by Jayaram V
"If we Hindus dig out all the dirt from the bottom
of the pacific ocean and throw it in your faces, it will be but a
speck compared to what the missionaries have done to our religion and
culture." -- (Swami Vivekananda , while addressing the
Parliament of Religions, Chicago)
India was fortunate in the sense that the Spanish went
to the Americas while the British came here. The history of India
would have been different had the Spanish established their rule over
the subcontinent. They would have perhaps ruthlessly destroyed the
native culture, just as they destroyed the native American cultures
and replaced the temples with catholic churches. When it came to the
colonies, the British had a sense of justice and responsibility, while
the Spanish had none. - Jayaram V
The Marathas who dominated the Indian political scene during the
part of the Mughal period, were great patrons and followers of
Hinduism. They contained the spread of Islam deep into the south by
combining their powers against the Mughals in the north and the Deccan
rulers in the south.
They adhered to orthodox Hindu traditions and helped the revival of
the religion which had suffered tremendously in the hands of selfish
Muslim rulers whose approach to religion was more a matter of political
expedience rather than a spiritual exercise. The country also witnessed
the birth of many great saints during this period who preached the path
of devotion to their followers and their by brought the religion closer
to the hearts and minds of common people.
Right from the middle of 17th century till the beginning of 20th
century, when the British slowly and gradually replaced the local rulers
and established their own political power, Hinduism faced a new danger
from Christianity. Many Christian missionaries came to India with the
specific goal of converting the so called "native heathens" to
Christianity and supposedly saving them from certain damnation.
Prisoners of their own times and education, biased in their very outlook
and attitude, they failed to find any positive element in the native
traditions or beliefs. They were not only blind to the deeper aspects of
Hinduism, as the new religion demanded a different outlook and attitude,
but were uncompromising in their ignorance of the native psychology and
in their attitude towards the native people.
Brought up in the Christian traditions of post medieval Europe, self
conceited and racially arrogant, they were in a way condescending about
the religious salvation of the native people. Having concluded that the
natives, on account of their religious beliefs and practices, were on
the brink of spiritual disaster, they took upon themselves the onerous
task of rescuing the people from falling into the fires of hell. In this
regard they were no more intelligent and understanding than Lord
Hastings who declared that the Hindus were limited to mere animal
functions and that they had no higher intellect than a dog or an
elephant or a monkey!
But while their concerns were understandable to some extent as
sincere, which were naturally and expectantly based on their convictions
and beliefs, their approach to the native religion was insulting and
hurtful to the native pride.
The missionaries were unaware that thousands of years before they had
even a semblance of a religion, when their ancestors were still
uncivilized, God had blessed the ancient land of India with a unique and
comprehensive spiritual awareness and a rich body of traditions that
would continue to serve the people of India for millenniums to come.
They were unaware that the native religion had a deeper as well as a
wider aspect, unknown even to many Hindus, that would satisfy the
spiritual yearnings of any and provide all the required answers. This
was indeed the most unfortunate aspect of their missionary activity.
In this sordid drama, the relief came from the role played by the
British rulers. They had the sagacity and political acumen to keep
themselves overtly aloof from the activities of the biased and zealous
missionaries in order to remain focused on their business activity and
political ambitions. They knew in their hearts that if they wanted to
continue on the Indian soil and build an empire as large as India, they
should rather confine themselves purely and exclusively to temporal
matters than aligning themselves officially or otherwise openly with any
particular religious policy. Some of them did provide some help
occasionally and covertly to their missionary friends, but never in a
manner that would damage their own interests.
In their anxiety to achieve their goals, the Christian missionaries
tried their best to castigate the local traditions and beliefs. They
aimed their arguments where it would hurt Hinduism most. They picked up
the weakest and the obvious black spots, so that they could easily and
quickly convince the people about the primitive quality of the native
traditions. The many weaknesses of Hinduism gave them ample
opportunities to build their own arguments.
It appeared for some time that Hinduism would give in, since it had
no church like institution that could withstand this new challenge and
since the Hindu rulers were busy with their own survival in the changing
political scenario. Besides Hinduism of those days had become weak, with
many social practices such as widow burning called sati, child
marriages, untouchability, and the division of society on the basis of
castes. By exposing these weaknesses, in a way, Christianity challenged
the educated Hindus to resolve these issues.
And the latter did respond positively and comprehensively. Many
prominent persons like Rajaram Mohan Ray, Swami Dayananda Saraswathi,
Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar, Shri Ram Krishna Paramhansa, Swami
Vivekanand, Shri Aurobindo, Lokmanya Balagangadhar Tilak, Mahatama
Gandhi, brought to the fore the positive and hidden aspects of Hinduism.
They encouraged the people to work for the removal of social evils and
revival of the religion.
They rightly appealed to the people to consider the dangers inherent
in continuing the social evils and exhorted them to work for the removal
of such evils. By their sincere and incessant efforts they laid
foundation for the resurgence of Hinduism. They brought to light its
positive qualities that would appeal to the intellectual minds. Because
of their efforts, Hinduism caught the attention of many scholars not
only in India but elsewhere in the world, whose works would later make
the religion a true world religion.
Due credit must also be given to the many western scholars and
British officers of this period who made Hinduism and Hindu philosophy
popular in the west. Partly out of their academic interest and partly
driven by their own curiosity about the oriental cultures, they
unearthed the hitherto unknown history of ancient India and declared to
the world its great antiquity and unique philosophy.
They were responsible for the translation of many rare and ancient
Hindu manuscripts from Sanskrit into various European languages. In the
process, they brought to light the deeper and hidden aspects of Hindu
philosophy and religious thought. If today Hinduism is accepted as one
of the greatest religions of the world, the credit must first go them.
When India became independent in 1947, the new government had decided
correctly to make independent India a secular country. This decision is
a great honor to Hinduism because it is very much in tune with the
spirit of Hinduism. Hinduism accepts religious tolerance as an
undisputed fact of human life and a divine truth that cannot be
compromised. Hinduism recognizes the many paths that lead to God and
embraces them all with an open heart. In this regard it is incomparable
with any other religion.
Today Hinduism is growing from strength to strength. Many of its
features and practices are appealing to the intellectual minds of the
modern age who are in search of true answers to the problems of mental
balance, peace and inner harmony amidst the increasing pressures of
hectic modern life. Many in the western worlds are attracted to its
concepts of karma and reincarnation, as well as its emphasis on inner
purity, detachment, devotion and surrender to God as the means to attain
That Hinduism has a long history and a much greater future, there is
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