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August 21, 2003

Hindutva Follies

This article disabuses those who wish to speak of the "East" as if it was filled with open-minded sages:

"It ... (is) scientific fundamentalism to dismiss warnings from Indian astrologers," said Murli Manohar Joshi, India's Human Resources and Development minister. He was inaugurating a workshop on "Predicting Earthquakes and Calamities" in New Delhi. "Scientists with advanced computers sometimes fail to predict major earthquakes," he said. "Ancient Indian astrology does have the tools to roughly foretell the time and sometimes even the exact date and time of an earthquake."

Keep reading, there is plenty of politicized crap detailed. Well, I think moderate Muslims should tell the fundies to shut the fuck up, well, moderate Hindus should tell these RSS wacks to fuck off too, they really give idolaters a bad name....

Check this out:

References to beef eating, which is prohibited by Hinduism, and cattle sacrifices were deleted.

What the hell? Is this Islamic & Creationist in its Know-Nothingness, or what? I got news for the Hindus who think they are descendents of Aryans-THEY ATE BEEF!.

...In the asvamedha, the most important of public sacrifices, first mentioned in the Rgveda and discussed in the Brahmanas, more than 600 animals (including wild ones like boars) and birds were killed and its finale was marked by the sacrifice of 21 cows, which, according to the dominant opinion were sterile ones.
According to the subsequent Brahmanical texts (e.g. Grhyasutras and Dharmasutras) the killing of animals and eating of beef was very much de rigeur. The ceremony of guest-reception (known as arghya in the Rgveda but generally as madhuparka in subsequent texts) consisted not only of a meal of a mixture of curds and honey but also of the flesh of a cow or bull.

Yum, I need a bloody steak....

I don't make as big of a deal about Hindu fundamentalism and their repulsive caste consciousness because they tend to be a little more tolerant of their minorities than is the norm in Islam. I still think they're more tolerant, but is there a bidding war for showing who is the descendent of the Neandertal or what? Let's thank their devil gods that the moronic sages of Hinduism advised their followers not to push this idiocy beyond the Khyber Pass....

Godless comments:

"stupid...shut the fuck up...wacks...repulsive...descendants of neanderthals...devil gods...moronic...idiocy"

First things first: I'm not a defender of Hindutva by *any* means...and the historical revisionist stuff with the "nuclear weapons in the Mahabharat" is as fundamentalist as it gets...but Razib's comments are over the top, in my opinion. I would oppose this tone if it was directed at Islam, Judaism, or Christianity - I only fault radical Muslims for their actions, not their theology per se .

The thing is - calling Hindus "devil worshippers" for being polytheistic is like calling Muhammad a "pedophile". As I said then, such an attack is not meant to be theological - it's just meant to be insulting:

"All Muslims are evil/freaks or Muhammad was pedophile", etc. - unnecessarily inflammatory in both cases. (False in the first case b/c we're talking about an inapplicable universal quantifier, and technically true but practically contentless in the second case, as it is on the same lines as "the Old Testament God is a mass murderer".)

Hopefully we are not going to descend to the level of the Raving Atheist and his casual tossing around of "Godidiot" ;) For the most part we try to discuss things with civility...well, maybe with an occasional "moron" or "stupid" thrown in, but not quite so much in one post :)

Of course, everyone makes overly vituperative statements from time to time. I think the harshest I've ever been was to the Wiccans, I guess, which *does* sound too strong in retrospect ;)

Clarification from Razib:

Hindus as "devil worshippers": Well, since I don't believe in ghosts, gods or devils, it's obviously not a literal belief of mine. It stems from several points:

  • Iranian demonology which serves as a primary root of the dualism between "light" and "dark" that you find recurring in the the various Abrahamic faiths (more so Christianity than the other two) uses the term "daeva" to refer originally to the demons that were worshipped by non-Zoroastrian Persians. This religion was almost certainly the polytheistic beliefs of the Aryans, which are preserved only among the Hindu people today. There is a common root from the Indo-European term for god(s), divine, devil, deity, zeus, dyaus, etc. The gods of yore become devils among all the Indo-European peoples, excepting the Hindus, who still worship "devils," even Devi, the Mother Goddess.

