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Hindu, Hinduism and Hindustan: Part XXXIX
by Dr. Jaipal Singh Bookmark and Share

Sarva Dharma Sambhav (Secularism)

Continued from Part XXXVIII

Secularism is relatively a modern term with varied meaning and interpretation in different parts of the world. For instance, secularism in many Western European countries implies to separation of religion or religious institutions from the state. Many Western countries are officially secular yet they officially endorse a state religion. Germany, England and many other West European countries have mixed population with the majority Christians and other minority religious groups yet the countries are designated as Christian nations. With Christianity as largest religion, the United States too favours separation of the church and state. However, in Indian context with majority Hindus secularism invokes a different connotation and it implies to an equal treatment to all religions without endorsing or giving any preferential treatment to any one by the state. The laws of the country implicitly ask the state and its institutions to recognize all religions, enforce parliamentary laws and respect pluralism in the country.

While conceptually the Indian concept on secularism appears more practical and rational but its application by the state after independence has caused more division and communal conflicts than religious harmony and integration. This nemesis is mainly on account of dichotomy in the applicable code of laws because Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis in the country live under the common civil laws but the Muslim community has been allowed a separate Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law including the matters such as inheritance, marriage, divorce, alimony etc. Although such inequality has created a large number of serious socio-religious and political issues such as polygamy, extrajudicial and unequal divorce rights, inheritance rights, quality of education in religious institutions etc., yet Indian left and left-centric political parties have traditionally gone with the handful conservative Muslim politicians and clergy in a sort of quid pro quo. Thus Indian secularism is radically different from the concept of secularism in the Western Europe which does not even pretend to have equality or impartiality in the matters of the religion.

Constitutional Status

The Indian Constitution of 1949 mandated a uniform civil code to replace personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of various religious communities in India with a common set of rules governing every citizen. Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Constitution reads as “The State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.” Apparently, the objective of this endeavour is to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonize diverse cultural practices. A uniform civil code is also paramount for secularism as professed by state apart from the freedom to practice religion as defined in Article 25, yet ironically, it has become one of the most controversial subjects in contemporary India because the major political party, which was associated with framing of the Constitution, now defends separate personal laws for the Muslin community, work for their appeasement and have assumed credentials to withhold secularism in India, while others who still favour a uniform civil code and equal treatment of all citizens irrespective of religion are treated as communalists.

Aforesaid indeed presents a strange paradox: For illustration, the United States with over 78 per cent Christian population accepts and pursues Christianity as the main religion; however, in India with almost similar strength of Hindu population, if the Defence Miniser carries Shastra Puja of the newly acquired jet as per ancient Indian (Hindu) tradition of inscribing “AUM” with coconut, sweets, flowers etc., he invites criticism and controversy of being communal by self-proclaimed secularists. As it is a universal fact that Hinduism has been accepted as the oldest surviving culture and religion world-wise, which always professed peaceful and harmonious coexistence of all religions with its age old philosophy Sarva Dharma Sambhava. Hindustan has always been secular though the term “Secular” was formally adopted in the Constitution much later.

Evolution of Secularism in Hinduism

Though some authors have erroneously tried to conclude albeit without proselytizing it but Hinduism, in essence, has been neither missionary nor creedal in approach throughout its history. The term Dharma liberally used for “religion” in Hindustan and Hinduism does not simply reflect the religious faith or belief of person as such; instead, it signifies conduct and behaviour which is considered to be in accordance with the principle of universal order regulating and coordinating the operation of the universe and everything within it. It includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and correct way of living. In Vedas, Dharmashastras and Bhagavad Gita, a lot of emphasis has been accorded to Dharma in guiding the people to determine what is righteous in their pursuit of temporal and spiritual duties. In essence, Dharma provides a code of conduct for the people in their day-to-day life and a harmony between worldly accomplishments and spiritual liberation.

Hinduism as was rightly known as Sanatana Dharma (i.e. eternal tradition or way of life) in the past is the oldest surviving culture and religion of the world with a cognizable history of at least four thousand years taking into account the Vedic age while various other accounts and estimates put it at over nine thousand years including the vast expanse of the pre-Vedic period. The evolution of the Hindu civilization has been natural and constant based on the teachings of scriptures primarily Vedas and Upanishads by sages and ascetics since the ancient age, as interpreted and explained by scholars and enlightened people from time to time. The Vedic people believed in (one) Brahman (God) as the highest Universal Truth of universe with some thirty-three natural and spiritual deities as only His extended forms, whom they traditionally offered sacrifices for safety, peace and prosperity.

