Why Hindutva Worries me: Annual Onam debates

102 Comments

This is first in the series of blogposts I plan to write about my worries with Hindutva.

Every year on Onam, social media witnesses flame wars between Hindutva and Anti Hindutva forces. The point of contention often is the Hindutva assertion that Onam is Vamana Jayanti and the counter to that is Onam is a secular harvest festival of Kerala. BJP handles have been tweeting their versions of Onam ever since they have been active on internet. The level to which both sides are unwilling to compromise on occasions of festivals – which ought to reflect human community celebrations, is petty. This year Arvind Kejriwal, flush with his success as modeling himself as a Hindu (or Soft Hindutva), took to twitter with this. It was met with a reply from Shashi Tharoor which in turn was countered by ever growing internet Hindutva – including the widely popular TrueIndology. One cant expect these flame wars to subside anytime soon, given the interest people have been taking in history & hindutva these days.

For decades, liberals have critiqued the Hindutva project as exclusionary. The Hindutva response is – wrt Abhrahamic faiths – if that only these people (religions) connected with the culture on ground and accepted native customs along with their own customs, we wouldn’t protest. For the Hindutvavadis, the said project was always Indianize (not Hinduize they claim) these monotheistic faiths, so that these faiths are more integrated in the larger Indian society. By that train of logic the Hindutvavadis should be happy if Keralites Christians & Muslims celebrate Onam as a Secular festival. Couldn’t this be held as a beacon of syncretic Keralite culture which the country should follow ? For most times, festivals evolve and change with times, their origins though not irrelevant, tend to become less salient as time goes on. The origins of Christmas are testament to the fluid nature of festivals. Onam in Kerala is a truly spectacular festival full of dances, food, music, boat racing and many things, not unlike Diwali. Across the world, harvest seasons have festivals and religious significance because of the underlying material importance. Do contested origins of festivals matter or the human community experience of festivals matters?  Nowruz (whether that is an Iranian mirror of Holi is something that interests me) celebrated by the broader Iranian people, after a millennium of Islam is a testament to the longevity festivals rooted in culture. The insistence of always getting sole ownership of the Onam story comes of as toxic chauvinism & deliberately exclusionary IMO. Yet every year, there are the same debates around Onam with Keralite Christians and Muslims abused for trying to own Onam in a way they have come to define it. (Ricebags and other demeaning words are often used). 

The apparently ironic way the Hindutva movement is becoming very much like its primary enemy is not really unprecedented. VD Savarkar, the foremost and most intellectual ideologue of Hindutva was critical of Muslims and Christians putting their religion above the country. Sadly during the negotiations of princely states, Savarkar himself campaigned for independent Hindu Travancore against the plans of Sardar Patel. It can be alleged he put Hindutva before the country at that moment – exactly what he accused Muslims of for all those years. Yet Hindutvavadis have no qualms putting Patel and Savarkar in the same tent – while claiming Patel and Nehru had irreconcilable differences.

These flames wars were merely part of twitter for a few years but now they’re penetrating larger audiences via whatsapp. While this may be a symptom of taking trivial social media more seriously than it deserves, the point I am arguing is beyond the flame wars of twitter. There is a deliberate and uncompromising framing of Hindutva underway – which covers a variety of tropes from calling Jains/Sikhs Hindus to soft diktats against celebrating Christman/Eid. I consider these manifestations of the nascent ideological moorings, troubling. In  a weird way at times, I hope Hindutva remains REACTIONARY and resists ideological framing, for I am more wary of deep ideological movements than mere reactionary ones.

While its not my argument that their might not be any deliberate maneuvering by the liberals in framing of the Onam as a secular festival – I dont know and I dont care enough to investigate. If the world Hindu is defined as broadly as some do, everything east of the Sindhu will be Hindu & most festivals will have some connection to traditional Hinduism/native religions. At end of the day what matters is Onam is a harvest festival for Keralites.

Post Script:

I personally have tried to indulge in the so-called Dharmic/Indic arguments for India (Harsh Madhusudan& Rajeev Mantri are publishing a book i am looking forward too), put they also indulge in unnecessary labeling IMO. I find the use of these labels – Dharmic/Indic – churlish at times.

As usual all comments short of abuse are welcome.

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102 Replies to “Why Hindutva Worries me: Annual Onam debates”

    1. I think some people in border areas still celebrate it, like in Tirunelveli. But maybe the ones that do have some Kerala connection.

  1. The problem with Onam is that this weird “secular” interpretation is a direct attack on Hinduism (literally being done as an FU) rather than a lovey dovey pan-celebration (Like Christmas in the West).

    FWIW I come from a religious Gujarati Hindu perspective so take me with a grain of sugar 😛

    King Bali was the pinnacle of Vishnu Bhakti. He even has a word, “Balidān” or a supreme sacrifice, named after him because of him offering his head for Vamana to step on. Lord Vishnu was so pleased by his Bhakti and humility, that he now is said to spend 4 months of the year in the realm that Bali has been sent to during that episode (apparently a hell that is actually super nice so not really that hellish lol?).

    The Comrade interp is completely off the mark and shows Vishnu/Vamana as a dirty scheming light skin Brahmin (Vishnu is almost always dark skin as an avatar) against dark skin Dravidian asura Mahabali – he himself has Brahmin lineage and is the grandson of another great Vishnu Bhakti, Prahlad of the Hiranyakashyapu episode.

    We can argue that everyone in the scenario is debating fan fiction, but whether it’s fiction or fact – these stories bind Hinduism and India together. Small differences in interp are very common but the main thread is always intact. This “secular” Onam is indeed just a communist ploy to undermine Hinduism (I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist but Indian commies are indeed batshit insane).

    1. This whole Aryan/Dravidian BS talked up by Dravidians and its use against Hinduism or as they call it Brahmanism is surely devious. I wouldn’t deny that.
      Whatever be the origins – after certain time people tend to forget that – Founding Myths & stories can & do evolve.
      I would not say (nor would you i guess) that the Keralites would be seeing it as an FU to Aryans/Hindus while celebrating. For them, after a while its an enjoyable festival – but fighting its origins (Which Fiction came earlier and which is to be celebrated) here is not something i second. Unlike concrete things like Temple destruction or lionization of Tipu, this has a chance of becoming Christmas/Nowruz like secular over the coarse thought its origins maybe ulterior by the left. Maybe hindus will continue Vamana Jayanti / maybe not – but i find this unnecessary.

      1. Nothing wrong with people interpreting stories however they please. If you want to mourn for Ravana during Diwali, you can do it.

        Why are Hindutva Hindus so eager to become the caricature they have in their minds of Muslims?

    2. “FWIW I come from a religious Gujarati Hindu perspective so take me with a grain of sugar ”

      No need to fight other Hindu ethnicity fights. If mallu “Hindus” dont have a issue with their festival being usurped and their gods (supposedly) being mis-characterized, y should others care.

      BTW Finance Minster of Kerala
      https://twitter.com/drthomasisaac/status/1300303932024004608

      “Happy Onam! We celebrate Mahabali who did not discriminate by caste or creed , not Vamana who cheated him.”

      1. Just wanted to frame my POV.

        Though for us, Vaman is still an avatar of Vishnu and King Bali is regarded as the king of bhakts. That 4 month period I mentioned (Chaturmaas) has importance in our region with Shraavan being the holiest of months in that time frame.

        And I disagree with there being problem fighting other Hindu ethnicity fights. Hindus have been missing asabiyyah or suhradbhav (possibly the Sanskritic equivalent word) for centuries and it’s screwed us royally. Attention to Sabarimala and Onam from 100s of miles away just because it’s a “Hindu” issue is a good thing for Hinduism as a whole.

