Mohandas Gandhi, Bapu, often proudly proclaimed to be a Hindu, not just a Hindu but he averred he was a Sanatani Hindu.
In present times this would send shudders down the spines of most of us.
Under present circumstances, the term Sanatani Hindu conjures up a very scary picture.
Hinduism has been hijacked by its political, corrupted version Hindutva.
Here's how Bapu defined Sanatan Hindu Dharma, in his own words just a few days before India won her freedom: “Sanatan Hindu Dharma is not circumscribed like the proverbial frog in the well. It is as broad as the ocean. Thus interpreted, it is the property of all humankind, no matter by what name it is called” – M.K. Gandhi. Harijan: August 10, 1947.
He wrote this during the violent period of the birth of the nation and its vivisection, while an orgy of communal carnage raged across India and threatened to consume the nation at birth.
While decrying the hate and violence that was consuming India, Bapu wrote reminding Hindus: Hinduism is the most tolerant religion. It gave shelter to early Christians who had fled persecution, also to the Jews known as Beni-Israel as also the Parsis. I am proud to belong to this Hinduism which is all inclusive and which stands for tolerance — M.K. Gandhi. Harijan: November, 30, 1947.
One must remember that by this time Bapu considered all those who lived in India to be a Hindu, even when they professed to be of a different faith.
“Hinduism is based on the firm foundation of Truth and Non-Violence, and, therefore, there is no room for conflict with other religions.” — M. K. Gandhi. Harijan: March 25, 1939.
As it celebrates 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' with pomp and pageantry, India needs to be reminded of the words of the man its founders proclaimed as the Father of the Nation.
Mohandas was brought up in a very orthodox upper caste Hindu family where all the rituals, practices and taboos prevalent in orthodox Hinduism were practised including untouchability. Mohan saw the injustice of the subhuman treatment of those considered to be untouchables, his abhorrence for the practice began as he grew up and as a young man he made conscious efforts to disobey these practices.
But while being critical of the practice he never condemned or abandoned Hinduism.
In South Africa where he became very close to Christian clergy and was under intense pressure to convert to Christianity, he held steadfast and admitted that although there were many blemishes that were prevalent in Hindu practices, he saw no reason to denounce it and convert to another religion.
As his study of all religious texts expanded his understanding of religiosity, he grew more certain about his understanding of the true essence of Hinduism.
My religion is Hinduism which for me is Religion of Humanity and includes the best of all religions known to me. I am being led to my religion through Truth and Non-Violence. i. e. love in the broadest sense. I often describe my religion as Religion of Truth' — M.K. Gandhi: Fellowship of Faiths, P. 52.
'The Hinduism of my conception is no narrow creed. It is a grand evolutionary process as ancient as time, and embraces the teachings of Zoaraster, Moses, Christ, Mohammad, Nanak and other prophets” - M.K. Gandhi. Harijan: March 8, 1942.
Today Hindus need to learn of, understand and practice this true Hinduism that Bapu believed in and practised and was proud of, which he called the Sanatan Hindu Dharma. Not the one that has been corrupted for political benefits into a vicious, intolerant and violent Hindutva.
There were two practitioners of
Hinduism during Bapu's time, one was Mohandas Gandhi, who practised
Sanatan Hindu Dharma comprising of truth, love and compassion. The
other was Nathuram Godse, who proclaimed himself to be a Sanatani
Hindu and practised a brutal, vengeful and savagely murderous
corruption, which is today called Hindutva. There is a vast
difference between the two, we must never forget.
Tushar Arun Gandhi is the son of journalist Arun Manilal Gandhi; grandson of Manilal Gandhi and great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. He is the author of "Let's Kill Gandhi" and "The Lost Diary of Kastur, My Ba" (www.tushargandhi.in)