In this context, the following verse from the oldest scripture Rigveda is relevant:

Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti
Agnim yamam matarisvanam ahuh.

(Rigveda 1.164.46)

(That which exists is One (God), sages call it by various names. This has been true in all ages.)

“Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti” is a Sutra quote subsequently used by umpteen Hindu scriptures, particularly Upanishads. This idea has been ingrained into the Hindu civilization of India for thousands of years symbolic to tolerance of Hindus towards other religions and belief systems. As it appears, the Vedic people constituted more or less a homogenous society on the whole without much division and complication. Later during 6th to 4th century BCE, two other Indian religions viz. Buddhism and Jainism originated and prospered in the Indian sub-continent along with Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) largely on old Indian tradition of the tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Buddhism was spread in other parts of the world with a considerable missionary zeal but without violence or entice; hence due to its conversion approach, some conflicts are reported from the period but that the Hinduism, as bigger cultural and religious civiization, largely accepted and accommodated Buddhism and Jainism for peaceful coexistence is evident from the fact that some Hindu traditions even accept “Buddha” as ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Vaishnavite tradition.

The Upanishad era largely spanning through the most part of 1st millennium BCE is characterized with the explosion and exploration of human wisdom and knowledge, during which the Hinduism evolved as sum total synthesis of spiritual wisdom and temporal knowledge addressing all disciplines of human lives of which the religion constituted only one part. During this period, the Hinduism proliferated and significantly improved by imbibing and assimilating all contemporary thoughts or practices found useful for the entire mankind. Apart from the earlier quoted “Ekam Sat Viprah Bahuda Vadanti”, two more quotes from this period “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and “Sarva Dharma Sambhava” explain the crux of ingrained philosophy around which Hinduism was knitted and proliferated. The former phrase suggests that the Hindu sages and ascetics had learned the truth of universe thousands of years back while the latter two are illustrated and self-validated by the fact that Hindus never invaded or forced people of other faiths for submission to the Hinduism either through coercion or entice and evangelism.

Towards the last few centuries before the Christ era, India experienced the invasion and arrival of Macedonians, tribes and nomads of foreign origin attracted with the peace, prosperity and wealth of India. Besides, the land was well known for its values and virtues on account of the education and culture with world fame learning centres like Nalanda and Takshashila (also called Taxila). Alexander is among the first known invaders in 327 BCE; however, his adventure with India remained short with adverse political impact but without significant damaging implications to the education and culture. Then from the 2nd BCE to 5th CE, invaders of tribal and nomadic origin like Kushan, Saka and Huna from Central Asia, Persia and other parts came and even established empires in the northern and central parts of India; many of them were defeated and sent back by the Hindu kings but those who stayed back amalgamated with the Hindu culture and civilization. Though Hunas and Gaudas are known to attack Hindu educational centres such as Takshashila but most probably it was not a part systematic design of destroying Indian culture.

The real threat to the Indian culture and civilization was experienced in the 8th century CE onwards when the barbaric invaders of Islamic origin from Turkey and Arab world started military expeditions on India. Muhammad-bin-Qasim is first known invader of the Arabic origin who conquered parts of the Sindh and Punjab provinces in 712 CE. This was followed by invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammad Gori in the 11th and 12th centuries CE, respectively; the latter’s invasion led to establishment of the rule of Muslim slave dynasty followed by many other Muslim dynasties, the last of which were Mughals, who ruled large parts of India from Delhi/Agra till 18th century and their influence and hold gradually waned with the rise of British colonizers. Muslims invasion was not restricted to loot and killings; instead, many of them systematically defiled Hindu women, destroyed temples and institutions representing education and culture. For instance, the world famous Nalanda University was completely destroyed by the army of Turkish Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. These barbaric incidents were a severe blow to the erstwhile universal culture of peace, amity and brotherhood that Hinduism had been professing and nurturing for centuries.

