My English teacher and I have identical motives – to help make a difference in our country, and sometimes, even our methods are pretty much the same. But often, [almost always] we have contradicting views about almost every single aspect about India. And we never, and I mean never, hesitate to discuss them, debate about them, almost argue with each other… not to see who wins, but to see who is right, and that’s always important for us.
This is one about discussion [sadly incomplete, due to my lack of access to a computer with internet connection] which we had in facebook. My English teacher [from here on, I’m gonna call her as ET] was all praise for the BJP for banning cow slaughter and I replied that their motives were communal and hence wrong. There began the debate. Somehow the discussion went over to the relationship between culture and religion, and set me thinking.
Hinduism is the only indigenous religion of India and others are just results of conversions. Many religions were brought to India by foreign invaders. Indian culture is the same as Hindu culture, because Hinduism isn’t just a religion. So is India associated with Hinduism and are all other religions slightly more alien to the country?
Firstly, we need to understand the relationship between religion and culture. In the ancient times, states had just one dominant religion and whatever the religion was, became the culture of the state. But today, almost every country in the world [except maybe a few sectarian ones] has people of various religions and to remain in the old ways of identifying a nation with a religion can be wrong, especially in a diverse country like India.
You can see Hindus eating biryani and non-Hindus wearing sarees, kumkums, mehandi and many ornaments associated with Hinduism. You can always see non-Christian children celebrating Christmas and non-Hindu kids bursting crackers on Diwali. The Taj Mahal has elements of Hindu, Muslim and British architecture in it. The point I’m trying to prove is that this is not religion. This is culture. Food, clothes, festivals [including all fun-stuff and excluding worship], architecture, etc. are culture, not religion. It’s the way people lead their lives with respect to the society.
Religion on the other hand is something deeper and more personal. It has its whole basis on faith and beliefs [there’s a difference between the two]. It’s about something higher, something more ambiguous. Still, all religions have the same aim and only the methods to achieve it vary [but not by much]. No one becomes a Hindu, Muslim or Christian by birth. They become one depending on what they believe in and that’s why conversions are allowed.
Though many religions might have been spread in India by compulsion, history that doesn’t help the present is useless history. Today is different and all religions have become integral parts of the country. So considering religion to be the same as culture is not entirely correct. In ancient times, this might have been okay, [as most states possessed only one dominant religion] but now, times have changed – societies are more complex, religions have new meanings and the world is flat… once again [globalization].