Hindutva: the Kshatriya element in Hinduism
Banking on borrowed wits, Rahul Gandhi recently undertook a mission to educate Hindus on Hinduism. You may laugh, but he was as serious as he can be. Recently, a few Congress politicians, leftist ideologues and Christian missionaries have started drawing a false distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva. We are told that the two are not just unrelated, but also opposed to each other. Hindutva, identified as the BJP-RSS ideology, has nothing to do with the Sanatana Dharma expounded in Veda, Upanishads, Gita, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Hinduism is an ocean of sublime spiritual wisdom whereas Hindutva is a cesspool of hatred, divisiveness and chauvinism. The followers of Hindutva can only bring disgrace and opprobrium to the fair name of Hinduism, we are told.
We may not mind this convenient cloak of respect for Hinduism (sham and temporary as it is) put on by those who have spent a lifetime in maligning the great tradition and undermining it in every possible way. We may smile indulgently when clowns like Rahul Gandhi parade themselves as janeudhari Hindus. We cannot, however, countenance this clever attempt to delegitimize any defence of Hindu society by its more alert members.
For reasons that will become clear later, many educated Hindus are taken in by the false propaganda. They wonder whether the Kar-sevaks who demolished the Babri mosque, tribal activists opposing proselytization by Christian missionaries, scholars like Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel who provided learned and incisive critiques of Islam and Christianity and journalists such as the late Girilal Jain, Arun Shourie, Ramesh Rao, R Jagannathan, Nupur Sharma, Ganesh R et al are representatives of Hinduism or fanatic communalists smearing its fair name?
Semantically, Hindu/Hindutva is a distinction without difference. Hindutva literally means Hindu-ness, the quality of being Hindu. The two are inseparable, like kind and kindness, man and manhood.
The so-called contrast between Hinduism and Hindutva is, therefore, illusory. What is despicably termed as Hindutva is nothing but the Kshatriya aspect of Hinduism. A Hindu without Hindutva is like a man without manliness. A bogus distinction is sought to be used as a ploy for moral disarmament of Hindu intellectuals. A contrived controversy is created with a definite purpose: the political and ideological delegitimization of the Hindu awareness and Hindu resistance. The trick is simple: Hinduism is exalted even as its defenders are traduced as unworthy bigots.
A churning is going on within the Hindu society for over two-and-a-half centuries. It has started recovering from amnesia and self-deprecation induced by centuries of sustained and brutal foreign invasions. Even if we go back no further than a few decades, the Hindu psyche has undergone a tremendous transformation since 1981 when an entire village in Tamil Nadu, Meenakshipuram, converted to Islam overnight. The fillip received by the Ram Janmbhoomi movement since then, the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992, the fiercely violent reaction to the attack on karsevaks in Godhra in 2002, the Muzaffarpur riots in 2013, the rise of Narendra Modi on the national stage in 2014 and the tremendous popularity of Yogi Adityanath and his methods are gross manifestations of this transformation. Average middle class Hindus are now challenging the double standards of left-liberals and media dominated by them, history distorted by Stalinist activists masquerading as “eminent historians”, the cheap tactics and techniques employed Christian missionaries to convert the gullible natives and, yes, Islamic separatism and Muslim gangsterism. They are highly exercised over the recent demographic trends. It is no longer possible to convince them that discussing these things is communalism.
The sharpness of the challenge underlines the return of the Kshatriya element to the Hindu mind. Hinduism has always accorded a place of high honour to the harmony between the Brahmin and the Kashtriya. For a better appreciation of the intended meaning, these should be taken not as castes but as the intellectual and moral leaders and the militant, ruling class. Agratashchaturo Veda, prushthat: sasharam dhanu: (In the forefront four Vedas, followed by bow strung with an arrow). Valmiki’s Rama is not just an embodiment of Dharma, he is also a warrior par excellence. He says clearly that I attacked Lanka to salvage the honour of the House of Raghu (Raghuvansha) which had been compromised by Sita’s abduction by Ravana. Hindusim is represented as much by Bhima and Arjuna as by Buddha and Mahavira. No Hindu has ever held in low esteem Bhima for drinking blood from Dushasna’s bosom after killing him in the war of Mahabharata. Gita was preached by Sudarshan-wielding Krishna. Mahabharata says that the Brahmin and the Kshatriya share the same source and should practice Dharma together. Manu smriti says that when Brahmin and Kshatriya work together they always succeed. Brahmins i.e. the intellectual class (scholars, academia, journalists, scientists, researchers and other opinion makers) are the eyes of the society. The Kashatriyas i.e. policymakers, rulers, administrators, spies, police, investigators, warriors) are its arms. Sita Ram Goel used to say that where the Brahmin is blind, the Kashtriya is handicapped. Economic and military prowess is of little avail if your thought leaders are blinded by false notions.
