HOME  |  Classifieds  |  USA India Yellowpages  |  Tickets  |  Write Articles  |  Business Services  |  Contact us


India, Asia and World News Headlines
Opinion, Analysis, Columns and Discussions
Business, Social and Community Networking
Free India, USA, Canada Classifieds
Business Yellow Pages Directory and Website Listing

  Hinduism: Monotheist or Polytheist  


By: Dr.Dipak Basu
May 05, 2007
iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.


(The author is a Professor in International Economics in Nagasaki University, Japan)

If we open any book on history of India or history of the world, written by the western or modern Indian writers we can see a description of Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma, which in untrained eye would look like a denigration of Hinduism as a religion. The description suggests that Hinduism is not a religion, as we commonly understand, but a combination of various sects, various schools of thought. There is no central authority; no prescribed books but there are millions of gods and goddesses. As majority of the Hindus do not read their holy books or do not even know which books are holy, the resultant confusion turns them against Hinduism where in their confused mind ‘Paganism’ can be considered as Hinduism.

Ram Swarup, a proponent of ‘Hindutva’ was the perfect link between Hindu Renaissance and renascent Paganism in the West and elsewhere. His Names of Gods is a polytheistic manifesto. Ram Swarup told us many times he was looking forward to a Pagan Renaissance in Europe, Africa and America. He wrote, “"A purely monotheistic unity fails to represent the living unity of the Spirit and expresses merely the intellect's love of the uniform and the general.” (in The Word as Revelation: Names of Gods, 1980, p. 128-129).

Hinduism and Paganism:
Along with Sita Ram Goel, Ram Swarup founded the Voice of India, which is now a platform for publishing literature on ‘Hindutva’. Their arguments against a ‘Monotheist Hinduism’ rests on the similarities between Hindu and European pagan gods: their sky god Dyaus Pitar against the Roman Dyu-piter (the actual pronunciation of "Jupiter"); thunder god Indra, who bears a lightening bolt, against thunder god Thor, who also bears a lightening bolt (and both being known as nearly invincible warriors who sometimes drink too much); or the Vedic name for the gods, Asura, against the Norse name for the gods, Aesir. The Veda mentions four tribes that all originally lived in India: the Pritus, Parsus, Druhyus and Alinas; now scholars are wondering if they are not direct names for the Parthians, Persians, Druids and Hellenes.

However, Sri Aurobindo said, “Indian polytheism is not the popular polytheism of ancient Europe; for here the worshipper of marry Gods still knows that all his divinities are forms, names, personalities and powers of the One; his gods proceed from the one Purusha, his goddesses are energies of the one divine Force.” (Foundations of Indian Culture, p. 135). Thus, it is not justified to call Hinduism as Paganism, when Hinduism is definitely Monotheist.

Shrikant Talageri puts Hinduism in a worldwide continuum of Paganism by saying, “Hinduism is the name for the Indian territorial form of worldwide Sanâtanism (call it Paganism in English). The ideology of ‘Hindutva’ should therefore be a universal ideology” (S. Talageri in S.R. Goel: Time for Stock-Taking, p.227). However ‘Hindutva’ is not Hinduism, as Savarkar as a rationalist refused to accept the authority of the Vedas or Upanishads or Bhagwat Gita. Savarkar’s definition of a Hindu is a geographical and political construct, unrelated to the Hindu religion. According to him irrespective of religion anyone who lives in India and accept Indian culture is a Hindu. That has possibly provoked Vaktivedanta Prabhupad, the founder of ISKON to declare himself a follower of ‘Sanatran Dharma’ but not a Hindu.

The term pagan is from Latin Paganus, an adjective originally earning “rural”, “rustic” or “of the country.” As a noun, Paganus was used to mean “country dweller, villager.” In colloquial use, it would mean much the same as calling someone a ‘bumpkin’ or a ‘hillbilly’. Paganus was almost exclusively a derogatory term. It is from this derivation of “villager” which we have the word “villain. Many Slavic peoples, especially Eastern Slavs, use the word “Pagan” as an insult in their language; translating roughly as a “conniving brute.” “Paganism” is also sometimes used to mean the lack of religion; Heathen” (Old English hæðen) is a translation of Paganus. There cannot be any more insult for Hinduism than to call it Pagan.

Hinduism According to Rig Veda:
Rig Veda, Upanishad and Bhagwat Gita, according to the Vedanta school of thought, are the core of the Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism as we call it now. Going through the holy texts of Hinduism we can get the correct picture about the nature of Hinduism – whether it is Monotheist or Polytheist. Different Devas and Devis in Hinduism were all created, according to Puran, by Brahman and their powers are derived from the Brahman, who can take away their powers too, like what has happened to Indra in the Ramayana. Thus, these Devas and Devis are nothing but very powerful angels; they are not Gods or Goddesses as they are in ancient Greek religion, where they are created independently not by the Brahman, as it is Rig Veda.

