Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hindus are Tribals, Hindus are Pagans

At the 5th Gathering of the Elders (Mysore, 1-4 February 2015), I was originally only present as an observer. But when a Hindu lady speaker had addressed the social philosophy of the Gond tribe, I felt it necessary to give a fitting reply, as it was contrary to the whole aim and spirit of the conference. To my good fortune, the next speaker failed to show up, so the chair asked me if I could improvise a lecture.

How deep the Christian missionary influence has penetrated the Hindu psyche, was shown by this rendering of their worldview. The first aim of the missionaries is to convince the tribals that they are not Hindus. (After that, they will tell them that their religion is very close to Christianity, that their self-acknowledgment as Hindus would constitute a “conversion” while their baptism would only constitute a “fulfilment” of their natural religion.) So, the lecture on the Gonds taught us that their religion is the very opposite of Hinduism because:

·         1. they worship Barâ Dev while Hindus worship Ishwar;

·         2. They consider the North auspicious; Hindus, the South;

·         3. They bury their dead; Hindus cremate them;

·         4. They believe in service to others (“jai seva!”), Hindus only in their own Liberation;

·         5. They believe the world is real, Hindus believe it is Maya (illusion).

·         6. They are divided in 12 exogamous phratries, Hindus in endogamous castes.

Against this, we notice that:

·         1. Barâ Dev, “great god”, is modern Indo-Aryan for Sanskrit Mahadeva, same meaning and a name for Shiva (“the benefactor”, which itself is a flattering name for the fearsome god Rudra, “furious”), for whom another name is Ishwar (“lord”). Within Hinduism, it is perfectly normal for a god to have different names, and for different divine personalities to overlap. There is simply no opposition between Barâ Dev and Mahadeva.

·         2. In Vastu Shatra, a front-door should not be built in the south, as it is deemed inauspicious, which is the same valuation of the south as among the Gonds. (For now, I take the speaker’s word for what exactly constitutes Gondi culture.) Even if it was different, it wouldn’t constitute a meaningful contrast: in China, the local habitat edology (fengshui) holds the south as positive and as the correct location of the front-door, due to a different climate: I the cold Yellow River valley, warmth was welcome, so the sunny south was good, whereas in hot India, men shield themselves against the sun. Yet, nobody derives therefrom a meaningful contrast between Indian and Chinese traditions, least of all the missionaries. Whether Chanakya or Confucius, all non-Christians are going to hell.

·         3. Hindus since Vedic times have known both cremation and burial. Infants and saints are still buried. In some corners, Hindu burials persist, e.g. among the Gonds.

·         4. Hindu society has always believed in social responsibility (Dharma, ca. “taking up your role as a specific part of the whole”), including the need for Seva, “service”, a genuine and ancient Sanskrit word (in contrast with Adivasi, “aboriginal”, which is a neologism devised by the missionaries in the colonial period). This was not put in the centre, and rightly so, but it was fully accepted. This duty was not discharged by clerics, as in Christianity, where hospitals were traditionally manned by nuns, but by laymen, mostly in the extended family. Ascetics, by contrast, were freed from social duty because they had taken up another duty, viz. pursuing Liberation, which to the laymen is mostly but a theoretical goal which they don’t actively pursue. Liberation is not “selfish” but impersonal, and requires a great deal of self-abnegation, even more than Seva.

·         5. Only a small percentage of the Hindus even know about Mayavad, the doctrine that the world is a fata morgana created by the magic power of the gods. It is a specific philosophy of Shankara, conditioned by his struggle against Buddhist idealism (Shunyavad, “doctrine of Emptiness”), which in turn is also not the whole of Buddhism (indeed, the Buddha himself would not have recognized it as his own teaching). Shankara is widely appreciated as a great debater and as the founder of the ascetic Dashanami order, but his philosophy has few takers. Gonds too are free to follow Mayavad, nothing prohibits that, but they too would by and large accept the world as real. And anyway, even if there were a difference in worldview pitting all Gonds against all Hindus, that would not save them: as long as they don’t believe in Jesus, they are all going to hell.

