Being Hindu…

“Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence; recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse; and the realization of the truth that the number of gods to be worshiped is large, that indeed is the distinguishing feature of the Hindu religion.” B.G. Tilak’s definition of what makes one a basic Hindu, as quoted by India’s Supreme Court.

I went to the Hindu temple in Glasgow recently (the one at Partick). It is mainly frequented by south-Indians, the chairman and majority of the members being so. I have not traveled the south of India extensively and have just been to one temple in Karnataka. I have had a few south Indian friends, but religion and prayers were strictly personal or something to do with home. The intent behind saying this is that I was not used to seeing how they pray, with the complete understanding that they may do it differently.

This experience however made me feel sick being in a temple for the first time. I am not an overly religious person, and I strictly go to temples only when I feel it strongly. After the initial prayers, we were to queue for amrit, and when I reached, I instinctively sipped it and put it on my head, I mean I hope I can get across the picture! And immediately the pandit refused to put the topi (some topi they had to put on everyone’s head as a blessing!) on my head, cos they don’t put the hand to their head like I did. I was like whatever! I didn’t know the reasons for either (I don’t know if he did too!).

Moving on, the chairman began speaking. Since this was immediately after the bombings in Bombay, quite a few religious leaders (Asians) have been interviewed by BBC, and Mr Chairman was interviewed too, so of course we had to listen to the crap he had said on BBC. What was astounding was that standing in a temple, he actually had the nerve of telling everyone that Hindus don’t like being called Asians, and they have a separate identity and all that crap, which basically meant that we are not Muslims, we don’t bomb!!
Thing is it’s not a question of pro-Hindu/ Muslim but I couldn’t understand the reason for saying such things in a temple! Being Hindu definitely doesn’t entail the right of denouncing every other religion. It infact defies the basic principle of being a Hindu.
I am not a religious leader, not even a priest. I rarely go to a temple. But I know this from within.
The chairman continued, you should get your children, grand children, great grand children to come here and learn Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. They need to know their culture and language to be Hindu. He throttled it down everyone. I have no qualms with the language bit, but not knowing those languages doesn’t make me any less of a Hindu! And I honestly felt like going up and telling him that he should rechristen it the South Indian Hindu temple in that case.

It is a very big religion and a lot of people follow it through the length and breadth of India. It has been alive for thousands of years. Restricting it with a language and bringing up the thought process that we are good cos the others are bad, is a horrendous philosophy. And speaking so in a temple, you are just insulting anything and everything you worship.

I went to a Cathedral yesterday. I prayed in silence. I didn’t matter whether I was Christian or Hindu. It didn’t matter whether I was from Italy or Scotland. It felt peaceful.

I wish someday the religious leaders we have can understand that that’s all there is to it. Pray. Peace. Fulfillment.

22 comments
  1. hey upasna, i think this is a brilliant post, i’m a hindu tamil, studying in glasgow….. this is of course the most important bit that i think makes me and you a hindu “Being Hindu definitely doesn’t entail the right of denouncing every other religion. It infact defies the basic principle of being a Hindu.” This is fundamental and anyone be it a muslim or chirstian that feels this way is, I consider a hindu. I know this is controversial but it is a fact, if you are not hindu, than you certainly dont believe in this philosophy, which is basically about acceptance. About the chairman dude well i would like to hear another speech of his and judge for myslef………..but lastly i would like to say that if he has not upheld the fundamental tenent that you feel is unnaceptable……..than you and the rest of us that feel this way, should create a sanctorum of our own when we are able to….to allow people like you and me who are really ‘hindus’ to come together and worship………in peace. All it takes is that man to give my religion a bad name, but this only means that we should make the true voice of hinduism be heard, that we accept all regardless of what ritual or method they use to achieve peace with the all-knowing.

  2. Well Upasna, You did get it right. One cant argue with what you wrote because it was not a contention of yours, it was what you felt. perhaps this was the was the only response of your Hindu being, your existence as you breathe. Having said that I think you did not get all of the “chairman” Blah Blah! I wonder if even he knew all that he was saying.
    I live in Delhi, never stepped out of the country and I can not claim to know what or how a Hindu is when he is outside India. But I can tell you what it is to be a hindu in contemporary India. These days everytime there is a major festival around the corner, an apprehension grows. You feel like telling your loved ones to watch out. You alomost beg them not visit any temples. Diwali is round the corner! Last Diwali? 5 Blasts in Delhi alone! More than 200 dead. Please dont hold it against me and my fellow hindus taht for the first time(s) in our lives we realised, consciously; that we are Hindus and some people just want to ensure that the very symbols of our faith be made scary fearful rituals! Its so so hard to be nice and hindu. Maybe maybe the times that we live in require temporarily that we make it obvious that we are just Hindu’s. And that we dont have anything to do with a lot of nonsense thats flying around the world. If our language helps us give us that identity of ours, then so be it. Its not as if it would amount to attacking the others. Food for thought – A thousand Islamic invasions, a thousand bombs in the modern India, and not once has the Shakracharya or any other hindu institution or head quoted anybody like The Holy Pope did and in the manner Pope did. Not Once. Thats Hinduism for me!

