Sowing discord

Sowing discord

In the wake of the Karnataka government endorsing an independent religion tag and minority status for Lingayats, a question comes to mind: Is religion only a means of causing gross disturbance to the general public? The violent clashes that erupted between Veerashaivas and Lingayats at Kalaburagi in the wake of the government's decision must make us earnestly ask, was another religion needed in an already diverse country like India? Are Lingayats and Veerashaivas not Hindus? Are they both not worshippers of Lord Shiva in the form of the Linga? In a bid to divide Hinduism, the oldest religion, nay way of life, in the world and one that has no founder, the Karnataka government is inflating the woes of an already frenzied social order.

There may be ideological differences between the two communities - Veerashaivas and Lingayats, the former being the followers of the Panchacharyas and the latter adherents to the preachings of Basaveshwara, a great socio-religious reformer of the 12th century.

Due to the need to eradicate certain social evils and superstitious beliefs that prevailed in Hinduism during the medieval period, Basavanna expounded a philosophy based on monotheism (worship of Linga alone) and a casteless society that accorded equal status to all, from the Brahmin to the Panchamavarga or untouchable. He set an astounding example by arranging an inter-caste marriage between a Brahmin girl and an untouchable boy, much against the traditions of the prevailing orthodox culture.

Unfortunately, his followers today, with the support of the government, are dissociating themselves from their roots. Where then is the concern for equality that Basaveshwara stood for? If they cannot even welcome their own fellow Linga worshippers into the community, there is only a remote possibility that they would incorporate the untouchable into their fold. What a tragic contradiction? Mere philosophical differences should not become an excuse to identify a community which is already a component of Hinduism as a distinct religion.

In order to have a scrupulous approach towards 'religion', one must know what it is. The word religion is probably derived from the Latin word 'religare', meaning "to bind." It also means reverence to god and careful pondering over the divine. With the evolution of mankind, religion took its birth naturally as a quest to understand the mysteries of life and the unknown power behind creation.

Any religion is a set of belief systems that connects itself to one 'supreme being' whom we call god. The most widely practised religions in  India are Hinduism, Jainism, Sikkhism, Christianity and Islam; in other parts of the world, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Zorastrianism, Judaism, etc. Many of these religions pose obstacles to fraternity, not because of their founders but due to the misinterpretation of original principles by subsequent preachers. This is patent from the fact that they all encountered schisms once their founders had passed.

In Hinduism, the Varna system of the Rig Vedic period, comprising Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras based on one's profession, transformed into the caste system that became determined by one's birth from the later Vedic period onwards.

This led to 'upper' and 'lower' castes and the domination of the former over the latter, and over time its perpetuation into the deep-rooted caste system that many Hindus believe to be a part of their religion. It has played a major role in creating havoc in the nation and continues to do so even now. Likewise, Jainism, after Mahavira's Nirvana, split into two sects - Swetambara and Digambara; Buddhism cleaved into Hinayana and Mahayana after Buddha's Mahaparinirvana; Christianity broke up into  Catholic and Protestant, witnessing a mutual struggle until the "Peace of Augsburg" (1555), a settlement within the  Holy Roman Empire  to settle the ecclesiastical conflict; Islam split into Shia and Sunni, as violent battles of succession ensued after Prophet Mohammad Prophet; Sikhism developed schisms over centuries and splintered into seven sects.

Subjective differences

An analysis of these schisms and splinters shows that adherents are not very precise about what their own religions are about and what they demand of their followers. Subjective differences have ultimately led to religious disputes of one form or the other right from the ancient times to the modern era.

The underlying dogmas of all religions are similar, that is, belief in a single god, preachings of universal love and brotherhood under that god, compassion and the final goal of attaining salvation. Yet, one doctrinal faction cannot countenance another, leading to disorder and conflicts. This phenomenon has caused much communal disharmony.

In recent times, India  has witnessed much religious animosity leading to violence and bloodshed – the Babri Masjid issue, the Godhra massacre and the Gujarat riots, beef politics, all in the name of religion. The recent intrusion of the Siddaramaiah government into the Veerashaiva-Lingayat row, ratifying a discrete religion tag to Lingayats, has drilled a massive hole into the parent religion, Hinduism. When religion can be thus manipulated, isn't it only a gross distortion of the idea of civilisation?

Religion is meant to help spirituality evolve in man, not to make him tread the path of coercion. Several attempts were made in the past and are being made at present by spiritual leaders to institute a universal faith centred around one supreme power, be it Christ, Krishna  or Allah.

Let mankind realise human values rather than pursue spurious theistic dogmas that result in disharmony among people. There is no religion higher than humanity.

(The writer is lecturer, Department of History, St Claret Pre-University College)

 

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