THE God Market by Meera Nanda is an agenda book. The author has collated data for the book selectively, used it crookedly and arrived at conclusions that were her original hypothesis. That the Indian state is promoting the Hindu religion and that globalisation has given a spurt to Hinduism. And she is rather dismayed at this is made amply clear, repeatedly.
One of her major contentions is that the governments at the centre and the states in India have given lands for temples and ashrams at throw away prices. She has also said that more educational institutions have been set up by Hindu religious organisations in the recent years than ever before. If she had collected the data on the land holdings of the Christians and Muslim places of worship she would have been surprised that the 90 per cent Hindu has a much smaller share in this than the 10 per cent minorities.
But then, the author has played safe. Right at the beginning of the book, she has made a disclaimer that the book is only about Hindu religion so she would not discuss the others. As recent as a few weeks ago a headcount had said that the Christians own the maximum number of educational institutions in the country. The Church occupies the most prime locations in all the cities and towns in India, the worth of which must be running to thousands of crores.
Only the Hindu places of worship come under state control. The governments are free to abuse the income from the temple. This is not even conceivable in places of worship of other religions. The communists who celebrate atheism are perched in high positions in the temple-controlling Devasvam boards.
The connection between globalisation and spurt in religion (read Hindu) is not coming out clear. Both may be simultaneous events but it is not necessarily that the latter is the fallout of the former. And especially when Meera Nanda says that the affluent rich and upcoming middle class are the ones who are in the fore front of both the phenomena.
The author has also mentioned several temple rituals that are recent phenomena. Rituals are an essential part of Hinduism and most they have been practiced for centuries. New rituals may, no doubt be springing up, as it happens with any changing society. And this is equally true of all religions around the world. In a market driven world, everything is a commercial opportunity. Mother’s day, father’s day, friendship day, and valentine day – these are all market driven celebrations. Temple renovation (kumbabhishekam) does not fall in this category because it is routinely done from time to time, by all temples in whatever capacity they could.
Meera Nanda has ridiculed several aspects of the Hindus. For example, she constantly harps on the point that even those Hindus who work in the science field are religious and ritualistic. As if the two cannot go together. Oppenheimer, the celebrated scientist who made the atomic bomb, when asked about his reaction about the dropping of the bomb said, “We waited until the blast had passed, walked out of the shelter and then it was extremely solemn. We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavat Gita: Vishnu is trying to persuade the prince that he should do his duty and to impress him He takes on His multi-armed form and says “now I am become Death, the Destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.” (The Making of Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes). Oppenheimer learnt Sanskrit to read the Gita in original and a copy of the Gita was always at a reachable distance from him. Does that make him less of a scientist?
The ‘God Market’ is full of clichéd ideas and accusations against Hinduism, which any Christian convent attended student would have heard from nuns and fathers.
The author has worked with a huge bias, definitive purpose and assumptions that do not stand scrutiny. It may receive a pat in academic circles inimical to India in general and Hindus in particular. But it is not a study that offers any valuable insight into the topic that it is supposed to deal with. Meera Nanda is a visiting professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University. It is heartening to see that the Organiser weekly has been quoted in nearly a dozen places.
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