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Why it is cool to be a Hindu

A tweet by @dimpleatra caught my attention. The question made me ponder whether Hindus can call themselves as ‘cool’.

The question itself reminded me of the historian Arnold J Toynbee’s quote :

“It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation is the ancient Hindu way. Here we have the attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family”

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Arnold Toynbee, British historian

Toynbee felt that ‘the only way of salvation is the ancient Hindu way’. In spite of this sweeping endorsement from a foreigner (which we somehow crave for), there is a need to explain as to why Sanatan Hindu Dharma is cool.

At the outset, I would like to clarify what I understand by the words ‘cool’ and ‘Dharmic’. Of course, the word ‘cool’ is a very subjective connotation. ‘Cool’ is something that is uplifting, attractive, agreeable or something without excessive restrictions. What is ‘Dharmic’? A Dharmic is someone who believes in fairness with all individuals and living beings. ‘Fairness’ is not a passive concept, but an active one. It is closely entwined with ‘righteousness’. Hinduism is a religion which considers ‘Dharma’ as its core concept.

Why is it cool to be a Hindu/Dharmic/Sanatani?

Primarily, is cool to be Dharmic because one is free to question the Supreme Lord. It is one of the key aspects of Hinduism. Unlike Abrahamic faiths which demands one’s total surrender to God with no doubts, Hinduism encourages free thought. There is nothing called heresy in Hinduism. An individual can be an atheist or agnostic and still be a Hindu. This is the most important reason why a Dharmic can claim himself or herself to be cool.

Secondly, one is free to imagine one’s god and give numerous pictorial descriptions to it. It is natural for one to invest his/her creativity in portraying Ganapati in different forms during Ganesh Chaturti. I have seen geeky Ganeshas, cool Ganesha idols wearing sunglasses and even a depiction of Ganesha on Mars. A Dharmic does not curb another beings’ creativity unlike some religions which ban portrayal of God.

Image Credits: Hiveminer.com

The fact that we have a rich cultural heritage in the form of dance, music and architecture is a direct result of this liberalism. Dharmics enjoy classical arts which celebrate life and human creativity while praising the Lord himself. Our dance forms are a testimony to this claim.

Thirdly, Hinduism recognises the natural urges of humans and provides a framework to satiate them. Artha and Kama are also placed alongside Dharma and Moksha in the list of Purusharthas. In fact, we were among the first people on earth to come up with a book about sex i.e. the Kamasutra by Vatsyayana. We have erotic sculptures on the premises of temples in Odisha. In fact, I have seen some erotic imagery in ancient temples of Aihole (Karnataka) as well. The guide told me that it could have been used for the purpose of sex education to common people. If that interpretation is correct, we can proudly claim that our ancestors were hipsters!

A sculpture in Khajuraho temple complex. Image Credits: India.com

We have been able to endure many invasions and assaults on our religion and way of life. The longevity of our ideas and Gods is something we should be proud of. The strength of Sanatan Hindu Dharma in spite of its liberalism is something that amazes me. If we were liberals how did we manage to contain Islamic or Christian onslaught in our land? We may be cool, but we are also proud of our religion. When push came to the shove, the dormant and tolerant Hindu civilisation gave birth to a warrior like Shivaji. We defended our faith and way of life but at the same time, we didn’t kill innocent people of other faiths.

There is another important fact about the coolness factor of Hinduism. India is the only land where Jews have not been persecuted. This fact is still recognized by Israelis. When reading an answer to the question ‘Why do Israelis love to travel to India?  by a person named Ben A Wise, I felt proud of India. Ben writes (emphasis added) :

India provides foreigners with a lot of freedom so long as they respect basic cultural tenets, and even if these are flouted, Indians are usually rather laid back, clement and tolerant. [..] A spiritual air pervades India. There is an ancient seeking that permeates the land. There is a softness and kindness that succours the heart. This balances the strict army experience and plants a seed that can be carried anywhere, and tended to during the course of a lifetime.[..] India is relatively safe. There are usually no terrorist threats and no antisemitism present.

Environmental activism and ‘eco-friendly’ practices are ‘cool’ today. Guess what, we have recognised the importance of forests, animals and wildlife centuries ago. The Bishnois in Rajasthan have sacrificed their lives for trees way back in 18th century. We have given an honourable position for animals by making them the vehicles for our gods. Even today we worship trees. Narasimha, Ganapati, Hanuman are important deities of Hindus. In a way, we have been ordered to conserve wildlife as some of our gods have physical features of animals.

Our festivals different names in different parts of India. Yet they have similarities. Some of our festivals are in sync with nature. Ugadi, Gudi Padwa, Navreh, Vishu, Bihu marking a new year are celebrated during springtime (somewhere in mid-March). We celebrate along with the nature around the time when flowers are blooming and the dead leaves are being replaced by new foliage. The ‘new year’ is not randomly attached to the birth of an individual or God.

Last but not the least, we are cool because we have updated and corrected ourselves whenever our society took a wrong path. A true Dharmic will not justify anything in the name of God.

Sanatan Dharma offers freedom to the individual, yet guides the person in their spiritual journey. It allows creativity and encourages a questioning attitude to everything. Diversity, tolerance, bravery and courage are an integral part of Hinduism. Therefore it is cool to be a Hindu/Dharmic/Sanatani.

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