Not sparing Gita

Indian Mythology, Modern Mythmaking 13 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday, Midday, July 24, 2011


Now that Ram and Ramayana are not yielding political dividends, it is the time of  Krishna and Gita to be exploited in the political arena. So now a government wants to impose the ‘song of God’ on all students. And television channels are drawing attention as to how ‘minorities’ are upset.

What about ‘majorities’? Are they happy about it? Encouraged by the media, we assume that the Right-Wing is the voice of the majority? The media implicitly imposes the idea that Right-Wing politicians are the voice of religion. This is done to create good narratives. Good narratives are based on conflicts. Conflicts give us good ratings and sales. What better way to create conflict than to get two right-wing guys with opposing ideologies into the ring. Better still a right-wing hooligan and a left-wing intellectual.  And so the story that is told on television and newspapers is driven by the result that is desired – the very thing the Gita warns us against.

At a recent conference I presented my ideas on values. My presentation, as usual, contained calendar art of Hindu gods and goddesses. A well-meaning journalist pounced on me and kept pounding me, to the amusement of the audience. While the audience understood the message, the journalist clearly focused on the medium: Hindu deities ! She saw red.

Like the Pavlovian response of a dog who salivates when a bell rings because long ago the bell was accompanied by food, she imagined me as a saffron-robed Right-wing politician and kept pounding me and felt good about it. It was not a pleasant experience but there was nothing I could do. If  I argued or explained, it would only reinforce her view that I was against ‘minorities’. She was the savior, the martyr, the prophet, leading India to the Promised Land. She had imagined me as the brutal Pharoah who enslaves India with religious ideas. I was the nail and she was the self-righteous hammer, gleefully pounding me.

Of course, when I used Biblical metaphors, she was a bit lost. How could this ‘Hindu’ be so comfortable and reverential about a Biblical narrative? This did not fit in her worldview. “People need to be led,” she yelled. And I realized she imagined herself, as a journalist, to be a noble shepherd tending to the sheep of India, while she imagined all politicians as wolves. I saw the wolf within her, but there was no use pointing it out. She would bite my head off.

It is this imagination that is getting out of hand. The imposition of the Gita, like the fight over Ram in the last decade, have nothing to do with Hinduism, and everything to do with politics. But few point this out. The media focuses on the annoyance of ‘minorities’ but never the exasperation of the ‘majorities’. Implicitly, majorities are evil and one needs to be wary of them.

Hinduism has no single leader. In fact, the same holds true for other religions. Both Christianity and Islam have many denominations. As does Judaism and Buddhism. But the media goes after the foulest fundamentalist in religious garb, and cleverly presents them as the voice of the religion. It helps that these self-appointed guardians of the faith are attention-seeking providers of volatile sound bytes. Who can beat reality show style video slaughter, I say?

Actions driven by an eye for the results lead to the blood bath and sorrow, says Krishna to Arjuna. Politicians are doing it. Journalists are doing it. Fundamentalists are doing it. For the next few days, everyone will fight over the Gita. Everybody will read the news. But few will actually read the book.

  • Darshan

    Can’t help this, it is the way we have been shown(misguided). But yes every body will read the news, and few will actually read the book… it would be nice if some how the book be the news the atleast some more people will read it :)

  • Mohan Ramchandani


    Yes your are right. If some how
    the book becomes the news then
    atleast some people will read it.

    Mr. Patnaik,

    As usual brilliant article.

  • Deep

    I would love to see your presentation ,where this incident took place !!!

  • jc moola

    Religion is Christianity, Islam, Judaism… The thing native to India is faith not religion. Religion has been imposed on India and the torch bearers of religion are evil and wicked.

    • shekhar varshney

      You are right, religion is islam, it is christianity but in india there is nothing like that. There are just a set of practises and rituals which guides us to lead a substantial, ever evolving, and spiritual life. There is no word like hinduism.

