Idolatry in Hindu Temples
I AM both an idolater and an
iconoclast in what I conceive to be the true sense of the terms. I
value the spirit behind idol-worship. It plays a most important part
in the uplift of the human Race. And I would like to possess the
ability to defend with my life the thousands of holy temples which
sanctify this land of ours. My alliance with the Musalmans
presupposes their perfect tolerance for my idols and my temples. I
am an iconoclast in the sense that I break down the subtle form of
idolatry in the shape of fanaticism that refuses to see any virtue
in any other form of worshipping the deity, save one’s own. This
form of idolatry is more deadly for being more fine and evasive than
the tangible and gross form of worship that identifies the deity
with a little bit of a stone or a golden image.
And what is it that we should be
fighting for? We Hindus may be idol-worshippers. We may be mistaken.
But when God gave every man the right to make mistakes, when God
suffers us to live although we are idol –worshippers, why should not
the Musalmans suffers us too?
Idolatry is bad, not so idol-worship.
An idolater makes a fetish of his idol. An idol-worshipper sees God
even in a stone and therefore, takes the help of an idol to
establish his union with God. Every Hindu child knows that the stone
in the famous temple in Banaras is not Kashi Vishwanath. But he
believes that the Lord of the Universe does reside specially in that
stone. This play of the imagination is permissible and healthy.
Every edition of the Gita on a book stall has not that sanctity
which I ascribe to my own copy. Logic tells me there is no more
sanctity in my copy than in any other. The sanctity is in my
imagination. But that imagination brings about marvelous, concrete
results. It changes men’s lives. I am of opinion that whether we
admit it or not, we are all idol-worshippers or idolaters, if the
distinction I have drawn is not allowed. A book, a building, a
picture, a carving, is surely all images in which God does reside,
but they are not God. He who says they are errs.
I ask you to accept the slavery of the
one Omnipotent God, no matter by what name you address him. Then you
will bend the knee to no man or men. It is ignorance to say that I
coupled Rama, a mere man, with God. I have repeatedly made it clear
that my Rama is the same as God. My Rama was before, is present now
and will be for all time. He is Unborn and Uncreated. Therefore, you
should tolerate and respect the different faiths. I am myself an
iconoclast, but I have equal regard for the so-called idolaters.
Those who worship idols also worship the same God who is everywhere,
even in a clod of earth, even in a nail that is pared off. I have
Muslim friends whose names are Rahim, Rahman, Karim. Will,
therefore, join on to them the name of God when I address them as
Rahim, Karim or Rahman.
Some dub Hindus as image worshippers.
But is not the stone image which they worship but the God within,
without whom not a particle of matter exists. If a devotee that his
belief is a delusion, it deludes nobody but himself. It requires
magnanimity and breadth of outlook to understand and appreciate the
religious convictions and practices of others. It is the same thing
if they considered the Koran or the Granth Saheb as God.
Desecration of Places of Worship
I hinted the last week that there was
evidently as organization at the back of the mania for desecrating
Hindu temples. Gulbarga is the latest instance in point. Whatever
the Hindu provocation, if there was any, the Musalman out burst has
an ominous look about it. The desecration of temples cannot be
justifies in any circumstances, whatsoever I feel perhaps more
keenly than most of them, every fanatic outburst on the part of
Musalmans. I am fully aware of my responsibility in the matter. I
know that many Hindus feel that I am responsible for many of these
outbursts. For, they argue, I contributed the largest share to the
awakening, of the Musalman masses. I appreciate the charge. Though I
do not repent of my contribution, I feel the force of the objection.
Therefore, if for no reason, for this at least greater
responsibility, I must feel more keenly than most Hindus can, these
The law of retaliation we have been
trying since the day of Adam and we know from experience that it has
hopelessly failed. We are groaning under its poisonous effect. Above
all, the Hindus may not break mosques against temples. That way lies
slavery and worse. Even though a thousand temples may be reduced to
bits, I would not touch a single mosque and expect thus to prove the
superiority of my faith to the so called faith of fanatics. I would
love to hear of priests dying at the posts in defense of their
temples and their idols. Let them learn to suffer and to die in the
defense of their temple, even as God allows himself be insulted and
broken up in the insult and damage done to the idols which, being
omnipresent, He undoubtedly resides. Hindus will not defend their
religion or their temples by seeking to destroy mosques, and thus
proving themselves as fanatical as the fanatics who have been
To the unknown Muslmans who are
undoubtedly behind these desecrations, I submit: “Remember that
Islam is being judged by your conduct. I have no found a single
Musalman defending these outbursts not under provocation. There
seems to me to have been little, if any, provocation offered by the
Hindus. But let us assume that it was otherwise, that the Hindus
played music near mosques to exasperate the Musalmans, that they
even removed a stone from a minaret. Yet I venture to say that
Musalmans ought not to have desecrated the Hindu temples. Even the
retaliations has its limits. The Hindus prize their temples about
their lives. It is possible to contemplate with some degree of
equanimity injury to life but not to temples.
I have been trying to find proof for
the allegation about Hindu desecration in the places referred to in
my article on the Hindu-Muslim tension. I have failed to receive any
proof in support of them. You will not enhance the reputation of
Islam by the acts reported about Amethi, Shambhar, and Gubarga. If
you will permit me to say so, I feel about the honour of Islam as
much as I feel about my own religion. This I do because I desire to
live in perfect, open and hearty friendship with the Musalmans. I
cannot help saying that these desecrations are cutting a deep wound
in my heart.