Later when Christian missionaries were permitted by the colonial powers in British India to carry on missionary work particularly in tribal areas during the nineteenth century, this added another dimension and new challenge to already beaten and bruised Hindu populace to protect and preserve their age old cultural and religious traditions. What Muslim rulers and clergy had been doing for centuries by coercion, the missionaries did same with considerable success through evangelism. For the civilization fostering the spirit of “Vasudhav Kutumbkam” and “Sarva Dharma Sambhav” since inception, the arrival of two Abrahamic religions with the philosophy of “me alone” in the sub-continent posed real and substantive threat for its survival. In the past several Indian religions coexisted without inter-se rivalry or struggle for existence, but the developments in the last millennium vitiated the age old religious peace and harmony as also the narrative of secularism in India.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

It is a very old Sanskrit phrase derived from the verses of the Maha Upanishad (also known as Mahopanishad), one of the minor Upanishads among Hindu scriptures. According to estimates of some Indologists and scholars, this Upanishad belongs to the period of 6th to 4th century BCE and the significance of the phrase could be measured from the fact that is engraved at the entrance hall of the parliament of India - the symbol of Indian democracy and secularism. The phrase appears in the chapter VI, verse 72 of the aforesaid Upanishad belonging to Samaveda tradition.

The verse reads as under:

Ayam bandhuryamneti ganana laghuchetsaam
Udaarcharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam.


(This person is mine and this one is not is made only by the narrow-minded. For those of noble conduct the whole world is one family.)

Here the meaning of the ‘family’ need to be understood in the context of what the Upanishad text really intended for. In essence, it is describing the virtue of a man who understands the Truth, transcending the multiplicity of the physical world. This phrase (Mantra) was not merely a geo-political or socio-cultural jargon; instead, it reflected the truth of universe as also how the Sanatana Dharma looked at the people of whole world in the civilizational context. This phrase was in fact included and repeated, time and again, in various Hindu texts in the later years. For instance, another Indian text in Sanskrit language “Hitopadesha” incorporating maxims, worldly wisdom and advice on many subjects included somewhat similar phrase as under:

Ayam nijah paroveti ganana laghuchetasam
Udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbhakam.

(Hitopadesha, 1.3.71)

(This is my own and that a stranger is what the narrow-minded calculates. For the magnanimous characters, however, the entire earth is a family.)

Another quote of a Tamil philosopher Kaniyan Poongundranar, estimated vintage of 4th or 5th century BCE, in his famous poem “Purananuru” is relevant representing universal thinking for the welfare and well-being of all:

Yathum Oore Yavarum Kelir
(To us all towns are our own, everyone our kin.)

The essence of the ancient Indian philosophy was that instead of ‘Me’ it laid emphasis to ‘Us’ everywhere and in all circumstances. One could find many instances where Upanishads address the “oneness” at spiritual level in the context of Supreme Reality, and universal harmony and brotherhood at temporal level. The following verse of Isha Upanishad (Verse 6) may be relevant:

Yastu sarvani bhutani atmanyevanupasyati
Sarvabhutesu catmanam tato na vijugupsate.


(One who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from anything at all.)

The idea that the person can see everyone as himself is the pinnacle of Oneness, which means no distinctions but total unity of all. Such an ideal situation may not leave any scope for ego, arrogance, hatred and conflict as one does not visualize anything separate himself that should be discriminated or hated. In essence, the concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” in Hinduism conveyed this spirit treating all souls alike since ancient times. In the modern jargon, this could be equated with the height of secularism. The phrase is not just a temporal idea that the whole world shall live like a family but also about the peace and harmony among the mankind in the world. By sheer contemplation of trying to live like that and some endeavor in our lives to that effect, the world could be achieved as a much better place to live at. Adi Shankaracharya was one who later ameliorated this concept in Advaita Vedanta philosophically and spiritually by putting forth that it is Brahman alone in universe and everything else is mere delusion.

In the context of the temporal world, the Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam conveys a simple message that the whole world is like our own – like one family. It is an ancient philosophy that tends to foster peace, prosperity and kinship among the entire humanity across the globe. This is not an ordinary concept by any means as it fosters an understanding and cooperation across humanity irrespective of their social or cultural background, faith and belief system. This is much more than what we talk or expect in the name of secularism in the modern age. This thought was prevalent in the ancient Hindu society much beyond the scriptures which people so often tend to relate with religiosity. This is evident from the fact that similar teachings were conveyed through contemporary Sanskrit fables like Hitopadesha, the intended objective of which was to educate young minds in an easy way to grow into good and responsible human beings.

