As a Hindu expatriate who had been exposed to only the modern U.S., it’s a pleasure to read your views on traditionalism. What has prompted me to correspond was the discussion in the entry, “When Will Women Rule Everything?” — especially the views expressed regarding Hindu culture and the role of women.
Jane S. writes, “For thousands of years, Hindus had a custom known as “sati,” where a woman who outlived her husband was expected to burn herself alive on his funeral pyre.”
Sati was completely voluntary. If it was forced upon Hindu women for thousands of years, as Jane claims, Hindus would have been finished as a civilization long ago.
Here is an article about an 11th-century stone with a pictorial description of sati.
“The stone records the sati of Dekabbe, daughter of the king of Nuganadu, who decided to join her husband in death upon finding he had been killed. The stone records the efforts made by her family and friends to dissuade her from this extreme step, only to be rebuffed. Dekabbe donated her land, cattle and jewellery to a temple before jumping into the pyre.”
As you see, it was entirely left to the woman.
If following your husband to the end is sati, then didn’t Mrs.Ida Strauss on the Titanic commit sati? Mrs. Ida is to be venerated whereas the Hindu women are to be ridiculed for the same?
Jane also writes: “A woman is nothing if she is not attached to a man. ” And the vice versa is true as well in Hindu tradition. A man and a woman, together as husband and wife, are required to fulfill their duties to the society at large.
Jane writes, “A widow can’t wear jewelry, cosmetics, or nice clothes. She can’t eat good food or sleep in a bed. She isn’t allowed to join in festivals or celebrations, not even her children’s weddings. ” The reason being, they were supposed to turn their mind towards God as they are nearing the end of their life and renouncing all the earthly possessions and ego are the first steps towards that goal.
Jane writes, “That’s why women in Hindu and Muslim societies don’t have the option of becoming nuns. ” I can’t talk of Muslim society, but in Hindu society they do have the option of devoting themselves to God. Recent example: Mata Amritanandamayi. From older times we have, Avvaiyaar (Tamil Nadu, South India) , Aandal (Tamil Nadu, South India). There have been countless other women who, though ‘married,’ because of their devotion to God have been revered as saints. Examples: Meerabai of Rajasthan, North India, Karaikkal Ammaiyaar of Tamil Nadu South India, Mangayarkkarasiyar Tamil Nadu, South India.
Again, in Hindu tradition, the woman’s first duty is to fulfill the role for which she is born: give birth to future generations. And on that account, in spite of 1000 years of Muslim and 200 years of British atrocities on the populace, the Hindu woman has done amazingly well.
Hindu society has always been monogamous to a large extent. Only the kings were allowed more than one wife, for obvious reasons. And the corner stone of the Hindu society has always been marriage (Vivaaha) between one man and one woman since Vedic times.
Under liberal influence, all these are changing. In urban areas, divorce is becoming common place and smaller families, if at all they stay married, are becoming the norm. Urban India is being fiercely influenced by liberalism whereas the rural India is still trying to hold onto its traditionalism.
—- Comments —
Jane S. writes:
Thanks Priya for this excellent discussion. Also glad to see Aditya, one of VFR’s best commenters, has turned up on TTH as well.
Sati was completely voluntary. You could say that for sure. A Hindu woman can’t (though this is changing) remarry. No choice in the matter. An unattached woman was a constant source of worry for the family. She could potentially dishonor the family, even through no fault of her own. Given the choice between the sad, mean, lonely lot of widowhood and getting it all over with quickly, it’s understandable that some women chose the latter, though I wouldn’t describe it as exactly “voluntary.”
Sati was completely voluntary. There’s a story about a Hindu princess who, from the age of 5, was made to stick her finger into a pot of boiling soup every day. We’re not going to force you into burning yourself to death. But why not break you into the idea, just in case?
Sati was completely voluntary. I once read about a king who was adamantly opposed to sati. If he heard of a female relative who was planning to self-immolate, he would personally intervene and talk her out of it. When he died, all 17 of his wives joined him on his funeral pyre. Sati was voluntary, but it seems it was necessary for someone to actually prevent you from doing it.
Sati was completely voluntary. Your mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, cousins, and nieces all chose to do it. It was good enough for them. Why isn’t it good enough for you? No pressure there!
Girls who were widowed at the age of 12 went to sati. Somehow I do not think the word “voluntary” applies in the same way here.
There are theories that Hindu women chose sati when their husbands were slain in battle, and their cities were about to be overtaken by Muslim invaders. They would rather burn than fall into the hands of the enemy. I have to say, I can relate to that. But I don’t know that I would call it “voluntary,” either.
A woman who became sati was adored like a goddess. She would dress like a bride and crowds would line up to cheer her on her way to the ghats. Sati was praised as the ultimate act of courage and devotion. It would confer blessings on the family for many generations. If that isn’t coercion, what do you call it?
There’s a mystique about sati that seems to turn people on. Maybe that’s why Gandhi discouraged people from admiring women who went bravely to this gruesome form of death. Too many people would want to copy it, voluntarily.
Please don’t think I am ridiculing or looking down on Hindu women. Hindu women are amazing. They are modest, charming, and exquisitely feminine. They have a quality that Western women have lost almost completely: innocence. I often wish that Westerners would make a study of Hindu women. They would see the ugliness of feminism by comparison.
A Hindu woman can take nine yards of silk and wrap it around herself in a way that looks like the most elegant evening gown. A fancy Hindu celebration where the women are dressed to the nines is a feast for the eyes.
Hindu women can take the humblest of ingredients—spinach, lentils, chickpeas—and a pinch or two of spice and turn it into the tastiest dish you have ever had. They can blend the seasonings in such a way it’s like music in your mouth. Even an uneducated Hindu housewife understands good nutrition and a balanced diet.
Hindu women are gentle and patient mothers. You see children everywhere in South Asia. You do not see children throwing tantrums or grabbing things in stores. I’ve been in theaters packed with Hindu families and you’d think the kids would be screaming and disrupting the show, but they are well behaved.
Hindu women have power in the home that outsiders do not see. When you are about to enter a Hindu home, it is etiquette for you to wait at the doorstep until woman of the house welcomes you in. To enter without her permission would be a gross insult to the household. As a guest, your part is to sit politely and wait for the women to offer you food. Hindu hospitality is unbelievable. They love for you to eat—and eat and eat and eat.
Hindu women have a great dignity and inner grace about them. I’ve met Hindu women who are shy and quiet. But I have never met one who struck me as a pushover.
Things are changing there, too, of course. Some of it not good. They are getting on the bandwagon of the West’s social evils, I’m sorry to say.
If following your husband to the end is sati, then didn’t Mrs.Ida Strauss on the Titanic commit sati? Mrs. Ida is to be venerated whereas the Hindu women are to be ridiculed for the same?
Of course it is not the same.
Remaining with your husband as he awaits certain death on a sinking ship, and therefore dying WITH your husband, is NOT the same as committing suicide after your husband has died. It would be moral to remain at the sick bed of ones husband, knowing it likely you will contract the same illness and die, but it is not moral to purposely inject yourself with his infected blood.
The thing is, there is big moral difference between knowing it highly likely that one will die (because the waters are freezing) and dying at one’s own hand. The first scenario allows for a miracle, the other does not. (Incompetence at suicide is not a miracle.)
Aditya B. writes:
I am compelled by indignation sparked by the Stalinist whitewashing of “On Hindu Patriarchy” to respond to “Priya.”
I am stunned that anyone, in any day and age, would defend the most abominable of all primitive Hindu barbarisms; Suttee.
Priya says it was “voluntary.” How is it “voluntary” when you entire family brainwashes you into this horrifying act of self-immolation. How is it “voluntary” when the “option” is a gruesome and horrible death banishment from society to Benares?
