Decoding Why I Am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor
Why I Am a Hindu is a must-read book if you want to know all about Hinduism and the manipulation of the religion due to political ideals.
The book deliberates on Hinduism and its millennia-old tradition of diversity and tolerance. Through this book, the author provides another facet to Hinduism other than the religious propaganda as sowed due to political reasons.
A religion of diversity
Hinduism is a religion that follows the concept of many gods. Unlike the monotheistic counterparts, Hinduism has many Gods and each person is free to choose and worship the deity they believe in. It could be Ganesha or Shiva or Saraswati. Furthermore, every person is free to choose their ways of giving homage to their deity. Because of the large number of religious texts, it provides the followers the freedom to choose their path of self-realization, which is the common goal for Hinduism.
Shashi Tharoor says that this freedom rather than following a rigid set of rules is what makes the religion rich and diverse.
Acceptance of all Religions
Why I Am a Hindu tells the legacy of tolerance and acceptance of Hinduism. The author says that this religion has always accepted all other religions that had simultaneously grown in the sub-continent. This includes Buddhism and Sikhism which was accepted as a sibling religion by Hinduism and hence, often led to cross-pollination. The religion had accepted the teachings of all other religions and even referred to these teachings for possible ways to reach self-realization.
Adoption of Hindutva by BJP
The author delves into the concept of Hindutva that was adopted by the BJP government in the year 1989. He states that the origins of Hindutva started with Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who helped popularise the concept of Hinduness. He was a pro-Nazi supporter who believed that Hindus being the oldest inhabitants of the country indicated that this land belonged to them. This concept was further supported by right-wing thinker MS Gowalkar, who believed that nationality should be determined by culture and not by geography.
This gave rise to the ideology of Hindutva which beliefs in the Hinduness of the country, which the author states, is opposite to our long tradition of tolerance and respect for all religions.
You can also read this book online for free or just scroll through a short book summary of the book.
Intolerance against non-Hindus
Why I Am a Hindu state that the BJP government is promoting intolerance against religious minorities by promoting Hindutva. And he believes the one religion that is most at risk is Islam, which is the other dominant religion besides Hinduism in India.
Shashi Tharoor especially presents the case of Yogi Adityanath, a BJP member and CM of Uttar Pradesh, who rose to power through hate speech and Anti-Muslim tirades. He especially mentions how the UP government has targeted the Taj Mahal for being a Muslim monument by gradually decreasing funds and letting the city of Agra fall into gradual disarray. The author further points out how the monument no longer features in the list of tourist attractions in UP. This, according to the book, is Hindutva propaganda to celebrate Hinduness by destroying a Muslim monument.
A culture against liberal ideas
The author says that Anti-Muslim propaganda is not the only propaganda that the BJP government started. In the past, Hinduism celebrated homosexuality, transgender identity, and sexual diversity. But, the present government has forbidden many of these practices including gay marriage.
This, the author states is just one example. He also provides the example of cows and beef. The government has put bans and restrictions over the consumption of beef, an attack on a person’s right to dietary choice. This is not just the only thing that irks the author but also the rising cases of leaching and violence against non-Hindus, especially the Muslims.
The other example of India’s idiosyncrasy, according to the author is the careless remarks made by political leaders in International scenarios which have raised eyebrows on India’s credibility as a scientifically advanced country.
To save Hinduism, reject Hindutva
Why I Am a Hindu says that the religion Hinduism is being attacked from within. According to the author, who states that he is a proud Hindu, if the religion and the country have to be saved, the Hindutva philosophy should be rejected. And the first step in that direction is to speak out against atrocities that have been committed in the name of Hindutva, which is sullying the name of Hinduism.
The book is available on all major book summary websites, where you can quickly go through the short book summary to know the core essence of the book.
According to the author, our religion also many scientific achievements under its belt. This is the true legacy of the religion and that is what he believes is what the present Hindus should turn to.
This book indeed is a compelling read on what the Hindu ideals are and how they are being manipulated for political gains.