Sarva Dharma Sambhava

This is yet another great concept of Hindu philosophy embodying the equality of the destination of all religions. The paths (religions) may be different but they are all leading to the same destination (God). The precise source of this phrase is not well known: it has been often cited as one of the great Upanishad quotes; some others believe it to be a quote from Buddhism but it is less likely so as this religion is known to have spread beyond the Indian sub-continent with missionary zeal and efforts. In the modern age, the phrase is often linked to Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekenanda as also to MK Gandhi, who is known to have first used it in September 1930 among his followers to subdue divisionary feelings among Hindus and Muslims. Needless to say that this phrase is one of the key buzzwords on secularism because, unlike Western concept of the separation of religion from state, the secular Hindustan (India) favours equal treatment of all religions by the state.

Though the Sanatana Dharma stayed as mainstay of cultural and religious identity of India since ancient times, the other religions like Buddhism and Jainism simultaneously grew intermingled and improvised. Consequently, Hindus though practiced different religions, beliefs and rituals, and spoke different languages yet had certain common attributes in their life styles and customs with minimum conflicts on account of diversity. In fact, the stated phrase perfectly suited in the ancient Indian society in the context of religious coexistence, peace and harmony even though the term secularism was not in vogue. Socio-religious conflicts and tensions in India are relatively later developments with the arrival of the Abrahamic religions in the sub-continent, when the followers of these religions attempted to destroy the age old peace and harmony by attacking the religious, cultural and educational institutions through coercion and evangelism.

The phrase is commonly translated as "All religions are the same" or "All faiths lead to the same destination”, although according to some scholars its literal meaning is "All dharma are possible". So some modern thinkers even doubt if the phrase at all has any merit. Such doubts are raised because the Indian (Hindu) concept of pluralism is significantly different from the Abrahamic religions, which appear to pursue an exclusivist, or rather supremacist, doctrine of "only our religion, prophet/angel and divine book” are valid and ultimate way to salvation. They even go to the extent of prescribing punishment for not faithfully sticking to it and the blasphemy as punishable crime. Hence it may be a matter of separate debate whether the concept of ‘Sarva Dharma Samabhav’ is at all truly applicable or not but the very fact that Hinduism advocates same consideration of all religions undoubtedly illustrates its nobility.

Concept of Secularism in India Post 1947

In any socio-political system, the faith, belief and leanings of the leader and consequent policies and decisions leave a considerable impact on the futuristic developments in the society. After independence, the perceptions and ambitions of the key leaders of the Muslim League and Congress led to the division of the country on communal lines on the premise that Hindus and Muslims are so different that they cannot peacefully coexist together. Consequently, Pakistan was created as the homeland of Muslims with the division of proportionate land and wealth of the United British India. Pakistan pursued its destiny as Islamic nation; however, a considerable Muslim population was left behind in India which opted for democracy with secular approach. As leader (Prime Minister) of the Independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru is well known for his agnostic views and leftist leanings, so his secular approach inter alia included abstinence and restraint of everything that represented Hindu Dharma, such ideology or rituals in public life. So much so that his secularist approach discouraged even to break a coconut or light an oil lamp lest the religious symbols might invade the public life. Nehru’s reservations on the reconstruction of Somnath temple, many other subjects impacting Hindus and consequent differences with other national leaders are well documented.

Consequently, the Government’s interference in Hindus’ social and religious life continued unabated in so far as the Hindu Personal Laws were tinkered, supervision of temples taken over, temple revenues were appropriated and religious festivals regulated by law but the government conspicuously stayed away completely from making any change or reformist move in the minorities personal laws, particularly Muslims’ social and religious affairs, in turn violating the Article 14 of the Constitution and making mockery of age old aforesaid great Upanishad quotes on the equality of all citizens of all religions before law. This unwritten policy of self-denial in the name of secularism under the Western and Leftist influence extended even to the misrepresentation and falsification of historical texts adopted for curriculum in the educational text books to deprive the contemporary Indians from the past glory of Hindus, Hinduism and Hindustan.