·         6. The Gonds are, like most tribes, an endogamous group, and this group is internally divided in twelve exogamous groups, which anthropologists have called phratries. Hindu castes are by definition endogamous groups, Jati-s or “castes”, and are divided in exogamous groups called Gotra-s. If you consider each caste separately, you could, by this logic, start saying that they “don’t have caste”, because internally they are not divided in endogamous groups, only in exogamous groups. So, the situation among the Gonds is exactly like in Hindu castes. Tribals are just as endogamy-conscious as Hindus. When a Flemish Jesuit in Chotanagpur ca. 1890 wanted to put his converts to the test, he had them sit together across tribal lines for a joint meal, a very small matter compared to intermarriage, and even this they found scandalous, so that most invitees did not show up and 7000 converts in the region defected. It is one of the many myths professed by the secularists to spite the Hindus that tribals are “noble savages” practising Ur-communism and not afflicted by social divides like caste.

The whole discourse on tribals is warped by the Aryan invasion theory. As a consequence of the hypothesis that speakers of proto-Sanskrit entered India ca. 1500 BC, the American situation is projected onto India: in both cases, a European population came to dominate the natives. Then, just like the European conquerors of America were considered civilized and Christian, while the Amerindians counted as tribal and Pagan, this cultural equation was projected onto India: the Vedic conquerors were non-tribal and non-Pagan, while the natives count as tribal and Pagan. So, working inside this paradigm, the missionaries tell the scheduled tribes to maximize their differences with the Vedic backbone of Hinduism, and the secularists have written a few times that Hindus cannot count as Pagans and that tribals who get “sanskritized” into the Vedic mainstream are “converts to Hinduism”.

The picture becomes very different when, as all evidence indicates, the Vedic Aryans were native to India. This implies that there simply were different tribes, including the Veda-composing Paurava tribe, some of which became more “civilized” than others, e.g. some became literate, others only later, yet others not until the modern state foisted literacy upon them; or some developed business acumen while others remained economically naïve. This is a normal development found on all inhabited continents.  

That is why many features deemed tribal and contrasting with the image a foreigner gets of Hinduism when the taxi brings him from the airport to his hotel in the metropolis, also appear in Vedic tradition when you go and see it in the countryside, or when you study how it was in the past. Thus, worship in the open air is not a tribal feature contrasting with Hindu temple worship: in Vedic society, worship was equally in the open air. The tribal feature of aniconic nature worship, always contrasted with the Hindu worship of idols, was just as much in evidence in Vedic society and is still seen in the “primitive” layers of Hinduism, where you fing snake worship, tree worship, sun worship, etc.

Yet, even if  there had been an Aryan invasion, that would not have made the Vedic Hindus any less demonic.  We have heard here testimonies from Latvian and Lithuanian Pagans, who take pride in their language being closely akin to Sanskrit. They are not Indian, yet they are just as much Pagan. If the Vedic Aryans had contrasted with the native Indian tribals, if they had been different in all objects and practical details of worship and of mores, that would still not have saved either the one or the other from hellfire. For that is ultimately the criterion for being Pagan or not, regardless of all the distinctions invented to confuse matters. You are a Pagan if you do not partake of Christian salvation, i.e. if you go to hell. And that is where they belong: being to a smaller or larger extent fire-worshippers, Pagans must feel most at home in the endless fires of hell.

(HHR, 4 Feb. 2015)


جسکرن دھالیوال said...

I agree with your main point. "Tribal" Hinduism is largely "vaidik" Hinduism and the difference between them is often exaggerated by Joshua Project/Asia Harvest-type mlechchha-s who seek to reap souls of Hindus. However, sometimes AdivAsI-s themselves fall into the anti-brAhmaNa propaganda.

Look at the following quote from

"There may be some argument saying that the Siba was originally of Aryan god which had been assimilated by our belief system. It conspicuous to note that the Vedic people were unaware of existence of Lord Siba, and the four Vedas did not mentioned about Subrai or Siba. On the contrary the Aryan Brahman had banned his worship and his propaganda. These facts can be proved from various sources; one can have hundreds of book on this ACCOUNT. This is the origin of Siba or Subrai, which is the oldest religion of the world which is still followed by a billion of people. It was a GIFT of Tripuri people to the world. You may believe or you may not believe, but it is the fact, historically and scientifically proved."