Priya is utterly wrong. Her society never existed. Patriarchal Hindu society was a monstrous institution that deserved to be destroyed.
Ask Priya about “dowry-deaths” and “bride-burning.” Echos of her wonderful, voluntary Hindu Patriarchial tradition are heard in “modern” Indian society where men and their mothers burn women alive because they provide inadequate dowry.
Ask her about female foeticide and female infanticide. Ask her about the government, which allows abortion, is forced to prevent doctors, under pain of imprisonment, from disclosing the sex of the unborn, to prevent termination of a female foetus.
Ask Priya, apologist for Hindu Patriarchy, about Hindu literacy. Does she know that there is a religious sanction against female education?
What about the wonderful tradition of child marriage? Does she know that under Hindu tradition that consent of the bride was never required (or the groom for that matter)?
Does Priya realize that the drive to restore some dignity, and afford some protection, to the weaker sex was led by enlightened Hindus in conjunction with the British. That without such reforms Hindu women would still be illiterate, would not be entitled to inherit property, and would be powerless to free themselves from an abusive marriage.
Patriarchal Hindu society was a suffocating nightmare. It consisted of a series of endless humiliations for all concerned. It was ignorant, superstitious and barbaric. The British Raj saved the Hindu as it broke those shackles and introduced him to the modern world. It forced the Hindu to accord some measure of dignity to the woman and forced him to be a better guardian of her destiny.
Hindu Patriarchy was nothing like white, Western Patriarchy where women were always treated with more dignity and considerably more freedom. It is beyond belief that any educated person would attempt to justify one of the most barbaric, oppressive and suffocating institutions ever created.
Tell Priya that under her wonderful tradition, she would be illiterate, married off by twelve, and if widowed, abandoned in Benares or packed off to her parents’ house where she would rarely be allowed to step outside the house.
These people inhabit a fantasy world that never existed. They fail to see, or deliberately lie about the real, “modern” world which beneath a thin veneer of “Westernization” hides an Oriental barbarism that is incomprehensible to the Occidental.
This white-washing and evil apologia for unspeakable horror cannot be tolerated.
PS: My father (R.I.P.) and grandfather (R.I.P.) were both criminal defense attorneys in India. My father even a wrote a book about “bride burning” and “dowry deaths.” The problem is endemic. The lot of the girl-child in India is still a sorry one. It is infuriating that any educated person would white wash the core nature of one of the most misogynistic societies in the world.
Jane S. writes:
The practice of sati was abolished because the British outlawed it. It had to be forcibly stopped.
There’s a story about a British judge who decided that anyone in his jurisdiction who wanted to commit sati had to come and get his permission first. So every time a widow appeared before the bench, he would tell her, “Ok, you can do it, but first you have to burn off your finger.” As a result, every single woman decided against it.
There may have been women who climbed up on their husband’s funeral pyre by choice. But it’s safe to say that they reached a point where they changed their minds, before it was all said and done.
The British are now gone and, if they wanted to, Indians could bring back sati. You hear a story where it happens in a village now and then. But other than that, there is no interest in reviving this practice. No one longs for the good old days when a woman could burn herself alive. If no one wants to volunteer for it now, it’s probably true that nobody really wanted to volunteer for it then. Not if they had a better alternative.
Aditya B: I affirm your comments. But I have to say, you’ve traduced Hindu culture a bit too much for me. This is not to defend barbaric practices like dowry-burning or female foeticide. I’ve had Hindu-style chauvinism in my face and I didn’t much enjoy it.
However, with a few exceptions, I very much enjoy Hindu men. I find them to be very polite and respectful. I love the way they address women as “sister-in-law” or “aunt.” One thing I especially like about them is, they are very comfortable with being men. They have masculine qualities that Western men have either disowned or lost.
After all, that epic battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas all started over an insult to a woman.
Rita Jane writes:
This reminds me of an article I recently read about Turkey. As Turkey tries to modernize and join the EU, honor killings are being prosecuted. So instead, girls who have dishonored the family through such horrifying crimes as talking to an unrelated man even for a moment, being raped, divorcing an abusive husband, refusing to marry a person not of her parents’ choice, etc. are being “strongly encouraged” into suicide by male relatives. Sure, it’s voluntary. But how long would you keep on if you were 17 and your dad, uncles, brothers and cousins were spamming your cell phone all day telling you to kill yourself?
John E. writes:
Knowing next to nothing about Hindu culture, I would be a fool to comment in detail about some of the practices described. Priya’s description of sati may very well be “whitewashing” as Aditya B. notes. I find, however, something sensible about Priya’s perspective, speaking broadly about the human experience. As a western Christian, it probably comes as no surprise that I should find the practice of sati in any circumstances or in any age horrific and repulsive. This has much to do, I am sure, with the western tradition to which I am accustomed, but also with the tendency to view strange and repulsive practices in a culture very different from my own as isolated and anomalous, which they are not. It would make sense to describe sati occurring in our western societies as a display of irrational hatred toward women, because then it would be an anomalous practice. But is it accurate to describe patriarchal Hindu society, as Aditya B. does, as “one of the most misogynistic societies in the world” ? It seems that one only need be familiar with the human experience in general, and not necessarily deeply familiar in Hindu society in particular, to suspect that this is an overly simplistic description, one that, in consonance with the feminist view of the world, sees only the hardships suffered by women as worth mentioning.
In fairness (I hope) to Aditya B., I do understand that the topic being addressed is an atrocity faced specifically by women, and not by men. Still, her term “misogynistic society” is a strong one, suggesting the sufferings of women as due to the society’s particular and isolated hatred of them. I question whether any society can have such a hatred of one sex and not the other. I question whether a society can have misogyny without a broader misanthropy.
Tell Priya that under her wonderful tradition, she would be illiterate, married off by twelve, and if widowed, abandoned in Benares or packed off to her parents’ house where she would rarely be allowed to step outside the house.
Aditya forgot to mention anything about the husband of such a woman. His life would almost certainly entail hard labor and inescapable responsibility for his wife and children.
There is no whitewashing of Hindu patriarchy. The point I had wished to make about sati was that it was voluntary. And the proof, one of them at least, is the stone inscription that says people tried to prevent a woman from committing sati.
For every widow who was banished to Benares, we have countless other families who have supported their old women for their lifetime. I remember my own great grandmother, living with my grandmother, till she died and she was a widow. My grandmother was her only daughter. One cannot blame the system for what individual families chose to do with their relatives.
I am not denying that dowry deaths exists but I am saying its wrong to blame the patriarchal society for this. Aditya himself refers to “men and their mothers.” So when the man is subservient to and collaborates with his mother, a female, why fault the patriarchal system? Dowry, as it exists today, is the result of British policies of disrupting customs existing during the 18th and 19th centuries. Dowry morphed from a voluntary contribution to a forced contribution from the bride’s side. Study after study has proved how the pre-colonial system was different from the one the British forced on the captured populace.
Its the people who are to blame for foeticide. There is no religious sanction to it. Indian government, is not representative of Hindu Dharma. Its under the influence of ‘modern’ educated liberals who loathe their native Hindu culture.
As mentioned here, “Hinduism is therefore generally opposed to abortion except where it is necessary to save the mother’s life.
Classical Hindu texts are strongly opposed to abortion: •one text compares abortion to the killing of a priest •another text considers abortion a worse sin than killing one’s parents •another text says that a woman who aborts her child will lose her caste”
There is no religious sanction against female education. From Vedic times, to the present. But one needs to define what is the education that needs to be given to a female and a male for a society to be in harmony. Under the joint family system, the eldest female ran the household. She was well versed in financial matters, living within her family’s means, usage of traditional medicine apart from helping out her husband in performing the religious duties, in his societal chores, upholding the rituals and traditions of the community that she belonged to and most important of all, ensured that the next generation was well taken care of. There were also women rulers, woman Vedic seers, musicians, dancers and so on. Older women like my mom, mother-in-law are well versed in quoting from the Hindu calendar which is different from the English calendar.