        The reason I have a problem with communist Onam is again that it is directly and solely made as an FU to Hinduism at large. We could easily appreciate Bali and Vaman as many other Hindu ethnicities do.

        At the end of the day though, it’s the Malayalis’ wishes to do as they please. In fact, I think we’ll have more Onam celebrations outside of Kerala now but for more textbook reasons 🙂

        1. “Hindus have been missing asabiyyah or suhradbhav (possibly the Sanskritic equivalent word) for centuries and it’s screwed us royally.”

          Smaller coalesced asabiyyah is far better than weak bigger asabiyyah. Anyhow to each his own.

          Sooner rather than later one will find out that fighting other folks battles is a thankless exercise. And the people who have been ‘turned’ cannot be brought back.

          1. “Sooner rather than later one will find out that fighting other folks battles is a thankless exercise.”

            This sounds about as genuine as an American speaking of Iraqis lamenting that we can’t keep fighting these thankless battles for the Iraqi people. It’s easy to find out what Hindutvavadis really think of Malayali Hindus.

            And “fighting” in this context is just a bunch of intolerant, sensitive, and insecure people spewing divisive rhetoric on social media.

          2. “The reason I have a problem with communist Onam is again that it is directly and solely made as an FU to Hinduism at large. We could easily appreciate Bali and Vaman as many other Hindu ethnicities do.”
            Thats the Hindu way – and i feel if not pressed hard thats what we will end up in Kerala – Such equilibrium takes time typically.

  2. I never understood why the Maharashtrians celebrate Gudhi Padwa with the traditional flagstaff. Me, liberal. It could have been something secular. What’s so cringey about this celebration is that it prevents other communities from joining the Hindus. Me, so liberal. After all, it’s only a harvest festival.

    I don’t care about the explanations and I can’t be bothered to investigate. Me, such liberal. My opinion is that Marathis (even the long dead ones) have been exclusionary and small minded. They could easily go to the nearest ground and raise the Indian flag, which is perhaps the most constitutional and correct thing to do.

    Please don’t mistake me as I am liberal only. Kindly give your opinions on the rigid Marathi.

    1. Ugra,
      Arguments r work in progress and not set in STONE.Positions r negotiable in light of new arguments and better evidence.
      If you want to engage i would advice to be direct or even BLUNT instead of resorting to lame sarcasm which needs explanation.

      wrt to your Gudi Padwa analogy – it remains a totally Hindu festival – But if muslims in MH start celebrating it stripping it off OR adding to the RAMA STORY – then it will be comparable to Onam. Even then given the demograhics of MH it can ever become Onam – there is no critical mass unlike Kerala which is almost 45% non hindu.

      1. Your narrative sans facts is typical of Indian liberals. The second characteristic that your crowd displays is to pick on events that have absolutely no impact on them like CAA (meant for Pakistani minorities) or this Onam narrative (absolutely no clue about traditions or partaking in it).

        BTW your defence of Gudi Padwa is exactly like a BP member who insists on the Pakistani right to act like anyway they wish while asking India to remain secular!. Please jettison your traditions on the next Gudi Padwa and start using secular symbology and rituals. Time for you to start experiencing your own medicine.

        1. ” Please jettison your traditions on the next Gudi Padwa and start using secular symbology and rituals. Time for you to start experiencing your own medicine.”

          This is just beating the Strawman
          did i even say Keralites who want to celebrate Vaman Jayanti should secularize their festival?
          NO – i just dont like Hindutva people (mostly non Keralite having annual Flame wars to shove this down Keralites throat)
          This isn’t how you change minds of people; this just polarizes Fench sitters and makes lot of noise

  3. Hindutva will use any excuse to attack Kerala and stir troubles in Kerala. It is among their chief enemy states because it is relatively developed and peaceful while rejecting Hindutva. Key word is relatively, before Hindutvacels start investigating social media for instances of violence in Kerala.

    1. “Hindutva will use any excuse to attack Kerala and stir troubles in Kerala.”

      I think I asked you about this on the open thread too but someone else answered it thinking it was meant for them, anyway, here it goes again- how long have you lived in Southern India (if at all you have), and if you have, where in southern India?

      Kerala has an above average rate of riots for its population (even if you account for better reporting, it’s still above average). And this has been the case even before BJP came to power in 2014.

      Report from 2014-
      https://scroll.in/article/677240/the-indian-state-with-the-highest-riots-cases-every-year-is-not-uttar-pradesh

      “In 2013, UP ranked only 22 out of India’s 35 states and union territories, with only 2.9 cases for every one lakh people. Kerala might have a significantly smaller population, but it also seems to have far more angry people, with 28.6 cases per one lakh people.”

      “Kerala has consistently had the highest rate of rioting in the country. Over the last five years, it has topped all states for riot rates, except for 2009 when 44 riot cases in Lakshadweep gave it a rate of 62 cases per one lakh people.”

      And I think you also supported the idea of all Muslims moving to Southern India on the open thread? Don’t wanna type further until I know if you’ve lived in India or not

      1. @IsThisReal

        Was born in Kerala, have extended family in Kerala, TN, Banglore, Mumbai, Delhi. Raised in the West and live here now. I visit India once in a while. I’m more coconut with an interest in & connection to India than a full out Indian, if that makes any sense.

  4. Dude, seriously you should stop psychoanalysing stuff. All the angst that you see has a simple explanation: There are practically only two groups of Hindus; the people who feel a connection with their ancestral heritage and those with weak — or nonexistent — links with their culture.

    The Hindutva/catchy movement name — before politics came into it — was always about respect, i.e., recognition of ancestors; after all India was the cradle of civilization — along with Mesopotamia and China — and people take pride in maintaining cultural continuity. The reaction against Onam is not against any group, but against nonrecognition — as well as the blatant disrespect — against progenitors of Indian culture.

    Imagine you come to a festival created by your ancestors, maintained by them through aeons of effort; yet now all traces of that is getting erased; how should one feel?

    Modernism/Secularism that divorces you from your cultural bequeathing is evil. Why will people not question it?

    1. How is it evil?

      In many parts of the West holidays like Christmas are celebrated in a secular way by non-Christians. This almost never offends Christians.

      The problem with Hindutva is how insecure and anger-filled these people are. It should make no difference to anyone that a Christian or Muslim is celebrating Onam with their own reasons for it.

      Hindutva is turning Hindus into the monsters they ostensibly fight. Intolerant, sensitive, and insecure.

      1. Because their nations have favor Abrahamic religions & traditions even after declaring themselves Secular unlike India where Hindu religious practices were cut short & other religions & great people’s days were being turned into public holidays.

        https://www.pewforum.org/2017/10/03/many-countries-favor-specific-religions-officially-or-unofficially/

        So when non-Christians join Christian celebration in those nations it is as much secular as it is forced since most beliefs there do not get similar state recognition & thus most nations don’t have public holidays honoring other traditions than the few they favor & since Christianity and Islam are the big monoliths they get more recognition. So the best opportunity Christians & non-Christians get to meet up with families are during Christian public holidays.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_holidays_by_country

        Hindutva is only responding to the global imposition of one sided standards which have been asked only of Hindus but not of any other major global community. I guess the world does not meet your secularism standards first make similar changes in non-Hindu regions & we can compare then. I guess the world does not meet your secularism standards.

      2. Hoju, I think a more apt comparison would be Christian reaction to non-Christians celebrating the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus (not an exact analogy but I am more so referencing an attack on Jesus/the faith).