My response: Whether the Tripuri author likes it or not, practically all forms of IshAna/sadAshiva: rudra, bhava, sharva, etc. are praised in the veda-s. I'm not sure which "ban" he/she is speaking of. The view that the shishnadevAH ("penis" deities) of the Rk and sAma refers to the li~Ngam is an unsubstantiated claim from 19th century Indologists. The paurAnika tripurArI who engaged in tripuradahanam is none other than umApati rudra.

Here is another quote:
"The earliest location of Tripura was at the present days Triveni Sangam, at Allahabad, who came here after being pushed south wards by Aryan invaders from Harappa. But during the reign of Lunar dynasty king Yayati, his one of his son Druhya was exiled to north east wards, to the present place of Uttarakhand"

My response:
Even the so-called "Arya brAhmaNa-s" also claimed origin from the ga~NgA-yamunA region.
In the R^igveda, it is said:
"Oh men (narAH) your (yuvoH) ancient abode (purANamokaH), propitious friendship (sakhyaMshivaM) and your (vAM) wealth (draviNaM) is on the jAhnavI/ga~NgA (jahnAvyAm)"

Therefore, we can conclude that at least these "dvau narau" being addressed (since yuvoH and vAM are both dvivachanam) also originated in the ga~NgA and not in the saptasindavaH region where indraH "set loose the seven rivers" (avAsR^ijatsartavesaptasindhUn).

Another silly quote: "When the Vedic Aryan found that their gods like Agni, Indra, Varun etc. were loosing popularity and people did not worshiped the gods which they brought, rather they were worshipping Subrai and following Saivisim, then they placed Sibarai worshiping under banned. But it did not helped; ultimately peoples over come such banned and Saivisim became most popular religion of India."

My Response: Firstly, technically there are more vaiShNava-s (700 million) than shaiva-s and shAkta-s (300 million), so how is it "the most popular religion"? In fact, there are even more bauddha-s worldwide (400 million). Also, rudra worship is at the core of the chaturveda. Rudra IS agni (rudrovA eShayadagniH), in fact he is uttamo'gniH (the highest fire):

Tribals are Hindus and Hindus are tribals, separating one from the other is pointless; AdivAsI-s and Hindus worship the same gods, and live in the same land. From a strict perspective, yes there are trayastriMshaddevAH (33 deva-s) in the vaidika paramparA, and chaturdashabhuvanAni (14 worlds); for many tribals it's the opposite (14 gods and 33 worlds). But the reverence is the same. Tribals and Hindus in this day and age should stand together against Islamists, Communists, and Western Missionaries (Joshua Project type) who seek to replace culture with lack of culture rather than following propaganda.

Aniketana said...

In the last decade "Ahinda" (non Hindus) movement had gained momentum. I never understood what it was. Hinduism is not a concrete term, it is inclusive. How can a discrete community be the opponent of a diffuse society? (It is not like Christianity v/s Islam where both are monotheistic).

Christian missionaries have adopted a vision of double standards.
In the past, I have worked in a catholic institution, which used to discuss a religious topic every morning. Once I heard, a person speaking about importance of spreading gospels and also about the freedom of faith. He showed two videos. First clip showed how African tribal were worshipping evil spirits and killing each other. Then one "enlightened person" saying, how he feels liberated after embracing Christianity. Another clip showed, how the minority Christian community is targeted in Iraq (or Iran) by the extremists. The video wanted everyone to recognise and respect one's religious freedom.

None of them felt, these two clips are self contradictory. Why African tribe did not deserve that religious freedom? Who decided that the the tribal's faith is primitive, their faith is advanced? To a rational mind, all are just faiths.

Vraja said...

While I liked your article, there was one minor mistake, that was in stating that the concept of the world as illusion, maya, was created by Shankara (mayavada) as a response to Buddhism, and that hardly any Hindus know about it. That is all wrong, sorry. The concept of maya is found in pretty much all of the sruti and smriti, the Advaita Vedanta of Shankara has been misrepresented severely as the much maligned mayavada, so much so that even most celebrated teachers in his name misstate what he actually taught.