The Hindus worship wealth as Goddess Lakshmi, learning as Goddess Saraswati and bravery as Goddess Parvati. A woman was required to master 64 arts as per Vatsyayana.
Rani_Lakshmibai was the Queen who fought the British in India’s first war of Independence in 1857.
Jijabai inspired the Hindu Samrat Chatrapathi Shivaji to fight the Mughals and esatablish a Hindu kingdom.
Nameless devadasis, in spite of exploitation during the Islamic and British rule, saved the traditional dance forms like Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music from going into extinction.
Aditya’s comment: “Tell Priya that under her wonderful tradition, she would be illiterate, married off by twelve, and if widowed, abandoned in Benares or packed off to her parents’ house where she would rarely be allowed to step outside the house.”
I think I’ve already answered this point. The education given to the girl and boy child were different, according to the duties prescribed for the community. So, I would have received traditional education and definitely would have been able to live off my skills, if it came to that. If it at all I was banished to Benares, my dharma teaches me to accept the truth and live accordingly.
Thank you posting my thoughts on this post.
I also want to thank Jane S. for the kind words. Such encouragement is a double-edged sword. I keep harassing people like Mr. Auster (and now yourself) due to these compliments!
I realize that I sound a tad harsh, but I cannot emphasize the narrow-mindedness and barbarism of “traditional Hindu society.” It’s backwardness cannot be over-emphasized. These people would excommunicate you for crossing the ocean! They did that to Jawaharlal Nehru’s father, a Nationalist and fine barrister. Even that wily Middle Temple Barrister on the make, M.K. Gandhi, had to undergo a purification ritual to return to society after completing his studies in England.
My family was very reformed. My paternal and maternal grandmother had been educated up to the seventh grade, which was a stunning accomplishment. My maternal great-grandfather was an enlightened landlord who followed a form of Hinduism which rejected idolatry and endeavored to bring Hindu women out of the darkness and drabness to which society had consigned them. My paternal great-grandfather was the Headmaster of the Government school in his village and was able to utilize this position to educate his daughter (not that it didn’t cause problems for him within the community).
As a Hindu male, I should love the old order. Women to be seen but not heard; can’t refuse one bloody thing; no divorce, no nothing. But that existence is degrading. It degrades the user and the used. There’s no manhood in it.
When I call India one of the most misogynistic societies in the world, I am not over-stating the case. India leads the world in female foeticide. Honor killings abound. Women are burned alive- burned alive! – over insufficient dowry. And this doesn’t even take into account daily humiliations suffered millions of women ranging from catcalls, lewd touching to gang-rape. Reliable statistics are impossible to find because the government does its best to suppress this information.
I am not a feminist. Not by a long shot. I don’t even believe in female suffrage. Come to think of it, I don’t think anyone except males who own a homestead (and own it outright) should be allowed to vote (I rent). But I do believe in basic human dignity. And India doesn’t afford that basic dignity to its women. There may have been a time when things were different, but life’s been very hard for Indian girls over the last few centuries.
Also, Mrs. Wood, a widower could remarry. There’d be no need for him to raise his children as a “single father” provided he had the means find another wife. That would entail being a caste Hindu with some form of income.
Jane S. writes:
John E. writes: “But is it accurate to describe patriarchal Hindu society, as Aditya B. does, as “one of the most misogynistic societies in the world” ?
I find it interesting the way that Hindus think that Western men are the ones with misogynistic attitudes towards women. A Hindu man thinks it is his duty to protect his wife. He doesn’t let her get a job because it’s his duty to provide all the things that will make her happy. Hindus think Western men treat their wives the same way they do their coworkers or fishing buddies.
It goes back to Aditya B.’s post about white women dressing and behaving like prostitutes. Hindus think that men who allow their women to go around like that are sick in the head.
Aditya B. writes:
I can’t believe I have to debate these issues all over again. I was hoping I’d left this asinine debate in India. I never thought I’d be doing this on an Occidental Traditionalist blog. [Laura writes: You may find it tedious, but I think it's interesting.]
First and foremost, resort to the high philosophy in Vedic scripture is disingenuous in the extreme. Non-Brahmins and women were forbidden from learning Sanskrit. For most Hindus, to the day, Hinduism is nothing more than a mess of rituals and superstitions. This skit best expresses your average Hindu’s idea of Hinduism.
Also, Priya needs to learn that one swallow doth not a summer make. Rani Laxmibai was what is known as the exception that proves the rule.
And now, the cognitive dissonance that is the hallmark of the educated Hindu: how is such a superior culture distorted by foreigners? There must have hordes upon hordes of foreigners who mutilated this noble culture and rendered it unrecognizable, right?
“Between 1858 and 1947 there were seldom more than 1,000 members of the covenanted Civil Service, compared with a total population, which, by the end of British Rule, exceeded 400 million.” (Niall Ferguson, Empire: Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, 2002 Paperback, Pg. 152-153).
Further, “There were only 31,000 British in India in 1805 (of whom 22,000 were in the army, 2,000 in civil government and 7,000 in the private sector). By 1931 there were 168,000 in all; 60,000 in the army and police, 4,000 in civil government and 60,000 employed in the private sector. In 1881 the British in India numbered 89,778 in total.’ (ibid., Footnote, Pg. 159).
The British governed India with a handful of men. All of Hindustan was there with scraps of their population. It is time for every self-aware Hindu to admit that there was, and still is, something very wrong with Hindu India. When a handful of foreigners can conquer and govern a nation of millions, that nation is neither strong, nor powerful, nor superior in any meaningful sense of the word.
Priya, like other Hindus like her, must learn that the fault lies not in the white man, but in ourselves.
Hindu culture was a degraded wasteland empty of vitality. It was a prison. A warehouse of superstition and taboos. This corpse was revived by reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy fittingly called the “Father of Modern India” with the assistance of the British.
Does Priya think it’s a coincidence that the most civilized parts of India (Delhi, Simla, Calcutta, Bombay, Poona, Banglore) are territories that were under direct British Rule (as opposed to Native Principalities)? Does she think it’s a coincidence that female literacy, infant mortality and other positive signs of national health are most vital in former British-ruled territories as opposed to the wastelands of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh?
“India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay.” Shashi Tharoor
Please acknowledge this simple fact. India was a barbaric and backward society that made Ottoman Arabia look progressive. It had to be pulled kicking and screaming into modernity where it seems to have regained some vitality. But there is much work to be done, and I for one, doubt if India will ever be a “world power” or anything like that (but that’s a whole new discussion). Point is, the main thing suffocating the individual, and especially the female individual, was the Hindu Patriarchy.
Also, Jane S. is partly right about Hindu male perspective regarding working women. However, its mostly about their delicate manhood and family honour. Traditional Hindus are the “kinder, kuche, kirche” type. It has very little to do with respecting their wives and everything to do with owning her.
Priya writes: “If it at all I was banished to Benares, my dharma teaches me to accept the truth and live accordingly.”
Westerners are so wedded to the idea of positive outcomes—happy endings, plenty to go around—it never occurs to them that everyone in the world doesn’t think the same. If there’s something you want, then you should have it. If there are obstacles, then move those obstacles out of the way.
In Third World countries, I’ve found, society is dominated by the idea of scarcity. Suffering, lack, and hardship are inevitable. If things turn out badly, that’s just as well. There’s a chronic shortage of happiness, anyway.
