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Hindu Religion: A bitter truth!
The present Hinduism is a kind of association of two different alien religions. Deliberate attempts to hide this fact, for the social benefits, by the Vedic priestly class have created many socio-cultural problems promoting ongoing conflict within these two religions. At the present the Brahmin-Non-Brahmin clashes are in fact outcome of the Vedic and Non Vedic hegemonic conflict. The struggle between two faiths has been recorded from ancient times that still are continued. In India ancient faith was Shavik idol worshiper’s religion having original roots in Indus culture that still remains dominant even now. The other religion is the Vedic religion, introduced to India sometime before 1000 BC.
What make a religion different from other? Those are faiths, rituals, philosophy, and set of customs that makes a religion distinct from the other. First, let us have a look at how two religions are entirely different on every ground.
First let us have look at the ingredients of the Vedic Religion.
- Vedic religion is based on the four Veda’s having different kinds of fire sacrifice’s including animal sacrifices as the main religious ritual.
- There are about 645 abstract God’s those are worshiped through sacrificial fire. Vedic Gods are the personification of the natural elements, such as Rains, Lightening, rivers, space etc.
- Indra, Varuna, Prajapati, Aditya’s are the principle God’s of the Vedic religion, while other pantheon of the Gods are mentioned in different contexts in the Veda’s in prayers.
- Vedic social order is divided in Varna system. The system classifies Vedic society in four classes in descending order. The Varna is totally based on the birth, not virtues, though in later literature the futile attempts were made to connect the Varna of a person based on virtues. Birth based Varna system remained prominent all the time in Vedic religion.
- Originally there were only three Varna’s in Vedic system. However they added fourth Shudra Varna in later times. The slaves, servants, those were needed to serve Vedics, hailing from non-Vedic stratum, were named as Shudras…and as their number grew, forth class was assigned to them, without giving any religious right, such as learn and recite Veda’s, in Vedic fold.
- Vedic religious does not acknowledge idol worshiping. Idolatry is strictly prohibited in their religion. The battle of Ten Kings prominently mentioned in Rig Veda appears to have taken place mainly because of the religious differences. Phallic worship has been ridiculed in Rig Veda. Yajur Vveda implicitly states, “They are enveloped in darkness, in other words, are steeped in ignorance and sunk in the greatest depths of misery who worship the uncreated, eternal prakrti—the material cause of the world—in place of the All-pervading God, but those who worship visible things born of the Prakrti, such as the earth, trees, bodies (human and the like) in place of God are enveloped in still greater darkness, in other words, they are extremely foolish, fall into an awful hell of pain and sorrow, and suffer terribly for a long time.””Yajur Veda 40:9) and “The Formless Supreme Spirit that pervades the universe can have no material representation, likeness or image.”—Yajur Veda 32:3.
- Vedic people follow “Gotra” (ancestry) system, claiming their bloodline to one or other Vedic or Gotrakarta seer.
- Four Veda’s, Aranyaka’s, Brahmana’s form the main body of the Vedic religious scriptures accompanied with the Smriti’s those mainly defines and controls the social conduct and ethics of the four Varna’s.
- Women has secondary status in Vedic religion.
From above it clearly appears that the foundation of the Vedic religion is the fire sacrifices and birth based unequal social order. Exactly when and where this religion came into the existence is still is an enigma. The scholars have divided opinion on this, such as some believe that the Vedic religion was founded by the invading or migrating Aryans whereas some are of the opinion that the religion is indigenous. However Vedic and Avestan religion of south-east Iran find close similarities.
Fire sacrifices of the Vedic religion became more and more complex and expensive as the religion evolved and received heavy patronage till fifth century BC. However, in later course, due to the religious revolutions like Jainists and Buddhists taking in the India the religion shrunk to the negligible level. As patronage was lost the fire sacrifices too became extinct. Still the religion survived and flourished. It adopted some modifications in their religion by promoting a minor Vedic God like Vishnu and accepting idolatry. Though this was out of the tenets of the Vedic religion, the adaptation helped them to revive.
Before discussing the import of revival of the Vedic religion, let us have a cursory look at the Shavait religion.
Since the time immemorial Indian people were following idolatry religion, Shiva being their principle God. The Indus civilization excavations have provided abundant proofs of Shiva being worshipped in phallic form in unification with Shakti, his consort.
Phallic worship is considered to be most ancient throughout the world. Phallus and female organ have been the symbol of fertility, creation and preserver of the life. The religion though became extinct from rest of the world it kept evolving in India and has become the main practiced religion today.
Let us have a look at key points of the Shaivait religion.
- Aagama’s, many Upanisada’s and Sankhya darshana’s are the religious scriptures that form the basic philosophy of the Shavait Religion.
- Advaita (non-duality) is the supreme philosophy of the Shaivait religion.
- Idol worshiping is a simplest form of this religion. Shiva is mainly worshipped in Lingam form that shows his divine unification with Shakti. Shakti is also worshipped independently under many regional names in the country. There are hundreds of many minor gods that too are worshiped in idol form those are finally associated with Lord Shiva, either as his incarnation or his associate.