In truth the concept of maya is central to Upanishadic thought, the Gita, Puranas, Tantras, etc., and not just to Advaitin based doctrines, it is central to Vaishnava doctrines as well. Due to misunderstanding and the promotion of that misunderstanding by ill-educated "gurus," there has developed a misconception of what Shankara taught on maya in relation to Brahman. His view was Upanishadic, but it has been misinterpreted by so many. Here we can see in popular shastras how the concept of maya as "an illusory vision of reality" has a prominent place in Vedantic thought:

Bhagavad-gītā 7.14

daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī
mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante
māyām etāḿ taranti te

The divine is indeed manifested in the gunas by my maya, incomprehensibly. Only those who surrender to me can cross the ocean of that illusion.

And in the Puranas we find stuff like this in Bhagavat Purana 11.28.6-7:

ātmaiva tad idaḿ viśvaḿ
sṛjyate sṛjati prabhuḥ
trāyate trāti viśvātmā
hriyate haratīśvaraḥ

tasmān na hy ātmano 'nyasmād
anyo bhāvo nirūpitaḥ
nirūpite 'yaḿ tri-vidhā
nirmūla bhātir ātmani
idaḿ guṇa-mayaḿ viddhi
tri-vidhaḿ māyayā kṛtam

It is only the supreme soul who creates this universe and is both the creator and the created, the protector and protected, the destroyer and destroyed. Therefore no being but the supreme soul is observed as established reality (all is God due to God being the primeval substance and controller of all of reality), the creation, maintainence and destruction perceived (as absolute reality) within the supreme soul is unfounded - know that as a product of maya dependent on the gunas (all reality is simply a manifesation of the supreme all-pervading soul, perception of any other independent agent or substance is based upon an illusory perception of supreme reality dependent on how you are affected by the gunas.)

Gururaj BN said...

Hinduism is in fact the largest living pagan religion. Even sanskritized Hindu mythology is full of reverence for nature, be it trees, sun, moon, rivers, animals such as snakes and cows. Puranas have frequent injunctions about not polluting rivers, not to urinate or defecate in rivers and lakes. The intricate worship of temples based on Agamas mixed with vedic mantras is a later development. In fact, as I know, the earliest evidence of temple, crude one at that, is as late as 4th century CE. Temple worship did not obliterate nature worship. It continues even now in the form of worship of Naga, or Ashwatha tree (ficus religiosa). Hindu festivals are also a mix of folk lore and sanskritic worship procedures. Former element is found only in practice, not in books. In this respect, I think, DD Kosambi, the Marxist historian had fairer approach to this subject. At least he never distorted facts as to later day "eminent historians".

Unknown said...

The true identity and meaning of Adivasi in India is Naturalists. Since the time Aryans, original only natives of India, became modernized and began to build the cities and complex empires on the banks of rivers and port cities near oceans, a significant portion of Aryans longed and remained living life in nature. Even returning city dwellers, to be described and later to be labelled as vanvasi, longed for natural life. Examples are thousands of rishi, retired kings, millions of vanprasthis, sanyasis, Sita Mata etc. So, Aryans who never moved to build violent empires and cities came to be known as Adivasi. Aryans who returned to original natural much less violent and more peaceful life became Vanvasi and Aryans who continued to build Atomic bombs and aerial weapons as noted by Adivasi and Vanvasi in later Vedic times were rest of the Aryans who also contributed to scriptures by returning to original natural life as Vanvasi.

Vraja said...

Pagan has no set definition, but according to Catholic doctrine pagans are non-Abrahamic religions (Christ based, Judaic, Islamic). But according to others pagan can mean other things, e.g. non-mainstream folk religions. Until modern times it was the Christian version of nonbeliever, the same as Kafir for Muslims. In modern times it has taken on other meanings, whereas in the past it was used in a negative sense, the outsider, since the late 19th century it has been used to promote various belief systems in a positive sense, "we follow paganism." The usage has changed from defining outsiders, to describing set beliefs and practices by those claim it's mantel for themselves.

Therefore nowadays pagan can literally mean anything since there are no rules on what is a pagan. There can be Christian pagans or pagans who follow Hermeticism, or Norse religions, or the guy down the street who invents his own cult.

Hinduism is not a pagan religion in the literal sense simply because Hinduism is not a religion in the literal sense. There is no such thing as "The Hindu religion."