        What non-Malayali Hindus see is an attack on Vamana (and the associated Vishnu, Brahmins, Hinduism, w/e).

        It doesn’t help to see unnecessary barbs like this one (of many) by the Kerala FM (CPI ofc): https://twitter.com/drthomasisaac/status/1300303932024004608

        I don’t really care if non-Hindus celebrate it, just like I don’t care if they celebrate Diwali. I also don’t care if Hindus celebrate Eid and Christmas or Nowruz…anything; I’ve done this myself. But it’s understandable for Hindus (forget Hindutva) to be upset if the celebration becomes potshots at Vamana and Vishnu…when the whole celebration is literally in honor of them originally as well as Bali’s bhakti towards them.

        1. @The Emissary

          1. I agree that the interpretation taken by some Christians, Muslims, and non-religious Hindus is offensive to the deeply religious. But at the same time, most of the reactionary stuff I see on social media isn’t even from particularly pious Hindus, but largely faraway political Hindus trying to gain some mileage. Also, why are these Hindus becoming what they claim to hate (intolerance, imposition, etc.)?

          2. On the ground I don’t think this has ever been an issue. Religious Hindus celebrate it their way, others do it another way, many times some combination of the above.

          3. It feels like just another point used to advance the argument that Hinduism is in danger in Kerala and Bengal. That after Kashmir Kerala and Bengal are next. And we all know how Kashmir gets treated. Nobody wants to be treated like that. Also used to rile up Hindus. Often leads to communal disturbances & strong hate for the ethnic group altogether.

          1. Hoju,

            First off thanks for giving your POV as it seems you are a Malayali Hindu so obv I value your perspective a lot.

            1. On this point, I can’t judge one’s piousness or sadhana as I myself have areas to improve on. However in terms of the intolerance point – I have a tweet that addresses this:
            https://twitter.com/TheEmissaryCo/status/1300608417590116352

            2. This is a fine and fair point. I don’t have much issue with on-ground celebration but like I said it’s more the insults thrown and falsifying origins.

            3. I agree that there can be harsh rhetoric against the state of Hinduism in Bengal and Kerala. Imo it does indeed come from a “brotherly” POV at its core from other Hindus but actual wording can be rough/sound like an asshole and go into arrogant territory. Many Hindus are hawkish over the state of Hinduism in those 2 places because of communism (self-explanatory), high Muslim population (don’t need to go into this), and that there is a tinge of regional supremacism that comes from those 2 states that is pretty anti-Hindutva and even anti-other Indian states (Gujarat and cowbelt being prime targets). Also, Hindutva is in power now and Kashmir Exodus is a recent memory.

            But I do think on ground, people are more chill as you said.

          2. // 1. I agree that the interpretation taken by some Christians, Muslims, and non-religious Hindus is offensive to the deeply religious. But at the same time, most of the reactionary stuff I see on social media isn’t even from particularly pious Hindus, but largely faraway political Hindus trying to gain some mileage. Also, why are these Hindus becoming what they claim to hate (intolerance, imposition, etc.)? //

            Why are you differentiating Hindus as political & non-political when you are not doing the same with other communities ? People from other communities who are offensive according to your acknowledgement are they neutral or political ? Why question only Hindus & not other communities or ideologues ?

            // 2. On the ground I don’t think this has ever been an issue. Religious Hindus celebrate it their way, others do it another way, many times some combination of the above. //

            Yes i have participated in various non mainstream practices of tribals like Maan or Bhagauriya melas {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagoria_Festival} etc. Have participated in religions of non-Hindu festivals but have never used them to browbeat community beliefs or take moral high ground of being secular but when other communities do it to Hindus why is it seen as marker of secularism ?

            // 3. It feels like just another point used to advance the argument that Hinduism is in danger in Kerala and Bengal. That after Kashmir Kerala and Bengal are next. And we all know how Kashmir gets treated. Nobody wants to be treated like that. Also used to rile up Hindus. Often leads to communal disturbances & strong hate for the ethnic group altogether. //

            It does not matter if danger about Hinduism is real or imaginary rather see it as a sign of community reaction to liberal & global hypocrisy with regards to Hindus. So Hindus should not counter wrong criticisms about them because it may lead to communal disturbances. Why not question state’s inability to control communal reactionaries or why not question lack of acknowledgement of hate Hindus have faced historically in institutions like academia or education ? Many groups hate each or generalize about each other but the real challenge is to prevent such ideas from translating into violent actions & prevention is easy if honest acknowledgment & engagement happens.

          3. @The Emissary

            That makes sense. I guess whereas I tend to see as a pattern of anti-Kerala attacks, Hindutvavadis see a pattern of Hindus / Hinduism being treated unfairly.

        2. Violet
          “I think this is the difference with Onam. Acknowledgement shouldn’t lead to so much sensitivity over what it is. Have fun if you want, but why deny others their own faith on the origins of the festival?”
          I totally agree – i dont imply that Keralite hindus abandon their traditions for the Secular CAUSE;
          I just dont like Hindutva people (mostly outside kerala & Leftist having annual flame-wars – where both groups try to shove their narrative down others throats. I personally dont take the Left that seriously on national level cause they play in the juniors – so I worry more about Hindutva than Left (Left truly appears as a spent force IMO)

      3. @Hoju,
        The issue isn’t how someone celebrates Christmas but what it is promoted as.

        My family puts up a Christmas tree for fun, but it is clearly not a “secular” festival of winter solstice. Our neighbor put up a big light show with letters “Jesus is the reason for the season” last December.

        We all complimented him on light show. Nobody went up and said “why can’t you be secular and call it winter solstice instead? You are alienating Hindus and atheists in the neighbourhood. After they put up outdoor lights and Santa Claus figures too”.

        I think this is the difference with Onam. Acknowledgement shouldn’t lead to so much sensitivity over what it is. Have fun if you want, but why deny others their own faith on the origins of the festival?

        1. This is actually a great falsification. Even falsified it is still several thousands of years younger than Vinca. Greece as a state did not exist until the 19th c.AC and the name ‘Greeks’, given them by indigenous population, is in use mostly from Roman conquering (2nd c.BC).

          The so-called Greek civilisation was artificially extended to the 12c.BC in the past to include Iliad and after that Greek civilisation was declared Western (why western and what is western in this context?), it means that so called ‘Western’ civilisation is 3200 years old. In meantime, there is not any trace of ‘Greek civilisation’ after Troy (where so-called Greeks did not live) for several centuries after that (until falsified so called Olympic games). Mino’s Create was not Greek and Mt. Olympus Greeks haven’t seen for 900 years after the battle, etc, etc.

          Btw, several people here just avoided to answer something what is important for SA history – who (what) was Alexander the Great? Would you like to give a shoot?

    2. @Hoju
      I mentioned the reason in my comment. Quote from my comment:

      Imagine you come to a festival created by your ancestors, maintained by them through aeons of effort; yet now all traces of that is getting erased; how should one feel?

      I have lived in Europe; secularism practised there is totally different. Christian connection is not being deliberately erased from Christmas. Sure, celebrate the festival; but people then go on to argue the festival is “secular” not “communal”. The constant heckling on the streets by Christian missionaries in Europe is very annoying — a practice that India too is now slowly embracing. Not everything is good and dandy there.

      In India, since Independence, a campaign has been run to vilify Hinduism: What you see now is just a reaction; my comment was in the light of a cultural movement for respect morphing into political movement. I have my reasons for disliking the “secular” atmosphere in India. These are: Government’s Control of Temples of Hindus; tax exemption to minority institutions, none to Hindu institutions; application of RTE only to Hindu institutions; etc. There was always going to be a blow back — and now, we have it.