    For most of the other branches of monotheistic people the pagan beliefs faded away, with a few generations taught to beware of the "devils," the "old gods." Some of the old beliefs, such as the tuatha de danann in Ireland, the "fairy folk," became charming tales of magic once the last of the old believers had passed on and there was no threat to the established worship of the One God. The Muslims of India on the other hand had a different experience, the old gods of their past were still around them, worshipped by devotees, we Mussulmans of Hindustan lived in a demon-haunted world where the great pagan masses still gave puja to the old gods. The bengali term for "god" is bogaban, similar to the Russian bog, but we Muslims have turned it into a term for "devil" or "demon." The same process that has occurred for thousands of years when the worshippers of the One Righteous God face the believers of the old gods has recapitulated itself, but with a difference, the ancient faith is not going into the twighlight and becoming a memory to haunt the nightmares of small children when they cause mischief.

    The more raw and primal manifestations of Hinduism are deeply disquieting to monotheists. The modern Christian conception of the devil seems to be based upon the pagan goatish god Pan, so the animal gods of Hinduism, reminiscent of divinities that have been gone from the West for thousands of years elicits atavistic reactions of horror in my experience. Note this article that speaks of Franklin Graham talking of "hundreds of millions of people locked in the darkness of Hinduism . . . bound by Satan's power". The first British to spend time in India noted the contrast between Islam, which they detested, but understood and could relate to, and Hinduism, which they found alien and beyond comprehension.

    So do Hindus worship "devils?" Well, if the tenets of the monotheistic religions are correct, yes. And monotheists are 50% of the world's population. Hindus need to be prepared for the rage and irrational revulsion that greets their faith, because their religion is an affront to the supremacy and dominion of the One God who commanded his peoples to smash the idols.

  • Which leads me to my second point. I am a fan of Greo-Roman paganism, I feel an inner sadness at the passing of the religiously diverse world of pagan Rome and the rise of the more monochromatic Byzantine culture. Islam even more than Christianity uproots, de-racinates and purges organically created cultures, and turns what was technicolor into black & white. India is the last redoubt of Aryan paganism, though that is probably the lesser influence in its Hindu practice compared to indigenous South Asian religious themes (karma, vegetarianism, Shiva, aescetism, etc. are not really very Indo-European). Islam is a threat, the RSS intuits this correctly.

    But, as long as Hindus dehumanize their own, continue to have a sloppy understanding of their own faith, and behave in self-destructive ways, Islam will gain ground. My main beef with Hinduism is the moral blot that is caste, which basically gives religious sanction to some of humanity's basest instincts. The way upper castes treat the lower castes, it might not be implausible to say that Hindus worship demons, because what god(s) would put their imprinture on such behavior as Holy and the Natural Order? Their preoccupation with ritual cleanliness, their traditional rejection of converts and shaming of those who were forced to convert at sword-point (1920, Kerala for instance) points to a lack of generosity in the soul that is a weakness for any religion or culture.

    Islam was founded by a man who was clearly possessed of a meglomaniacal persona. If he did have intercourse with Aiysha when she was 10 after their marriage, well, he's a pedophile, perhaps God's own, but nonetheless, the definition fits. Hinduism doesn't have the excuse of a crazed founder who set an example as a "Perfect Man" by behaving in a rather conventional fashion, accruing power & wealth under the guise of piety, though possessed of enough human feeling to promote a relatively egalitarian and moralistic faith that outlived his own uses and life. Hinduism is an organic religion that can change. And it must, or it will die, pure & simple.

Blah, blah, blah...I think you get my drift.

Posted by razib at 07:34 PM

Yeah - it's pretty stupid. But what do you expect? Governments are run by demagogues and local populations usually want to hear some sort of comforting truths. I'm sure the French are laughing at our textbooks and how we have to fight to keep evolution in public schools and that "Intelligent Design" is being foisted onto the public as some sort of credible scientific theory. I wonder what Saudi textbooks say about the royal family or the Pakistani textbooks say about Jinnah.

It hardly seems to be worth all the invective that you seem to be generating. Is it really chapping your ass that badly?

Posted by: rks at August 21, 2003 09:36 PM

"In the 10th-grade equivalent history textbook, the issue of the Holocaust is completely glossed over and Nazism is referred to with veiled admiration. "Hitler lent dignity and prestige to the German government within a short time by establishing a strong administrative set up ... He adopted the policy of opposition towards the Jewish people," it says. " ... He adopted a new economic policy and brought prosperity to Germany ... He made untiring efforts to make Germany self-reliant within one decade ... He instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people."