According to Rig Veda, Manu has created the Devas and Devis as well as men and women. “ Worship the Vasus, Agni. Here the Rudras, the Adityas, all. Who spring from Manu.” (Rig Veda, Book 1, Hymn XLV, verse 1). A number of the Devas and Devis are mentioned in the Rig Veda. Varun, Indra, Vishnu, Agni, Mitra, Rudra, Saraswati, Usha, Ila are the principal among them but there are others. If Manu has created them, then who has created Manu? Rig Veda said, “The Devas are later than this world’s production.”. Thus, the main question how the creation was formed. Here we have the description in the Rig Veda, Book X, verse 129: ” Then was not non-existent nor existent; there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it. The ONE, breathless breathed by its own nature; apart from it was nothing whatsoever.

All that existed then was void and formless; by the great power of warmth (Tapasya) was born that UNIT. Thereafter rose LOVE the primal seed and germ of SPIRIT. Devas are later than this world’s creation. HE the first origin of this creation; HE formed it all. WHOSE eye controls this world.”

Thus, HE the Brahman is the creator of the Devas and Devis. It is supported by Bhagwat Gita: “I am the one source of all; the evolution of all comes from me” (Bhagwat Gita, Ch 10, verse 8) and ” I am the source of all beings; I support them all, but I rest not in them” (Bhagwat Gita, Ch 9, verse 5)These verses are definitely pointing out for One creator Brahman, who in turn is responsible for the creation of all other Devas and Devis. We get further supports from Bhagwat Gita in the following verses: ” Brahman is the supreme, the eternal”(Ch 8, Verse 3); “In this universes there is nothing higher than I.” (Ch 7, Verse 7) ” It is Brahman, begining less, supreme; beyond what is and beyond what is not” (Ch 13, verse 12)” He who knows I am beginning less, unborn, the Lord of all the universes, this mortal is free from delusion and from all evils he is free” (Ch 10, verse 3)” I am the abode of Brahman, the never-failing fountain of everlasting life” (Ch 14, verse 27) In other Vedas we also get this concept of One creator. “He is without any form, yet dwells inside and outside all things With form and shape, Yet He is entirely free of error, faultless and pure.

He is far beyond anything a human body can comprehend. And being the Divine Poet. He is inspiration itself. He maintains peace and harmony because He is both peace and Harmony made manifest.” (Yajur Veda) “He is present in all places and rules everywhere. His power controls utterly all the three regions: Earth, the Middle-Air, and the highest heavens. One foot is rooted in things we understand: But the other rests in a realm of deep, dark mystery, A place far beyond the knowledge of mankind.” (Artharva Veda).
These later Vedas are reflecting what is written in the Rig Veda, “He is substance of every great eternal law. And He can be perceived in the universal forces of life.” Vedic Invocations invoke GOD through his attributes and functions. He is the Force behind all of nature’s mighty forces, the Light behind the light; the Delight behind delights; the Ultimate Activity behind all activities. Similarly, God’s various names in the Vedas are the one GOD viewed in terms of his attributes, functions, and nature. There is no real suggestion of anything besides the ONE. Long before Siva, Vishnu, Rama, Ganesh, Parvati, Laxmi, and the others, this is the GOD of the Vedas— Brahman.

Raja Ram Mohun Roy, RamKrishna Param Hansa, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi all have the same opinion that Allah, Jehova, Iswar are the three names of the Brahman, the Supreme. Ram Krishna Param Hansa used to tell a story that Brahman is the water. Three persons, Hindu, Christian and a Muslim, are thristy. The Hindu is asking, where is Jalam; the Muslim is asking where is Pani; and the Christian is asking where is water. These three different names of the same water do not change the character of the water. Thus, according to RamKrishna ParamHansa, Iswar, Allah, Jehova are three different names of the same Brahman, the Supreme Creator of all.

Swami Chidananda of Ram Krishna Mission has explained in some simple words, “We will know and clearly understand that all Divine forms are symbolic and signify one God who has manifested multifariously in order to help human beings in various stages of Spiritual evolution and of different tastes and temperaments and capacities to find a suitable expression of the Divine that appeals to their temperament and attracts their devotion and thus enables them to focus their mind.” (in ‘Hinduism: Monotheism and Polytheism Reconciled’). He is reflecting what is written in Rig Veda, “Truth is One, but sages call it by many names” (Book1, Hymn164, verse 46).

Hinduism and Islam:
Relationship between Hinduism and other major religions of the world should be cordial although the followers of these religions may not think so. The main adversary of Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism in Asia is Islam, which has wiped out these religions from most parts of Asia already. Much of the misery of India, derived from the partition of the country in 1947, is directly related to the activity of the followers of Islam. However, Islam, according to The Koran, has close similarity with Hinduism.