I have never seen people like Hindus for their capacity to accept hardship with dignity and grace; to do things they don’t want to do without complaining. It’s getting them to see when it’s time to quit accepting things the way they are, solve the problem, improve the situation—that’s the hard part.
Ask an American to do something they don’t want to do, and they immediately start screaming and yelling: why me, I shouldn’t have to, this is unjust, this is not fair.
Some years ago, I was faced with a personal situation that caused me a great deal of pain and suffering. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever gone through.
If I told my American friends about my situation, their response was always the same: they would give me advice on how to solve the problem, remove the obstacles, get what I wanted.
If I told my Hindu friends about it, they would say I must have brought this on myself by my actions in a past life and that I would have to accept the fact that I couldn’t have the outcome I desired.
And do you know? I came down on the same side as the Hindus on this matter (except for the past lifetimes part). I came to believe that I was meant to go through this suffering, it was God’s will, and my part was to accept the truth and live accordingly.
Apropos Laura’s comment, “Aditya forgot to mention anything about the husband of such a woman. His life would almost certainly entail hard labor and inescapable responsibility for his wife and children.”
A husband’s responsibility was always to his family and extended family no matter what trials and tribulations he had to undergo. This is the cornerstone of any stable society. I believe that’s the conclusion you are arriving at and Hindu patriarchy is no different in that matter. I know families, who have cared for their bed ridden elderly, day in day out. One of my cousins cared for his father (my uncle), like a mother cares for a new born, till his death.
Jane S. writes:
Aditya B. writes: “When I call India one of the most misogynistic societies in the world, I am not over-stating the case. “
Okay, but you can also call Hindu women the Queens of Passive-Aggression. Hindu women love for people to think how much they suffer—silently—always with a smiling face. “No one has any idea how much I have to put up with. But do I complain? Never!”
Trust me, Aditya. They change the subject as soon as you walk into the room. They tell you whatever they think you want to hear.
Appearances can be deceiving. Hindu women look so gentle and sweet, with their big kohl-rimmed eyes and sparkly clothes. Just don’t turn your back on them. They are deadly.
I know one traditional Hindu couple, arranged marriage, the whole bit. She revels in playing the part of the obedient doormat wife. Ha. He is her slave; he is the only one who doesn’t know it. She can play him like a violin. Thanks to her, he is no longer on speaking terms with his siblings. She thinks she’s too good for his family; now she’s taught him to think that he’s too good for his family.
Much of the sex selective abortion that occurs in India is insisted on by women, often grandmothers, as Mara Hvistendahl points out in her book. If mothers are heavily involved in bride burnings, abortion and exorbitant dowries, if the will of women is being honored in these practices, it is simplistic to speak of misogyny.
The Hindu women I know are some of the most powerful personalities I have ever met and none is under the thumb of her husband. Admittedly, I have limited experience with immigrants to this country.
Priya is defending devdasis. Temple Prostitues. Again, I am stunned that anyone would defend this vile and degrading practice.
And I would like to doff my hat to Jane S. (again) re: innocent kohl-rimmed eyed Hindu wives. She is spot on and proves Spengler’s Universal Law of Gender Parity: In every corner of the world and in every epoch of history, the men and women of every culture deserve each other.
As the old Indian saying goes, “hamaam mein sab nange hain.” We are all naked in the Turkish bath.
I agree that women are willing participants in “bride burning” and sex selective abortion.
James Joyce wrote that just as the Irish are the worst enemy of the Irish, woman is woman’s worst enemy.
Are men, and men alone, capable of misogyny? Aren’t women capable of hating women with equal, or perhaps more, passion? [Laura writes: Not the systematic misogyny that feminists usually refer to, which involves a conspiracy of men against women.]
India is a very odd country. We worship women as goddess, and then set them aflame. We revere our mothers and daughters, then go to extraordinary lengths to deny them individuality or freedom. We prattle on about how we respect female virtue, and then turn the nation’s most popular tourist spot into the country’s rape capital.
The traditional Hindu family is one of the most closed-minded and suffocating institutions I’ve come across. The traditional Hindu outlook is pathologically suspicious. Suspicious of neighbors, of fellow countrymen, of progress, of anything that smacks of innovation and individuality. There is a reason why the Civilization that gave the world inter alia modern mathematics, astronomy, statistics, algebra has remained mired in ignorance, poverty and superstition. It is the Hindu family, nay, the Hindu religion itself.
A religion that encourages its followers to believe in flying monkeys and drink cow piss is not going to elevate them materially or spiritually. Hinduism needs a Luther. Sadly, Hinduism is not like Catholicism, and hence the Reformation and Counter-Reformation that aided Christian moral and material superiority is nowhere in the offing.
Life in a traditional household is a prison. Many women embrace these bars with joy. But it offers no hope for those who wish to break free.
I can’t even imagine how many souls it has crushed. And make no mistake, it imprisons the men as well. Most Indian men are embarassing mamma’s boys because the traditional family, with its arranged marriages, family business, joint family and every other means of collectivism, offers no opportunity to express individualism and manhood.
It is very well to dream of a Romanticized past. But to actually live in such an environment is a fate worse than death. No outside reading, no movies, no music, no nothing. Just the family. All about the family.
John E. writes:
I too have found the conversation interesting, and find Aditya B. to be an enigma. His well-expressed comment leading the entry “How the World Views the Immodesty of the West” would have led me to believe that he doesn’t consider the lot of the typical Western woman to be any better than a woman living in the most patriarchal of Hindu cultures, but then his comments in this entry make me guess again.
From what I understand of the discussion, the most barbaric of practices involving women in old Hindu culture were largely voluntary (excluding of course infanticide on the part of the victim), but social pressure amounted to a coercion to take part in these destructive practices. How is the lot of the Western woman any better, when from almost every conceivable angle – society, family if she has one, friends, pop culture – she is told that the only acceptable path for her is the one that is most destructive to her nature as a woman? At least the old Hindu culture had a distinctly feminine role for the woman, albeit apparently a self-destructive one in many cases. In the modern West the woman is all but coerced to accept the idea that she has no distinctive role as a woman, and still must self-immolate with the dead culture.
Mr. Aditya says I am defending temple prostitutes. I guess he did not even glance at the Wikipedia entry I linked.
“The popularity of devadasis seems to have reached its pinnacle around 10th and 11th century AD. The rise and fall in the status of devadasis can be seen to be running parallel to the rise and fall of Hindu temples. Invaders from West Asia attained their first victory in India at the beginning of the second millennium CE. The destruction of temples by invaders started from the northwestern borders of the country and spread through the whole of the country. Thereafter the status of the temples fell very quickly in North India and slowly in South India. As the temples became poorer and lost their patron kings, and in some cases were destroyed, the devadasis were forced into a life of poverty, misery, and, in some cases, prostitution.”
“For the reform lobbyists — Christian missionaries, doctors, journalists, administrators and social workers — it was precisely these features of the devadasi institution which were reprehensible in the utmost.
I can keep quoting from historical accounts, such as here and here, from BCE times to the current period, there are umpteen instances to prove the existence of a well oiled patriarchal society, that took care of its women , children , disabled & elderly.This is the system that Mr. Aditya B maligns, when its backbone has been broken literally and figuratively.
I do have to agree with Jane’s observation that Hindu women are passive aggressive and some of them turn their husbands against his family. Again proves that even under the supposed patriarchal system, the male is not immune to the charms of the ‘weaker’ sex whereas she is supposed to die of suffocation (as Mr. Aditya claims).
To John E:
I’d like to express a cardinal principle of my weltanschauung. I don’t believe that what is good for Boston is good for Bombay. Therefore, while I support traditionalism in the Occident, I fight it tooth and nail in the Orient.
