Christmas down two millennia has been a Universal Festival celebrated across the world by over 160 countries. While the followers of Christ celebrate the historical holy birth of Christ at Christmas, all sane and informed followers of religions other than Christianity and even atheists worldwide celebrate Christmas as a time of peace and goodwill, love and brotherhood, home-coming and sharing of gifts. Christmas cheer and peace blurs boundaries.
Opposing the incontrovertible celebration of Christmas anywhere is as absurd as dog barking at the moon or moron pelting stones at the rising sun. The recent shocker allegedly sent out by Hindu Jagaran Mach (HJM), a right-wing Hindutva group affiliated to Yogi Adityanath’s Hindu Yuva Vahini, warning Aligarh’s Christian schools against Christmas celebrations is more preposterous than unfortunate!
What is unfortunate is the fact that in the Holy Season of love, peace and goodwill the hate brigade of a fringe gains sanction to test the waters of Christian festivals as to learn how deep they can be muddied. Or is he a foot soldier mandated with a clandestine mission with assurance of protection? In either way, creating a fear psychosis in the minds of the minorities, that too in the largest multi-religious secular democracy currently being ruled by a Prime Minister with his much hyped slogan, “Sabka Saath, SabkaVikas”(With everyone, for everyone’s development) and credits himself for ‘good governance’ raises disturbing questions.
In fact such a hate-agenda boomerangs. The HJM opposing Christmas celebrations in multi-faith schools or any school for that matter offends Hinduism more than Christianity. For, the true Hinduism we know and respect is a tolerant way of life. “Tolerance in abundance” is the hallmark of Hinduism.
The rationale or justification behind the protest is learned to be the most irrational assumption that Christmas celebrations in schools is a ‘ploy to convert children’ to Christianity: Sonu Savita, president of the Aligarh unit of HJM reportedly alleged that “Celebration of Christmas by Christian schools is essentially a ploy to lure and convert Hindu children”. Sanju Bajaj, the State secretary of HJM too had this most untenable statement to make: “HJM volunteers are running an “awareness campaign” among the parents whose children studied in Christian schools. He said the HJM and other Hindutva groups would hold protests outside the schools if they “forced” Hindu children to celebrate Christmas.
These are suspicions of a sort that bespeak of total ignorance of what Christianity and Christmas is all about, what true Hinduism is and what its tenets are, what specific rights are provided to the minorities in the Indian Constitution with regards to their freedom of religion, worship, propagation, establishment and running of their institutions and why this, to top it all, is an utter disrespect for the composite culture of India and its secular ethos. Well, once fanaticism, ignorance, hate and intolerance overpower the mind, ‘biting the hand that feeds’ becomes no big deal.
If Christmas celebration is a ploy to convert students to Christianity as alleged by some of our fanatic ignoramus how come thousands of alumnae who have had gloriously passed through the portals of Catholic schools and today sit pretty on Indian political throne, industry, business, sci-tech arena, in every sphere of life, still remain firm in their own faiths? How come 90 per cent of the Indian bureaucracy vies with each other to send their children to Christian schools in India and for higher studies to Christian countries abroad where Christmas is central to all celebrations? Why is there an endless rush for admission in Christian schools where not only Christmas but also Janmashtami, Holi, Eid et al are celebrated to make the students grow as enlightened citizens of India?
Festivals of all religions and days of national importance are observed in Christian schools exactly to inculcate in young students respect for all religions and help preserve social harmony in India. In other words these celebrations widen their world vision and save them from the jaws of those religious fanatics out there to inject a hate ideology and make them intolerant monsters.
It’s most distressing that today’s India is being steadily dragged into the abyss where ‘ignorance is bliss’. This worrisome fact ought to wake up every sane citizen of India and ask ‘ Q uo Vadis India’? Sure enough, we urgently need to conduct a different ‘awareness campaign’ on the riches of true Hinduism which most Hindus call as ‘Sanatana Dharma’ (Eternal Moral Order) based on righteousness.
