Barely 61 years after independence, today the Indian nation once again stands at the cross roads of history. For centuries, nay millennia, the Hindu faith has been the fulcrum of Indian civilization. Despite one thousand years of slavery and struggle, the sacred tradition of Hindu dharma continues to be the most important connecting link between its past and present and also between the diverse people living in various parts of the country. The glory of Ramayan and Gita, as surely as the powerful preachings of Sikh Gurus and Mahavira and Buddha, resonate throughout the length and breadth of this ancient land and millions of Indians draw inspiration from the wisdom enshrined in our holy scriptures. Unlike semitic religions, Hindu dharma is not a monolithic formation; it is an all-compassing religion. It has a unique element of elasticity and cosmic federalism. A Hindu can be a Jain, a Buddhist or a Sikh - or even an atheist. There is no central religious authority in Hindu faith which can ex-communicate or throw out anyone from Hindu fold, not even an anti-Hindu atheist, from. In that sense it is a unique religion and the absence of dogmas makes it almost unparalleled spiritual faith completely free of the intolerance often encountered in many monotheistic religions like Christianity and Islam. Perhaps the Hindu mode of worshipping multiple deities, like Vishnu, Siva, Lakshmi, Parvati, Ganesha, Brahma, Saraswati and innumerable other and
goddesses, including Gautam Buddha and Tirthankaras, representing multifarious strands of spiritual thought has made it much more tolerant of other people's religious beliefs and ideas than any other faith worldwide. If man, as they say, has cast God in his own mould, then it stands to reason that those who are prepared to live their lives ethically and by accepting harmonious existence of multiple gods and goddeses in their pantheon will have no quarrel with the existence among them of people owing allegiance to diverse beliefs. When a number of deities representing God can co-exist harmoniously, how can their followers be dogmatic and refuse to accept multiculturalism or co-existence with other faiths ? The most distinctive feature of Hinduism is that it has numerous powerful components of secularism. In that sense it is much more than mere religion. It is a complete way of life, as described by that eminent philosopher and India's former President, late Dr. Radhakrishnan, because of its higher sensitivity and broad sweep of eternal and all encompassing humanism. The Hindu dharma has fairly intense feelings for all living beings, including the lowest of the lowly creatures, and even mundane things, both spiritual and worldly. For a Hindu the guiding principle of life is "dharma" which entails subscribing to all those principles which are fit for adoption by householders in their day-to-day life. The Hindu concept of "dharma" is not limited to any sectarian or doctrinaire religious belief; it consists of universally accepted moral principles, as correctly emphasised by Swami Vivekananda. It is entirely due to the grandeur of the prevalent Hindu ethos that the Indian civilization has centuries old tradition of secularism and pluralism - almost unheard of in the narrow universe of monotheistic creeds. And that is how the Indian people, predominently Hindus and Sikhs, opted for a secular constitution despite going through a blood-soaked partition of
their motherland in 1947. By the very nature of its cosmic beliefs, Hinduism accepts change as an important fact of life. Since times immemorial the Hindu philosophy,
enshrined in the Vedas and Upanishadas, has regarded change as the only immutable law of life, a fact repetitively emphasised in several holy texts. Incidentally the strong belief in change as an important aspect of our existence alone can explain the prowess shown by the Hindus in quickly mastering the languages of even the marauding aliens, like the Mughals and the English, so fast and so well. Despite centuries of slavery and economic deprivation, this acceptance of change as an important facet of life has enabled the modern Hindu youth, spurred by the centuries old tradition of worshipping Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, to burst upon the global scene as experts in Information Technology and numerous other scientific disciplines, including surgery, biotechnology and engineering. That is a tribute to the glory of Hindu dharma, the glory of India, my motherland, your motherland and motherland of one billion citizens inhabiting this vast country.