Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review: "Why I am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor"

Book: Why I am a Hindu
Author: Shashi Tharoor
Type: Non-Fiction
Pages: 302
Publishing House: Aleph
There are 3 sections of the book:

My Hinduism
This section has been written and covered in 137 pages. The first part explains the reasons why Hinduism is the faith Shashi Tharoor is proud of and believes in. Dr Tharoor further says and I quote,
I find it immensely congenial to be able to face my fellow human beings of other faiths without being burdened by the conviction that I am embarked upon a ‘true path’ that they have missed.

He further explains, quoting various sources, that Hinduism is not a faith but it’s a civilization. We don’t have any particular scripture that we need to rely on wholly.
Even a person who doesn’t believe in God and who proclaims to be an atheist can be a Hindu as a Hindu can be astika or nastika.  Dr Tharoor expresses his love for the faith as he quotes the hymns of Rig Veda questioning the creator of the universe Himself.

Who really knows? And who can say?
Whence did it all come? And how did creation happen?
The gods themselves are latter than creation,
So who knows truly whence this great creation sprang? -Rig Veda, X. 129

In this well-researched non-fiction, Dr Tharoor further explains about the reasons of Idol Worshipping and people following other faiths.
About idol worshipping, He writes, “Hindus, therefore, understand that all worship of God reflects an effort to reach out to that which cannot be touched or seen; since God is, in that sense, literally unknowable, one may imagine Him/Her/It in any form, since each form may be just as valid as another and none can be guaranteed to be more accurate than the next one”.

About people following other faiths, he quotes Lord Krishna from Gita “Whomsoever follows any faith and worships me under whatsoever denomination in whatsoever form with steadfastness, his faith I shall reinforce”

Shashi Tharoor in his latest books goes on discussing Idol worship; temple construction- reason for the same and consequences; bhajans; Adi Shankara, Raja Rammohan Roy, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi among many; caste system- its meaning and interpretation; Dharma- context and what it means for a Hindu and Non Hindu; Moksha, immortal soul.

Political Hinduism
This section deals with The RSS, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, M.S. Gowalkar, Bhartiya Jana Sangh, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, BJP, Hindutva, Indian Nationalism and Hindu Nationalism, Beef Politics and few other notable sub topics. This section is covered in 125 pages.

Taking back Hinduism
This section has been covered in 28 pages. It deals with the personal opinion of the author about the real meaning of the faith and the bigotry dissipated in the masses in the name of religion. He talks about fundamentals of the faith and tolerance. And ends the book with these lines

I am a Hindu who is proud to offer such a religion to the world. I do so conscious that Hinduism does not seek to proselytize, only to offer itself as an example that others may or may not choose to follow. It does not share with the Abrahamic faiths a desire to universalize itself; yet its tenets and values are universally applicable. But first it must be revived and reasserted, in its glorious liberalism, its openness and acceptance, its eclecticism and universalism, in the land of its own birth. As a Hindu hymn says, in words that resonate with meaning for every human being on the planet.
Asato ma sad gamaya!
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya!
Mrityor ma amritam gamaya!
Lead me from Untruth to Truth !
Lead me from darkness to light!
Lead  me from death to immortality!”

Verdict: 292 pages of content and that’s too when I haven’t counted Index and all, it may go boring. Too much talk of soul, philosophy and Vedanta may make you feel a bit less engaged. But the more you read, the more rational it may begin to appear. The most fantastic part of the book is the part 1 in which he explains how Hinduism evolved through centuries. It is similar to that schools of management or schools of economics which evolved and was shaped by different people and different time demands. Having said that, I would like to conclude on the note that Why I am a Hindu is a book that wouldn’t fail up to your expectations. Dr Shashi Tharoor seems to have penned down a non-fiction which is going to continue to be in high-demand as of now and later. 

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