 1972, SEWA, the biggest trade union for women was set up by Ela Bhatt for women working in the informal sector.
- The Chipko Movement was launched and led by women in 1973.
- #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse was started in 2006 and revived in the year 2015.
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family.Unsplash
Feminism is often misunderstood as pseudo-feminism and hence, becomes the target for public hatred and is accused of wronging other genders under the façade of feminism. It is misunderstood by Indians as female domination instead of gender equality. Indian society and Indian feminists believe that only men are perpetrators of a heinous crime like rape and they refuse to even recognize the men who say they were raped and it's the toxic masculinity in the society that believes how can a woman rape a man? Reality is different from what we believe, women can be the perpetrator too, women threaten to file a case of domestic violence, or sexual assault against innocent people just to fulfill their ego.
Thankfully feminism and pseudo feminism are two separate concepts and feminism is just about equality and not judgment. Indian society and feminists actually need to understand the difference between the two and stop tarnishing the Feminist Movement as a whole.
Keywords: Feminism, World, India, Pseudo-Feminism, Gender
Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.
The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.
Yakshi idol in Veroor, Sri Dharamashastha temple Image source: wikimedia commons
The Yakshi is believed to live in a palm tree which can appear like a palace. Victims are taken here before they are killed. Travellers on highways are often advised not to stop near heavily forested areas, or speak to anyone who closely resembles a Yakshi. Some believe she can change form, while other hold to the belief that she doesn't. after securing her victim, the only trace left behind is body parts like hair, nails, and teeth.
They say, like other ghosts, a Yakshi's feet will not touch the ground. This is something to look out for. Mysterious deaths have been reported across the rural areas in Kerala, and all these have been attributed to the legend.
Keywords: Legends, Yakshi, Urban legend, Ghost, Kerala, Myth, Vampire
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.