Title: Why I am A Hindu

AUTHOR: Shashi Tharoor

PP: 320

PRICE: Rs.699

Publisher: Aleph

I often speculate if the progenitors of the sacred Rig Veda ever had the faintest idea of the word Hindu. When the venerated sages of the many mandalas that spawned this great compendium of lofty intellectual thought which also blends holy practice and earthy philosophy they were clear about one belief; worship of the Creator. The Rig Veda exhorts the individual to focus on the life here as opposed to the hereafter. It then permits or provides ways and means to connect with the Creator according to ones predilections and needs. Thus, one of the opening richa’s of the Rig Veda categorically states: Aano bhadra krtavo yantu vishwatah (1.89.1 Rigveda), which in translation best reads as ‘Let noble thoughts come to us from every direction’.

Stemming from this philosophical belief flows much of that which is described as Hinduism today. Sri Krishna sermonises in the Bhagwad Gita are regarded as divine by the adherents of Hinduism, ‘Just as all rivers fall into the same ocean, all forms of worship lead to the same God’. Over time this philosophy and body of thought stemming from the Rig Veda onwards and encompassing all of the Vedas as also the Upanishads and the Gita and much more came to collectively define sans any dogma Hinduism. Of course, initially, this tag had more to do with the river Indus and the geographical

connotations that derive from its use than with the great currents of philosophy that are embedded in it. Perhaps a better or more apt word to cite that wise man C Rajgopalachari would be Vedanta. It is this philosophy and all that is connected with it that Shashi Tharoor tries to clarify in his book: Why I am a Hindu. Of course, one expects Tharoor to sustain his arguments in various ways and he does not disappoint. He caters to the intellect and to ones faith with ease and power without being supercilious, overbearing or righteous. The great names associated with this faith and often held as exemplars are painted into his view of things in sustained fashion. The various streams of philosophy, interpreted in the most enlightened manner, course through the length and breadth of his writing. As expected, Tharoor weaves into his narrative the current issues of Hindutva and the two most prominent names associated with it; Savarkar and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya.

He examines their ideological moorings with a frank and detailed analysis that does not hesitate to ask questions or even be critical when necessary. The book also encompasses topicality and so we find it naturally flows into a discussion of the Ram Janmbhoomi movement, the Vajpayee years, Narendra Modi and the debate on Hindutva and its impact on constitutionalism. Yogi Adityanath and the controversy surrounding the Taj Mahal are also discussed in detail. The book shall delight the scholar as much as the layperson; it will similarly appeal as much to the political scientist as it will to a student of philosophy.