Look left and right

Modern Mythmaking 28 Comments

Published in Devlok, Sunday Midday, Oct. 23, 2011


Every time I use the words ‘Indian’ mythology, some people say I should write ‘Hindu’ mythology. And when I call Mahabharata a Hindu epic, I am told it should be called an Indian epic. Then I seek clarification, “Is Ramayana a Hindu epic or an Indian epic?” Prompt comes the reply, “Hindu, of course.”

So, now I am confused. What is Indian and what is Hindu? Are they mutually exclusive? Should I call Taj Mahal, an Indian monument, or a Muslim mausoleum? Should I call Mother Teresa an Indian or a Christian? What is the correct terminology? What should a qualification include or exclude? What is the right word that will not offend anyone? Whose permission should I take? The lawyers, the religious leaders, the politicians, the bureaucrats, the anti-corruption brigade, the Leftists, the Rightists, or the secularists?

Gradually, India is becoming more a political terminology and less a cultural and geographic one. Gradually, secularism is turning into another religion, with a God called logic, rules that need to be followed and prophets who bark if you do not align to the rules or submit to logic.

Every religion has a positive side that teaches love and inclusion, and a horrible side, that celebrates hatred and exclusion. Secularism is following the same trend. Ostensibly it is created to love and include, but all it seems to be doing is fuel hate and exclusion. You are excluded if you do not follow a secular agenda and secular rules. If you wear a religious symbol, a veil or a tikka or a cross, you become instantly untouchable and branded a potential terrorist. It is scary!

Look beneath the surface and the problem is neurological. Our brain has two halves – the left half and the right half. The left half is more analytical and the right half is more abstract. From the left comes science and from the right comes arts. From the left comes politics and from the right comes romance. The left half functions by exclusion, and tends to be more focused. The right half functions by inclusion, and tends to be more diffused. It seems the world is shifting more towards the left, and rejecting the right, preferring science to art, politics to romance, excluding to including.

As children, we were told, “Look left, then right, and then cross the road.” The Leftists look only left, the Rightists look only right and the secularists look only straight ahead. Accidents then are bound to happen. Accidents do happen, but as the left walks left and the right walks right and the secularist walks straight, each one smug and self-righteous, no one turns around to see the devastation in their wake.

Perhaps that is why the ancient Rishis visualized Brahma as the four-headed god who has a head for the left and a head for the right and a head in front and a head behind. Only then can we see it all, try and make as much room as we can for everything and everyone, not bristle and rave and rant when Christian sages and Muslim monuments and Hindu epics are qualified as Indian. Only when we include, will the world be a better place.

  • Shruti

    Your articles make my life a bit better daily. Thanks.

  • priya

    This makes me ponder does secularism mean “tolerance” or “indulgence of being without any code o follow” ? what will man be if left to his own ideals without any structure ?

  • Rajashree

    Absolutely hits the nail on the head. We do seem to be really going the way of Americans, with their insistence on politically correct terminology,
    wishing Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas in case the person happens to be Jewish.

    The thing is we have so many levels of stratification it should keep our left and right brains busy nit-picking for a lifetime!

    However one should remember that this pastime is for the so-called intelligentsia. The ‘real’ Indian, continues to visit Hindu shrines, dargahs, gurudwaras…and keeps the real India alive. Leave the bickering to the idiots who never did understand the essence of religion anyway, not their own nor that of others.

    Great article!

  • Praful

    Ofcourse one should look left right and back wards and forwards.

    Have we all not missing “LOOKING INSIDE”!

    God inside has one religion, away from politics.

  • Abhishek

    one thing for sure !, this article reflects you prominent bias for the anti corruption brigade..

  • I needed this point of view to come out specially ,this time when there is coax around our country .How? Things need to be changed show some way .

  • nataraja

    Hi Sir,
    Great n thought provoking article indeed..

  • Sunil J


    I think from the British Colonization, we have learnt to differentiate … they did it for ruling us, now we do it for no reason at all.

    The politicians are to be blamed for defining communal and secular. We polarize our views based on that.

    We need to identify and look at people as just human beings. Religion does not matter … what matters is humanity and Love for each and other.



  • Dr KK Debnath

    This article gives an insight of Indian civilization.

    The name Hindu is used for various purpose. The same way the word Brahman is used for various purposes.
    This depends on the need and circumstances.
    On the other hand India is described as a nation and it consists of all characteristics to define a nation.
    Thus, Ramayan and Mahabharata becomes an Indian epic. Also, Tajmahal is an Indian Monument. Mother teresa is also an Indian.

  • Sachin Sharma

    I read all your articles but this is the best not only describe the problem India as a country and culture is facing but also giving a solution…

  • Nilesh

    A really good article. It discusses that monuments,sages and scripts together form a complete picture of INDIA or BHARAT. Actually, SECULARISM means everyone lives in harmony with a responsibility of respecting others differences! The word never says that I will not see right (eg Hinduism) nor left (say Islam) but say that these 2 are 2 different point of views necessary to make a complete picture.

    The example of ‘Brahma’ a Hindu GOD having 4 heads explains that how important it is for one to be open in all 4 directions to receive information, which can help us find the crux(truth) of any event. You closing any direction of knowledge you are left incomplete.


  • Phadke S. N.


    This is an outstanding article. I pray it reaches 120 Cr. Indians or at least 10% of 120 Cr. I also hope that whichever Indian/Indians reads it? They understand the entire message & message between the lines. I pray that this article helps Indians to become unbiased about everything. It helps them to cut “Naal” of God, cast, sub cast, community, sub community, etc. and help them to become human being first, then Indian and then everything else.

