Land of plurality

The Hindu-Muslim bond is mostly like milk and sugar. However, there are testing times when we have to be alert against divisive forces that are found in both communities. All religions in terms of morals, ethics, norms and values are agreed that not one of them would advocate anything unethical or immoral. Yet, it is interesting to note that in innumerable ways, religions share their content rather than being different. The mantra in all religions goes something like this: “Amity is better than animosity, conciliation is better than confrontation, dialogue is better than deadlock, harmony is better than harassment, love is better than hatred, Peace is better than pandemonium, tolerance is better than intolerance, Conciliation is better than conflict, unity is better than division and giving is better than grabbing.”

That’s why Bertrand Russell once said that there is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it. The cultural bond between followers of various religions have been so very well cemented that it is difficult to differentiate between people as Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.
Sudhir Dar, well known cartoonist of the Hindustan Times once narrated an interesting tale. Aged seven in Allahabad’s Prayag Mohalla which had a mixed population, he was roaming in the streets. A person asked him whether he was a Muslim or a Hindu. The child Dar ran back to his mother and asked her, “Mother, tell me whether I am a Muslim or a Hindu.” The answer is academic but one thing is certain: people at that time lived so amicably that one’s religion did not matter.
Before the so-called invading, marauding and proselytizing “Muslim invaders” came to India, it was the Islamic scholars who visited the country with a spirit of learning and studying.  Having learnt Sanskrit and other Indian languages in India, they carried back works of wisdom only to translate them into Arabic.
In 895-96, Arab author Yaqubi wrote, “The Hindis (Hindus) are superior to all the other nations in terms of intelligence and thoughtfulness. They are more exact in Astronomy, Astrology and Arithmetic than any other people. The treatise Brahamma Siddhant is a proof of their intellectual powers and this book has also benefited the Greeks and Persians.”
Bahmani Sultan Alauddin II (1436-58) was devoted to Narasimha Saraswati, a great Hindu sage. Similarly, Ibrahim II, the Adilshahi ruler of Bijapur (1580-1686) also revered Narasimha Saraswati and had built a small shrine near his palace in Bijapur placing the paduka (footwear) of the saint there.
A Portuguese visitor Barbosa who visited the kingdom during Sultan’s reign, stated that the ruler allows such freedom that every man may come and go and live according to his own creed without suffering any annoyance and without any enquiry, whether he be a Christian, Jew, Moor or Heathen.
Tipu Sultan according to Gandhji’s Young India, made lavish gifts of land and other things to Hindu temples, especially temples dedicated to Shri Venkataramanna, Shriniwas and Shriranganath, all located in the vicinity of Tipu’s palaces and the historic temple of Sriranganatha was under his personal care. Hyder Ali once gifted the famous Nanjundeswara deity at the historic temple at Nanjangud in Karnataka state known as “Hyder Ali lingam”.
In Bengal, Mahabharata and Bhagwat Puran were translated into Bengali by the Pathan rulers like Sultan Nazir Shah and Sultan Husain Shah. In the Deccan, Adil Shah, a 16th century king, established a huge and remarkable library which had a collection of interfaith books and on matters pertaining to ecumenism and tolerance. Vaman Pandit, a Sanskrit scholar, was appointed its head. His descendant Ibrahim Adil Shah was known as the “friend of the poor” and “world’s teacher” owing to his policies of benevolence, goodwill and generosity. In his songs, he often pays respect to Saraswati, the revered Hindu goddess of learning. What is little known is the story of one of Aurungzeb’s trusted generals, Appa Gangadhar, who after a great victory, was asked by Aurangzeb to name his desire. Appa asked for a spot in the Urdu Bazar near Lal Qila to build a temple in honour of his revered deity Gauri Shankar. Not only was permission granted, but Appa was helped monetarily to build the temple. Aurangzeb also built the Balajee temple when he visited Chitrakut besides giving the grant of eight villages to maintain it. It is indeed unfortunate that we have stopped looking for a human being; instead we are looking for a Hindu or a Muslim!  Amir Khusro, the inspired Sufi poet of northern India, declared, “There is neither Hindu nor Muslim, but only man as the embodiment of the Divine!” This is, in fact, the basis of secularism in India today. IK Gujral, a former prime minister of India, had very rightly stated, “Remember, annihilation of Hindu-Muslim goodwill will mean India’s disaster!” He knew what he was talking.