I've always wondered how the BJP will reconcile its admiration for Hitler with its explicitly pro-Israel stance.

From this link :


"Such efforts by the Hindu fascists are ironic. The leading mind and former chair of the Hindu extremist RSS, the late Guru M.S. Golwalkar, in his now-famous work Our Nationhood, wrote of his admiration for Adolf Hitler and suggested that the "race purification" carried out by Hitler was a perfect example to be followed by Hindu nationalists in dealing with India's claimed 150 million Muslims as well as its Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and other minorities, all of whom should be denied even basic citizens' rights"

Umm, the mighty Hindu Aryan race of India. Interesting, huh ?

"The Varna system was a precious gift of the Aryans to the mankind," it said, referring to the four-tier caste hierarchy. " ... The importance of the 'Varna' system as an ideal system of building the social and economic structure of a society cannot be overlooked."

Well, the BJP denies there was anything like the Aryan Invasion. Friedrich Braun, I guess we
"sub-human South Asians" are also Aryan then ;)

Anyway, when I studied history in school the socialist Congress was in power, followed by the coaltion of left-leaning parties. No history book I ever read even suggested that there might have been an Aryan invasion which resulted in the formation of the caste system. Of course, the caste sytem and any attempt by maniacs to glorify it were duly condemned. I wonder whether it's only in Gujarat, with a high proportion of high - caste people, that such controversial material can be taught in schools. I still have my doubts -nothing written in the liberal sections of the English media in India suggests that anything so utterly bemeaning to non-Hindu Indians is being taught to students. Anyway, in Gujarat anything's possible:


Posted by: king kong at August 21, 2003 09:58 PM

first, hindus aren't polytheistic.

anyone that reads this blog knows i use the term "devil worshippers" in a joking fashion as a crack at my background (muslim). in particular, i thought it was funny when i realized hindu bengali term for *god* is actually what i'd heard all my life in reference to forest devils (bogaban). strictly speaking-hindus are devil worshippers, they still revere the daevas that the pre-zoroastrian persians venerated, though they add a healthy dollop of sophisticated philosophy & on top of it. note that daeva & divine are very close-and remember that the devil basically looks like a pagan god-pan.

as far as being "over the top," i don't attack hinduism very often because it doesn't impact america too much, but the denigration of over over half of india's population is a bit much. i don't really care much about the typical indian, but multiply "a little bit of concern" * 600 million and i might be liable to explode now and then. i'm also a little irritated about the ethnic cleansing of several thousand muslims last year in the world's biggest democracy-that's something i would have expected from pakistan, but then again, i expect a lot from the islamic republic.

BTW-i no longer support the BJP. they are the neandertals that congress portrays them to be-though their coalition partners like the TDP will hold them in check on the national level....

Posted by: razib at August 21, 2003 11:02 PM

P.S. muhammed was a pedophile, joseph smith was a sex-crazed power monger, etc. hinduism is different, you can't attack a power-crazed founder, so you have to attack the perverse culture.

Posted by: razib at August 21, 2003 11:04 PM

well, you could also assert that israel is a racialist state. jean marie le pen isn't a big fan of jews in france, but he is pro-israel too.

Posted by: razib at August 21, 2003 11:13 PM

btw, if you read the wiccan post, what exactly did the wiccans do to you that elicted your outburst? they were annoying flakes. i'm not irritated and incensed that hinduism is flaky-these wacks in the BJP are saffron tinted versions of islamists off by a few degrees, that's clear now....

Posted by: razib at August 21, 2003 11:16 PM

godless, what you're talking about is pantheism:

1. A doctrine identifying the Deity with the universe and its phenomena.
2. Belief in and worship of all gods.

this dovetails with traditional hinduism's monism.