Only Hindus can redeem Hinduism from its self-styled protectors who maraud knowing nothing about what true Hinduism stands for; hence tarnish its image. Since recent past Taliban-like fanatics who are out using coercion to restrict people’s diet, dress, movements and religious celebrations tarnish the image and distort the tenets of Hinduism.
True Hinduism today urgently stands in need of propagation and not protection. Here are a few tips for the HJM to first wake themselves up and learn the goodness and good will constitutive of true Hinduism:
1. Hinduism is the world’s oldest tolerant religion that has set the ideal environment in India for peaceful co-existence of all 9 major religions including Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Bahai’s and Zoroastrianism: Sarve bhavantu sukhinah and Lokaa samastaa sukhino bhavantu — “Let all the living beings in the whole world be happy ”, goes a fervent prayer chanted by priests in temples.
2. Hinduism is open to other religions and nurtures the good teachings coming from all directions as best expressed in the Vedic verse, “aa no bhadrAM kartavo yantu vishvataH”
3. Hinduism promotes tolerance and respects all religions with their cultural and traditional beliefs as alternative ways to reach the Ultimate Truth (God) - Ekam Sat Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti (Truth is one, the wise call it by many names)
4. “Ayam nija-paro ayithi ganana laghuchetasam, Udaramanasamtu Vasudhiva Kutumbakam (Is he ours or outsider, such calculations are done by narrow-minded, but for large-hearted the whole world is family-(Hithopadesh)
5. “He who hates no single being, is friendly and compassionate, free from self-regard and vanity, patient and contented, fixed on me in heart and mind is dear to me (Lord Krishna)
India has produced enlightened Hindus like Gandhiji, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Shri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. They were devotees of Jesus Christ as much as they were devotees of the deities of their avowed faith. Sri Ramakrishna (1836–1886), a 19th-century Indian mystic whose teachings form the foundation of the Ramakrishna Mission encountered Christianity in 1874 when he heard the holy Bible being read at his devotee Malik's house. He later practiced Christianity and had a vision of Jesus Christ: “I have practiced all religions – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and followed the paths of the different Hindu sects. I have found that it is the same God toward whom all are directing their steps, though along different paths”, he affirmed.
It’s instructive of those who attack Christmas Carols and oppose Christmas celebration in schools to learn that Sri Ramakrishna gave the ochre cloths to his young disciples , foremost among them was Narendra Dutta (Swami Vivekananda) and ordained them as monks with monastic vows on the Christmas Eve of 1886.
Swami Vivekananda a delegate at the 1893 Parliament of World Religions in America where he delivered his famous Chicago Speech and founded the Vedanta Society in America was a great admirer of Jesus Christ. Albeit being a prominent Hindu Missionary he would often exhort his disciples “To become like Jesus Christ and aid in the redemption of the world” (ashrams. holydrops.com). Such enlightened and venerable monks India produced in the past stands as ever relevant role models for monks of contemporary India some of whom have ascended the country’s political throne, but unfortunately warn Christians not to celebrate Christmas outside Churches.
The Indian Prime Minister by his sacred oath is duty-bound to rein in the hate brigade that takes law in their hands, intimidate and attack minorities. Recently Mr. Narendra Modi once again was in the United States where President R. Trump has put Christmas back to its traditional fervour. And how can the “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” Prime Minister of India forget the nuggets of wisdom left to him by his friend Barack Obama? As Obama said, “We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn't a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.”
Christmas is universal. The birth of Christ united the whole human race by drawing the three wise men of the East through a wonder-star to His feet in adoration and offering precious gifts. They were priest kings said to be Sun-worshippers, well-versed in magic and knowledge of the stars, of whom one was from India, one from Persia (Iran), and the third one was from China. They were the priests of the Scythians, known as ‘Magi’, who were the ancestors of many Hindu Indian, Persian and Chinese clans. The birth of Christ that d ivided the span of human history into B.C. (Before Christ and A.D. (Apres Dieu- After God/Christ) is universally accepted. Christmas matters! It can’t be ignored, maligned or denied.
The Peace & Joy of Christmas to one and all!
(Published on 26th December 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 52)