Hinduism and Other Indic Religions of India




Sanatan Dharma considers Vedas as its solid base with Vedanta as its various offshoots.  Puranas encompass the nation’s mythologies and various sages and saints have made this philosophy available to the masses in colloquial tongues through the ages.  


Over time, this Sanatan Dharma has been known by many names and currently it is called Hinduism.  Out of its milieu have sprung various sects and religions including Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. 


Hinduism is a fairly tolerant religion and accepts all sorts of dissenters and alternate philosophical views in its pursuit of religious diversity.  It is unfortunate that this is not always reciprocated in turn.  For example, Jain and Buddhist thoughts are based on atheistic ideals and at their very core they reject the Vedas and it’s pantheon of Gods.  They also reject the need to sacrifice anything to gain favours with the divine.  For this reason, both these religions rejected all Vedic rituals associated with Yagna (sacrificial fire).


Over the centuries, Jain scriptures also denigrate Hindu gods, Shri Krushna in particular.  Jain scriptures insist Krushna is in hell and will stay there till the end this kalpa.  By contrast, the same scriptures put Ravan, villain of Ramayan, on a pedestal and predict that he will be reborn as a Tirthankar of the next cycle of kalpa.  It is a bit incredulous to Hindus that a religion they have such friendly relationships with, considers its Gods in such negative light.  This is especially so when Hindus revere atheist Jain Tirthankars as ‘Gods’.  Infact Hindus revere their first Tirthankar, Vrushabhdev as one of the avatars of Vishnu! 


One-upmanship seems to be the most obvious reason for denigrating Hindu Gods by new religions.  By rejecting and ridiculing the source culture, the newer religions hoped to show themselves as the new radical, revolutionary new alternative to the original.


No matter how the Buddhist scriptures view Hindu Gods, Hindus view Buddha as one of the ten main avatars of Vishnu.  They have even adopted meditative pose of the Buddha as a religious icon for the ‘Badri-Narayan’ form of Vishnu.  Ocher robes of the Buddhists are similar to ocher robes of Hindu sadhus.  Though different in so many ways, both encompass a similar attitude of giving up material world in favour of a spiritual one.


Ocher is the colour also adopted by Sikhs who mixed the best Hinduism and Islam in 15th Century to create a new synthetic religion.  Though they have adopted Hindu ideas and philosophy, they claim to independent of it.  Early Sikh community was largely augmented by Hindus who converted to the new religion to protect themselves from forceful conversion by Mughal rulers.  Despite Hindu roots and using Hindu names, Sikhs are often at pains to prove that they are not Hindu and that they reject the Vedas and Hindu pantheon of Gods.  In the recent renovation of the Golden Temple, the Sikh authorities deliberately wiped out paintings of Hindu Gods from its frescoes.    


One of the Hindu Gods all three religions reject most strongly is Indra.  And yet, all three have Indra in their own  new myths.  Tirthankars and the Buddha have Indra announce their birth and worship the new enlightened beings.  For a god they deny, Indra is said to play an important part in recognizing their own new God(s).  Sikhs use Indra (Inder) as a name and an adjective to several common names for both men and women (eg - Inderjit-singh and Inderjit-kaur)


In more ways than one, Hinduism will continue to live in harmony with other religions by accommodating and absorbing them in it’s Sanatan (eternal) embrace.  


© Bhagwat
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