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  Comment: "Bhagavad Gita will be burnt"  
 

 

By: Shachi Rairikar
March 15, 2007
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iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

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(The author is a Chartered Accountant working in a software company in Indore, M.P., India and manage www.indpride.com)

Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) president K Veeramani has alleged that Ramayana, one of the oldest and well-known epics of the world, besmirched women. The DK leader also said that the Bhagavad Gita and Manusmriti too denigrated the women folk. Hence, a demonstration would be held soon and these sacred scriptures of the Hindus would be burnt to ashes.
Though Veeramani’s endeavor does not come across as a surprise, because there have been similar demonstrations by so-called feminist groups in the past, it cannot be conveniently ignored because it would bring great pain to millions all over the world, especially the majority of the people of India without genuinely serving any purpose.
While, it cannot be denied that some parts of these scriptures might appear to be detrimental to women’s interests when viewed in the present context, it is important to note that the consideration of the social conditions prevailing at the time when these were composed thousands of years ago is inevitable for a fair and just analysis. It would be grossly incorrect to put the ancient scriptures to test within the parameters of modern social standards.

It is also equally important that we realize that most of the social injustice that we have encountered in the past and continue to battle against in the present, is not entirely due to these scriptures. While a small share of the responsibility may be transferred to the scriptures, the greater burden lies with their incorrect interpretation by selfish humans who managed to convert situations to their own benefit owing to their positions of power.

Moreover, the basic crux of these scriptures is not denigration of women. The Manu Smriti, which is allegedly averse to the cause of women empowerment, has laid great emphasis on holding the women in honor. “Where women are honored there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored no sacred rite yields rewards,” the Manu Smriti declares. Such respect for the feminine has not been as readily visible in the Abrahamic faiths. “A woman’s body must not be struck hard, even with a flower, because it is sacred,” says Manu, the ancient law-maker. It is for this reason that Hinduism does not allow capital punishment for women.

The Ramayan is the national epic of India. With numerous translations in vernaculars, the Ramayana has become an inspiration for millions of Hindus. Mahatma Gandhi praised the Ramacaritamanas of the 16th century poet Tulsidas as the greatest work in the entire religious literature of the world. The Bhagavad Gita is said to be the most beautiful philosophical song in any language. It has been read daily and recited by millions across the vast expanse of India over the centuries. Men and women from all over the world have drawn inspiration from it. Mahatma Gandhi had turned to the Gita for light and guidance in times of crisis.

Is it not puzzling why Veeramani has chosen only these great Hindu scriptures for disgraceful treatment? It is well known that the religious books of the Semitic faiths, especially the Quran of the Muslims and the Bible of the Christians, accord women a secondary position, denigrate women far more than any Hindu scripture. The Quran requires the woman to be covered from the head to the toe, gives the testimony of a woman only half the weight age as that of a man, authorizes the man to have multiple wives, whom he can divorce by uttering a single word thrice, concubines and women slaves while there are no such provisions for the woman, who is expected to be faithful to her husband and adultery is gravely punishable. The Bible in its teachings degrades women from Genesis to Revelation. It perceives woman as a possession of man. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leading figure of the early women’s rights movement wrote about the Bible, “I know of no other book that so fully teach the subjection and degradation of women.” She was of the opinion that the Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.

But Veeramani does not dare to inflict similar insults on the Semitic scriptures. Is it that he is not aware of the derogatory attitude towards womanhood in these texts? Or is it that he is aware of the well-known tolerance of the Hindus who would swallow dishonor without protesting, while their counterparts in the Muslim and Christian community are not as thick-skinned and would go to any extent to register their objections and protect their honor? Or is it because Veeramani is another domestic Hindu face of the prosperous international anti-Hindu lobby which has found safe home in the sold out, so-called secular quarters of this country?

Or is it because Veeramani knows that the secular UPA government of India would pay no heed to the hurt sentiments of the majority Hindus who form 85% of the Indian population but would take instant action to protect the sentiments of the privileged 15% of the population who are called the Muslim and Christian minority? Past experiences show that whenever the slightest disrespect was shown to Islam in any part of the world, Muslims all over the world protested, most often violently. When a cartoonist in Denmark made some cartoons of the Prophet, Muslims in India carried out violent protests and the Indian government communicated its concern to the government of Denmark because the act had hurt the sentiments of a section of Indian population. But no violent protests happened and the same Indian government took no action when the Hindu sentiment was brutally hurt due to the demolition of temples in Malaysia and Kazakhstan. Also, the person who made obscene paintings of many Hindu gods and goddesses and even the national deity Bharat Mata continues to enjoy the honor of the second highest civilian award bestowed by the government of India in spite of the gravely wounded majority sentiment.

While it is true that all religious texts in the world might be interpreted to have some positive and negative values, it is certain that none of them were created with a bad intention. All have their share of good and bad, highs and lows but none deserve to be burned to ashes. The good definitely outweighs the bad, the positive overcomes the negative and that is probably the reason why these ancient texts remain relevant thousands of years after they were conceived. Though some parts of these scriptures appear to be outdated in relation to the dynamics of the ever-evolving social structure, but these cannot be sighted as reasons enough to show insult to the great works that have been the pillars around which civilizations grew and prospered.

Will the cause of woman empowerment be served by the burning of few religious scriptures that have done greater service than harm to the mankind, in general, and the Indian society, in particular? Will the ashes of some of the greatest works on philosophy, spirituality and morality that have been the guiding stars to the Indic civilization since times immemorial make the lives of the millions of Indian women any better? Will the insult shown to most revered scriptures not deeply hurt the sentiments of the Indian women, a large majority of whom are highly religious and have undaunted faith in their religion and culture?

It is a well-established fact accepted by scholars all over the world that in no ancient culture, civilization or religion of the world, were women held in so much esteem as amongst the Hindus. Hinduism is the only religion that places the Feminine on a par with the Masculine in the profound concept of Shiva-Shakti culminating in the image of Ardhanarishwar. It is indeed an irony that under the pretext of women’s liberation Veeramani has chosen to abuse a religion that elevates woman to the position of divinity.

Veeramani’s action does not seem to be sincerely inspired by the cause of women. It seems to be just another excuse to defame Hinduism. Is Veeramani’s hatred for Hinduism so great that it leaves no scope for any prudent analysis, for the consideration of hurt sentiments, for better ways to work towards women empowerment? Or are the rewards of denigrating Hinduism so great that any kind of introspection seems worthless?

Shachi Rairikar

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Previous articles by:
Shachi Rairikar

Salwa Judum – The Heroic Uprising

The Terror B-team

Islam & Christianity: Two sides of same coin

The delineated Indians

Chimney Calling the Kettle Black!

Of tombs and homages

The Regime of Fatwas

Baba Mourya: An Artist with a Mission

Shabana Azmi and the Secular Hypocrisy

The UPA has done it again!

Danger comes disguised & bewitching

Congress and the Mahatma

Mr. Singh, Don?t Play With The History

For the sake of Democracy?

Goa: Murder of democracy

All articles by:
Shachi Rairikar


 

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