If it could be proved, whilst I would
still hold, under every conceivable circumstance, desecration of
temples and equally of mosques to be unjustified from my point of
view, I admitted that my condemnation would lose much of its force.
I should be deeply hurt and ashamed, if the alleged Hindu
desecration in Gulbarga was found to be true.
A simple pujari nor knowing the
meaning of non-violence told me with some glee that when a mob
entered his temple to break his idols, he carefully hid himself
away. Such a man I told to be unfit to be a pujari. He should have
died at his post. He would then have sanctified the idol with his
blood. He would have been justified in killing the intruders, if he
had not the courage to die at his post with a prayer on his lips
that God might have pity on the assailants. But it was unmanly for
him to have hidden himself to save his perishable skin. The truth is
that cowardice itself is violence of a subtle and, therefore,
dangerous type, and far more difficult to eradicate than the habit
of physical violence. A coward never risks his life. A man who would
kill often risks it. For he knows that the soul within never dies.
The encasing body is ever perishing. The more a man gives his life,
the more he saves it. Thus, non-violence requires more than the
courage of the soldier of war. The Gita definition of a soldier is
one who does not know what it is to run away from danger.
If some misdirected individual took it
into his head to desecrate a temple or break idols, should a Hindu
in return desecrate a mosque on that account? Does it anyway help to
protect the temple or to save the cause of Hinduism? Personally, I
am as much an idol worshipper as an idol-breaker, and I suggest that
the whole of the audience, whether Hindu, Muslim or any other, are
also so, whether they admit it or not. I know that mankind thirsted
for symbolism. Are not masjids or churches in reality the same as
mandirs? God resides everywhere, no less in stock or stone than in a
single hair on the body of man. But men associate sacredness with
particular places and things more than with others. Such sentiment
is worthy of respect when it does not mean restrictions on similar
freedom for others. To every Hindu and Musalman my advice is that,
if there is compulsion anywhere, they would gently but firmly refuse
to submit to it. Personally, I myself would hug an idol and lay down
my life to protect it rather than brook any restriction upon my
freedom of worship. That requires courage of a higher order than is
needed in violent resistance.
I had visited a mosque in the village
Bola which was a damaged during the disturbances. I was told that on
the Holi day the mosque was again desecrated by some villages who
played Holi inside the mosque premises. If it is true, it is
undoubtedly a notice given by them to the Muslims not to enter their
homes even when they are rebuilt nor dare to visit the mosque. If
this reported desecration on the Holi day is a fact, it is a bad
omen for the Hindus, for Bihar and for the whole country.
If any attempt at desecration of the
Gurudwaras is made by the Muslims, it will be contrary to the
tradition of Islam as I know it and those Muslims who take part in
such desecration would be partakers in the destruction of Islam.
Every faith is on its trial in India. God is the infallible judge
and the world which is His creation will judge the Muslim leaders
not according to their pledges and promises but according to the
deeds of these leaders and their followers. What I have said of the
Muslim leaders is also true of the leaders and followers of other
Do not look to any other power outside
yourselves for the protection of these shrines. I would liker every
Sikh to be a defender of his faith and therefore, of all the
gurudwaras and not merely of Panja Saheb, which one of the
An Idol has no value unless it is duly
installed in a consecrated place by duly qualified devotees.
Forcible possession of a mosque disgrace Hinduism and Sikhism. It is
duty of the Hindus to remove the idols from the mosques and repair
the damage. I have not heard of any mosque being turned intoa
Gurudwara. The Sikhs worship the Guru Granth Saheb will be an insult
to the Granth Saheb if it is placed if it is placed in a mosque.
Not perhaps eight miles from here is
the mausoleum of Kutubudin Bakhtiyarkaki Chishtisaheb which is
reputed to be second in sanctity to the one in Ajmer. Both are
visited not only by Muslims but by the thousand of Hindus and other
non-Muslims in equal veneration. Hindu wrath visited the sacred
place in early September 1ast. The Muslims in the surroundings felt
compelled to vacate their favorite home which had been such for
close on four centuries. It would be unnecessary to mention this
tragic occurrence but for the fact that the place is still deserted
by the Muslims, however much they may be devoted to the mausoleum.
It behoves the Hindus , the Sikhs, the officials immediately in
charge and the Ministers to wipe out the disgrace and reinstate the
place in all its original glory. What I have said here is equally
applicable to all the Muslim places of worship in and around Delhi
and elsewhere in the Union. It is high time that both the
Governments by their firm action made it clear to their respective
majorities that they could no longer tolerate desecration of the
places of worship, big or insignificant. All damage done to them
should be repaired without delay.
I am also distressed to see the costly
marble trellis damaged. It is no answer to say that similar or worse
things have happened in Pakistan. Have we fallen so low as to stop
such acts of vandalism? Granting that such incidents have occurred
on a larger scale in Pakistan, it will be improper to institute
comparisons in evil doing. Even if the whole world did wrong, should
we do likewise? If today I take to evil courses, will it not
distress you? For me it will be worse than death. Similarly, we have
reason to feel ashamed at the damage done to the Dargah. It behoves
them all to show to such a holy place the veneration due to it.