Occidental traditionalism is the wellspring of Western strength and greatness. Your Faith nourished you. The ways of your forefathers led you out of the wilderness to conquer every corner of the earth. Your people, nurtured by this tradition, created Art that reached for the Heavens. Your God, a God who loves, a God who ruled not by fiat – but through knowable and immutable rules, inspired you to discover the same immutable rules in Nature. Thus did you rapidly shrink the globe into an inter-continental flight. Eventually, you even broke free of this orb and flew into the very Heavens!
Therefore, your traditions are your strength. Like Samson’s locks, shearing these traditions will weaken you. And it already has. Your enemies have blinded you, binded you, and are mocking you. That is why I am the enemy of Liberalism and its handmaidens that are devoted to destroying Europe, its Faith and its Traditions. For I believe with Belloc, that Europe is the Faith, and the Faith is Europe. And I want a strong Europe reinvigorated by the Faith as that is the surest guarantee of a well-ordered and magnificent Civilization where we will all live long and prosper.
India is a different kettle of fish. As I pointed out, a handful of foreigners conquered a “nation” of millions. It is still mired in jealousy, malice and superstition. And it is precisely tradition that is responsible for this dismal state of affairs.
There may have been an India that was, more or less, a quasi-Greek outpost, but that time has come and gone. There is a reason I quoted Shashi Tharoor. India today is not the Aryavarta of the Vedas. The race that created the Aryavarta is long gone. They don’t even exist as phantoms.
Devadasis are temple prostitutes. There may have been a time when they were something else. But this is not the era of Samrat Ashoka or the Guptas or the Cholas. This is the 21st Century and this institution is a shame and an abomination.
You speak of an India that may have been, whereas I write of one that is. And one that has been for centuries past. A degraded land with degraded people. And nothing short of radical measures can reverse their descent into further degradation. You can cite academic papers and esoteric Sanskrit texts till you’re blue in the face, but it won’t change the basic fact that Indians remain, mostly by choice, ignorant, superstitious and fanatic.
And are men ever immune to the charms of women? But do such petty victories justify a collectivist and suffocating structure marked by a complete lack of interest in the outside world? Or the utter lack of intellectual curiosity? Or the suspicion of all foreign influence? The complete prohibition on healthy interaction between the sexes? Is this tradition that seems to rest on nothing more than a tightly knit system of collectivist control worth preserving? A system that affords no opportunity for individualism or adventure. It’s a strait jacket, not a safety net.
I would urge you to move to a traditional, orthodox Hindu family and see how it feels to be deprived of foreign newspapers, books and music. To be deprived of any male contact other than your relatives. No “English” TV or movies.
Once again, its very easy to romanticize something you’ve never experienced. I know what I’m talking about. Therefore, I mince no words. This sort of lifestyle is responsible for the intellectual and moral castration of the Hindu. It has to go!
Like Swami Vivekanada said, we should concentrate on the three Bs: beef, biceps and the Bhagwad Gita.That’s our response to muscular Christianity, the Church Militant. That is how we will be able to rid ourselves of the humiliation of bowing to fetishes and drinking cow piss, and maybe, just maybe, make something of ourselves.
V. Mehra writes:
Being an Indian, I too would like to contribute to the discussion.
(1) “voluntary” does not justify anything. Even if all the suttees (also known here as satis) ever were perfectly voluntary, it does not make suttee good.
(2) There were never a lot of suttees. This can be shown variously but the easiest is that the Hindus revere suttees and build temples at the site where a suttee took place. Now if there really were millions of suttees over thousands of years, then of course each and every yard of the India would be covered by suttee temples. In fact, these temples are rather few.
Out of thousands of Hindu castes, a very few ever had suttee. In the recent times since British arrival, it was only the Brahmins of Bengal and Rajpoots of the West that were engaged in suttee. They were prominent and wealthy castes but numerically rather insignificant in the totality of the things.
Bengali widows have an old tradition of spending their widowhood in nun-like setting in the Western town of Brindavan where one can find thousands of widows engaged in singing devotional songs in temples.
Somehow I missed Mr. Aditya’s remarks about belief in flying monkeys and drinking cow urine.
My response: like Breitbart had asked, “so what”?
For the record, the monkey like creatures that come in the Itihas Ramayana, are to be called Vanaras. That’s what the author, Rshi Valmiki calls them. They are not like the monkeys we see now. They had monkey like features but also human like characteristics as well, being bipedal, able to talk both the human language and their own. Ramayana is to have taken place during the Treta Yug, the second of the four Yugs. The current yug is Kali Yug, as per Hindu calendar. Here is an introduction on Yugs.
Some ideas may not seem possible with our limited knowledge. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
His remarks against the Hindu society in general, that the society is traditionally suspicious leads me to believe that we grew up in two different societies and followed two different set of beliefs altogether.
I have to advise that what Mr. Aditya says about Hindu society has to be taken with a bucket load of salt.
Jane S. writes:
Aditya, no. Hindu civilization is magnificent. One can see that without romanticizing its past or defending its social evils.
Hindu families have problems, like any other, but the Hindu families I’ve known well are loving, stable, and functional. And I’ve known Americans who came from messed-up families. Plenty of them. Drunkenness, drug abuse, child molestation, fighting, abandonment—stories that would make your hair stand on end. And they can’t blame society, or poverty, or anything but themselves.
The stereotype of the “misogynist Hindu male” is a bugaboo I’ve experienced plenty firsthand. I don’t deny there’s a shade of truth to it. When I was a newlywed, whenever I was in the company of a Hindu woman who knew I had married a Hindu, she would always do exactly the same thing: first glance around to see if anyone was listening, then lean forward and whisper, “So how is he treating you?” No one does that when you marry a white guy. They assume you found out how he was going to treat you before you married him, not after.
I had Americans’ stereotype of the misogynist Hindu male in my face for years, and I absolutely hated it. I learned very quickly, I had to be extremely careful what I said about my husband to others. People were constantly looking for proof that he put me down and they were ready to pounce on the most trivial things. If he forgot to give me a phone message, they were like, “See? It’s his culture! They have no respect for women.”
My husband loved to cook; he knew his way around a kitchen. Once we were visiting a friend of mine and her husband in their home. My husband asked me politely if I would get him a glass of water. I saw my friend and her husband exchange a look and, of course, I knew exactly what they were thinking: see how he treats her like a slave?
They didn’t understand that, in Hindu culture, it’s bad etiquette for a guest to walk into someone else’s kitchen and help themselves to a glass of water. My husband didn’t know them well, and whenever he was in unfamiliar territory, he would defer to me because he figured I know the rules. Americans have ditched good manners to the point that you can’t even do something nice for a man, like fetch him a glass of water, without people thinking it’s an act of servitude.
Whenever I wanted something, my husband would buy it for me. He would sometimes surprise me with flowers or thoughtful little things. But we did not make a custom of exchanging expensive gifts. If I had wanted, I could have demanded that he deck me out in expensive jewelry, like Hindu women do. Sometimes people, like coworkers, would ask very pointed questions, like, “So, what did your husband get you for your birthday?” waggling their eyebrows, clearly hoping I would say something that proved he didn’t love me.
Once a store clerk noticed my surname and asked about it, and when I told her my husband was Hindu, I swear, her next comment was, “Does he abuse you?” I told her, “Well, yeah, he did at first. Then I got tired of it, so one day I beat the crap out of him. He’s treated me just fine ever since.” You should have seen the look on her face.
Therefore, Aditya, I respectfully request that you do not fan the flames of the “misogynist Hindu male” stereotype. Westerners lust after that sort of thing. They just can’t get enough of stories about men doing horrible things to women. This is not to defend things like bride-burning and temple prostitution. But all the Hindu men I’ve encountered are like you, they abhor those practices. And, as you have also pointed out, women do more than their share in enforcing social evils against women.