Spirituality and valour, knowledge and courage have always walked hand in hand in this great ancient land. Inspired and guided by Chanakya, Chandragupta Maurya defeated the Greek general Seleucus Nicator at borders of India in Afghanistan. The great Viajayanagara empire was founded under the auspices and inspiration of Swamy Vidyaranya. More recently, under the inspiration and guidance of Swami Samarth Ramdasji Majaraj, Shivaji carved out a self-declared Hindu kingdom from the Moghul Empire under Aurangzib.
Unfortunately, they parted company at some point in our history. We fought bravely, but did not bother to study the mentality, objectives or ideology of the adversaries. We defeated the enemies, but did not pursue them into their homelands to exterminate their power base. We saw no need to keep abreast of the happenings around us. We neglected progress in war craft and statecraft. As a result, even the unparalleled valour of the Rajputs could not prevent the country from going under slavery. Our most important battles were fought in Panipat when the enemy had already encroached deep into our territory.
The Kshatriya ideal suffered further eclipse during the British rule. The Britishers disarmed our people for the first time in our history. The psychological disarmament under the British was, however, much worse than the military one. They taught us to view ourselves with their eyes. What they found wrong with us, we found wrong with ourselves. What they praised in us, we began to cherish. We did not realise that their praise was motivated. The British government and the missionaries promoted an image of a good Hindu which suited their purpose. We were told that a good Hindu is one who is tolerant, liberal, docile and always willing to compromise and give up, especially in matters of religion. This definition of a good Hindu is the one adopted hook, line and sinker by the secularists and vote-hungry politicians. That is why, today when the Hindu looks up or talks back, he is told that he is moving away from the norms and ideals of Hinduism.
Koenraad Elst put it succinctly. “Most Western scholars positively dislike Hinduism when it stands up to defend itself. They prefer museum Hinduism or the innocent Gandhian kind of Hinduism and they readily buy the secularist story that an assertive Hinduism is not the ‘real Hinduism,'” the Belgian scholar said in a tweet.
Nothing can be farther from truth. Our tradition distinguishes between the practical and the spiritual, but does not set them apart in watertight compartments. That is why great souls who scaled lofty heights of spirituality never hesitated to come out in the open for protection and preservation of the Hindu society. Maharshi Aurobindo, the author of “Savitri” who realised the God during imprisonment, called upon the Hindus to unite. Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi openly opposed conversion of Hindus. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore frankly voiced his scepticism about the patriotism of Muslims.
The vision of these seers was deep and comprehensive. They believed that India’s soul resides in Sanatana Dharma. India’s national resurgence is impossible without reviving its spiritual core. They viewed the Hindu society as the national society, an heir to a great spiritual heritage. They severely criticised its disunity, ignorance and backwardness. They sought to reform it with personal example. But they also regarded it as their Dharma to protect it from the attacks of alien ideologies. They realised that so long as Hindus remain impoverished, divided and weak, they will never be able to realise the ideals of the Indian civilisation. If the Hindu society does not survive, its great civilisation will end up in libraries and museums like many other ancient cultures. These great souls had a clear perception of the relationship between this world and the next, the practical and the spiritual. They found no contradiction between their spiritual pursuits and service to the nation.
Divisive politics replaced this holistic vision in the post-independence period. The ideal of civilizational resurgence was cast aside in favour of Jinnah-brand separatist games. Our politics came to promote and reward every type of diversity, contradiction and conflict. Those who spoke of cultural nationalism came to be viewed with suspicion by both the rulers and the intellectuals.
The country is slowly emerging from this great national stupor. The process has gained both the force and momentum in the last decade. Indians are trying to look at their past and present with their own eyes. They are evaluating threats and opportunities before them according to their own lights. They realise that the ideologies that attacked and enslaved them in the past are still active under other names and in different forms. The Portuguese came to India armed with a Papal bull. Today, when the church talks about the right to freedom of religion it is actually holding forth the right of the missionaries to pounce on the poor defenceless innocent peoples of the third world. Yesterday’s imperialism has become today’s globalisation. The objectives of the multinational companies are not much different from those of the East India Company. The challenge of Islam is the same that it was a thousand years ago; only its nature has changed—for the worse. The ordinary Hindu realises that the country would need both knowledge and valour to counter these challenges.
The country is passing through a Sankranti, a transition. Counterfeit coins put in circulation under the name of modernity and progress have lost their shine. The old establishment is crumbling under the onslaught of new ideas and forces. Those with a vested interest in propping it up are trying to malign new ideas and delegitimize them. They are trying to create confusion. But they will not succeed. For it is the dawn that has come.
Image: Warrior Queen of Jhansi