    I loved this article and I am sharing it with my trust circles & trustworthy people residing in those circles.


    Phadke S. N.

  • Mangal Ram Mohapatra

    Thank You Sir,We need more Inclusion to grow like the Americans they actually believe in more of inclusion of Arts & Scienece like India at some point of time in the Past(that is history as we know from the books we have.

    I am reading your book Mahabharat
    Its Superb.Thank you Very much.

  • Hardik Asawa

    Hello Mr. Devdutt,

    Its always good to read your blog. And I must say I felt like this is the best blog post for a new year. I don’t know if you have some hidden motive behind writing this at this time of the year or just coincidence but this seems to be the best time for this blog post.

    And I specially like the last paragraph specially. There is no doubt people in Indian subcontinent were well versed with lot of concepts related to science, astrology, economics, human science. Many of which are still not known to modern science.
    I, many a times , think may be God is just another invention by ancient sages who realized if everything in society is governed by rules and regulation (for which left brain is required) people with power or who don’t respect society will do all the evil and will have nothing to get afraid of and then they come up with concept of God to neutralize the effect of left brain and to make right brain more powerful. And if that is the case it definitely worked well.
    The question at the moment should not be what Indians or Hindus were able to do or what was our history but a more apt question would be what are the things we can adopt from our past to make future more comfortable. What mistakes someone did in past which we can avoid. How we can adopt their “technology” to improve our life.
    Instead of fighting on name of religion we should focus our efforts to understand the common link between various religion. Society doesn’t need kudos for something which was done 100s or 1000s of year back but it need to adopt and learn from what has already been done to improve the future.

    Hardik Asawa

  • Hi,

    I just finished up reading JAYA, have learned life long lessons and now implementing them in life,

    I was very eye opening book , I wish you all luck and happiness for writing such wonderful book.

    Mohit Sharma

  • Ravi

    While your articles and business thoughts on mythology make sense, please do not indulge into social messages, we have enough babas in this country to do so. This article is much below your calibre and standards of writing.

  • sidd

    your assumption that LEFT BRAIN is only logic AND PROMOTES EXCLUSION is itself a manifestation of assumed logic and wrong use of right brain :)..
    just because you prefer science more to arts does not mean you support exclusion and politics…
    Secularism , the way its used by politicians is wrong ..but so is the case with all religious leaders , the way they use religion…THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT SECULARISM itself is wrong or religion itself is wrong…the problem is that we look down upon people who dont know the new book release or the new literature in the market but proudly claim how pathetic they were in Maths or science in school and go on claiming the same every time…AND THATS THE PROBLEM WE HAVE TODAY…

  • Rajesh

    Thank you sir for great article again..i like below para more

    “As children, we were told, “Look left, then right, and then cross the road.” The Leftists look only left, the Rightists look only right and the secularists look only straight ahead. Accidents then are bound to happen. Accidents do happen, but as the left walks left and the right walks right and the secularist walks straight, each one smug and self-righteous, no one turns around to see the devastation in their wake.”

  • Absolutely agree with what you say. Need to have a 360 degree view, if we are to grow personally. No need to spew hatred. I did write a few lines on spewing hatred in my blog

  • a nice article for the ‘secularists’ to read n understand!

  • Super like!!! Wonderful article …

  • Hia and Namaste,
    When the palms of the hands come and stay together in a NAMASTE, a Balance is established between the Left and the Right Brains.
    I would love to elaborate on this more, but in person. So,I invite you and others to visit the Elephanta Caves with me -in my capacity as a Freelance, Professional Tourist Guide Trained and Licensed by he Min. of Tourism.Please feel free to give me a call on 9892910023 for details

  • subhrajit mishra

    Dear Devdutta ji,
    Your ideas are really the need of the hour. I learn and get inspired by your views.

  • Manoj Deshmukh

    Really appreciate the concept of having 4 heads and keeping yourself open to get the holistic view. On the first para, I feel word Hindu should be taken as way of life than religion.

  • Soumya

    That’s the problem with our country. The Islamists want an ‘Islamised’ India; Hindu Right wing groups want a ‘Hindu-ised’ India….and so on. Unfortunately only a few people want an “Indianised” India!

  • soum

    Dear Devdutt,
    I am writing to ask your opinion on a question that arose from reading this article.

    Is it correct to say that ‘Hindu’ as a word is more aptly used to nationality rather than religeon?

    Example: when a guy/lady living in this(Indian) region in lets say 350 BC (before monotheistic religeous clutter and conversions)said “I am Hindu”, would it denote that they are from the land near Indus, or would it denote the religeous practices he/she follows?

    If the answer is the former, I guess Indian and Hindu can be used inter-changably… only society has misconstrued the term over time.

    PS: was excercising the right brain when the question came up :)

  • Samarth

    Very true. Good article Mr.Devdutt.

    What ways can we think of, to move the society in thinking more from their Right brains and bring harmony, melody and peace in this confused times?

  • K Kanakasabhapathy

    Quite thought-provoking. But obviously no single/ simple solution.

    Proful’s comment introduces a new direction ‘inward’. And why not ‘up’ and ‘down’ too, the generally accepted directions of heaven and hell which are integral to the after-life for most people?

    Confusion worse confounded? Then go blind – no direction. Shut your eyes and seek Aatman.