  • :) I dont want to say it is time the majority start speaking up and let the right wing go or anything like that… but I just feel so peaceful reading this wonderful piece… hooligans or tyrants apart as a Hindu I’ve loved the diversity of the Church and the Mosques in India but then when I quote the Gita éverytime’ I need to be guarded cause I immediately become right wing and not the usual guy ppl know.. I am even called old stlye and what not when I named my child….

    but at every point in time my friends who are both christians and muslims have understood what I mean when I discuss objectively about a topic …!

    so beautiful to see your views and thoughts….

    waiting for more articles on christianity and islam … guess we need more thoughts on the similarities than the differences at this point rather than any right wing/left wing/pseudo secular rubbish..

    love your work … love your thoughts.. pls keep them coming …

  • uppilic

    Dear Sir,
    I can understand your exasperation. In every tale a message/concept is presented and that is why they have lasted so long for us to interpret and imbibe. When the message is conveyed the medium achieve its purpose. As a Hindu I feel comfortable to draw a concept to tell or demonstrate from the fable I know or conversant with. I know for sure I will not be hauled up even some deviations are there, here and there. Further I know what not to say or how not to narrate which would invite wrath. Though you are quite comfortable quoting from other religious books, I would still understand you if you were to quote only Hindu mythos. It would still have the same appeal.
    keep up the good work sir.
    uppili c

  • Yes, one comes across many educated,urban Indians who feel uneasy when Hinduism is discussed – they are almost ashamed of being one and are hurriedly apologetic about being one and also at the ‘misdeeds’ of ‘ fundamentalists’. All this just to retain their more honorable ‘seculsrist credentials ‘

  • Guruprasaad

    I completely support ur view in this article, there is no dearth of majority bashers. They r making u feel as a criminal if u support anything connected to indian sentiment. And also ask your expertise in the matter. Just because i support an ideology i need not be an expert of it, i like it n i might be learning being a student. My question is there was no muslim before Prophet & no Christian before Christ, but in India, I was eternal without following any religion. Why am I blamed for such secular conduct?

  • Nikhil


    I absolutely loved this article. Secularism in India today has boiled down to ridiculing majority religion, Hinduism. This is done none other than Hindus themselves, most of them are of following types
    a) loosers in life
    b) craving for center of attention (just go against public opinion for the sake of it)
    c) people who want to feel good about themselves by defending the so called minorities
    d) people who have never read a single book related to Hinduism

    When I meet such people I really get infuriated but at the end I feel pity about such beings and just ignore them thinking that Hinduism is sanatani :)

    On the other hand, we should work to restore the original version of our religion and try our best to treat everyone equally at individual level.

  • Uday Krishna

    Hello DevDuttji,

    Sir, I really need the answer for this question that I am about to ask. I would request you to reply to this one.

    “Actions driven by an eye for the results lead to the blood bath and sorrow, says Krishna to Arjuna”. But, a lot of actions were driven by the results even in the kurukshethra. Krishna himself advised a musing Arjuna to go ahead and fight his Guru as it would lead to a result that is well-meaning! I can cite several examples, but you are far knowledgeable than me and might have grasped by now, the point I am trying to make.

    Awaiting a reply.

  • I loved this article. I think it is time we stopped apologising or feeling guilty, or even feeling ashamed of being Hindus. We should take pride in it.

    But there are people in the media and politicians galore who treat every word spoken from any Vedic book as a show of strength by Hindus!

    I think the respect we have for other religions – Islam, Christianity, etc. stems from the fact that our way of life has taught us to respect others. I think we should take pride in that.

  • Soum

    I don’t even know why the call it the ‘majority’ anymore…. Pseudo-secularism appears to be the true majority.

    As pointed out in an earlier reply, I beieve there is no religeon called hinduism. Call it ‘jampudweep’ism if you like… it is just the collected history and knowledge of our people… and no real deciphering as to for how long.

    If everyone just partook of that collected wisdom, such ‘pseudo-secularism’ and pseudo-leftism and pseudo-rightism would not exist. I use pseudo as a synonym for lack of knowledge:
    “adhbhar dagri chalkat jaaye” …

    great article Dr. Pattanaik