      It is not just me who is against modernity, i.e., hypocrisy of the kind prevalent in Europe; it was Mahatma Gandhi too. He imagined a country taking inspiration from its past marching ahead. What we see now is the conflating of modernity with trashing of the cultural heritage. Plus, in my view, economy is very important; our present government is totally incompetent in managing it. The government’s desire to want experts — who in reality — are sycophants, favouritism to their chosen businessmen, and autocratic behaviour was going to wreck our economy.

      Personally, I wish we become — culturally, economically —even better than Japan; maybe, it will happen one day.

    3. @Hoju
      I mentioned the reason in my comment. Quote from my comment:

      Imagine you come to a festival created by your ancestors, maintained by them through aeons of effort; yet now all traces of that is getting erased; how should one feel?

      I have lived in Europe; secularism practised there is totally different. Christian connection is not being deliberately erased from Christmas. Sure, celebrate the festival; but people then go on to argue the festival is “secular” not “communal”. The constant heckling on the streets by Christian missionaries in Europe is very annoying — a practice that India too is now slowly embracing. Not everything is good and dandy there.

      In India, since Independence, a campaign has been run to vilify Hinduism: What you see now is just a reaction; my comment was in the light of a cultural movement for respect morphing into political movement. I have my reasons for disliking the “secular” atmosphere in India. These are: Government’s Control of Temples of Hindus; tax exemption to minority institutions, none to Hindu institutions; application of RTE only to Hindu institutions; etc. There was always going to be a blow back — and now, we have it.

      It is not just me who is against modernity, i.e., hypocrisy of the kind prevalent in Europe; it was Mahatma Gandhi too. He imagined a country — taking inspiration from its past — marching ahead. What we see now is the conflating of modernity with trashing of the cultural heritage. Plus, in my view, economy is very important; our present government is totally incompetent in managing it. The government’s desire to want experts — who in reality — are sycophants, favouritism to their chosen businessmen, and autocratic behaviour was always going to wreck our economy.

      Personally, I wish we become — culturally, economically —even better than Japan; maybe, it will happen one day.

      1. @GaravL
        I agree cultural separation is stupid and deracinating; and yet it is happening due to various agendas. My question is: Why should such a thing be tried in the first place? Japan serves as an inspiration for not following that model; we should embrace our diversity and tradition. On the other hand, Ataturk and Nehru were too much awed and thralled by Europeans. It was the system of Europeans that made them succeed so much; culturally, they had started to question all their beliefs and traditions becoming extremely materialistic and selfish in the process.

        The attitude of questioning is found in India too – but sadly, limited to Philosophy. What we need to do is to encourage its spread to material aspects of life. I believe Indian tradition of discourse is superior to what we see in the west.

        In my view: All cultures evolve in time; but the shysterish hyphenation of Secularism/Modernism should be opposed. Christians are more or less integrated in the country and are well protected. Regarding muslims, if a man like Gandhi cannot make them happy, nobody will; they also have two countries in the subcontinent, now. What more do they want? For living in a nation as citizens, everybody has to adjust; it cannot be just one way.

    4. i have not arguments to India is an ancient civilization train of thought.

      ” Modernism/Secularism that divorces you from your cultural bequeathing is evil. Why will people not question it? ”
      Where we differ might be i dont find this EVIL – I find it stupid & deracinated – Nehru Tried, Attaturk tried – but they failed in the larger project.

      I see the problems in the “Secular” framing of most things – ITS just i feel Hindutva backlash is counterproductive & polarizing. unnecessarily displeases Keralite Christians & Muslims who might themselves not be VERY IDEOLOGICAL OR COMMUNIST.

  5. “For decades, liberals have critiqued the Hindutva project as exclusionary. The Hindutva response is – wrt Abhrahamic faiths – if that only these people (religions) connected with the culture on ground and accepted native customs along with their own customs, we wouldn’t protest. For the Hindutvavadis, the said project was always Indianize (not Hinduize they claim) these monotheistic faiths, so that these faiths are more integrated in the larger Indian society. ”

    I think that time has sadly past. Earlier when the movement was still gaining ground and wanted acceptance it had time for rhetoric like “Indian-ize” etc, to appeal to middle of the road Hindu. No one really relents once they are in position of strength. Now as the movement has achieved broader contours, it will not suffer divergence. Not just Christians and muslims, liberal Hindus can either get on the program or opt out of it (as so it happens in vast N-India) .

    The time is not far where this every “Hindu” will have to make that choice as well.

  6. I am Malayali, and a lot of times, I feel like I miss out on the point of the Onam culture wars. What I tend to do is that I keep talking about my experience of Onam, growing up in a Hindu Malayali home. We, at home, believe in the myth of Mahabali coming to visit us on the Onam day. We also do a Puja early in the morning to Vamanan (or Thrikkakkara Appan, as he is popularly called, since he is the chief deity of the temple of Thrikkakkara). In the stories I heard, there was no antagonism between Mahabali and Vamanan.

    As a side note, the Thrikkakkarappan idols that people use at home are three conical figures (traditionally made with mud/wood) of varying heights. In a sense, I get the feeling that these idols look Saivite because of the similarity to the lingam. Additionally, Thrikkakkara temple also hosts an important Shiva shrine within it. However, the three idols of differing heights could be related to the Vamanan myth of measuring the universe in three steps. The mantra used for the Puja is Narayanaya Namah. So, it must be Vishnu that one is praying to.

    1. Onam is dedicated to Vishnu as mentioned in this ancient Sangam text Madurai Kanchi

      “கணம் கொள் அவுணர் கடந்த பொலம் தார்
      மாயோன் மேய ஓண நன் நாள்”

      Vishnu was referred to as mAyOn in old Tamil

      1. @VijayVan

        Facts are just roadkill on the Indian liberal highway. Selling a narrative has been one facet of the verisimilitude that Indian liberals practice. Testing a narrative is much easier than a stone cold fact, in the Popperian sense.

        The idea with versimilitude is that, from time to time, empirical evidence has to be injected to remove the subsets of false consequences. But Indian liberals have far too long dallied with narratives that they have inverted the moral dyarchy in their minds. They disregard empiricism.

        Which is why in their heads – War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength, Aurangzeb was benevolent and CAA is fascist.

        I just inverted the narrative to show that Gudi Padwa celebrating Marathis are a regressive, low-thinking community *using the same logic that the liberal used*. Not even a word of rebuttal so far!!

    2. @Keralan

      That’s been my experience as well. Religious Hindus in Kerala celebrate it that way. But others celebrate it in other ways and no one minds. And sometimes it’s combined. We had Christians over at our Onasadya on Sunday. No issues whatsoever.

      1. Calling Vamana evil like Issac does is harmonious. This is just Hindu hate. You are welcome to celebrate, you don’t have the right to spread hate.

        1. I value freedom of speech. My threshold for what comprises “hate speech” is probably much higher than yours. And yes, that also applies to things that would be considered offensive by other religions, too, including Muslims and Christians.

  7. Good. My wories with Hindutva is that it becoming like its enemies. Who is the writer ? Razib or Omar?

    1. Exactly. Hindutva is making Hindus into the monsters they ostensibly fight (a caricature of Muslims).

  8. Do contested origins of festivals matter or the human community experience of festivals matters? Norway (whether that is an Iranian mirror of Holi is something that interests me) celebrated by the broader Iranian people, after a millennium of Islam is a testament to the longevity festivals rooted in culture.