Islam was distorted and corrupted immediately after the death of Prophet Mohammed. The true Islam was destroyed by Khalifa Yazid, whose father, the King of Syria was the mortal enemy of Prophet Mohammed. Kalifa Yazid invaded Medina and Mecca, killed every relative of the Prophet Mohammed including Hassan and Hussein-- sons of Ali the first Khalifa appointed by Prophet Mohammed. Thereafter, Yazid rewrote the Haddith, Sariyat and according to some scholar even some parts of The Koran to justify his Syrian Arab Empire to bring death and destruction to the vast parts of Eurasia and North Africa. That is the evil face of the Muslims, which is very well known.

However, The Koran says exactly the opposite, if the Muslims would care to read it. The Koran said,” God does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who have neither made war on your religion nor driven you from your homes. God loves the equitable” (in Al Utahanah, 60:5)Similarity between Hinduism and Islam can be traced if we analyze the texts properly. Rig Veda says “ Let our meditation be on the glorious light of Savitri; may this light illuminate our minds.” The Koran also said, “ God is the light of the heavens and earth….God guides to his light whom he will,” (Al-Nur, 24:35).

Sri Krishna said, “ When righteousness is weak and faints and unrighteousness exults in pride, my spirit arises on earth” (Bhagwat Gita, Ch. 4, verse 7). The Koran said similarly in Jonah, 10:47, “ An apostle is sent to each community. When their apostle comes, justice is done among them; they are not wronged.” Also in Al-Nahl, 16:36, The Koran said, “ We raised an apostle in each community, saying: Serve God and keep away from false gods”.

Sri Krishna said, “ For this is my word of promise, that he who loves me shall not perish. For those who come to me for shelter, however weak or humble or sinful they may be …they all reach the path supreme” (Bhagwat Gita, Ch9, Verse 31-32). The Koran also said, “ God is the patron of the faithful; he leads them from darkness to the light” (Al-Baqarah, 2:257).

The Koran says, “ Righteousness does not consist in whether you face towards the East or the West. The righteous man is he …who gives away his wealth to kinsfolk, to orphans, to the destitute, to the traveler in need and to beggars and for the redemption of captives…. who is true to his promises. Such are the true believers” (Al-Baqarah, 2:177).

Leading Muslim politicians in British India Maulana Abul Kalam Azad or Khan Abdul Gaffer Khan have lived all their lives according to strict codes of True Islam, but both were opposed to the idea of Pakistan and suffered greatly for their views. Followers of Khalifa Yazid, Jinnah, Surrawordy, Iqbal– those who created Pakistan and brought death and destruction to the Indian sub-continent, just like their modern camp-followers like Ben Laden or General Mussaraf believe in false Islam.

Hinduism and Christianity:
Similarly the Christian missionaries and Christian leaders, whether the Pope John Paul or Pat Robertson of Baptist Mission Church, have followed a wrong version of Christianity, which is far from the true religion. Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in University of Oxford has explained the similarity between Hinduism and Christianity in the web site http://www.nchtuk.org/content.php?id=267 of the National Council of Hindu Temples of UK.

He said, “Hindus don't really see Jesus as a Christian at all. When we ask how we can see spirituality in Hindus, the answer comes, by behavior and practice. We can ask are we humble, are we tolerant and are we non-violent, and can we control our senses and our mind? Are we aware of others suffering and are we willing to give up our comfort to help them? Looking at these criteria Jesus measures up as a Sadhu, a holy man. He preached a universal message, love of God and love of brother, which was beyond any sectarianism or selfishness. Jesus was one of those people who appealed from heart to heart, and that"s what makes him such a Hindu Saint. His message is no different from the message preached in another time and place by Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya.”

Similarity between Hinduism and Christianity is in the concept of the supreme One. In the Rig Veda we can read: “He is One Brahma, The Creator of the cosmos, Who pervades and protects, And enlightens aft beings, He is One Supreme Entity, Whom sages call by various names, Such as Indra, the glorious, Mitra, the benign friend, Varuna, the greatest, the noblest, Agni, the resplendent, the bright, Yama, the dispenser of justice, Matarishwa, the almighty” (Rig Veda, Book 1, Hymn 164, Verse 46). These words are also reflected in the Christianity: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.” (in John, 5/7, on page 1279 of the King James Version of the Holy Bible).

International Propaganda Against India and Hinduism:
Anti-Hindu groups in USA, lead by Prof.Witzel of Harvard University, through his organization ‘Friends of South Asia’ is very active to promote a specific views expressed in the textbooks in Hinduism they prescribe. In the ‘Teachers’ Curriculum Institute’ (p. 144) recommended by them as a text for the schools in USA, Hinduism is described as follows: “Modern day Hinduism is very complex. Many beliefs, many forms of worship, and many gods exist side by side.” On page 147, the same book has a heading for a chapter, ‘Hindu Beliefs About Multiple Gods’. They believe everything including Sanskrit language, Chariot, iron, bronze, writing system even rice—all came from outside India; India has produced nothing and ancient Indian civilization has left nothing tangible (in J.M. Roberts, A New History of the World, Penguin Press).

