Archive for the ‘Hinduism Reformation’ Category

As blog readers are aware, I am a huge proponent of reformation of Islam in order to enable Muslims to improve their sorry lot and become full citizens of the secular, liberal, global, and progressive modern world of the 21st century.

Given my interests and Subcontinental origins, I would appreciate your help in understanding reformation of Hinduism. (By “reformation” I mean the reinterpretation of religious scriptures, laws, and treatises to avoid personal and societal conflict with Western inspired and led “modernity”.) I grew up in Islamic Pakistan and so have only a superficial understanding of Hinduism. Moreover, I have had no experience of living in a “Hindu society”. I believe reformation of Hinduism may shed some light on how Islamic thinking and practices – at least in the Subcontinent – may be reformed for the better.

Towards that end, I have assembled a list of seemingly “objectionable” quotations from sacred Hindu texts. I do not vouch for their veracity; my sources are various Internet sites. Assuming the quotes are correct, I would like someone to explain the following:

  1. Why have Hindus seemingly chosen to ignore literal meaning of sacred texts?
  2. Is there is a higher clerical body in Hinduism that regulates interpretation of scriptures? If so, how has it been made to keep silent in face of violation of literalist interpretation exemplified by modern Hindu lifestyles?
  3. How has reinterpretation of sacred texts even become possible in a (Hindu) society that appears to be avowedly religious?
  4. To what extent is British colonial rule (and associated Western thinking) responsible for reformation of Hinduism?
  5. Given the spectacular success of BJP as a political party – it started with only 2 seats in the parliament and declared “Hindutva” to be its core ideology – why has it not called for or succeeded in passage of “regressive” laws based on literal interpretation of Hindu scriptures?
  6. How and why is Hindutva fundamentally different from Islamisc fundamentalist movements? (The latter call for a total repudiation of modernity – defined as Western advances from Enlightenment and Reformation – and a return to the Islamic Caliphate system of nearly 1,400 years ago).
  7. How is the modern Indian state able to pass laws on highly sensitive issues such as homosexuality that are in conflict with ancient Hindu texts?
  8. How has pursuit of modern, scientific education been embraced by Hindu middle and upper classes without any apparent sacrifice of religious beliefs and rituals?

Below please find quotes from various Hindu religious and legal texts that are in conflict with modern sensibilities.

Treatment of Low-Caste Hindus: Discrimination Against Untouchables (Sudras).

“A once-born man (a Sudra), who insults a twice-born man with gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin.” – Manu Smrti VIII.270

“Now if a Sudra listens intentionally to (a recitation of) the Veda, his ears shall be filled with (molten) tin or lac.” – Gautama Dharma Sutra 12.4

“[T]he dwellings of Kandalas [ie. Untouchable Dalits] and Svapakas shall be outside the village, they must be made Apapatras, and their wealth (shall be) dogs and donkeys.” – Manu Smrti X.51

Treatment of Hindu Women: Subservience, Punishment for Infidelity & No Property Rights

“In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a women must never be independent.” – Manu V.148

“When a woman, proud of her relations [or abilities] deceives her husband ( with another man ), then the king should [ensure that] she be torn apart by dogs in place much frequented by people ” -Manu Smrti.VIII.371

“A wife, a son, and a slave, these three are declared to have no property ; the wealth which they earn is (acquired) for him to whom they belong.” – Manu VIII.416

Treatment of Hindu Women: Commission of Sati (ie. self immolation), Female Infanticide & Child Marriages

“Let these women, whose husbands are worthy and are living, enter the house with ghee (applied) as corrylium ( to their eyes). Let these wives first step into the pyre, tearless without any affliction and well adorned.” – Rig Veda X.18.7

“It is the highest duty of the woman to immolate herself after her husband ” -Brahma Purana.80.75

“Let a female child be born somewhere else; here, let a male child be born.” – Atharva Veda.6.2.3

“A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him, or a man of twenty-four a girl of eight years of age; if (the performance of) his duties would otherwise be impeded, he must marry sooner.” -Manu IX.94

Treatment of Homosexuality: Rejection of Male and Female Homosexuality

“If a girl does it (has sex) to another girl, she should be fined two hundred (pennies), be made to pay double (the girl’s) bride-price, and receive ten whip (lashes). But if a (mature) woman does it to a girl, her head should be shaved immediately or two of her fingers should be cut off, and she should be made to ride on a donkey.” – Verses 369 and 370 of Book VIII of The Laws of Manu

“Causing an injury to a priest, smelling wine or things that are not to be smelled, crookedness, and sexual union with a man are traditionally said to cause loss of caste.” -Manusmriti 11.68

“If a man has shed his semen in non-human females, in a man, in a menstruating woman, in something other than a vagina, or in water, he should carry out the ‘Painful Heating’ vow.” -Manusmriti 11.174

Thanks in advance for your help.

Sincerely, Kashif Khan


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With all due respects to Indian blog readers, I was under the impression that “untouchability” had practically been banished from modern India. That is clearly not the case according to a recent Times of India article.

Not only is “untouchability” rife in rural India, ironically, Gujarat is one of the worst culprits of this heinous behavior. I guess there are serious limitations to Narendra Modi’s “Shining Gujarat” revolution, treatment of Muslims being the least of them. This is what the TOI had to say: “In a first-of-its-kind study on a large scale, representing 98,000 Dalits across 1,655 villages in Gujarat, it comes out that 97 % respondents feel they have ‘no entry’ at certain places in their own villages, including a temple or where a religious ceremony is taking place.”

Even more damningly, TOI article states: “This is the first study on such a large sample size and we covered 99 forms of untouchability that are still practised in villages…During the study, the researchers did not find a single village where no form of untouchability is practised, giving an unnerving idea about the extent of the problem in a state which is home to Mahatma Gandhi.” The article concludes: “It may seem for urban middle classes that many things have changed, but the ground reality is harsh till today”.

The full article is available at:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/No-temple-entry-for-dalits-in-Gujarat/articleshow/5308970.cms

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