    I think this is over simplistic.

    Consider what is happening with the Basant celebrations in Islamic parts of Punjab.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/basant-ban-pakistan-snaps-thread-culture-190219111347097.html

    I wonder if something like the following model can be applied:

    Phase 1 is traditional celebration
    Phase 2 is appropriation by new religion
    Phase 3 is purification and suppression of appropriated customs
    Phase 4 is rediscovery of celebration removed from root religion

    Onam in Kerala is at phase 2,
    Basant in Pakistan is at phase 3,
    Norwuz in Iran is at Phase 4.

    This applies to Hinduization / Sanskritization as well. So I think something like Sarna religious practices are at Phase 2 of assimiliation into Hinduism.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarna_sthal

    Traditionally Hinduism is an order of magnitude more lax when it comes to Phase 3 compared to Christianity or Islam.

    However this has been a loosing strategy. So reactionary Hindutva now embraces Phase 3 more.

    1. Everything which is allowed to be appropriated by others will be left to be stripped off its origin. And then will be used against u to ridicule ur own mythos, as if the others were somehow the originator of the festival. And now somehow they know better than u, even if they happen to fucking commies.

      https://twitter.com/drthomasisaac/status/1300303932024004608
      “Happy Onam! We celebrate Mahabali who did not discriminate by caste or creed , not Vamana who cheated him.”

      In the North, for years together, lot of muslims partake in Ram and Krishna worship, have written devotional poems etc. But never for a second has any one been in doubt who owns them.

  9. i have two major piques with this article. first, to suppose that any pre-modern indian festival can be “secular” is rank stupidity. the concept of secularism, as understood by its western meaning (i.e. the separation of church and state), did not apply in the case of hindu polities. the reason was that hindu priestly class never held so much power that they could dictate terms to rulers. church and state both needed each other in (hindu) india. i dont recall a single incident of conflict between church and state within hindu polities. in any case, there never was an organized “church” in hindu religion, so the analogy fails on multiple levels.

    that being said, hindu culture and hindu religion are intertwined. it is a futile exercise to separate one from another. all native born indian festivals developed within a hindu scaffolding. to assume that a bunch of medieval/ancient village folks started celebrating a festival consciously as a “secular” festival, all the while scrupulously avoiding any reference to their deities and mythology is moronic.

    another issue i have is that keralite muslims/christians may call onam as secular festival, but do they really treat it as such? do keralite muslims celebrate onam, of their on accord and within their own homes without even needing the participation of hindus? the answer is an emphatic no. of course they may participate with hindus in the celebrations occasionally, but that can be driven by many factors, even the ulterior ones. (we all know gujarati muslim youth enthusiastically participate in dandia dances during navratri, and every one knows why).

    1. Basically…

      Is it “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” ?

      But about Kerala Hindu festival of Onam, rather than Christmas.

      1. Please. It’s not the same. And u know that.

        If non Christians celebrating Christmas be like “BTW u Christians got Christmas wrong and let us teach u real Christmas… “ is what we are taking about.

        1. I get a feeling its telling Keralites – ACCEPT your loved festival is actually Hindu.
          As i say – most things will have a HINDU connection somewhere or other.

          Let them celebrate it as Keralite “Non Hindu ” festival – they will still be celebrating almost the same festival
          It unnecessarily turns of Keralite Christians and muslims – even those who are not particularly political or anti BJP.
          Its like telling them we know your festivals better than you.

          1. Yeah the festival is hindu. Just like the name Bharat is hindu. Just like Sanskrit is Hindu. Just like caste is hindu. Surely when it comes to caste, no one says “oh yeah that’s not really hindu”.

            It’s not Hinduism fault that non Hindu parts of India pale in comparison of any significant contribution to india cultural milieu.

            Finally no one really gives a flying fuck for Mallus. What happens to Hinduism in their state is their matter. If sabrimala event has evidently not showed it. What is not acceptable is they changing or we relenting to change Hinduism mythos because of Mallus. They can either get on the project or opt out of it. Big deal

          2. “Finally no one really gives a flying fuck for Mallus.”

            That much is certainly clear when it comes to Hindutvavadis (and it could very well be extended to places like TN and WB), but I wish they would stop feigning concern for these regions and shut up about it then.

    2. @Razib,

      My understanding…

      – There is a Hindu harvest festival called Onam that is mainly celebrated in Kerala now

      – It is increasingly becoming a festival that Muslims and Christians also celebrate. It’s becoming a bit more of a Malayali / Kerala festival, rather than exclusively a Hindu festival.

      – The story of the Hindu festival involves a king of the region submitting to an incarnation of Vishnu.

      – Some of the Muslims, Christians, non-religious Hindus are celebrating the king rather than the incarnation of Vishnu, who is seen by these people as this Aryan / non-local entity or something along those lines.

      I think it’s a non-issue, but Hindutva people are predictably upset.

      1. @Hoju
        Happy Onam! If possible, please tone down the Hindu hatred — too grating right now. Kerala has the distinction of sending ISIS recruits; not everything is perfect there, you know. Furthermore, killing an innocent calf to show your secularism was barbaric — no matter what. Anyhow, in no way all this means that other communities cannot celebrate Onam.

      2. @Hoju
        Even besides Onam, please don’t support chopping off the hands of Christian Pastors for expressing their views — while you are celebrating Secularism — by Muslim fundamentalists. If you continue on this path, Secularism will vanish from Kerala.

      3. thanks hoju. makes sense i guess

        (christmas is a pagan holiday that was co-opted by Christians…so the later co-option by non-christians is just funny to me…my family [wife kids me etc.] celebrate Christmas without Christianity but don’t use terms like ‘happy holidays’…that feels fake)

        1. @Razib,

          Yeah, nobody goes around trashing nativity displays even if they are celebrating Christmas as a non-religious holiday.

          I find the reasons being offered to hate Hindutva to be so strange. There are a lot more legit reasons to hate on them (300 Ramayanas brouhaha).

          1. I feels its counterproductive to shove the narrative down Keralites throat (even in response to Shit from Left).
            All festivals will have native origins – and i dont view the erasure of native culture positively;
            But here i feel that ship has already sailed – For generations of Keralites they have come to define Onam as they want which is not in line with the Trad Hindu POV;

            There are annual flame wars on this topic- and at times its the Right which instigates as well;

      4. – The story of the Hindu festival involves a king of the region submitting to an incarnation of Vishnu.

        I don’t really care about gatekeeping Onam.

        But you just state this dubious Marxist narrative as if it’s a fact. So here my view…

        In the story itself, Mahabali is already a Vishnu devotee before he conquers the world. Notably descended from Prahlad, another legendary devotee of Vishnu. So comes from a long line of Vishnu devotees.

        After conquering the world he does some penance. It is here that he encounters Vamana (the short / dwarf form of Vishnu). But but he doesn’t recognize Vamana as Vishnu till later on and ends up sacrificing himself.

        So from a historical standpoint I think it’s more likely that Mahabali is an outsider king who conquered Kerala.

        Here he encounters the local diety (Vamana) and submits to him after recognizing the local god to be a reincarnation of Vishnu (who Mahabali already worshipped)

        I think all the Hindu esp. Vishnu avatars, Kuldevis and kuldevtas are syncretic expressions of local traditions (good evidence for Krishna, Narsihma, etc) this is not unique to Kerala.

        There is Murugan in Tamil Nadu. Juhlelal in the Sindh. Then there are some with more murky origins like Ganesh.