The concept of Hinduism as a religion came about when non-Hindus tried to define the religions of the people of India in pre-Islamic times. Specifically the Persians called the people Hindu, their variant of Sindhu, Sanskrit for River, i.e. "the river people," or Hindus.

As time went on the land would be called Hindustan by the Persions, and by the time of the British they labled the religions of India as Hinduism. At first Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism were lumped in with all the rest, but they objected enough to be given their own category of religions outside of Hinduism, although they are no different then the various religions that comprise Hinduism, in that they mostly share certain similar traits.

Hinduism is not a religion and therefore cannot be categorized as a pagan religion or any type of religion, since it simply means "the religions in India" that share certain traits, either culturally or philosophically."

If the Gond also share similar traits then they are also Hindu. They may be categorized as pagan, as may Hindus, but in reality pagan is used in such disparate terms that as an accurate term for use in an intelligent or scholarly way, it is of little value since if it can mean practically anything it means nothing.

Koenraad is on the right track when he says the use of pagan vs Hindu is not really about the truth, it's about perception.

postneo said...

Dr Elst.

Dont know if this is off topic. I wanted to bring up the versions of the Mahabharata preserved among tribal Bhils that are now lost or only hinted at by the classical version.

This indicates a deep genetic relation, drift and parallelism but not borrowing. Vedic is simply a better preserved culture among numerous parallel systems. It's demographic significance is overblown.

This is partly due to its exposure in the west and role in reconstructing PIE language and culture.

Karthikrajan said...

The church is the most criminal organisation in the world which uses every devil’s trick to hoodwink people. Liberation is not selfish, it is about self-service, which in fact gives us the saying : “ Gods help those who help themselves “. If churchians think they are doing great service by helping others freely, then they are behaving like service-providers who will have to levy a small ‘service charge’ in due course of time to sustain themselves. This service charge gets disguised into ‘donation’ to avoid tax and even money laundering. As donations increase naturally or unnaturally, it leads to greed and competition between various churches. These in turn get grouped into rich and poor churches catering to the rich and the poor separately. This kind of groupism further leads to caste groupism among the churches. One dalith Christian politico by the name john pandian has started a movement in tamilnadu to liberate the churches from the clutches of ‘upper caste’ churchians. So much for equality and fairness !! And , this kind of unsolicited free service makes people lazy and turns them into beggars. Churchianity is indeed a religion of beggars and crooks.

Having failed to convert all indian pagans , these crooks are trying a new trick by calling vedhic hindhus non-pagans. By their own logic, if vedhic hindhus are a non-pagan group, then this group is only trying to reform pagans in India , whereas church criminals aim to destroy every religion under the sun and have succeeded to do so in the Europe and Americas where the pagans were not intellectually strong enough to take on these lunatics. Do they have the guts to accept this fact ?
Vedhic hindhus have succeeded in reforming indian pagans, more or less putting an end to undesirable activities like voodoo, witchcraft, sorcery , animal sacrifice , exorcism etc in the pagan temples. Some remnants do exist though in remote villages and in cities where villagers have moved in for jobs. Such stray incidents occasionally hit the headlines in newspapers. And the crooked sickularists always blame entire hindhuism for these.

Caste system and associated groupism/hegemony is also a creation of pagans, and vedhic hindhus have wisely refused to talk against it as they realise that all sub-species of homo sapiens can preserve themselves if they feel so, and to counter the caste-groupism menace they created varanaashrama dharma based on an individual’s skill set which again depends of the aptitude of a person which he acquires ‘at birth’.
When two cultures diffuse, we can expect some rub-off effect in the opposite direction. Hence, too much emphasis on astrology , vaasthu, auspicious times etc by pagans embracing hindhuism to ward off ‘evil eyes’ , has spawned its own set of superstitions to which vedhic hindhus also fell prey, leading to ridicule by sickularists and westerners, and also to finally put the blame on them too for all these ills. I don’t find any hindhuthvaa speaker explaining above aspects adequately in the media debates or speeches in public, pity !!

Yes, vedhic hindhus are pagans and they evolved from the tribals. They continue to evolve to this day and the theology created by them for the pagans and humanity in general , is always open to debate and reform. Whereas the abrahamic nonsense is frozen in time and continues to kill and maim people in the africas and elsewhere in the world.