1. The view in metaphysics that reality is a unified whole and that all existing things can be ascribed to or described by a single concept or system.
2. The doctrine that mind and matter are formed from, or reducible to, the same ultimate substance or principle of being.

this contrasts with theism & dualism that is the heart of the abrahamic religions. i'm picky about definitions because monotheists have regularly smeared hindus as babbling pagans worshipping 330 million gods without elaborating the complexity that has allowed hindusim to be one of the few genuinely primal & pagan religions to withstand monotheism.

and yes, the romans & greeks were devil worshippers, that is what monotheist people refer to the gods that they worshipped BEFORE they became believers in the One God. zeus, thor, lugh, they all live on for a few centuries as demons & devils before fading from memory. in the case of india-we muslims who left the darkness of pagnaism were surrounded by active & potent worshippers of the "the devils" that had become ancient memories to the other People of the Book. this is why the british often commented on the strangeness they perceived when they visited india, as if they were walking into their own classical age of pagan mysticism. and greco-roman paganism was clearly moving toward a monistic & pantheistic trajectory under the guidance of the neoplatonics before christianity wiped the floor with them.

i focus on esoterica btw because esoterica is what the god(s)-believers kill themselves over. both you & i might think religion silly & bizarre, but in india, it is a matter of life and death....

btw, there are atheistic, dualistic, and yes, even scientific materialist, strains in hindu thought, though these have not been dominant.

Posted by: razib at August 21, 2003 11:34 PM

Razib, your comments made me think of a good topic to discuss in speculative history: What if the late Roman Empire instituted neo-Platonism as the official ideology instead of Trinitarian Christianity?

Posted by: Chris W at August 22, 2003 12:28 AM

chris-that's been done in soc.history.what-if. hinduism & buddhism were both well known in alexandria, some of pythagoras' ideas seem influenced by the "gymnosophists" (the naked ascetes) of hindu india. plotinus was even supposed to have visited india. if read the gibberish of iamblichus you see that neo-platonism had become a magical system grounded in a One God pantheism where multiple gods were just manifestations of The One.

sound familiar?

Posted by: razib at August 22, 2003 12:37 AM

Razib said :

"well, you could also assert that israel is a racialist state. jean marie le pen isn't a big fan of jews in france, but he is pro-israel too"


Of course he is - if it didn't exist where would he deport them ?


Posted by: king kong at August 22, 2003 12:45 AM

well, there are other options than deportation for the likes of le pen, you know, "little details of history."

Posted by: razib at August 22, 2003 12:59 AM

Well, the way Gujarat's headed, I am positive you'll soon find Modi calling the pogroms "a little detail of history."

Posted by: king kong at August 22, 2003 01:06 AM

It seems that "People of the Book" have trouble with any faith or belief system that does not spell out in Big Bold Letters what is right and wrong. It always struck me as odd, that if God is so awesomely powerful, why does he have to send his message through flesh and blood human beings? Certainly He would have known that such men (interestingly, no women) would be viewed with suspicion. Unless, such men were self-absorbed to a degree that we normally associate with politicians. At least when the Hindu mystic Ramakrishna claimed to see the goddess Kali in a vision, he did not out to conquer his neighbors, unlike a certain Arabic fellow, who, having been exposed to a little too much desert sun, felt that God commanded him to spread his message far and wide, by force if necessary, and along the way marry a little girl, and marry his son’s wife.

The absurdity of “modern day” Islam is that while less than a fifth of the world’s Muslims are Arabic, all prayers are conducted in Arabic, and translating the Koran into native languages is discourages. Naipaul described how Pakistanis believe they are Arabic, since it is more comfortable to believe that one’s ancestors came in with the conquering army, than the more likely case – a low caste Hindu who converted, the descendant of a woman who was forced into a Muslim marriage, or a descendant of a convert or die Muslim. This dlusion carries over into choice of food, as many Pakistanis claim that their favorite fruit are dates, even though dates generally do not grow in that climate. But apparently, mangos are too associated with the kafirs of India.

Modern Christianity has a host of different problems. But chief among them would have to be abandoning Christ’s offering of God’s love. Christians seem particularly skilled at telling me all the ways I am going to hell – love almost never crosses their lips. Nietcze was right when he claimed that the last Christian died on the cross.

As for the Hindutva crowd, their own unique idiocy comes through in that they are adopting the worst aspects of what they charge against Islam – forcing their set of beliefs onto others. It abandons the traditional Hindu approach – extensive meditation upon God, and instead offers ready-made solutions, almost all of which involve kicking Muslims out.