    Having said that I MUST insist on agreeing with you that “Being Hindu definitely doesn’t entail the right of denouncing every other religion. It infact defies the basic principle of being a Hindu.”

  3. well upasna every person has got his own identity both as an individual and as a member of a bigger group.
    Things go on smoothly if both of them compliment each other.
    When u dont belong to a particular grp and u always get clubbed with another it really gets sick and belive me identity crisis that too in a foreign land is too difficult
    In this case i think the Chairman was making clear that there is a HINDU community and we are different from the ASIANS the British know.
    Coming to the languages , i think it would have been for the second generation for them to learn their mother tongues.
    Well for rechristening the temple as a south indian temple it would be a better idea ..

  4. It is rather unfortunate that you got jolted into seeing the distorted views people have about their identities and religion when they are away from their homeland.
    In Leicester I have been told that I am not welcome to a Dandia festival because I am not a Gujarati Hindu and also because I dont look Indian. It made me want to reach out for my passport!! Religion is all about choices..and choices give you freedom. Its personal and you are accountable for your own actions whatever the religion. This pan-religous attitude and approach to behaviour and thinking that most religions seem to be developing negates the very essence of the religion.
    I have found more peace in British churches, than in temples in Leicester. I dont get asked questions, I am left to myself and I like the silence. It is sad that despite having multi faith places for worship in UK..people like me and perhaps even you, would rather not go.

  5. Being a hindu all my life, I have never done any of what you mentioned 🙂 Guess its more than rituals which makes me a Hindu!
    Same goes for any other religions I guess… Its faith and your own!…

  6. Well, to think of it, there are two aspects of any religion – way of mind and way of life. Way of mind is the philosophy behind the religion and way of life is what we call rituals. I’m not very well read about any religions, but from what I hear and see I’d tend to believe that the phiosophy part is somewhat similar in all the religions. What mostly differs between religions are the rituals. Majority of hindus stay away from non-vegitarian foods, keeps fast on tuesday, goes on a hindu pilgriamge every year. This is how they differ from their muslim or christian counterparts. On the other hand muslims will tend to grow beard, visit masjid on friday, fast during ramjan, learn urdu etc. I would put all these things under the category of rituals. And they do dictate our way of life. As far as way of thinking in non-religious matters, don’t all men think similarly?

    I know this way of life and philosphy definition is a very popular concept that I’ve heard since I used to go to junior school wearing half pants. But what does it actually mean?

    It will be nice to hear your thoughts on it

  7. hey dont disagree with u, but the catherdral was not a way of pitching against the temple at all…it may well hv been just another temple…i was only talking abt a serene place to pray in thats all!

  8. i agree with what some of the commentators above have pointed out. “Asian”/”Asia” in Europe and North America typically means China, Japan, the Far east basically. India and the subcontinent is refered to as “South Asia”. So the Chairman has a point when he objected to Indians being clubbed together with “Asians”.

    I see your point of getting agitated about temples becoming the grounds of such religious sermons. Though we might squirm at this, this is something that happens in most religious places of worship. Your experience in the Cathedral is not representative of how most cathedrals are. And if I may add, the way you pitch it against your temple example, reveals the naivity of its application to your larger argument.

    I recently went to Latin America for a project and had to visit a church. All through the 2 hour service I had to suffer the sermon of the priest who kept harping that “those who dont follow the Bible are ‘black sheep’ and heathens who need to be brought to the right path”. Infact in the US where I live, there are many churches where priests still preach about the wars being ‘legitimate’ on the wake of 9/11.

    Ulimately, religion is the opium of the masses. Leaders have known this for centuries.

  9. 1.eloquent speech of a hindu religious leader– It was far from it..and as far as ‘other religions’ are concerned you lost the point completely thats wht i am saying I am not denouncing ne religion nor praising ne!

    2. Hinduism is distinct and has sustained this long cos it is a way of life, a philosophy, read a bit abt it, you may be enlightened!!

    3.You interpret him as if you were right there, or if you knew him!! HOwever that apart, I hv nothing against languages and the definition you gave neway not what I feel is the way it is…
    As for not wanting to call myself a hindu, Jesus Christ!!, you didnt understand what i have written all along, did you? Dont want to sound derogatory but read again…it might just be helpful!

