''Who is a Hindu?''
This question mystifies both Hindus and non-Hindus around world. Many Hindus, having lived in cosmopolitan been brought up in a traditional Hindu society and describe their own identity: Their claim birth in a Hindu household.
Western society also finds that Hinduism, beliefs, does not fit its concept of an organized re t may just be 'a way of life' and consequently the vague and non-uniform.
Which of their many ancient books do the Hindus follow? How do they choose which gods to worship? What does karma actually mean? These questions are natural. The Hindu identity is complex, and bears the social, philosophical and religious influences of a long past. However, it continues to be well-defined. This book explains how it is so, and shows how the Hindu identity remains relevant in contemporary times and the global context.
The varied elements that have shaped the Hindu identity are explored in the book. It demystifies ancient Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas and the Manusmriti, and provides engaging summaries of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. It tracks the influence of philosophies such as Vedanta, Tantra and Yoga, as well as the effect of exposure to Western thought. It also discusses contemporary issues such as the status of women, religious pluralism and the caste system today.
The anecdotal style of narration makes subtle and complex topics easily comprehensible to all ages. Anyone who seeks an explanation of the Hindu identity, regardless of belief or age, will enjoy reading this book and will benefit from its contents.
K.eshav Prasad Varma, born 1939, grew up in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. e studied Civil Engineering, and after a brief stint in teaching, worked for the Government of India for the rest of his career, retiring as Additional Member, Railway Board.
Hinduism has been an abiding interest throughout his life, and his studies span ancient Sanskrit texts to contemporary works of Western scholars. He has had wide exposure to diverse Hindu traditions, rituals and practices, many of which he directly participated in or witnessed from close quarters. Children of the Immortal is his first book to be published.
He lives in New Delhi.
This book is an attempt to define who the Hindus are and what makes them Hindu.
Growing up, I looked for a book which would help me understand my Hindu identity, but I did not find it. Books on Hinduism related topics mostly explained Hindu philosophy and rituals and did not dwell upon the Hindu identity as a theme. Some made oblique references, or discussed it in the margins; and what was there was not adequate. It was a long search for me and ultimately it went beyond the books on Hinduism.
Later in life, I found myself explaining the Hindu identity to various groups of people. It would happen in India where I live, and also in countries like USA and the UK, which I visited regularly either for professional work or for seeing family and friends. The queries came from the Hindus, the younger generation in particular, as well as from the non-Hindus. I would also be asked to recommend some readings on the topic. I searched for the book again but still could not find it.
Accepting frequent suggestions, I finally decided that I would write it myself. Those brought up in the traditions of organized religions, which include the majority of non-Hindus, perceive Hinduism to be vague and not precisely defined. It does not fit what, in their view, ought to be the rational mould of a religion. The Hindu identity, consequently, confuses and eludes them - why do the Hindus have so many gods? Why do they worship mountains, rivers, even trees, and yet discuss a formless god? What do they really believe in? And why is there no common system of worship? They wonder if there is a unifying thread that binds all Hindus. For them, a distinct Hindu identity possibly does not exist, and may not be taken for granted.
The Hindus, on the other hand, do not have any doubts as to their distinct identity.
But a lack of clarity and a sense of uncertainty nag most young Hindus who have grown up away from their roots, and educated under the Western system in the English medium, and who have generally missed out on living in a traditional Hindu society. For them, it is more a matter of asserting their self-identity than of real understanding; the questions that I have listed above bother them and they also look for satisfactory answers.
With the Indian society predominantly being Hindu, a Hindu child growing up in India comes to accept Hindu traditions as the way of life. He' may occasionally come across children growing up in the traditions of other religions, and he tacitly accepts them to be different. But for those living outside India, the circumstances are totally different. In USA, for instance, the Hindu child grows up amongst an overwhelming Christian majority and spots himself to be the different one. Moreover, Christianity is an organized religion with a clearly defined faith and having uniformity in religious practices, whereas Hinduism, in sharp contrast, is not so. This puts a greater burden on the Hindu child to understand and explain to himself what makes him Hindu; he faces a crisis of identity. I am often asked the questions I have listed above, and more of them, which broadly fall under ''Why Hindus do or do not do certain things''? Each of them is a simple query by itself, but none can be satisfied by a simple explanation; the reply always invites more questions. What is really being enquired into is the Hindu identity -what makes one Hindu?
Little work has been done in this field or is available for reference. I have pointed out earlier that the books on Hinduism cover the topic only by implication and that too, not adequately.
I try to answer these questions and explain the rationale behind the rituals and the philosophy behind the beliefs. The core of Hinduism is built on sound logical foundations. It is easily grasped by the rational minds, more so when presented in modern terminology and context. So my dialogues have generally gone well and my interactions have been fruitful.