By | Devdutt Pattanaik | Indian Author
The design of the Parliament building in Delhi was based on yogini shrines of North India that were built over 1,000 years ago. They are circular without a central roof, very different from later temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu, where the deity is in an inner chamber with a pyramidal roof, a pillared hall in front and surrounded by subsidiary shrines of junior deities, usually family members — Lakshmi shrines in Vishnu temples; Ganesha shrines in Shiva temples. In the yogini shrine, all yoginis are equal. But in the later temples, one deity takes central role.
As Hindutva strives to create a oneman, one-party system, it is allegedly moving from the yogini model of democracy — full of cantankerous arguments — to the bhagavan model of democracy. But sadly, Hindutva does not realise that the bhagavan of Hinduism is not like Jehovah of Christianity or the Emperor of China, who control all policies and resources. Hinduism’s bhagavan creates an ecosystem (manthan), where devas and asuras churn the ocean of milk for Lakshmi.
Churning requires two opposing forces — force and counter-force, devas and asuras, who fight each other but come together to churn out Lakshmi. But both the leftists and rightists of India focus on the fighting part, not the churning part. Each imagine themselves as devas, not realising that to generate Lakshmi, you need help of the asuras. They see their relationship with the other as ‘tug-of-war’ where you overpower rather than support the other.
When you talk to leftists, you notice that they begin by dividing the world. They divide it into the oppressor and the oppressed, the privileged and the underprivileged, and the entitled and those denied of agency. They then proceed to flagellate the mighty, powerful, rich and the famous with terms of guilt and shame. It is a continuous shaming of people because they are either men, or upper caste, or good-looking, or rich, or heterosexual or comefrom prominent families. These sections of people are continuously delegitimised and considered the evil of society. This is a continuous relentless attack. They remind us of biblical prophets screaming and yelling ‘J’accuse,’ pointing their fingers at the Babylonian kings and referring to the writing on the wall.
Such division of the world is seen in rightists too, but the pattern is different. If the left looks at oppressed (below) and oppressors (above), the rightists are looking at invaders (outside) and natives (inside). They are Roman emperors of Byzantium and Rome, fighting barbarians at the gate. They see Muslims as the ‘desert cult’ infiltrating India, or Christians as ‘rice bag missionaries’ destroying Indian culture. Ironically, Muslims see Islam as the ‘faith of justice and peace’ wiping out the old barbaric and ignorant order (jaheel) and Christianity sees its faith as ‘truth’ wiping out ‘falsehood’.
Hindutva sells the idea that Hinduism is Vedanta and Vedanta’s highest form is Advaita, an idea that was popularised in colonial times when Hindu reformers saw monotheistic Christianity as the benchmark. Advaita Vedanta ends up being seen as a Hindu substitute for ‘monotheism’ — where everything is one, despite diversity. In fact, Advaita tries to deny diversity by saying Shiva is same as Vishnu — and sees diversity as division. This is why Advaita-propelled Hindutva seeks homogeneity — a parliament full of saffron-robed theocrats. In this worldview, asuras have to be destroyed. No opposition, no outsiders, no diversity, only homogeneity — and so no scope for churning.
Most temples of India follow ‘bhedaabheda’ Vedanta, which is like a Venn diagram, looking at the dynamic overlapping of common and uncommon features and interests of various groups of people (ganas, janas, devas, asuras). Uncommon things lead to tension, competition and violence. However, common things generate collaboration and union.
If Delhi wants to be the central shrine, then the states have to be subsidiary shrines. No Shiva temple can exist without shrines to Ganesha, Kartikeya, Shakti, or even Vishnu and local gramadevas and devis. Hindutva ignores Sita when focusing on Ram, ignores Radha when focusing on Krishna, without realising that one cannot exist without the other. There will always be ‘bheda’ but there is also ‘abheda’, creating divisions and unions constantly, not homogeneity but diversity, not centrallydoled out equality or equity but dynamic competition and collaboration between multiple hierarchies.