Meat ban is a disservice to the essence of the Hindu faith

Building a particular narrative is a daunting task. For if he is neither infallible nor impartial, he falls. This is what India is witnessing: the collapse of the secular-liberal narrative, which has too many holes. But the narrative that replaces it, Hindu nationalism, also suffers from the same madness, which has once again been revealed by the decision of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to close butcher shops during this Navaratri.

Ignorance may be bliss for the common man, but it functions as a trap in the political arena. The fault lines of the new narrative display a complete ignorance of its core, the Hindu faith, which is more of a confederation of beliefs, cultures and rituals as diverse as Bharat itself. This element of ignorance stems from not having a proper understanding of the true nature of Hinduism.

Vinayak Damodar (Veer) Savarkar, the brave freedom fighter turned father of Hindutva ideology, was a Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin. KB Hedgewar, the founder of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was also a Marathi Deshastha Rigvedi Brahmin. The environment in which they were brought up shaped their ideas, and this environment was essentially Hindu Marathi Vaishnavite in character.

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Savarkar was obsessed with the idea of ​​political Hindutva (he was not a worshiper of cows), and his Hindu Mahasabha refused to be drawn into controversies over dietary habits. But the RSS has always nurtured a fervor of religiosity and imposed a limited and sectarian knowledge of the Hindu faith on the whole Sangh Parivar. This is why the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) refuses to sing ‘Jai Ma Kali’ in Bengal and only harps on ‘Jai Sri Ram’.

The Vaishnavite mindset was clear about choosing Ayodhya (and now focusing on Mathura) to rekindle Hindu pride. Ram and Krishna are presented as reincarnations of Vishnu. Under these circumstances, it is not uncommon for the Vaishnav culture of vegetarianism to be imposed by the Sangh Parivar and its political wing, the BJP. They don’t even know that it hurts the Shakta Hindus, who ritually eat meat on some Navaratri days (especially Durga Navaratri). Thus, they harm their own cause: instead of uniting Hindus, they divide them by trying to stifle minority faiths within the Hindu faith.

Such errors are rooted in the belief that what I see around me is universally true. On a personal level, I had fought the instruction from my son’s Delhi school that only vegetarian food would be allowed at home. It was not politics but local culture that prompted the school authority to issue such an advisory. But when I explained to them that my Bengali food culture is different, they caved.

The problem with the political class is that it does not give in. They try to impose their diktat on “others”, as in this case of no meat during Navaratri, not only on Muslims or Christians but also on Shakta, Aghori, Naga sadhus, etc. They don’t even know that these sects, especially the Vaishnava and the Shaivites, had violent confrontations over many cultural or religious differences in the past.

What the Sangh does undermines Adi Shankara (700-750 CE), who unified the five main denominations by combining the worship of Vishnu/Narayan, Shiva, Devi Ma, Surya and the ishta devata of devotees (like Ganesha, Kartikeya or any other deity worshiped daily by the household), thus promoting the Smarta Panchayatana puja which gave rise to modern Unified Hinduism.

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There was no question of a unified food system in this framework introduced by Shankaracharya, because what he brought was unity in diversity. Over time, it spread to other Dharmic religions (which believe in dharma, such as Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism), and later it became quintessential in India.

The Hindu faith reconciles opposites. Till today we find few Ravana temples, although Ravana was the sworn enemy of ‘maryada purushottam’ Ram. Significantly, while Devi Durga killed Mahishasura, there is still a tribe called Asura, who worship Mahishasura, and they too are traditional Hindus. Moreover, even an atheist is allowed in the Hindu fold.

True Hindu tradition is not about coercing others or imposing one’s faith on others, but rather the opposite. The Rig Veda (which was composed, as indicated by the astronomical positions described by later texts, more than five thousand years ago) said: “Ekam sat, vipra bahudha vadanti” (Rig Veda 1.164.46). It means “the absolute truth, or God, is one; but the wise call it by different names. True Hindus have never forgotten this teaching. This is why Ramkrishna Paramhansa (Swami Vivekananda’s guru) echoed it so many thousands of years later: Jato mat tato path (so many beliefs, so many ways).

So if the RSS and the BJP want to build a political culture based on dharma, which is the core of the Hindu faith along with karma and rebirth, they should focus on fighting adharma, i.e. -saying something that damages or destroys creation, including the individual, the collective and the earth. Instead, if they focus on imposing sectarian rituals and dietary habits, it will be a great disservice to the Hindu faith itself.

(The writer is a journalist and author)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH

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