Hindutva by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – A Book Review

हिंदुत्व कोई सामान्य शब्द नहीं है। यह एक परंपरा है। एक इतिहास है। यह इतिहास केवल धार्मिक अथवा आध्यात्मिक इतिहास नहीं है। अनेक बार ‘हिंदुत्व’ शब्द को उसी के समान किसी अन्य शब्द के समतुल्य मानकर बड़ी भूल की जाती है। वैसा यह इतिहास नहीं है। वह एक सर्वसंग्रही इतिहास है।

Introduction:
GENRE: History/Essay/Non-fiction
AUTHOR: V.D. Savarkar
PAGES: 176
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: Written in Cellular Jail (Kaala Paani) under the title of ‘Essentials of Hindutva’ in 1923. It was republished in 2003 by Hindi Sahitya Sadan.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar Or ‘Veer’ Savarkar as he was/is fondly called was a revolutionary leader of the Indian freedom movement. He was a leading figure of the Hindu Mahasabha and a staunch proponent of complete Indian Independence from British Rule. In fact, he was the first person who named the 1857 rebellion ‘The First War of Independence’.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born in Bhagur, near Nashik, present-day Maharashtra. He was born to Damodar and Radhabai Savarkar on 28 May 1883. He was politically active since High School. After completing his Bachelor of Arts from Fergusson College, Pune, he went to England to study Law. He stayed at India House, a place that was frequented by Nationalists and Activists fighting for Indian Independence. He, along with his brother, founded a secret society called ‘Mitra Mela’ in 1899 which became ‘Abhinav Bharat Society’ in 1904.
In London, he established the Free India Society along with Madam Bhikaji Cama to organize students to fight for India’s independence through a revolution.

If you would like to know more about the life of Veer Savarkar, you can refer to here and here. Believe me, it’s fascinating.

About the Book

The book was originally written under the title of ‘Essentials of Hindutva’ while Veer Savarkar was serving his 50 year sentence in Cellular Jail, better known as Kaala Paani, where he was severely tortured for making political speeches against the British rule and organizing and leading marches with revolutionaries.

The book starts by defining the word Hindu and its origin and goes on to discuss briefly the languages, Sanskrit being the oldest language as opposed to the common debate of Tamil being the oldest, and the adoption of Hindi as a common language across the nation. Making Hindi the common language is advocated more on the grounds of unification under one simpler language (as the residents of the subcontinents are called ‘Hindus’ i.e., people living in the land of the Sindhu river. So, Hindi meaning the language being spoken in the land of the Hindus or in Sindhu subcontinent), although retention of all the other languages is a must to preserve culture. Though many will disagree with this view, he goes on to say if this is not possible then regardless, there has to be a common proponent to bring people together which is most effectively done by speaking a common tongue.

Book further discusses the word Hindu and its origin by referencing Bhavishya Puraan and various other texts and letters of different Indian Scholars and thinkers. The mispronunciation of ‘S’ as ‘H’ has given a unique name (Hindu) to the people living in the subcontinent starting from Sindhu. This name should not be considered offensive or insulting to the residents of this great subcontinent and must be embraced wholeheartedly as the word denotes all the residents residing here. The misconception that the word Hindu denotes a religion is also discussed here. The word is not to be mistaken with ‘Hinduism’, which was propounded by the British to denote the religion of the population residing here. Hence proving Hindu and Hinduism are different.

The book goes on to describe the history of the Indian subcontinent, the rise, and decline of civilization due to the rise of Buddhism, and the rise again after Buddhists moved towards China as a compromise with the rise of Hindutva to counter attacking forces from outside the nation. This is very interesting and not to be mistaken as disrespect towards Buddhism by the author, but just a factual note of historic events.
This was followed by the onslaught of Mughals on India and the carnage they wrought upon the peaceful residents of the subcontinent starting a series of conversions, destructions of temples, colleges, libraries, entire towns, and the murder of several Hindus who didn’t submit to their will.
The book talks about the great Hindu leaders such as Chhatrapati Shivaji, Prithviraj Chauhan, Peshwa Baji Rao, etc., being the brave rulers of the land.