Mathew from India writes:
In response to the interesting article titled ‘Hindu patriarchy’ here are some observations of a frequent visitor to your site -
Although Aditya exaggerates and even seems confused as to where he stands regarding the dignity of western and hindu women and their relative slutiness , he does have a point.India with its general superstition driven culture was going nowhere till the British came and whipped them into shape.Not that they cared for her people , it was more a case of enlightened self interest.The four main institutions that hold this one billion strong goliath are the Indian army ,Indian civil service (now the IAS) , Indian judiciary and the constitution based on english common law.All of these were by-products of the british raj.Without them India would have been more or less drifting like war-torn Iraq but to a less vicious degree simply because Hinduism isn’t nearly as toxic or stifling as Islam.Also the major drive in education of the backward classes were initiated by christian missionaries or christian derived institutions which were/is usually among the best in the country.Western literature is widely read in India and forms an integral part of the school curriculum.Much like you americans , urban indians are largely anglophiles.This is why you find indian americans immigrants are usually assimilable on a relative level.
Take a look at Kerala a southern state of India.One of the hotspots of Chrisitanity in India , it was the first state to reach near cent percent literacy and women are treated infinitely better.It doesn’t have female foeticide problems of northern hindu dominated states which as Aditya has stated has a excessively patriarchal core to their family values system.There are actually more girls in Kerala than boys which you do not find in any of the other 27 states of India.That is a mindset that was fostered by the Christian roots of Kerala. All said, Kerala still hasn’t acquired powerhouse status like Gujarat largely because its brightest people emigrate to the Middle East/West and the poisonous Communist influences here in politics has halted all development. Even the caste system hasn’t been uprooted fully and inter-caste marriage isn’t too common even in Christian-dominated areas but it is getting better albeit at snail’s pace. Just thought I’d add my two cents.
I am a Christian myself – St. Thomas Christian to be precise (Doubting Thomas came over here to evangelise or so goes the 2000 year old tradition). I travel the world a lot and am fascinated by different cultures and perspectives. I congratulate you on a great blog.
In response to Mr. Aditya B’s comments on the supposed backwardness of the Hindu religion, all I can say is that they are half truths. Yes, only for some of the castes, there is a religious restriction in crossing the oceans. For other castes, there weren’t any.
Also south Indian kings, mainly the Chozhas ruling from Thanjavur in the Cauvery delta established faraway Hindu kingdoms in South East Asia. Best known Hindu temple from SE Asia is Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Bali, Indonesia another of those famous Hindu city outside of the sub-continent. If the whole religion is backward, as Mr. Aditya claims, they wouldn’t exist, right?
For the Thailand King’s coronation, Sanskrit verses and Tamil verses are recited, as the King is considered to be the embodiment of the Hindu God. if there were no seafarers, these influences would not exist.
When I reference urban, Hindu-In-Name-Only elite cut off from their roots, it’s people like Mr. Aditya I refer to, who still run the Hindu India. Thanks to Macaulay’s education, we have to come to this state of affairs.
I can keep on adding how some of these lies and half truths started with the subjugation of the Hindu culture with the aim to convert the entire Hindu society, first by Islamic barbarians and then later by Christian missionaries eager to plant the cross of Christ in Hindu India. If Mr. Aditya wants to ignore all this data and still wants to hold onto his views, its his prerogative.
Thanks for providing the opportunity to share my ideas with your readers.
Jesse Powell writes:
I must say, Aditya sounds very like a feminist to me. I hesitate to judge his statements since I do not have “inside knowledge” regarding Hinduism or Indian culture like Aditya has but many of his statements sound like they were taken directly from the feminist handbook on how to bash “The Patriarchy”.
Some notable quotes:
“Patriarchal Hindu society was a monstrous institution that deserved to be destroyed.”
Wouldn’t feminists say the same about Christian Patriarchy as practiced in America 100 years ago?
“Does Priya realize that the drive to restore some dignity, and afford some protection, to the weaker sex was led by enlightened Hindus in conjunction with the British. That without such reforms Hindu women would still be illiterate, would not be entitled to inherit property, and would be powerless to free themselves from an abusive marriage.”
Don’t feminists view themselves as the “Enlighted Ones” seeking to “restore dignity” to women. Also, don’t feminists claim that without their efforts “women would still be illiterate, would not be entitled to inherit property, and would be powerless to free themselves from an abusive marriage?”
“Patriarchal Hindu society was a suffocating nightmare. It consisted of a series of endless humiliations for all concerned. It was ignorant, superstitious and barbaric.”
Wouldn’t modern liberals say the same about America’s Christian past?
“And make no mistake, it imprisons the men as well. Most Indian men are embarassing mamma’s boys because the traditional family, with its arranged marriages, family business, joint family and every other means of collectivism, offers no opportunity to express individualism and manhood.”
Doesn’t this sound like feminism’s claim that “patriarchy hurts men to”. Also, it is a bit odd to lump “individualism” and “manhood” together as if they represent similar concepts.
“It is very well to dream of a Romanticized past. But to actually live in such an environment is a fate worse than death. No outside reading, no movies, no music, no nothing. Just the family. All about the family.”
The family! All about the family! To live in such an environment is a fate worse than death! Aditya sounds like a woman sick of the emptiness of being a stay at home mother suffocating under the oppression of not being able to have any “adult conversations” longing for the freedom of joining the working world.
It sounds to me that Aditya is thrilled to throw off the chains of “oppressive Hindu culture” and is now basking in America’s “liberation.” The purpose of this website however is not to glorify America’s cultural “liberation”; perhaps Aditya doesn’t understand this?
John E. writes:
I agree with Mr. Powell’s thoughts about many of Aditya B.’s comments sounding very feminist. However they may be consistent with his “weltanschauung” as he expressed it earlier. By these standards Western feminism could be evil while “Hindu feminism” could be a great good.
Mr. Mathew says St. Thomas says “Doubting Thomas came over here to evangelise or so goes the 2000 year old tradition.” This is another myth propagated by the Church to fool the natives.
Stephen Neill, History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to 1707 AD, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p. 27:
“I had also cited Bishop Stephen Neill who had spent many years in South India and who had examined the St. Thomas story as late as 1984. “A number of scholars,” wrote Neill, “among whom are to be mentioned with respect Bishop A.E. Medlycott, J.N. Farquhar and Jesuit Dahlman, have built on slender foundations what can only be called Thomas romances, such as reflect vividness of their imagination rather than the prudence of historical critics.”2 And pained by the spread of spurious history he had observed: “Millions of Christians in India are certain that the founder of their church was none other than the apostle Thomas himself. The historian cannot prove it to them that they are mistaken in their belief. He may feel it right to warn them that historical research cannot pronounce on the matter with a confidence equal to that which they entertain by faith.”3 “
The caste sytem that gets maligned is and was just a way of division of labor, in the villages. Each group had a specific task to perform in the village life. No chance of unemployment in this system. A Hindu temple / God / Goddess held the whole village community together. One group will not interfere in the duties of the other group. This was the way the whole society was built all over India. The female’s duties was to take care of the household, look after the children and the hold and assist the husband in his societal duties.
This writer is not from the upper caste and is from village. So he knows what he is talking about, unlike Mr. Mathew and Mr. Aditya who never studied how the system works, in the first place.
Urban Indians are Anglophiles. They are experts on Western literature, western norms, western morals including now a days Gay & Lesbian rights but they are not aware of how their own society, functioned since earlier times and why its got degraded to such an extent. Its not just the 200 years of British rule that did it, its also the 1000 years old Islamic invasions. To give an idea, the first wave of attack began in 711 AD at Sindh, which is in Pakistan today.That is 1000 years before USA was born, 500 years before the New World was discovered.
