Renowned scholar and respected journalist Jyotirmaya Sharma spoke to Tarun Tejpal on the second day of THiNK 2013 in a session titled ‘Chaining the Gods: How Modernity Has Twisted Hinduism’.
When asked about what Hinduism really meant, Sharma remarked that the question cannot really be answered. He said he believed it is more important to ask what Hindus actually do. Only then can one begin to understand the specifics of Hinduism.
Admitting the fact that he finds Gandhi to be complicated, Professor Sharma shared his opinion that there is a sharp divide between Gandhi’s ideas and his politics. According to him the attempt to reconstruct Hinduism is a very recent and modern project. Hinduism originally consisted of several different sects and philosophical schools. But it never affected the lives of people in as compelling a manner as it does today. “When religion gets mixed with nationalism then you have a problem”, he remarked.
Talking about the Babri Masjid demolition and the right wing Hinduism prevalent in the country, Professor Sharma said that every Indian silently asked himself as to how the Hindus could resort to such an act that reduced Hindutva to such a constricted form. “Hindutva is the dominant face of Hinduism now, but it is not the only one.” He then went on to describe it as a “political, modern and West-inspired form of monstrosity.”
Extremely critical of the intolerant religious leaders in the country, the professor pointed out that India’s main problem lies in the fact that it is an impatient democracy. “Democracy is about patience. The problem of Indian democracy is that it is very impatient.”
Professor Sharma said he considered the finest aspects of Hinduism to be its aesthetics but is not convinced of the material aspirations with which they go to God. Criticising the tendency to pray to gods and visit temples looking “for a promotion or to pass an examination”, Professor Sharma said that Hindus must self-reflect upon the direction Hinduism is taking in India, and that “Hindutva and the RSS promote a monochromatic, shrunk and ideologically workable version of Hinduism”.
By Kumar Saurabh