Source: The Gazetteer of India, Volume 1: Country and people. Delhi,
Publications Division, Government of India, 1965.

CHAPTER Vlll - Religion


by Dr. C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar, Dr. Nalinaksha Dutt, Prof. A.R.Wadia, Prof. M.Mujeeb,
Dr.Dharm Pal and Fr. Jerome D'Souza, S.J.

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This text have been rearranged by Shri Arvind Kalia so that some of the material could more easily and logically fit into the sub-headings he has created, otherwise the original text remains unchanged - Prakash Arumugam

An Introduction

It has been pointed out by Dr. Arnold J. Toynbee, in A Study of History, that the principal civilisations of the world lay different degrees of emphasis on specific lines of activity. Hellenic civilisation, for instance, displays a manifest tendency towards a prominently aesthetic outlook on life as a whole. Indian civilisation, on the other hand, shows an equally manifest tendency towards a predominantly religious outlook. Dr. Toynbee's remark sums up what has been observed by many other scholars. Indeed, the study of Hinduism has to be, in a large measure, a study of the general Hindu outlook on life.

Receptivity and all-comprehensiveness, it has been aptly stated, are the main characteristics of Hinduism. Since it has had no difficulty in bringing diverse faiths within its ever-widening fold, it has something to offer to almost all minds. Monier-Williams in his notable work Brahmanism and Hinduism dwelt on This aspect about a hundred years ago. The strength of Hinduism, he emphasised, lies in its infinite adaptability to the infinite diversity of human character and human tendencies. It has its highly spiritual and abstract side suited to the philosopher; its practical and concrete side congenial to the man of the world; its aesthetic and ceremonial side attuned to the man of the poetic feeling and imagination; and its quiescent contemplative aspect that has its appeal for the man of peace and the lover of seclusion. The Hindus, according to him, were Spinozists more than 2,000 years before the advent of Spinoza, Darwinians many centuries before Darwin. and Evolutionists many centuries before the doctrine of Evolution was accepted by scientists of the present age.

No civilisation anywhere in the world, with the probable exception of China, has been as continuous as that of India. While the civilisations of Egypt, Babylon and Assyria have disappeared, in India the ideas emanating from the Vedic times continue to be a living force.

European scholars of Sanskrit like Sir William Jones noted similarities in the languages, terminology and substances of Indian scriptures with those of Greece and Rome. Even a superficial study convinced them that, while the language of the Vedas is a great critical instrument in the construction of the science of philology, the Vedic hymns constitute a compilation of most Indo-European myths in their primitive form. Max Muller went so far as to say that the Vedas are the real theogony of the Aryan races, Homer and Hesiod having given a distorted picture of the original image.

The excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro and those in Saurashtra have disclosed the existence of a highly evolved culture long before the Aryan immigration, perhaps dating back to 3000 B.C. or later. Among the remains discovered are a three-faced prototype of Siva seated in a yogic posture, representations of the Linga, and a horned goddess associated with the pipal tree. These symbols, evolved by a very ancient civilisation, were assimilated by the Aryan immigrants in slow stages-their earliest literary work, the .Rg-Veda, almost overlooks these aspects. The Vedic Aryans, it has been suggested, partly assimilated and partly destroyed the earlier culture.

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Copyright 1996, Prakash Arumugam