        1. I was just going off memory, but I think you are right about that. Also I think the king was Brahmin? Maybe kind of like how some edgelords in TN celebrate Ravana until they find out he’s Brahmin.

          I probably overreacted, it’s not like Hindutva people are doing much more than complaining on social media which is fine. But for me it’s hard not to see it as a pattern of Hindutva hate against Kerala. But maybe that’s wrong in this instance.

          I don’t support the Communist party interpretation but at the same time it’s like who cares. And yes in the West you do see stuff like Satanism for example which is a religion that cheers on Satan over God. And all sorts of media insulting Christianity. Not that India should do everything the West does but I would like it if Indians were less sensitive to offensive things said about religion, and that applies just as much if not more non Hindu Indians too.

          1. @Hoju, While we are on very different sides, I do appreciate that unlike most others you listen us out as opposed to people like Onlooker above who just repeat standard platitudes about Hindutva without making any effort to understand.

            As I mentioned in my ultra long comment which went into spam/moderation (I will repeat those points since I don’t know if it will get retrieved from spam/moderation), I think the attack on Mallu Christians is misplaced. It is more a Marxist phenomenon; the Christians who are making those comments are probably commenting as Marxists and not as Christians. Funnily Muslims don’t try to vocally appropriate Onam because the nature of their religion keeps them away, and Christians get attacked more than Muslims.

            So why does Kerala get attacked? I think it is a bit complicated. Much of Hindu tradition respects both Bali and Vamana, and most pictures represent Bali with a shikha and a sacred thread – in most of the ones I have seen Bali is fair and Vamana is dark – unlike a recent attempt to push a “black Dravidian Jesus” type image of Mahabali. Kerala’s tradition too respected both, Hindus in many parts of Kerala put up clay pyramids representing Thrikkakkara Appan who is Vishnu and so on. In the twentieth century, Marxists brought in a social justice angle to it (anyone who knows anything about Indian history knows that there was no marxist type idea anywhere in India), and popularized versions that de-emphasized Vamana.

            Kerala Hindus didn’t mind – because, what is wrong if people choose to respect Bali more? But slowly this gave way to hatred for Vamana – which I haven’t seen anywhere in Kerala’s tradition – and use of this as a strength amplifier for the stereotype of a cunning Brahmin. Little did the Kerala Hindus realize that this would lead to communists like the minister Thomas Isaac explicitly attacking Vamana as a cheater.

            Please take a moment to have that sink in – a minister in “secular” India is explicitly attacking a Hindu God as a cheater. For whatever reason, non-Hindutva-vadis aren’t too bothered; their priorities are different. But for card-carrying Hindus, this hypocrisy is chafing, that elected officials can get away attacking only one religion in a sort of official capacity. So it is only natural that there is some resentment against Malayalis who enable this. I don’t know what to say about it, but it may help you see in context if you can see where the Hindu bitterness comes from.

          2. “Please take a moment to have that sink in – a minister in “secular” India is explicitly attacking a Hindu God as a cheater. For whatever reason, non-Hindutva-vadis aren’t too bothered; their priorities are different. But for card-carrying Hindus, this hypocrisy is chafing, that elected officials can get away attacking only one religion in a sort of official capacity. ”

            Less-Hindu region

    1. @Mario
      OP is unaware of Hinduism’s moorings: He does not know of the diversity of cultural traditions of Hindus; he sees differences where none exist.

    2. For all purposes they are Hindus – these concepts of separation in “Pathas” didnt exist in Pre modern india. There was lot of overlap. These framings of Lingayats/Jains etc as separate religion is sad after effect of British (i am partial to blaming the brits) and then Divisive “Secular” politics which tends to separate these Pathas from broader hindu society.

      But i feel both reactions (calling these panthas hindus & calling them separate religion) are bound to exacerbate the divisions.

      1. If Lingayats/their guru accept the Vedas as divine and true then more or less they are Hindu. Jains do not accept the Vedas and/or think it has been corrupted I believe.

        Buddhism (or Arya Dharma as Lord Buddha called it 😎 ) is of that same line of thought as Jains too.

        1. yes; What Siddharamaih did with his wanting to break Lingayat support for BJP was pathetic.
          But Basavanna was firmly Anti Varna right ? – sadly lingayats are becoming like a caste in popular imagination

          1. People overestimate the importance of varna HIGHLY in Hinduism as a whole. Different sampradays have different attitudes towards varna and jati. Bhakti sampradays are laxer from what I’ve seen and I believe Lingayatism falls in that mold.

            Also FWIW from a theological perspective – major sampradays have composed bhashyams (commentaries on main Hindu/Vedantic texts) and are fairly ambivalent or aloof towards caste. The reason I point this out is because it means that they can parse out scriptural justification for their lax attitudes towards caste and emphasis on other parts of their theology and philosophy.

          2. yes; The Waari tradition in MH is also very similar. The role of these Bhakti movements in the later modernization of India is often underappreciated by both the RW and LW i feel.

        2. There are lots of Hindu sampradayas that really don’t care about the Vedas or don’t accept their authority.

          Personally I think lots more Hindus are familiar with the Gita and the Ramayana than the Vedas.

          1. Hindu sampradays have to accept the Vedas. It’s pretty black and white. Otherwise, they are categorized as nāstik and not Hindu or a part of Sanatan Dharma.

            In on ground importance – I would agree that Itihasa, Puranas, and folk tradition hold more relevance to day to day practice.

          2. “Hindu sampradays have to accept the Vedas. ”

            y do NRI hindus talk in this mid 90s Ramayana serial type of language? Its like how my elders talk, stuck in a time loop.

            All this “varna” and “itihas” talk reminds me of the Ashram and Baba where my folks dragged me to seek mental peace and all.

          3. Hindu sampradays have to accept the Vedas. It’s pretty black and white. Otherwise, they are categorized as nāstik and not Hindu or a part of Sanatan Dharma.

            It’s not that black and white.

            Nastik can refer to belief in god and also more sattvic type paths. Nastik traditions are still Hindu.

            Sanatana Dharma is an 18th century neologism : movement. Sanatanis are not synonymous with Hinduism.

  10. Gaurav Saheb,
    So you are attacking the so called Hindutva Bigots and favor the Onam interpretation of
    Secular (Since when have the One God people started revering Lord Vishnu)
    Harvest festival (Harvest in the middle of raging Monsoon which lasts in Kerala for eternity every year).

    You gloss over the extremely explicit Caste angle and the hatred which has been spewed by the Communists and the Dravidian Politicians under this garb.

    If only people of other religions just state that they celebrate and enjoy the festival then there was no feud.
    One cannot ignore the vile propaganda unleashed by these SJW to sow these divisions in this insidious manner.
    All are welcome to celebrate festivals, no need to color it with denigration of any particular set of people and setting up caste icons where there are none. S

    1. “If only people of other religions just state that they celebrate and enjoy the festival then there was no feud.” this is what i espouse;
      Hindutva & Left feed of each other and result is more polarized times;

      PS: i had written the piece before i saw some of the propoganda by the Left; but i still own my arguments – but i would lambast the left more if i were to rewrite

  11. “While its not my argument that their might not be any deliberate maneuvering by the liberals in framing of the Onam as a secular festival – I dont know and I dont care enough to investigate.”

    There is nothing to say after this. conclusion has been reached already.

  12. As i said the convincing is needed more for the opposing side

    https://thewire.in/society/kerala-onam-festival

    Despite Sangh Efforts to Project it as ‘Hindu’ Festival, Story of Onam Prevails in Kerala

    “Legend has it that the fact that Mahabali was an Asura who did not believe in human inequalities was what made Vishnu accede to the Devtas’ request. He assumed one of his several avatars and descended to the earth, to Kerala.