Hindus in USA made objection through their organization, Vedic Foundation, and came into very strong opposition from the ‘Friends of South Asia’ who wants to call Hinduism as ‘Brahmanism’ and made the following comments: “This edit (by Vedic Foundation) is an attempt to mask the pantheistic nature of Hinduism and present it as Monotheistic instead. Monotheism is in fact contrary to the way many Hindus understand and practice their religion.” (in the website)

Thus the idea that Hinduism is not a monotheist religion is derived directly from those who are anti-Hindus. Ram Puniyani, the regular columnist in The Millee Gazattee, the voice of the Indian Muslims, wrote recently “In Hinduism, polytheism, ditheism, monotheism and even atheism, all run as parallel streams. As there is no prophet, the religion itself is very amorphous, meaning different things to different people.” (‘On Gujarat Freedom of religion bill’ in The Hindustan Times, September 22, 2006). This is view expressed in many forms by all most all Anglo-American writers to denigrate Hinduism. It is very strange that the proponents of the ‘Hindutva’ have joined them as well.

Sankara has purified Hinduism when during the Middle Ages it got submerged into mindless rituals and distortions. His message was the same as that of Raja Ram Mohan Roy in modern time when during the 19th century in India, according to Rabindranath Tagore, “…only the ghost of the living ancient Hindu religion held its sway in the funeral grounds. It had no life, it had no vitality, it only had its strictures and threats. Ram Mohun proceeded fearlessly to free society from the serpent-like bondage" in Charitra Puja: Rammohun Roy (in Bengali) by Rabindranath Tagore).

Ram Mohan Roy’s Brahma Samaj, just like Swami Dayananda’s Arya Samaj and Prarthana Samaj of R.G.Bhandarkar and M.G.Ranade have proclaimed the greatness of Hindu religion as given in the texts of the Vedas, and Upanishads, in some simple words: ‘There is only one God. None equals Him. He has no end. He is present in all living beings’.

Ram Krishna Paramhansa described Brahman in a very simple way:” Think of Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, as a shore less ocean. Through the cooling influence, as it were, of the bhakta’a love, the water has frozen at places into blocks of ice. In other words, God now and then assumes various forms for His lovers and reveals Himself to them as a Person. But with the rising of the sun of Knowledge, the blocks of ice melt. Then one doesn’t feel anymore that God is a Person, nor does one see God’s forms.”

Thus, the debate whether Hinduism is monotheistic or not is not a meaningful debate. Despite of the formal differences due to historical and cultural reasons there can be some differences between different religions of the world, but as Ram Krishna has observed, “all roads leads to the same truth”.

Dr.Dipak Basu

       Send your views to author

Do you wish to reach our readers? submit your guest column

Copyright and Disclaimer:
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and not of this website. The author is solely responsible for the contents of this article. This website does not represent or endorse the accuracy, completeness or reliability of any opinion, statement, appeal, advice or any other information in the article. Our readers are free to forward this page URL to anyone. This column may NOT be transmitted or distributed by others in any manner whatsoever (other than forwarding or web listing page URL) without the prior permission from us and the author.


Previous articles by:
Dr.Dipak Basu

Indian Economy: Reforms or Bubble

USA’s nuclear design on India

Hindus under Muslim Rule in West Bengal

CPI(M) and Karl Marx

"Sepoy Mutiny" and Historical Distortions

Hinduism and Equality

SEZs in China and India

Exports of Democracy and its Obstacles

Singur: Reflection of China

China"s claim on Arunachal Pradesh

Indo-US nuclear Deal and its consequences

Mussaraf’s Proposal and India"s Options

Suez Crisis in 1956: the reality

Pope and the Muslims

Balochistan and The Line of Evil

All articles by:
Dr.Dipak Basu


Visit iVarta.com for a rich experience - “#1 Information Resource about India and the Indian Community"

Comprehensive Collection of India News, Articles, Columns, Analysis and Research Papers. Facts about India, Indian History, Culture, Business, Politics, and Terrorism. Religions of India, Mystery and Diversity of India. Rich information resource on India, Indians and Asia. Expert Guide, Comments, New, Views and Analysis. Indus Valley Culture, Religious life of Indians, Beliefs and Practices. Yoga, Meditation and Ayurveda. History of Indian Invasion, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam. Jammu and Kashmir: Facts, History and Politics. Terrorism in J&K, History about terrorism in India. India's international relations with USA, Russia, UK, Pakistan, China....and more....

Terms of Service | Join mailing list | Write Guest Columns | Sitemap