Hinduism, like every other religion in the world is based on stories, which has propagated through ages and has embedded itself into the minds and souls of people as beliefs. After thousands of years of interpretations, corrections, and the world’s inability and indifference to preserve ancient knowledge in its truest form has led religion to be limited to a farrago of customs and prohibitions, and become more of a subject of interpretation than a subject of introspection.
Like an age old banyan tree, which has lost its main trunk ages ago and is now dependent solely on its aerial roots, world religions too are confined to the beliefs of their followers, the stories that they know, the hearsays, and have lost its genesis somewhere in translation. In the midst of this smog of ignorance, we might be so far away from truth that the religion we claim to follow might not even have the slightest of resemblance to what that religion originally stood for.
The very idea of religion, its existence depends on its ability to culminate itself into the minds of the people to such a level that what matters is only the identity the religion provides you with, not what it stands for or believes in. Kind of like a brand. This is where religion, from being a guidance to the bewildered transforms into a unit of categorization, differentiation and segregation.
Coming back to Hinduism, the origin of the present practicing form of this religion is quite difficult to explain. Unlike Islam or Christianity, Hinduism can’t be traced back to a certain person, or a curtain cult or even a certain specific time period. This religion is an amalgamation of many beliefs, many faiths and is not adhering to a strict set of norms or rituals. We believe in Gods in their truest forms such as Shiva and Vishnu and their incarnated forms entangled in worldly lives such as Hanuman and Rama. We believe in women conquering evil men, and we also believe in the undying faith of a woman over her husband that he will free her from the clutches of evil one day. We believe tyag (detachment) and also in samsara (attachment). Hinduism is unchained, unbound and liberating.
The essence of Hinduism is best captured through the story of Maryada Purushottam Ram seeking Devi Durga’s blessing before his battle against Ravana by worshipping her in Sharad (Autumn), instead of the customary Basant (Spring). This untimed invocation of the devi is called “Akalbodhan”, and it became the most widely accepted practice among Hindus since then. This story exquisitely represents the values of Hinduism, where a King who is a living representation of an idle man worships a Devi in order to seek her blessing that too when it’s not the right time of year to invoke her. There is also the story of Prahlad who proved that God is omnipresent when Lord Vishnu’s avatār Narasimha emerged from within a stone pillar when his father Hiranyakashipu questioned his son Prahlad’s faith.
These stories not only captures the fundamental ideas that our religion is based upon but also proves that most of the customs that we strictly follow today are absurd and meaningless and they have absolutely no association with the fundamental idea of Hinduism. With a history of about 4000 years and more, Hinduism has been a religion of religions. We have shared and borrowed customs, modes and mannerisms from other religions, most significantly Buddhism. Many customs that we still follow today were created by men from affluent castes to remain significant to the system of religion & place them at a superior position in the society. Many rituals are derived and are just more of a tradition than having any religious significance.
Religion is marketable, it has a price, and it has sellers and buyers. Probably the biggest industry in the world, religion is thriving and how. Like every other product, it starts with a need, a problem, a demand, and just like a product, that need, that problem and that demand is marketed by provoking people’s insecurities, fears and greed. This seed of desire evolves into a plant which starts infesting the one who’s affected and religion provides the infested with a quick fix to his problems, all problems. This however, is not my religion, neither it’s yours. It is an adulteration, pollution, an impurity, created by men only to feed off the ignorance of other man through fear and hope, as they have been doing it for centuries. Amidst the scams, the fraud, all you have to do is try visualizing your religion the way you want to visualize it, believe it and there is no better way to reach the one you believe in.
Lord Rama won the war in the end.
His “Akalbodhan”, was all faith, and nothing else was required, apart from 108 Lotuses.