Being in US, I can see how these western liberal morals are corrupting the traditional society, through yours and Mr. Auster’s writings. I don’t want the same fate to befall the traditional India that lives in villages.
I agree with Priya that there is much to be proud of in Hindu culture. However, Christianity (not liberal “Christianity”) is compatible with everything she admires most in Hindu society and would indeed elevate it.
I have trying to make a distinction between western traditionalism and the oriental version. They are as similar as night and day.
I repeat, Western traditionalism made the West powerful. It enabled you to unlock the mysteries of the Universe and conquer the globe.
This is the world the white man made.
Our traditions weakened us to the point where a man child scarcely of twenty four became master over millions of people.
Just as all individuals and groups are not equal, all traditions are not equal. Some deserve to be maintained and nurtured, others must be cast off.
Traditional Hinduism is one such institution that I, along with others more courageous and intelligent than myself, blame for Hindu degradation and humiliation. That is why it needs to be destroyed.
I don’t have solutions. The best I can find is my maternal grandfather’s brand of Hinduism, Arya Samaj. But it is doubtful that something like this will catch on in India (it hasn’t over the last 100 years – its appeal remains limited to urban and urbane groups).
I’m not offering a solution. I’m merely diagnosing a problem. The traditional Hindu family is a problem. What little progress that has been made is the direct result of erosion of this tradition. That Indian men and women feel free to express some individuality and manhood is the direct outcome of the death of tradition in such families.
Again, what is good for the U.S. is not good for India, and vice versa. Maybe India needs a bit of feminism and liberalism just as the U.S. needs a good strong dose of Traditionalism.
Whatever faults Hindu traditions have (and in my opinion, the faults are primarily theological), Western liberalism is not a solution. Aditya’s view of the Hindu family is too extreme. How could any society proceed upon such a wholesale rejection of its past?
I do not wish feminism and modern egalitarianism to make further inroads in India. I have seen what feminism does to Hindu families and there is nothing good about it. It exacerbates and works side by side with the materialism that often engulfs them when they move to America.
In reply to Priya’s comment on history of St.Thomas in India, I completely agree that the story of Thomas’s arrival is ambiguous which is why I said, ‘or so the tradition goes.’ But there are numerous references to Thomas’s journey to India in ancient documents although Kerala isn’t specifically mentioned.The consensus among historians is that he arrived in the lands of Western India (today in Pakistan) to spread the word of Christ and it spread from there to South India. Even Pope Benedict had hinted at this in one of his speeches much to the consternation of the orthodox communities in Kerala. My ancestors were part of this church as priests and I have seen books carefully preserved made out of palm leaves that date back to the 15th century long before the Portuguese arrived, all written in Syriac (a derivative of aramaic). Even the weekly liturgy here was done in Syriac till about 25 years ago. Regardless none of this detracts from my earlier post about the influence of Christianity in the region.
I am not sure why Priya keeps defending Hinduism. For its traditional values? I am a real conservative myself but Hinduism is still the same religion that sanctions the abhorrent caste sytem that sought to permanently put the lowest class ‘untouchables’ or Dalits as they are known today in a permanent state of social and economic ostracisation. Ask any Dalit today what he feels about the caste system. Were it not for Gandhi, and I am no fan of the man, they would still remain a forgotten subclass in the 21st century.
On your and Mr. Mathew’s statements “However, Christianity (not liberal “Christianity”) is compatible with everything she admires most in Hindu society and would indeed elevate it.” and “why I keep defending Hinduism” :
Will anyone abandon and hate their mother , just because she has all sorts of issues?
Hindu society at one point was an excellent one, which had worked well and working now too for the people of the sub-continent, but for the liberal educated class of people. Now its the one with broken back after 1000 years of atrocities on her native populace. And its being continually assaulted by a lot of people.
People like Mr. Mathew and Mr. Aditya may think its worthy of hatred for whatever reason they chose to believe in. But people like me, who believe in Hinduism’s inherent goodness, will continue to defend it. That’s the reason why majority of the people (around 80% currently), in spite of being dirt poor and ridiculed as being backward have not abandoned Hinduism. That’s why you see communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims or Hindus and Christians in India. If any Hindu felt they were continually discriminated , Hinduism would not be existing in India today even after 1000 years of invasions.
The idea of India was not a creation by the British. This is how Hindus saw themselves and this is how any invocation in any corner of India is conducted.
The way Christianity helped U.S., its the same with the Hindus and India. What Jewish race is to Israel, Hindu race is to India.
I would never expect U.S. to abandon its White Christian past. Just like how one would expect minorities in U.S. continue to take pride in its past history, I expect the people of India (including the minorities not just the Hindus) to take pride in their Hindu past because their ancestors were once Hindus, whether they agree or not.
I agree that Hindus should have pride in their past. But at the same time, they must abandon Hinduism, which is a false religion.
Jesse Powell writes:
In response to some of Aditya’s comments; I think there is a confusion going on between a society’s culture and a society’s economy or governing structure. It is often an argument in favor of Western cultural imperialism (spreading feminism throughout the world) that in order to be “modern” a society needs to adopt Western cultural practices wholesale. “Women’s economic empowerment” and a society’s economic development into a rich or middle income country are often said to be linked together. Besides, “women’s empowerment” is enlightened and forward thinking regardless. There is a kind of Western chauvinism that says because we in the West are rich and powerful that means that we are “right” and to be emulated in everything that we do.
The reasons for Aditya’s harsh criticism of Hindu family life and culture is because he blames it for India’s backwardness, its lack of power and achievement as a civilization. The fact that it was so easy for Britain to colonize India for 200 years is a great embarrassment.
Aditya himself said:
“The traditional Hindu family is a problem. What little progress that has been made is the direct result of erosion of this tradition. That Indian men and women feel free to express some individuality and manhood is the direct outcome of the death of tradition in such families.”
I assume when Aditya is referring to “progress” here he is referring to economic progress or modernization; India becoming more rich and powerful.
I think it needs to be pointed out that the material advancement and military power of the West is not due to current cultural values or practices; to the extent it is due to cultural values at all it is due to past cultural values and practices. In reality, however, I doubt it has much to do with family practices at all. Economic development is based on economic behaviors; things like an impartial judiciary enforcing contract law, entrepreneurship, patent law encouraging innovations, the security of property rights, a non-corrupt legal system, allowing for free competition between business enterprises. These are the things necessary for economic development; culture in the sense of family life doesn’t have much to do with it. [Laura writes: To the contrary, all of these economic developments are dependent on morality and initiative nurtured by the family.]
The West grew and grew in power starting about 500 years ago; during the entire time of the ascendancy of the West the culture of the white Christian societies making up the West was very conservative and patriarchal. It is only very recently, say the past 50 years, that the culture of Western societies became liberal and individualistic. The cultures of the West becoming liberal and individualistic was followed very shortly by the beginning of emerging economic problems that were not seen before. The speed of productivity increases declined in America starting in 1973, household and government debt started rising in 1980, a welfare class dependent upon government benefits not counting the elderly became established and grew, income inequality has risen, and of course today there is a full blown economic crisis in Europe likely to be followed by something similar in America in a few years time. The point is, cultural liberalism wasn’t entrenched for very long before different kinds of economic problems showed up. Before the recent emergence of cultural liberalism cultural conservatism was the order of the day for hundreds of years throughout the Western nations.
I think it is a big mistake to link cultural liberalism and individuality to economic progress; historically economic progress comes first and then the economic progress ends up disrupting the culture in serious and harmful ways. To attack family institutions thinking that disrupting the family will lead to “progress” of any sort I think is madness.
