I write this with a lot of hesitation since I have been an agnostic most of mylife. I have even forgotten many stories from Hindu mythology. Last year I was reading "Being Indian" by Pavan K.Varma (Viking, 2004) and came across this story ( page 69):" In the holy city of Pushkar, the hereditary priests of the Savitri Devitemplehave gone to court to compel the guardians of the nearby Brahma temple to share the offerings received from devotees. Their argument is that Brahma,the creator of the world, had 'divorced' his wife Savitri because she did not arrive in time to participate in his yagna to create the world. As such- so lawyers were arguing in the local court in the year 2001- the creator should be made to pay alimony to the Goddess!"I always thought that Saraswati was Brahma's wife and remembered the name Savitri in another connection, the story of Sati Savitri. To make sure, I enquired about the story of Sati Savitri in a website and the post was rejected. I googled a bit and started getting various stories about Savitri, Gayatri etc and it got a bit confusing. I stopped since anyway it did not seem to be a matter of life and death. What bothers me more was what I saw in Hyderabada few months earlier. I was staying with some friends in Jubilee Hills and one morning went out around six to get some cigarettes. Most of the shops were not open and on the roadside, I found a lady selling tea and cigarettes. It was drizzling and she covered the stall with a plastic sheet but not herself. I was probably the first customer. When I bought a whole packet of cigarettes not one or two loose cigarettes, she immediately touched her eyes with the money in folded hands. This image still haunts me.
Coming back to Hinduism, I started looking through Pavan Varma's book again using the index. He says on page 96:"Hinduism has no organized church, no one god, no paramount religious text and no single manual of prescribed ritual. The predominant emphasis is on personal salvation, a journey in which the individual is essentially alone with his karma and his god". Again on page 102,"In Islam there is the Friday congressional gathering, and in Christianity th visit to the Church on Sundays. There is no such institutional counterpart in Hinduism, and almost no emphasis on the need for the individual to contribute to his community within the arena of spiritual search and fulfilment.The emphasis on the self as the centrepiece of the spiritual endeavour tendsto stunt the individual's concern for the community. This insensitivity to the external milieu, coterminous often with the most overt preoccupation withspiritual pursuits, has become so much a part of life that is not evennoticeable to the educated Hindu'. Similar thoughts in the context of povertythat dehumanises both those who have it and those who do not have beenexpressed by Claude Levi Strauss in "Tristes Tropiques". I do not know whether these are true or not and some may argue that Hinduism helped people survive such poverty. Note also the recent resurgence in the construction of temples. About religious conversions etc, he discusses on pages 176-178;"Hinduism has always existed in a remarkably self-assured way, largely immune to attack or demise because no one entity- scripture, church or god-limits its diffused omnipresence. For its believers it is more a way of life,notwithout its own certainties and rituals and samskaras, but without the constant need to test loyalties."" On the other hand, other religions have felt the need to resist the creeping encroachment of Hinduism. … Many converts to Christianity still identifythemselves according to the castes…"
These quotes seem to correspond roughly to what I know of Hinduism. Of course my lack of knowledge or interest do not mean much. Perhaps variouscultures like religious, linguistic etc are the ways people of different eras coped with the world. These may provide doors of perception different fromthe currently dominant `objective', `scientific' approach. It would be worthwhile recording this traditional knowledge, studying and `analysing' it. But as I indicated in the beginning, it is the continued poverty and hunger in these days of affluence and technology that bother me. I think awareness (of local, global politics of science and technology) and tolerance and a little charity are necessary to understand and tackle these problems.