Want to know what Hindutva is? Read ‘Hindutva’ by A Neelakandan

 Want to know what Hindutva is? Read ‘Hindutva’ by A Neelakandan

Team L&M

A deeply researched, provocative and comprehensive book that provides a critical and holistic view of the historical, social and scientific meaning of Hindutva from renowned thinker & writer Aravindan Neelakandan’s  titled Hindutva: Origin, Evolution, and Future (Kali Imprint; BluOne Ink) was released early last moth. The book is a must-read for understanding Hindutva not just as a political movement but as a cultural and social one. Following is an excerpt from the book:

Goddess of the Tribes

Another criticism of Bharat Mata is that she only represents the ‘Brahminical’ Goddess tradition. So recently the left radicals came out with an alternative version showing a tribal woman with the buffalo in the background, positioning this image as the alternative version. However, the supposedly ‘Brahminical’ Bharat Mata associated with the nationalist discourse in India even from the beginning have not shied away from the tribal cultural matrix of the nation.

Nivedita Louis, a Chennai-based journalist and part-time historian had pointed out that a calendar art Bharat Mata (printed originally by Nagpur City Press) was carved in the Dhwajarohana Mandapam of Kapaleeswarar Temple by a sculptor in 1939. The Mandapam itself was financed by Kaatupalli, Paiyur K. N. Shanmuga Mudaliar. The connection between tribal Bharat Mata and this pillar sculpture comes in the Suthai or painted terracotta sculptures that decorate the Gopuram of the Mandapam. She is shown again, along with Siva and Parvati taking the form of tribal chieftain and his wife. The motif of Siva and Parvati coming in the form of tribal chieftain and his wife is very popular in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Dramas based on this aspect of Siva-Parvati as tribals like the Kakkarishi Natakam, were part and parcel of the cultural movement that Scheduled Tribes and Communities launched for social justice in South India. Mahatma Ayyankali, a Scheduled Community leader from Kerala who fought for the educational rights of the SC children who were denied entry into schools, economic freedom including freedom from forced labour as well as whipping, cultural rights including the temple entry and religious freedom including the resistance to proselytizing, in his Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham (SJPS) used the Kakkarishi Natakam along with other Hindu Puranic plays for spreading the message of social justice. Ayyankali himself would compose the songs and dialogues for these plays.99 The morphing sculpturally Bharat Mata with Goddess inside the temple and then placing the Goddess in the tribal context at the top of the tower of the Mandapam offers proof that she was in the popular nationalist imagination not an exclusive or limited to so-called ‘Brahminical’ imagery. In other words, decades before the ‘progressives’ started their discourse, mainstream Indian nationalism has placed her in the tribal context.
This ability is dynamic and has the capacity for self-regeneration based on the specific context. In Nagaland, during the British colonial rule and evangelical onslaught on local spiritual traditions, a resistance movement evolved—the Heraka movement was founded by Haipou Jadonang (1905– 1931), a spiritual leader, freedom fighter and ultimately a martyr. After his execution by the British, his mission was carried on by Naga Rani Gaidinliu (1915–1993). Rani was a healer, spiritual and political leader who effectively led the resistance against the British. Her authority was established through a goddess-vision. In his academic informant thesis on the movement for school of Divinity at the University of Edinburg, Dr Arkotong Longkumer narrates the life-changing experience of Ranima as Gaidinliu, as called by her followers:
On the third religious journey, 26 January 1930, Gaidinliu’s birthday, Gaidinliu and her followers reach the cave. Other people from around the area have also come to the cave for prayers. But Gaidinliu’s followers could hear only her voice as she prayed; the other voices were muffled. It was quiet, when suddenly a lightning like effect flashed near the entrance of the cave. A strange light illuminated the cave. There in front of them, the goddess suddenly appeared; she was visible only to those whose faith in the goddess was strong. Elated by the incident they started singing praise songs..

The Goddess tells her to search for a hidden gun. There is a shooting competition with that gun at a tree. Gaidinliu fell the tree with a single bullet. She was then accepted by the elders. It was then that she begins her mission:
Her name spreads around the region and she is celebrated as their leader and even referred to as Goddess. She starts healing, prophesising, and preaching about the new religious teachings received from Tingwang in the cave. Her activities are also legitimised by the curious arrival of Goddess Namginai who comes riding on a lion pushed by the wind of God. The Goddess arrives at Gaidinliu’s house and drinks water from the pond and rides away to Nsimbutlua Mountain. The people were surprised and somewhat frightened of these powers and regarded Gaidinliu as the incarnation of the Goddess.

Dr Longkumer points out a natural parallel between Durga and Namaginai:
I would also like to suggest that Ranima saw herself as a symbol of empowerment in the image of Durga. This can be related to Goddess Namginai who comes to Ranima’s house riding on a lion and then retreats to Nsimbutlua Mountain (Durga also is depicted as riding on a lion and residing in Mount Meru). People there are reportedly amazed and view Ranima as the incarnation of the Goddess. Is Ranima seeing Durga as herself, or as a model for expressing her “supreme female divinity”?

In his critical study Dr Longkumer observes that the autobiographical narrative of Ranima positions her as ‘the great unifier—selfless, humane, compassionate and above all divinely chosen for her people’ and that in the process she had adapted ‘powerful symbols like Durga, indigenized within the tribal system’ which in turn is ‘also associated with Bharat Mata’.102 After Independence, the plight of her people made her again take up arms. But she was never for separatism which was being fuelled by Naga rebels with foreign funding. The Heraka movement believed that the ‘loss of religion is loss of culture and loss of culture is loss of identity’. The fight of Rani, for the protection of the freedom of religion of the indigenous traditions made her associate closely with Sangh Parivar organizations—particularly Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).103 In his conclusion Dr Longkumer points out:

The pan-Hindu idea of “Bharat Mata” (Mother India) as a territorial deity correlated with the image of a “mother” in Heraka contexts, and “Goddess” in Gaidinliu’s biography. It portrays an imagery as uniting and including disparate groups in India, such as the Heraka, under the wings of “Bharat Mata”.

So, in conclusion, probably from the Harappan times and Vedic roots to the independence movement, Bharat Mata has been a symbolic representation of a uniquely Indic Hindu phenomenon—not in the sectarian sense. She is rooted in Hinduness and it is her Hinduness that inherently makes her embrace pluralism—a harmony and also the defence of that harmony of biodiversity and theo-diversity in the greater Indian landmass.


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