    He could not confront him because Mahabali was true to his name, a renowned and matchless warrior. Vishnu in his avatar as Vamana, the dwarf, could only challenge him with deceit and treachery. Vamana approached Mahabali as he was completing his prayers and stood before him as a supplicant, a Brahmin dwarf.

    There are a few isolated temples to Ravana which are mostly neglected and falling into disrepair; there are some tribals in Bihar and Bengal where Mahishasur is venerated and his killer, Durga, looked upon with some amount of contempt; there is even a small, mostly unknown, temple to Duryodhana in Kerala where there are three small idols of him, his mother and sister and where a celebration is held every year; there are other memorials to the vanquished in different parts of the country but these are now neglected exceptions to the glorification of the victors.”

    And again as i said everything which is allowed to be appropriated by others will be left to be stripped off its origin. And be used against you.

    1. there are some tribals in Bihar and Bengal where Mahishasur is venerated and his killer, Durga, looked upon with some amount of contempt;

      Those tribes (Asur) have been studied for a long time, and none of those studies mention anything like this. Again, this is an example of liberals attempting to modify Hindu mythology. Don’t know about Ravana worship but I would urge caution.

      P.S.: A very long comment of mine went into spam.

  13. Apologies in advance for a long comment.

    I believe the author is not being evil, but due to a lack of understanding of an unfamiliar culture this post is functionally obnoxious.

    As some others have pointed out, the problem is not with celebrating Onam as secular, it is about *distorting* history and demonizing groups. Did you look at True Indology’s arguments about the records of foreign records (like William Logan’s Malabar Manual) on Onam, which talk of the festival as the visiting of Vishnu? Did you notice that the Kerala minister was attacking Vamana while Kerala’s traditions that respect Mahabali don’t attack Vamana, and one of the temples well-known in the context of Onam is dedicated to Vamana? A secular minister moralizing against a religious symbol is okay? Some others talking of Mahabali as a “Dravidian” king and talking of Vamana as a “cunning Brahmin” to enforce stereotypes is okay (disclosure: I am not Brahmin)?

    In fact, anyone with active bullshit detectors should have paid attention the moment you heard modern-sounding stuff like “Mahabali treated everyone equally irrespective of caste and creed” – in fact, Marxists (perhaps Sahodaran Ayyappan types) made a marxist modification to Onappattu, removing references to Mahabali promoting yajnas from the original version and inserting comments about equality amongst people.

    The irony is that Mallu Hindus fell for it because they respected Mahabali as well, so they didn’t smell foul, and did not notice that Vamana was being slowly edged out by Marxist subterfuge. Now an entire generation of Mallus have been raised without realizing that Vamana was also a respected figure within their tradition.

    That said, it is unfair to attack Mallu Christians. It is a Marxist, and not Christian, project to subvert Onam. By and large, Mallu Christians are awesome. Another point which not many people are noticing: you do see more Christians than Muslims interested in subverting Onam, but probably as many or more Hindus do too, and this is probably a function of their being Marxist, though also helped by the innate differences between Christianity and Islam regarding approaching external influences.

    Now to the extent there is any interest in understanding the history. First of all, one should have some understanding of how Indian myths evolve. They start with random threads and later combining (perhaps) random selections from these threads to form stories, that keep changing, the way Ramayana itself kept changing over years. This point is illustrated beautifully with the legend of Mahabali.

    Vedas talk of Vishnu covering the earth with three strides (Trivikrama). Separately, the Shatapatha Brahmana talks of Vishnu being a dwarf (the word used is exactly Vamana), and Asuras offering Devas exactly as much land as Vamana can cover. So all these concepts came about before Kerala or Tamil Nadu had any civilization at all.

    The Vedas as far as I know don’t have Mahabali, but did feature his father Virochana and his grandfather Prahlada in a negative role. Various texts talk of Prahlada being defeated by Indra, Vishnu or Subramania, before Vaishnavites promoted Prahlada to a devotee of Vishnu (according to some, as a part of getting Vishnu to be dominant over Indra). Bali was sometimes viewed as arrogant, in some texts as a sattvik devotee of Vishnu. As far as I know, any text that treats Bali as good also shows him happy to be pushed to Sutala, which is better than heaven in many versions, guarded by Vishnu himself, and in many his turn to be Indra will come in a future Manvantara. In Uttara Ramayana, Bali lectures to Ravana on the greatness of Vishnu.

    Also, it is untrue that only Kerala has a festival on this story – there is Bali Pratipada in some states, and some states actually celebrate it as Vamana Jayanti. So there is nothing Aryan or Dravidian or anything here, and nothing to do with the history of anything in Kerala (an angle promoted by Marxists again), and Mallus shouldn’t think that any reference to this myth necessarily refers to Onam. Not everything is about you.

    Finally:

    For the Hindutvavadis, the said project was always Indianize (not Hinduize they claim) these monotheistic faiths, so that these faiths are more integrated in the larger Indian society. By that train of logic the Hindutvavadis should be happy if Keralites Christians & Muslims celebrate Onam as a Secular festival.

    Bro, you don’t get to decide what Hindutva is for others. We are not obliged to follow Savarkar or RSS. These people are part of an umbrella of movements, and by no means its sole owners. Also remember that countries don’t survive across centuries, civilizations do, and it is usually with religious themes that they do. If Jews didn’t think about exodus every Saturday, there probably would be no Israel. If India survives, it will not be due to its nation-stateness but its Hindu civilization-ness.

    1. FrogintheWell;
      I agree with large part of your Long comments;

      “The irony is that Mallu Hindus fell for it because they respected Mahabali as well, so they didn’t smell foul, and did not notice that Vamana was being slowly edged out by Marxist subterfuge. Now an entire generation of Mallus have been raised without realizing that Vamana was also a respected figure within their tradition.
      That said, it is unfair to attack Mallu Christians. It is a Marxist, and not Christian, project to subvert Onam. By and large, Mallu Christians are awesome. Another point which not many people are noticing: you do see more Christians than Muslims interested in subverting Onam, but probably as many or more Hindus do too, and this is probably a function of their being Marxist, though also helped by the innate differences between Christianity and Islam regarding approaching external influences.”

      I have been following the Leftist narratives ; i would prefer attacking them without shoving the Hindu narrative down Keralites throat. And its not as if Hindutva people never start this Annual fight ; Both sides draw fire and respond to fire – its just becoming an Annual event – and i see Keralite Christians/muslims who personally arent political getting drawn into these narrative when they feel their Festival is attacked by the Northern hegemonic power; As a result there is lack more distrust IMO;

  14. Has been an old christian view to distort beliefs and inject it through propaganda and create a counter view. Now even left etc do this. This is not a conspiracy theory, this is a fact. One sees that now with mahishasur, aryan dravidian debate was artificial and see its political impact in tamil nadu. You must see the history of how such things have been done before. Christmas is a very good example as well. You believe in some naive version of peace.That offer does not exist. Evangelical religions like christianity and Islam dont believe in reciprocity. Either idols have to be smashed to pieces or they and stories must be added as decoration to their beliefs. Others religion cannot be respected and allowed to be as it is. Again, this is not some conspiracy. It is what it is.

    1. White Saree is the traditional formal outfit for women in Kerala. It’s probably more of a Hindu thing but like with much else the line between religion and culture gets blurry with Hinduism.