Post-independence India also experienced dichotomous or multichotomous evolution of secular Hindus: one, who think all religions are valid and be equally treated, one may say they believe in “Sarva Dharma Samabhav”; the other, who are agnostic, atheist or anti-religion, usually most Hindus with leftist ideology fall under this category. The first category believe in own religion, may visit temples/religious places and many of them involve in various devotional activities. But most of them have neither appropriate knowledge of Hinduism nor world’s other religions. Such people tend to believe that all religions are the same and lead to same destination. The other category of seculars does not believe in religion of any kind and often disregard and dismiss them as the superstitious by-product of humankind of a bygone era. Many English-speaking left leaning Hindu liberals and intellectuals fall in this category.

Then many devout Hindus of the first category suffer with a strange secular syndrome, shall we call it perverse secularism, under the policies and influence of Nehruvian era i.e. they will apply one set of yardsticks in the socio-religious matters of minorities, particularly Muslims, but would refrain from applying the same criteria or norms for majority Hindus. One prime minister following the Nehruvian legacy is on record to have even said in the National Development Council that minorities, particularly Muslims, have first right on the national resources in India. Consequently, if some other person, group or political party insists for similar treatment of all religious communities by the state including Hindus, this brand of secularists resort to criticize and condemn them as communalists promoting the agenda of “Hindutva”, as if the Hindutva is a crime and threat for secularism in the Indian democracy. This indeed is a perverse secularism, knowingly or unknowingly, that discriminates major and minor communities through appeasement of the latter at the cost of former. This brand of secularism does not meet any moral or ethical standards as well as legal norms.

More precisely, it deserves to be called pseudo-secularism and people pursuing the discriminatory policy of appeasement of select minorities as pseudo-secularists. Unfortunately, this evil practice has pervaded the Hindu society in the latter half of the twentieth century and it’s a source of constant socio-religious and political resentment and turmoil in the recent years. Over the decades, this erroneous dogmatic stance and discriminatory practice has led to the development of an eco-system in the country that now perfectly suits to one section of media, politicians, clergy and self-proclaimed intellectuals, liberals and rationalists. An irrational and ill-fated consequence of such secularism is illustrated from the fact advocates of this brand of secularism, mostly Hindus, remain completely muted and passive on the ethnic cleansing of lakhs of Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs by the Muslim separatists and militants in own country but actively support illegal immigrant Rohingyas from Myanmar and Bangladeshis for rehabilitation and settlement as secularists and human rights crusader.

Hinduism and Hindutva

In one of the earlier parts (Part IX) of this series, the concept of the Hinduism and Hindutva had been dealt with at length. Contrary to the mistaken belief of some aforesaid Hindu secularists and other communities, the term ‘Hindutva’ is neither communal nor restricted to a narrow interpretation and implication. It is a fusion of two words Hindu + Tattva, which literally means ‘Hindu Principles’. To comprehend the real meaning of Hinduism and Hindutva, people may have to study and understand the evolutionary history of the Hindu civilization and culture. Though the judiciary may not essentially be the best institution to learn the true nature of Hindutva but it’s analysis and opinion does carry enough credibility because of its rational and logical approach supported with evidence from scriptures, history and other allied sources.

The Supreme Court had delivered a landmark judgment in1966 by the five judge bench presided by Chief Justice PB Gajendragadkar in the case of the Swaminarayan sect in their two-decade long legal battle to protect their temples from the entry of the erstwhile untouchable castes. The judgment asserted that the sect’s conduct was based on superstition, ignorance and total misunderstanding of the Hindu religion. The judgment actually extolled Hinduism as “broad and progressive”, lacking the “narrow features” of other religions (of course without naming them which is implied) and more “a way of life’ rather than a religion per se.

In another landmark judgment on December 11, 1995, a three judge Bench of the Supreme Court delivered a historic judgment disposing of a number of appeals which arose from the litigations in the Bombay High Court relating to the validity of the elections of some Shiv Sena - BJP candidates to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly wherein while seeking votes from the electorate, the candidates had allegedly spoken about the Hindu state. The Supreme Court bench concluded that the words ‘Hinduism’ or ‘Hindutva’ should not be understood and construed narrowly, confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices overlooking the culture and ethos of the People of India. The judgment ruled that "Ordinarily, Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism ... it is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion.” On a plea by the social activist Teesta Setalvad against the aforesaid judgment, the Supreme Court bench comprising of seven judges ruled out again in October 2016 that there was no need to go far a larger examination or debate on ‘Hindutva’.