Posted by: KXB at August 22, 2003 09:10 AM

Naipaul for all of his criticism of Pakistan has a Pakistani wife (apparently she used to write a ditzy column in a national paper). His philosophy on Islamic imperialism is bunk and ignores the basis of the culture. Prayers are Arabic as hymns are in Sanskrit, since it is the ecclesiastical language!

What is the dispute over mangos and dates, are we not desi enough:) Pakistanis eats mangos when it is the season and personally it's my favourite fruit (I can't stand dates, too sweet). Dates do have certain popularity amongst Pakistanis in part due to the tradition to break the fast with dates.

The Arab Islam invasion was the final epoch in a long series of Semitic invasions from Saudi Arabia; only this time the nomadic culture prevailed.

A further corollary in the history of India and Persia can be established with the Turkic invasions, which date back to the pre-Islamic era (Rajputana and half the Hindu population of Haryana probably claim descent from the Scythian wave of 5th century AD) however Islam merely prevented assimilation into the dominant Hindu hierarchy and allowed them to retain their culture.

It is also very difficult to speak of Pakistani ancestry per se. There is an undeniably substantial Perso-Arab component to the Mohajir population (the bureaucratic class who emigrated from UP to Pakistan at Partition).

For instance my late grandmother was a Delhite however her father was an inhabitant to a Shi'ite village in UP (he was hounded out after converting away from Islam, indeed UP is the orthodox core of Hinduism and Islam) where the inhabitants claimed to be Sayyids (descendants of the Holy Prophet).

At any rate the lineage, for all intents and purposes, could have been fictitious but in one branch of my distant relatives (they, unlike our clan, returned to orthodox Shi'ism and remained "pure Sayyid") one son can be taken for Persian, the other Arab, the older daughter Turkish and younger Indian.

Caste, creeds and colours have mixed for the Indian Muslim to the extent that speculation on ancestry is at best an uneducated guess.

At any rate the creation of Arab genealogy in Pakistan is a South\Central Asian tradition of attributing the tribe foreign lineages (the highly ethnocentric Pathan tribes claim to descend from Arabs but this marker is created to heighten their prestige in the inter clan rivalries).

Pakistani society does have a definite pre-Islamic Hindu cultural framework, which I do think we as a nation should give more recognition to, however the fact is that prior to 711 the population of present day Pakistan had an extremely strong Buddhist-Zoroastrian (Tantric Buddhism in West Punjab) component with a relatively weak Brahman hold.

Finally the Holy Quran has been translated to Persian (Shah Wallilah, 19th century) however translations are not common place because of the intricacies involved in transliterating Arabic sentences uttered in the 7th century (though paradoxically the Saudis are now enthusiastically translating the Holy Quran to English).

Islam like most other religions has acquired so many accretions and has such a contradictory nature that it's very difficult to speak of it in such bold terms.

Posted by: Zachary Latif at August 22, 2003 10:11 AM

This dlusion carries over into choice of food, as many Pakistanis claim that their favorite fruit are dates,

The only time I have seen most Pakistanis eat dates is for Ramadan. Mangoes on the other hand are very popular.

Posted by: Zack at August 22, 2003 10:53 AM

Couple of points of contention

1. RSS is filled with wackos, but "Hindutva" is very different from Hinduism in spirit and practice.

2. Caste system is pretty much a cultural issue now in India - it doesn't matter if you are Hindu, Muslim or Christian - there are caste divisions between people in all these religions and there have documented cases of discrimination among all such -

http://www.bihartimes.com/book_review/book_review5.html (Muslim Dalits a downtrodden lot )

3. Yes, Gujarat was an abomination - but do we know the full story from the media reports? check this out - http://www.madhoo.com/archives/000457.php

All in all, nice reading as usual :)

Posted by: Shanti at August 22, 2003 02:22 PM

shanti, great article on muslims & caste, but i think you are trying to white-wash it when you assert it is as prevelant among muslims. what is prevelant, to more or less extent as hindus, is socioeconomic inequality. what i object to is not inequality-but the religious imprinture that this inequality is given through the laws of manu.

