The Hindu Way wants to give an Introduction to Hinduism – to whom I don’t know. It is not an easy task for the best of scholars to do. Shashi Tharoor in his attempt to prove his Hindu identity with this book published quickly after his earlier book ‘Why I am a Hindu’ actually ends up giving you all the reasons to question if he is a Hindu.
The book is full of factual errors, and I must begin by pointing out some of them.
Page 2 has an image of Lakshmi labeled as Saraswati – the goddess of learning. Lakshmi, as we know is one of the three primary Goddesses worshipped in India, someone anyone living in India would know, even a non-Hindu would. But Dr. Tharoor and his editors miss this primary basic information. When I pointed this out in a tweet, neither said it is an editing error. The rest is left to your conclusion. Ironically, he is blessed amply by both the Lakshmi & the Saraswati.
At another place, he says Peacock is the vehicle of Saraswati.
I want to know which scholars call Ganesha or his Ganas as Inferior Deities?
I want to where do Vasistha and Vishwamitra debate on if Vedas should apply to Aryans only?
The author says Ghazni attacked for the wealth of India ‘Hoarded in its temples’. Hoarded? He can not even claim bad vocabulary.
Where is it mentioned that before Ramanuja i.e. 11th CE women were not allowed in the temples? As far as I know, a man can not do most of the rituals without his wife.
He says Mirabai was poisoned by her husband – a basic Google search would tell you that it was her brother-in-law, in case you did not write an essay on her as we did in our school.
He calls temple architecture as something basic and temples a permanent advertisement for the Hindu faith.
He tells us that in 52 CE, St Thomas was welcomed in Kerala by a Jewish Girl long before Hindu Chauvinists were even conscious of being a Hindu.
Vasidhaiva Kutumbkam is attributed to Rig Veda, God knows where he picked that up from. A simple Google search would have helped.
I have rarely seen a badly edited book from Aleph, but this would tarnish their record forever.
Read Instead – Hinduism And Nature By Nanditha Krishna
Dr. Tharoor is telling you Hinduism from a Catholic lens, a lens that I assume he understands well. He says there is no Hindi Pope, no Hindu Vatican, no Hindu Catechism, not even a Hindu Sunday. He uses words like merciful God or gospel, a refuge from the misery of human suffering when talking about Bhakti saints like Ramananda & he wants us to believe he is a Hindu enough to write a book on the subject. He compares Mirabai to evangelical churches & Kabir as a figure of harmony between Hindus and Muslim, clearly, he has never read Kabir.
At a couple of places, I did agree with him, when he says – In Christianity, a body has a soul while in Hinduism, a soul has a body. That is a great way to put it. At another place, he says ill practices like child marriages and Sati were all defense mechanisms that the society needed in the age of invaders. He does bring out the fact one-third of the offerings of Amarnath go to the family of Shepherd Adam Malik and that revenue from all Hindu temples goes to the Government while minority institutions have full control over their funds and this needs to be re-looked at. He suggests Kamadeva Utsav if the BJP government has a problem with Valentine’s day. I would say let’s revive Basant Utsav that incidentally falls around the same time of the year.
He makes sweeping statements like – Loyalties in India are on sale to the highest bidder while telling the story of Ganesha. He quotes the same often repeated Manusmiriti for treatment of women, not knowing that the very same Manusmriti also has a verse that Devtas live only where women are respected. When he says Bhishma in Mahabharata says derogatory things about women, he forgets the basic story that Bhishma gave up everything in his life to respect the random will of a fisherwoman who he treated as his mother.
He laments about the pulping of Wendy Doniger’s books quoting how printed word is treated as Saraswati. Yes, we do not even accidentally touch books with our feet. However, we do that to books that have the knowledge and not newspapers or magazines that are transient, that we tear apart to make envelopes or even dustbin lining.
Read More – Swami in a Strange Land by Joshua M Greene
The only thing you would appreciate in this ‘The Hindu Way’ is the author’s courage to write on a subject that he has no authority on. He began by saying that he wanted to write about Hinduism, unlike his first book that was about Hindutavavadis – a term that a Hindu in me fails to understand. However, after writing the usual mumbo jumbo that a professional writer would have written by reading hundred-odd Wikipedia pages, he jumps to his favorite rants about Hindutava vs Hinduism. He talks about every alleged crime done by any damn Hindu that he knows off in the country of 1.3 Billion people. Stretch your imagination, but he skips the allegations against himself in his wife’s mysterious death case. This would have been still ok if he had a balanced view of challenges that a 21st CE Hindu faces.
Read Instead – Karmayogini – Life of Ahilyabai Holkar by Vijaya Jahagirdar
He says he believes in Hinduism as defined by Swami Vivekananda, but he fails to raise the questions that he raised to other faiths who are constantly trying to convert Hindus. Of all the Hindu Gurus present today, he chooses to talk about the one who is behind bars.
He has a million blames for his political opponents. He mentions every person who has written to him agreeing with him on his newspaper columns or even on social media, but he conveniently refers to Sumitra Mahajan as the former speaker, when he wants to reluctantly appreciate something she did. If this book was a blog post, I would immediately classify it as a sponsored post that someone has paid for you to write and publish.
There are not too many heavy-duty words that Dr. Tharoor is known to use, which makes me wonder how much of the book was really written by him. With his kind of articulation skills, I wish he would invest some time to really understand the faith and then pen down something, that would be his contribution to the faith that he repeatedly says he is proud of. He would have to rise above his political affiliations though.
Read Instead – 5 Reasons to Read Ramcharitmanas by Goswami Tulsidas
The book is full of beautiful images including many Oleographs of Raja Ravi Verma. I checked the image credits page and it seems most of them are sourced from the Internet and Twitter users. I assume explicit permissions were taken to publish them in the book, the credits page only mentions an attempt to attribute. Since both the author and the publishers are making money from these images, I hope the copyright holders are compensated.
I can’t really recommend this book. I have mentioned some of the books above that you can read to understand Hinduism.