  15. I was about as mystified about this topic as Razib, despite Hoju’s clarification.
    At one level the argument seems to be one of exclusion. Non Hindus must not celebrate Hindu festivals. On a secondary level, it is about social transformation, like, say, the transformation of the birthday of Christ into a Norse Pagan festival, complete with reindeer and ski sled outfit. One may argue about such transforms forever. Cultural and religious purity, as a political agenda of the ruling dispensation at the centre, in conflict with peripheral societal progression.
    On a more fundamental level however it seems to me that the controversy is about the defence of religious discourse and the limits of Sanskritization. The moral indignation of the Vedic classes at lese majeste in the periphery.
    This whole Hindutva thing is a page out of Islam, a borrowed plan of political action dressed in ochre instead of green. The doughty defenders of Hindu purity organized themselves for the defence of the faith, centuries after Islam lost the battle for India.

    1. “This whole Hindutva thing is a page out of Islam, a borrowed plan of political action dressed in ochre instead of green. The doughty defenders of Hindu purity organized themselves for the defence of the faith, centuries after Islam lost the battle for India.”

      Well, Islam (or at least our worst caricatures of it) may actually end up winning, just dressed up in ochre.

  16. When all is said and done in South Asia, the minority masses in this part of the world are going to rue that their leaders spent most of their political capital on the right to needle, insult and offend Hindus, rather than work out a genuine compromise with the Hindu leadership.

    Only the Jains and Parsis seem to have been sanguine about this, and they have done spectacularly well for themselves over the last century.

  17. When all is said and done in South Asia, the minority masses in this part of the world are going to rue that their leaders spent most of their political capital on the right to needle, insult and offend Hindus, rather than work out a genuine compromise with the Hindu leadership.

    Only the Jains and Parsis seem to have been sanguine about this, and they have done spectacularly well for themselves over the last century.

    1. Vikram:
      Can you explain your comment about Jains? I feel that people end up othering Jains even without meaning to. yes, they are technically a minority (in the new rigid legal definition) but in reality they are not, nor have they ever been – not in terms of ethos, influence, genetics, heritage..
      Would you call out Agrawals or Maheshwaris?

      1. Jains constitute 0.4% of the population of India. My comment was about demographics and the strategies employed by leaders to engage with the Hindu leadership.

        Indeed, it is because of this sensible path taken by Jain and Parsi leaders that their influence over India is possibly as significant as the Hindus.

        I am aware that certain groups like Agarwals have both Jains and Hindus who intermarry, this is true of Sikhs and Hindus too, but the Sikh-Hindu relationship did weaken over the last century.

  18. Saurav said
    And, years later, when covid broke out, they maintained order even as a government made confused and unreasonable demands of them.

    And isthisreal says
    Kerala has an above average rate of riots for its population

    I think the attack on Mallu Christians is misplaced.

    I am trying to put the above comments together,

    Comes back to my opinion that Buddhism allowed/perpetuated egalitarianism of the IVC culture at the very least in Sri Lanka.

    Is there also some genetic/cultural component to egalitarianism. Kerala is considered Communist in India. Compare with Sri Lanka I think we are more socialist.

    I would think both parties center right or left of the past are more socialist than in Kerala. Land Reform in SL was really good/bad under Srimavo. Anything over 50 acres was taken over by the Land Reform Commission (LRC) in 1973.

    Anyway get back to they maintained order even as a government made confused and unreasonable demands of them..
    Saurav, said he was glad that the poor “maintained law and order’ There was another Sindhi guy I know, who said the same. i.e They maintained law and order and left for their villages.

    Sri Lankans dont bow down to authority unless it is reasonable. There were many Garment factory workers who lost there jobs. Govt did nothing for a week Protested and govt made arrangements to transport all to their hometowns.

    In Sri Lanka in my lifetime (I think) it is really going to be hard to get a non nationalist govt elected in 2025.

    At the moment, the Govt is like Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew.

    1. I think that egalitarian sensibility is relatively prominent in other parts of the South and East India, as well. Maybe it has to do with greater collectivism stemming from being rice growing cultures? There’s some literature on the possible cultural implications of rice growing vs wheat growing peoples.

      It could also be the different way in which the caste system has manifested in parts of the South and the East, but I don’t know.

      1. Kerala was actually very famously casteist in the 19th century. I won’t say it was uniformly inegalitarian – the womens’ lot were better off in many ways with at least women in sambandham having the freedom to leave husbands. But imagine –
        something like Sambandham itself – systematically giving Brahmin men more choice of mates – I haven’t heard of such things elsewhere in India.

        Something happened towards the end of the 19th century and the first half of the twentieth century, and Kerala became much better in this respect. It would be interesting to know what all; it could be Sri Narayana Guru type movements, it could be relatively higher literacy (Kerala’s literacy rate was four times the national average at the time of independence), it could be better road connectivity due to geography. The Travancore temple entry proclamation was supposed to be a surprise to Gandhi, suggesting some transition may have been underway then. One other possible line worthy of investigation is that the people in Kerala who took to British education, unlike Brahmins in Tamil Nadu, were Nairs and may be some others like Nasranis etc. in Kerala, While examples don’t mean much, the example of the great grandfather of Shiv Shankar Menon, sounds quite suggestive; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._Sankaran_Nair and may be this trend could be related to the presence of Malayali bureaucrats in South Block at least as of until recently.

        So it does feel inaccurate to attribute Kerala’s current *relative* caste harmony to historical factors. I am inclined to suspect that the same changes and geographical factors that led to these changes in Kerala also led to communism, rather than communism itself accomplishing much.

      2. Also Hoju, notice that one keeps hearing about lots of caste atrocities and honor killing even recently in Tamil Nadu by supposedly “Dravidian” castes. While I of course get worked up and feel ashamed about the horrible atrocities and indignities imposed by caste system in India, I am puzzled as to how others who have this view can condone the way the Dravidian-types go about it cooking up fictitious myths of Dravidian caste harmony and trying to use Brahmin-hate as a way of solving anything, for no reason other than that hate is the easiest to sell. Understand this, and you also start seeing in better context the increasing antagonism people in rest of India feel towards Malayalis.

      3. Maybe it has to do with greater collectivism stemming from being rice growing cultures?

        Agree, with the caveat that the rice growers are small holders. In SL most rice farmers are 3-10 acres. By law a family is limited to 25 acres. Many other “communist” laws that prevent absentee landord and rentier class.

        Another factor is that if the rice paddies are irrigated from reservoirs, the norm in majority Sinhalese areas. Farmers have to work together to maintain irrigation canals and anicuts.

        It could also be the different way in which the caste system has manifested in parts of the South and the East, but I don’t know.

        Caste not being sanctioned by religion. In comparison to Sinhalese (almost casteless) Tamils still have strong caste culture.

  19. Onam is celebrated by non-hindu malayalis in a cultural but non-religious way like preparing of sadya , wearing the traditional dresses, making of pookkalam etc. I think one of the reason onam become more inclusive in the last 50 or so years is because of the 10 days of school holidays at the time of the festival. So it is seen as a time for the extended family members to come together at their ancestral home and celebrate the time together. The same way the non-christian malayalis tend to celebrate christmas(albiet at a lower level since it is a foreign tradition and not seen as our culture) too (another 10 day school break). I don’t think non-hindus bother too much about religious aspects of onam other than in social media to show their malayali spirit.

    Another thing i noticed is that some members of the blog are having a strong negative opinion about communism in kerala. I know communism didn’t work in the same way in other parts of india but in kerala they had more postive impacts. The awareness of your rights as a citizen and the need to fight when you are denied the rights was inculcated by them especially among the lower strata of society.

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