With eyes closed, we sway to the melodious hymns and even search for ways to give them a funky touch. That’s right. Religion, born as a ‘beacon of hope’ or as a ‘lantern to navigate the dark tunnels’ or whatever one may call it, has evolved in myriad ways.
Hinduism, the oldest radiant entity in the spiritual world has its own tale of eclecticism and intricacies.
Tracing the origins of Hinduism:
Despite numerous concerted efforts of scholars, it is till date, impossible to answer with certainty the ‘when’ question relating to the origins of Hinduism. But there’s a visible consensus that its roots can be traced to the Harappan culture in 2000 BCE. Faced with frequent invasions, the Harappans’ unique religion inevitably evolved to embrace external influences- the most prominent being the culture of Vedism brought by the Aryans. With this amalgamation, the spiritual world witnessed a new embryonic glow- that was to evolve into Hinduism.
The Hindu Way of Life- it is what you make it:
Undeniably, what sets this faith apart is the fact of it, being a founder-less religion with some 36 million divinities. The Hindu Way is about being cosmopolitan- it’s rich history characterized by dialogue and debates among myriad philosophies is a stark epitome of its nature of inclusiveness. It distances itself from the pervasive influence of the tiny word ‘ism’ to enable the individual to believe and create a spiritual system dictated by his/her own conscience.
This has been beautifully captured in the words of Sadhguru Vasudev-
“You can be a Hindu whether you worship a man-God or a woman-God, whether you worship a cow or a tree. If you don’t worship anything, you can still be a Hindu.”
Evolution as a religion:
Hinduism as a pluralistic religion unveils an illustrious saga of its evolution. The tradition, from being largely the preserve of Brahmanas, gradually developed to reach and incorporate the religious ideas and practices of the masses. In the medieval era, Hinduism witnessed certain developments deviating from its cornerstone-the Vedas; such as the Sectarian trends of Shaivism and Vaishnism as well as birth of new religions like Buddhism and Jainism. Then later still, Neo-Hinduism emerged as a tool for social activism and to form a broad united Hindu front against colonial rule.
Present adaptation & Future survival:
There is another facet to the evolution saga- adaptation, which has been critical to Hinduism’s survival. The scriptures and certain core ideas have remained unchanged, but keeping with changing realities, interpretations and practices are moving with the temporal flow. The devout Hindus today are rejecting certain sacrifices and rituals (polygamy, untouchability, etc.) and redefining notions of what constitutes violation of sanctity.
The following statement of Jayaram V captures how in present day, Hindus are trying to move closer to the essence of Hinduism-
“Hinduism today, is free from the rigors of memorizing and toeing the Guru’s line of thought. The focus has shifted from syntax to meaning, from content to substance and from confusing details to essential truths.”
Contemporary scholars are of the opinion that in today’s religious discourses, Hindu pride is downplaying the self-critical approach vital for the survival of any religion. They also argue that this pride of a small segment of Hindus, is weakening the virtue of humility, propounded by the tradition. Another visible trend is the emergence of followers, mostly Hindu nationalists, who are engaging in scient-izing Hindu scriptures and historic-izing Hindu deities.
Thus, the Hindu way of life is an eternal brook. The colossal rocks it has bumped into at certain times has caused the flow to go awry. These rocks can’t be avoided but the true Hindu-ites have the prowess to ensure the brook doesn’t desiccate.