- “Puja” (oblation) is the only ritual conducted to please the Shavait Gods. In some places animal sacrifice also is common practice among Shavaits.
- Shaivait believes in rebirth, salvation and soul, unlike the Vedics.
- Shaivait religion is mostly founded on Tantras (occultist rituals and practices, practical sciences.) Yoga is invention of the Shaivaits and is being practiced since Indus times. \Lord Shiva is believed to have it gifted to the mankind.
- Social order of the Shaivait’s is caste based. Caste is based on the profession of the person. As professions grew from the ancient times, castes too grew. There was flexibility, one could change profession and so the caste without any social restrictions till 10th century AD. The social equality of all castes was practiced while giving equal, sometime prime status to the women.
- There have been hundreds of Shaivait cults in India. It has been people’s religion throughout the history. Not a single settlement, village or town in India will be found where Shiva shrine is absent.
Principally it is clear that both the religions are different in nature. The faiths are different, rituals are different and Gods too are different. And yet both religions together are called as Hindu, which is not a fact.
It is a fact that a religion named Hindu never did exist. Hindu indicates geographical identity, not the religious identity. The word does not find any mention as a synonym to religion either in Vedic or Shavait literature. Respective religions, knowing their individual identities had named their religions and cults separately.
Vedic’s were modifying their religion too by introducing Vishnu, a minor God of Rig Veda as a supreme God to entice the people in their religious fold. As described above, any way fire sacrifices had come to the abrupt stop because of the strong opposition from the Buddhists. It had also had lost charm. People practiced their ancient Shaivait faith which was wider in perspective and based on the equality.
To elevate Vishnu, Vedics did start to assimilate Shaivait hero’s of the ancient past providing them new characters, declaring them incarnations of the Lord Vishnu, mostly false though. Though the instant acceptance to this idea was almost impossible, Vedic’s with sheer persistence continued the campaign for centuries, sometimes by getting royal patronages. The most of the Purana’s were composed or re-written with heavy interpolations during Gupta era. Main purpose was to establish divinity of the Veda’s, Vedic rituals and the Smriti’s.
After tenth century AD, the socio-economic system declined drastically. This was due to the series of severe famines and constant aggressions by the Muslim invaders. From 10th to 16th century AD there are over 400 famines are recorded in almost all regions of India. Because of the Muslim invasions foreign trade was taken over by the Muslims, as they already had established their rule in even other countries with whom Indians would trade. Thus assaulted by bad economy and foreign rule the previously established social order was entirely disrupted. The production got limited to meet the local needs only. To stop competition, the social norms got changed. Entry or exit was banned to the individuals in or from all the professions. That made the caste system rigid and closed one as the castes were based on the professions. This provided a greater opportunity to Vedic people. The cultural invasion in Shaivait religion thus began gradually tightening the clutches over the entire society.
During this period, because of constant Vedic hegemonic campaign, Shaivait’s gradually fell prey to the glorification of the Vedic Varna system, mostly out of fascination in the begining to fall victim of it. The birth based inequality got gradually absorbed in all the castes. Though they never were got assimilated in the Vedic fold, still they were labeled as Shudra’s, the lowest class of the Vedic Varna system. Thus the social order got drastically changed creating a chaotic social condition that persists even today.
During this period,the term “Hindu” for their religion was gradually accepted by the people. Vedic and Shaivait religions though remained distinct, Vedic scholars started to link every non-Vedic deity with obscure Vedic deities. Lord Shiva was identified with a minor Vedic God Rudra. Why they would do so?
They certainly knew they were committing sacrilege by becoming priests of the deities those not belonged to their own religion. They needed to find a solace by somehow connecting non-Vedic gods with the Vedic Gods. It helped them because people too didn’t mind Vedic’s being their priests in the course of the time. The process has been gradual but helped Vedic people to retain their own religion while commanding religious supremacy over Shaivait people. With creation of the several mythical stories, religious history got corrupted. Under the name of the “tradition” many Vedic elements were retained while performing the Puja of non-Vedic gods. This was sacrilege from point of the both, Vedic and Shaivait.
Assimilation of the two religions on equal footing would have been welcomed. In a way it would be a unique event where two religions assimilate rather than separating like others. But the motive was not honest. Vedics tried to enter the pigeonhole of Shaivait religion to earn livelihood maintaining their supremacy. Thus, not only religion got heavily corrupted, but the cultural history of India too became Vedic oriented making Shaivait’s almost non-participant in building of the national culture. Even foreign scholars too looked at the Indian past through the glasses of Vedicism and its past glory. Shaivait religion, though far widely spread, practiced and honored was considered as mere a cult!
Scholars now have to look at the Indian cultural history from unbiased point of view, or they will err in their findings, as has happened in the past. Religious history of the country begins with Shiva whereas Vedic cult has very later origin, which none shall forget.
The Non-Vedic’s should also learn from this and try to find their own history of equality throwing away the yoke of Varna system to reestablish equality among all castes.