  10. 1. You are comparing the silence of a church to an eloquent speech of a hindu religious leader!! Have you tried to listen to the speeches made by religious leaders of any other religion? homosexulily is sin .. it is satanic …birth-control is against god … converting ppl to christianity to save their souls! .. surely you have heard of all these.

    2. Unfortunately or fortunately hindu philosophy and hindu religion has become very different. Rituals defines a religion rather than its philosophy. It holds true for all religions. Otherwise they would have been called philosophies rather than religions.

    3. When he mentioned about tamil, telugu, malaylam ..I guess he tried to mean any indian language. Hinduism, in all practicality, is an indian religion. If you don’t know or don’t care about any indian language you probably don’t want to call yourself a hindu. Well, I guess this is debatable.

  11. 1. You are comparing the silence of a church to an eloquent speech of a hindu religious leader!! Have you tried to listen to the speeches made by religious leaders of any other religion? homosexulily is sin .. it is satanic …birth-control is against god … converting ppl to christianity to save their souls! .. surely you have heard of all these.

    2. Unfortunately or fortunately hindu philosophy and hindu religion has become very different. Rituals defines a religion rather than its philosophy. It holds true for all religions. Otherwise they would have been called philosophies rather than religions.

    3. When he mentioned about tamil, telugu, malaylam ..I guess he tried to mean any indian language. Hinduism, in all practicality, is an indian religion. If you don’t know or don’t care about any indian language you probably don’t want to call yourself a hindu. Well, I guess this is debatable.

  12. I honestly dint know wht he wanted to do…and ya Pandharpur hv heard abt it, never been there!..
    and as for the interpretation, guess tht kills most religions!

  13. I believe the chairman was either a moron or was trying to show off.

    Hinduism has a major setback that different people have interpreted it wrongly, and most of them being wrong.

    The Vedas tell the existence of one God (amazed??), one supreme being which has no form or shape. All the Gods we worship are mainfestations of the One God.
    Rig Veda says, “Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti”
    meaning, “There is only one truth, only men describe it in different ways)
    Say, like a person is seen differently by different people. Your father may be a role model for you, but he is no more than a child for your grandma.

    Secondly, I will tell you my experience with North Indian soil. Whenever I go to a temple, I look for peace of mind, meditate for sometime and maybe ask for some personal wish. Sometimes I’ll be at peace, sometimes not.. That depends on the temple.
    I once went to Pandarpur when I was in Pune. I didn’t have to seek peace there. I felt it in my mind and body. I had a feeling that I never had before in my life.
    “I didn’t want to leave that place.”

    It may be my mindset. But I don’t care as long as it is there.

  14. @ Chaitanya: yes i guess, not quite sure though!

    @ Shaun: I felt this way, mayb over reacting but i didnt like it.

  15. “But thing is inspite of the reasons nothing can justify breaking the sanctity of a place of worship.”

    Look, everyone’s definition of sanctity is different. My mom considers a scalpel to be sacrosanct. My friend considers the drone of a sitar to be essential for any place to be sacred.
    Personally, I didn’t see anything in his speech that screwed the place’s sanctity. Pointing out that he isn’t a muslim isn’t wrong. It’s politically incorrect, but who cares? It’s a temple.
    You’re over-reacting.

  16. I dont know abt UK but in US “Asians” most of the time means “japanese,chinese,koreans,vietnamese,Tiwanese …..” primarily becoz of their limited knowledge of geography and becoz they all look similar!! Awareness abt India and hindu religion has increased greatly over the last few yrs …but still sometimes Indians are confused for latinos,mexicans …becoz again we look similar!!! Maybe it helps to differentiate …. remember Sikhs were attacked here becoz ppl cld not differentiate a SIkh turban from a Muslim one !!

  17. Dush n Prak: I know wht ur saying! But thing is inspite of the reasons nothing can justify breaking the sanctity of a place of worship…

    Ru: Someone ought to tell em that!

  18. Upasna, I see your point. But I think the reason why Hindus in UK need differentiation is not what you listed.

    UK, as you know better then me, is another haven for South East Asians. And since they form a part of the modern community, each ethinicty has been trying its best to give back to the land.

    When Muslims do something good, they are recognized as UK Muslims. When the Jews do it, then they are the UK Jews and so on so forth. However, when Hindus do something for the community, the credit often goes to “Asians in UK”

    So, instead of that broad based credit they want people and government to identify that there exists UK Hindus, just like their exits the other sects identified by religion.

    I cannot comment on how smart/stupid this request is but all through history we have always wanted credit when we deserved it.

    I just wanted to suggest that you might have misterpreted the Chairman.

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