It is typical of Western cultural imperialism to claim that feminism is the key to riches. This is entirely wrong and backwards. Riches leads to feminism, feminism does not lead to riches. Looking at different countries’ histories I have never seen a country that became feminist before economic development arrived; however, economic development always seems to lead to feminism with a lag of a couple of decades. Riches leads to feminism is not the end of the story however; once feminism becomes entrenched the next task that needs to be undertaken is how to get rid of the feminism infecting one’s culture. Feminism is an unwelcome byproduct of economic development; it is not a goal to be sought after in any way.
Regarding Laura’s comment that Hinduism is a false religion, what you think is false, is what is true for the Hindus. That’s the point I had made earlier too, that you don’t abandon your own mother just because others say she is false.
When Hindus abandon Hinduism, it will be the end of this world. As per Hindu belief, we are already in the fourth Kali yug (to last for 432,000 years from the end of the Dwapara Yug, Kali Yug started at 3102 BCE) when Adharma reigns supremene. Here is some forecast written around, approximately 2500 years ago, 400 years before Christ was born, from the Itihas Mahabharata.
I can quote any number of data to prove how Hinduism has a scientific basis for everything: idea of cosmos, idea of time, agriculture, caste system, endogamous society, its philosophy, its way of life in general . Since I had wanted to only highlight the nature of the Hindu patriarchal society and how liberal notions are destroying its roots, I am going to leave it at that.
“Regarding Laura’s comment that Hinduism is a false religion, what you think is false, is what is true for the Hindus. That’s the point I had made earlier too, that you don’t abandon your own mother just because others say she is false.”
As a fellow heathen, I can sympathize with Priya’s genuine difficulty in understanding the notion of ‘true’ or ‘false’ when applied to religion. To explain this, allow me to borrow from one of Prof. S. N. Balagangadhara’s posts addressing Hindus where he explains this notion:
“To the followers of the Semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), only God can be the object of worship. When they speak of ‘God’, we need to keep two things very firmly in mind.
The first is this: this ‘God’ is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. According to their scriptures, (the biblical) God created the world (for instance, as it is described in the book on Genesis in the Old Testament Bible). He is the God of the Israelites (of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants), who punished the Jews, scattered them across the world for forgetting Him, and also promises to save them. In the hands of the Christians, (the biblical) God’s promise to save the Jews got transformed into the salvation of the entire humanity; the ‘God of Israel’ also became the singular, unique and unqualified ‘God’, even though He continued to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His promise, the Christians claimed, was redeemed in Jesus of Nazareth: Jesus was the promised messenger of this God. (‘Christ’ means the anointed one or the messiah.) The Jews did not think that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, whereas the followers of Jesus claimed that he was precisely that. (In this sense, one of the points of disagreement between the Christians and the Jews is about the status of Jesus of Nazareth: Is he the Christ or not? Has the Christ already come, as the Christians claim, or should one await his arrival, as the Jews insist?)
The second point is this. Satan, or the Devil, attempts continuously to seduce ‘people’ to stray from the path of worshipping (the biblical) God. In the hands of the Christians, ‘people’ refers to the entire humankind. Satan or the Devil (he has many names and his followers are ‘legion’) undertakes this task of seduction by making the credulous believe that he, the Devil, is the ‘true’ (biblical) God. Of course, he is not the ‘true God’; he is the ‘false god’. In this task, he is immensely helped by the human followers of the Devil: the ‘priests’. These ‘priests’ create all kinds of ‘rituals’ and mumbo-jumbo, deceive the credulous, hide the ‘true message’ of (the biblical) God, and so on and so forth. By doing all these, they encourage the ordinary people to worship the devil and his lieutenants: these are the ‘false gods’. So, we have one ‘True God’ (the biblical God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and multitudes of ‘false gods’. Because religion is the worship of God, we get two kinds of religions: the ‘true’ religion that worships the ‘true God’ and false religions that worship the ‘false gods’.”
So when Mrs. Wood says that Hinduism is a ‘false religion’ and Hindus must abandon it, she is not claiming that Hindu conceptions of cosmology, time, philosophy, society etc are ‘false’ (she probably doesn’t even care about these conceptions anyway); she only means to say that we are worshiping the wrong gods because we are deluded by Satan and hence need to be ‘saved’!
I wouldn’t say I don’t care about Hindu “cosmology, time, philosophy and society,” which obviously contain universal truths and great depths. But, yes, there is only one true God. Hinduism is false idolatry. If, as Priya says, one could never reject one’s “mother,” the West would still be pagan. That is not to argue for the Westernization of Hindu society, which will always approach God in its own distinctive way, but I am arguing for the conversion of it.
Priya argues that Christians are oppressing Hindus in India. This is a grave distortion. In fact, Christians are persecuted in India. She does not complain about the influence of Christianity on the millions of Hindus who have voluntarily emigrated to the Western world, where they move about freely and practice their own customs freely and where Hindu practices are considered quite chic. Hinduism has plenty of room to breathe in the West. Not so with Christianity in India.
Here is some of Fr. Thomas Chellen’s description of being beaten by a Hindu mob in 2008:
“They began our crucifixion parade,” said Fr. Chellen. The gang of about 50 armed Hindus “beat us up and led us like culprits along the road” to the burned pastoral center.
“There they tore my shirt and started pulling off the clothes of the nun. When I protested, they beat me hard with iron rods. Later, they took the sister inside (and) raped her while they went on kicking and teasing me, forcing (me) to say vulgar words,” said the priest, who has cuts, bruises and swollen tissue all over his body and stitches on his face.
“Later both of us, half-naked, were taken to the street, and they ordered me to have sex with the nun in public, saying nuns and priests do it. As I refused, they went on beating me and dragged us to the nearby government office. Sadly, a dozen policemen were watching all this,” he said.
Angry at his plea to the police for help, the mob beat the bleeding priest again.
Later, a government official and members of the mob took the priest and the nun to the police station, where Fr. Chellen said he was kicked in the face.
“The four-hour ordeal ended when a senior police officer arrived in the evening,” said Fr. Chellen.
The priest said one of the most hurtful things about the incident was that some local Hindus whom he knew were watching the events and ignored his requests for help.
I am not going into the definition of true or false. The oldest, continuing civlization will not abandon its way of faith for a newer one. Why would the society abandon it, when that religion is the root cause of its existence? Just because the West gave up their pagan past, do not expect other societies to follow the same.
I am not distorting any fact. There is no Christian persecution by Hindu society in general. Whatever clashes that are occurring are in the tribal belts, where the missionaries are involved in wholesale conversion activities. Why wouldn’t there be repercussions?
A reader writes:
Priya said: “But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Unless it’s about the apostle Thomas visiting India, which she calls a myth for lack of evidence.
Every day 1.3 million people in India (of which more than 80 percent are Dalit women) are forced to clean human excrement with their bare hands for little to no wages, a practice called manual scavenging. On June 17, 2011, Prime Minister Singh called manual scavenging “one of the darkest blots on [India’s] development process” and asked all State Ministers to pledge to eliminate this scourge from every corner of India by the end of 2011.
Human rights abuses against these people, known as Dalits, are legion. A random sampling of headlines in mainstream Indian newspapers tells their story: “Dalit boy beaten to death for plucking flowers”; “Dalit tortured by cops for three days”; “Dalit ‘witch’ paraded naked in Bihar”; “Dalit killed in lock-up at Kurnool”; “7 Dalits burnt alive in caste clash”; “5 Dalits lynched in Haryana”; “Dalit woman gang-raped, paraded naked”; “Police egged on mob to lynch Dalits.”