Further, the book talks about the unification of Hindus as Hindus and throwing away any caste identities. And finally, the definition of Hindutva by the preceding discussion and the difference between Hindu and Hindutva.

What is Hindutva?

According to the book there are 3 characterstics which defines Hindutva. These characterstics are:

  1. Feeling of belonging to this land of Sindhu (from Sindhu river to Sindhu saagar).
    A feeling of nation. Ingrained feeling of belonging to this nation which includes the entire subcontinent of India.
  2. Having the traits of being a Hindu – this land being the ‘Pitrabhoomi’ and ‘Punyabhoomi’.
    The difference between them is as follows –
    • Pitrabhoomi means the land of the ancestors. It is not be mistaken as being different from calling this land as motherland. Calling it ‘Motherland’ is the emotion with which we connect to our nation as it births and nurtures us. Therefore, from the first characterstic, one has to belong to the nation as their ancestors did – they were born and they lived in this land. Their descendants have the same blood as their ancestors. They will love this land with the same gusto.
    • Punyabhoomi means Holy land. A person who believes that this is the land which is above everything else. A land which is of their ancestors and them; which is the only holy place to the Hindu. Consider it somewhat similar to what Mecca is to Muslims and Vatican is to Christians. On a more accurate example in the present context, it is what Israel is to the Jews. Jews can be living anywhere in the world, can hold a citizenship of any country but they will always be loyal towards Israel as it is their Holy land – a land to be worshipped, a land where they feel they belong.
  3. Culture.
    Albeit being important this is not a deciding factor for Hindutva. This is explained by the example that a Hindu can be born in Bengal or Gujarat or Kerala, etc. But the customs they follow, the festivals they celebrate, their lifestyle has a similarity in them. It may be noted that a person can be a Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, etc., following different customs and practises, but if they had ancestors living in this land and consider this land as their Punyabhoomi, the holy land with their places of worship, then they can be called following Hindutva even though they may call themselves of different religion (The author explains that Sikh, Jain, Buddhism are all subsets of Hinduism as their Gurus and founders believed. Although they might like to call themselves different now). The author proposes immense respect for these religions within the subcontinent.

Conclusion

I can see why the book has such popularity since the time it first came out, and why a certain section of people, Hindu and Non-Hindu, express dislike for this. The book has such convincing power all the while inculcating a feeling of Nationalism in the people through factual examples and prose. Reaching out to historic events, many of which were purposely hidden from us in Modern India due to obvious reasons, but let’s not get into that right now.

Reading this book fascinates us with not only how rich our history is but also the ignorance with which western scholars, liberal intellectuals, cummunists, etc., approaches it in the present day. This book was written in the backdrop of Indian freedom struggle and has inspired revolutionaries fighting for freedom in and outside of India. But it is even more amazing how the future predictions written in this book at that time have majorly proved to be quite true at present.

The hindutva explained in this book if often compared with Nazism by the above mentioned usual suspects but they cannot be more wrong about it. Nazism was based on the premise of supremacy over the Jews while hitler openly ordered them to be killed. Comparing this with over 90 Million Hindus tortured and buthered over the centuries by Mughals and other invaders, not to mention temples ravaged & universities, libraries destroyed, is most infuriating. How ironical it is that the world’s biggest genocide in the annals of history was never recognized!

Anyway, the book offers tolerance for everyone and empowerment for the Hindus (Hindus as per the above explained definition). It’s a good read, especially for those who never swallowed the secular education model which glorifyied the perpetrators and demonized the Hindu culture and customs. Hindu culture which has always been inclusive and preached tolerance (An athiest is also called a Hindu), read Lokayata philosphy of Hinduism. It is okay to be proud of being a Hindu.

We can close our eyes and believe our dream to be true but it will not change the reality.

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