to discriminate & and exclude is human. but, in faiths such as christianity, islam and buddhism, it is a human foible, rather than a divine virtue. monotheists have argued in favor of social inequality by appealing to the fact that if it exists it must have the favor of the Lord God. there are obvious weaknesses in this theory, and it is a backwards inductive process. in contrast, in hinduism, the mechanism and rationale behind inequality is explicated-the spiritual status of the brahmin is the result of merit accrued in past lives. this is the problem i see with social inequality in india-there is a metaphysical & spiritual justification for an unfortunate fact of life....

p.s. the article is very informative, and i appreciate it bringing to light the shit-life that most muslims in india live in-but i simply don't believe its accurate when it tries to assert and identity between hindu conceptions of ritual cleanliness and muslim ones. where you are a sayyid (descendents of the prophet), sheik (lord), or khan (military caste) or dalit muslim, there is no denying that all are nothing under the sight of god and that all make their pilgrimage to mecca donning the same robes and witnessing to their spiritual equality.

Posted by: razib at August 22, 2003 05:24 PM

Razib, I do agree that the "laws of Manu" are a big source of discrimination not only against the Dalits, but also against women - they advocate that we women shut up and let the men do tha talking. I completely agree that it is a completely wrong doctrine that might have made sense to the mind who wrote it, but isn't relevant anymore.

What I would argue about is that, how many people in present India are even aware of the "Manusmriti"? It isn't like these texts are taught in school or anything - we were taught the "Bible" in school (I attended one of those catholic missionary schools), but never a single Hindu text. Most Hindus in India have a barely minimum understanding of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana (they watched them on TV), leave alone the ancient texts. They look upon the castes as something they put up with - not something they endorse or even care about unless -

-- unless it is a question of the reservations. In my opinion, most Dalit-hatred is based on the fact that in an extremely highly competetive society, most upper-caste Hindus feel discriminated upon by the government.

Posted by: Shanti at August 22, 2003 06:04 PM


you know that hindu personal law is actually more retrogressive toward women than muslim personal law? but guess what, hindu women ahve more freedom than muslim women! so obviously hindus can move past the letter of their religious faith.

unfortunately, they don't want to move past caste, it appeals to humanity's baser natures. i am not asserting that hindus accept caste because manu tells them so, i am asserting that the vauge spiritual justification makes them far less guilty about treating others as sub-human (muslims do it too, but all muslims know as long as the other person is not a kaffir, it's not something allah would approve) than it would otherwise be.

hinduism can change obviously, that is the nature of the religion, beef was once kosher, and now it's not, but caste is something that appeals to humanity's dark side, so it's harder to kick....

Posted by: razib at August 23, 2003 03:09 PM

nothing on the web aside from biased sources-but the sources are almost muslim, which i believe indicates that though they exaggerate, they have a point to make. muslim law does give women the shaft when it comes to divorce, property rights, etc. but-it at least makes a provision, where to my knowledge, hindu custom tends to bar remarriage, give males all property rights, etc.

Posted by: razib at August 24, 2003 01:50 PM

There is debate on the web regarding the age of Aisha at the time of her marriage to Muhammed, alleged pedophile. The scholars were Moslems, and the names were Arabic or Persian, so they didn't stick in my database. Research (such as her age at later events in her life) indicates that she was 19, not 9, at the time of her marriage. Considering the qualities of the prophet and even of Aisha, this makes far more sense.

Posted by: MaryClaire at August 24, 2003 07:47 PM

well-when ibrahim hooper of CAIR was confronted by the aisha = 9 point, he stated that the "culture was different." so there might be revisionists, but they are a minority if hooper didn't appeal to their scholarship.

Posted by: razib at August 25, 2003 03:09 PM

Culture was different but physiology was not. Nine year olds are undeveloped children, unless they have been stuffed with hormone laden meats and sugars as in modern societies. I'm not familiar with the fascinating name of Ibrahaim Hooper and am no Moslem scholar, so cannot say if this opinion of Aisha's age is revisionist; but consider this: we have accounts of Muhammed's character and deeds and he was especially humane to females of all ages. His first wife Khadije (who was his employer!) was 15 yrs. older, and he was faithful to her until her death after many yrs of marriage. As for Aisha, she had a healthy ego, really liked Muhammed, and had a reputation for learning. I'll go with 19. Believe it or not, I have also read the opinion that the Aisha marriage was never consummated at all.

Posted by: MaryClaire at August 26, 2003 06:12 AM