Sarva Dharma Samabhav versus Secularism

Indian secularists who oppose Hindutva as a communal plank often cite Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who apparently saw Hindutva mainly as a patriotic movement advocating Hindu nationalism. He was a patriot and freedom fighter who, in fact, described Hindutva in a larger canvas defining all people descended of the ancient common Hindu culture, including Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. Even the highest court of the land agrees that Hinduism, more than religion, is a way of life. Hence there appears to be no need in viewing Hindutva merely from the communal angle. Besides, the writings of one person can neither alter the course of cultural and religious history nor it can undermine the age old virtues of a culture and religion that believed in the ideology of the “whole world as one family” and “all faiths leading to the same destination”.

Traditionally, the Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) always allowed dissent and debate, and exercised mutual tolerance and acceptance among the diverse faiths and beliefs; on the other hand, the concept of secularism was concretized in the West much later and is often linked to France and United State in its initial days, with the separation of church and state in the latter case sometime in the eighteenth century. Merriam-Webster dictionary describes secularism as indifference to, or rejection or exclusion of, religion and religious considerations; the Cambridge dictionary describes it as the belief that religion should not be involved with the ordinary social and political activities of a country while somewhat on similar analogy, the Oxford dictionary treats it as the principle of separation of the state from religious institutions. Evidently, the Indian version of secularism is at variance with aforesaid definitions; initially it was pursued in spirit after independence without formally adopting it but later it was formally incorporated in the Indian Constitution through 42nd Amendment in 1976.

Though in practice it may not be entirely true as despite the concept of separation of the religion from state many Western countries have declared Christianity as their official religion, but conceptually the secularism and Sarva Dharma Samabhav appears to be analogues in the Western countries context. The situation in India appears to be somewhat confusing in the modern times because the state has not delinked itself from religion; instead, it talks about equal treatment to all religions without endorsing or giving any preferential treatment to any one by the state. The association of the state with religious matters has in practice led to dichotomy and communal divide. Situation gets more complicated because on one hand the country had Indian religions with the ancient concept of pluralism and traditional belief that “all faiths lead to same destination”; on the other hand are exclusivist Abrahamic religions with the precept “Only religion, one prophet and sole divine book”.

In a way, secularism is no more than an extension of the ancient Hindu Philosophy which literally meant that all religions are true or similar in nature. But the Western/Leftist influence and lack of adequate knowledge and understanding of Hinduism and other religions has created a new brand or rather perverse Hindu secularists, who seek secularism in socio-religious appeasement of select religious minorities and those (Hindus) who do not subscribe to their ideology are treated as communal Hindus. Needless to say that this is an erroneous approach about secularism and a true secularist is one who has merit based equal consideration and treatment of religions. As the concept of secularism in India also envisions the acceptance of religious laws by the state, the equal consideration by the state of all religions is of paramount importance.

Postlude

Traditionally, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and Sarva Dharma Sambhav have been guiding statements of Hinduism for peaceful and harmonious coexistence of people of all faiths and beliefs in the Indian sub-continent. Unlike other cultures and religions, neither Hindu kings ever invaded other civilizations or kingdoms beyond erstwhile Bharatvarsha (India) for territorial expansion and augmentation of wealth nor Hindu sages and ascetics ever went out with missionary zeal to bring people of other faiths to the fold of Hinduism. Hindu scriptures liberally permit the spirit of dissent, debate and tolerance for seeking truth and encourage non-violence; violence is allowed only for pratikar (reprisal) against the evil. The nobility of Hinduism is self-validated as no other surviving culture and religion offer or match these attributes.

Different periods posed different sets of socio-religious and political challenges and opportunities. The fact that the Hinduism is the only surviving and flourishing culture and religion in the world with almost four thousand years of a cognizable history itself vindicates its merit and strength that enabled it to pass test and survive with time. ‘Unity in diversity’ would perhaps be best quote to define India with Hinduism as anchoring role sticking to the concept of pluralism and Sarva Dharma Sambhav; of which secularism is only yet another synonym or conceptual theme in the modern age. The cardinal principle in any secular society would be acceptance of the religious diversity with mutual respect and recognition of different faiths and beliefs. Needless to mention, Hinduism and majority Hindus fit the bill from this secular perspective.

Continued to Part XL

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07-Dec-2019
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