Why I am a Hindu | Shashi Tharoor

Summary of: Why I am a Hindu
By: Shashi Tharoor


In the book ‘Why I am a Hindu,’ author Shashi Tharoor delves deep into the history, beliefs, and modern-day challenges surrounding the Hindu religion. This ancient faith is characterized by its plurality, tolerance, and the deeply personal and diverse nature of its practices. The book explores the roles of various Hindu gods, sacred texts, and traditions, which together contribute to an individual’s path to self-realization and oneness with the genderless soul Brahman. Tharoor also highlights the historical co-existence and mutual respect between Hinduism and other religions like Buddhism and Sikhism.

Understanding Hinduism’s Faith

Hinduism is a religion that stands out from others, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While the Semitic religions have similar beliefs about the world and the divine, Hinduism is completely different. Hindus believe in many gods and several sacred texts, and every believer is free to choose which path to follow. The ultimate goal is self-realization and oneness with Brahman, where diversity and freedom are highly valued. The absence of rules means that no one but the individual believer can determine which path is best suited to achieving their spiritual aims. Swami Vivekananda, a monk whose religious teachings hold spiritual power, said that anyone can achieve divinity through self-discipline, prayer, and study, and dogmas and doctrines do not matter as long as they are on the path to divinity.

The Coexisting Hindu Tradition

In the book, the author describes how Hinduism has always been associated with tolerance. Hindus have traditionally shared an amiable relationship with other religions, regarding them as different paths to spiritual awakening. The author learned this firsthand in his childhood when he was taught that other religious texts were as holy as Hindu sacred texts. This mutual respect with other faiths led to cross-pollination between different religions, as can be seen with the Hindu influences present in Sikhism and Buddhism. Swami Vivekananda proposed that both Buddhism and Sikhism complemented and completed Hinduism, with each emphasizing different aspects of the faith. This all highlights the message that Hinduism has always promoted the idea that there are many paths to spirituality, and each path deserves respect.

The BJP: Ideology and Controversies

India’s ruling party, the BJP, espouses Hindutva, an ideology that defines Indian identity around Hindu culture. This concept is exclusionary and contradicts Hinduism’s pluralistic values. The party’s foundational texts, penned by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and MS Golwalkar, explicitly embraced Nazi ideology. The BJP’s rule has been characterized by intolerance, persecution of minorities, and violence.

India’s Islamophobia

Being a Muslim in India under Hindutva rule, characterized by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is a daunting experience. This reality exists because political figures such as Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, promote hate speech and Islamophobia intentionally. Adityanath has a record of perpetuating violence and hatred against Muslims, leading to the destruction of Muslim cultural symbols such as the Mughal mausoleum, the Taj Mahal. The BJP’s policies have resulted in the neglect of India’s tourism industry, particularly the city of Agra, which depends on tourists visiting the Mughal monument for revenue. The government policies reveal the BJP’s disregard for the wellbeing of ordinary Indians.

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