Who is a Hindu (anyway)?

Now that the sun’s rays have been imprisoned, kicking and screaming, under the Chennai horizon, my mind is ready to contemplate, cogitate and meditate (among other verbs) on the broader issue of religious identity. After about 2 minutes of the aforementioned neural activities, I gave up and decided to leave the job to technorati and google.

Yesterday, the great Indian Media monster partially digested and repeatedly vomited this story on our TV screens. A priest named Chenas Raman Namboodripad has indulged in A-grade gilma. He has seen fit to conduct “purification” rituals” after a 6 month old baby failed to produce a certificate to prove that he is “Hindu”. I touched on this briefly here . So after 2 fruitless minutes of introspection and 10 fruity minutes of googlospection (The process of forming ones opinions based on google search results for the issue at hand), I managed to frame a few questions.

Who is a Hindu?

The dangerous jokers at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (America chapter) define it thus:

According to the Parishad, Hindus are all those who believe, practice, or respect the spiritual and religious principles and practices having roots in Bharat. Thus Hindu includes Jains, Baudhhas, Sikhs and people of many different sects within the Hindu ethos.

Ah I see. So how do 6 month old babies “believe, practice and respect”? In my lifelong observation of 6 month old babies, this is what I have seen. Babies could “respect” Hinduism” by sitting through hours long boring rituals without crying. Improbable, but possible. But if the baby wanted to attend a call of nature, trust me, no omnipotent deities and all-knowing priests can stop it from relieving itself. So lets just say that “respect” is a very subjective term.

So, the moot point is that religious identity makes little sense in the context of a baby. For that matter, it makes equally little sense in the context of a patient of schizophrenia or somebody suffering from extreme mental disabilities

Lets move on the “practice” part of the definition. So somebody who demonstrates religiously visual jalsa and jilpa is a Hindu. In fact, a couple of youtube videos of yourself indulging in multifarious acts of flower throwing, smoke inhaling and milk-wasting will help bolster your “practice” score. Sounds silly?

And finally, “Belief”. In 2045, the Indian government will setup several “faithtest” centres equipped with neural faithscanners that can rate (out of 100) a person’s “Hinduness”. Individual tests include “Number of times Om is chanted in a day” and “Number of times caste system is praised and justified”. Since this is 2007, it is logical to conclude that “belief” cannot be tested by an outsider.

So where are we? Babies can’t respect religion, Practice can’t quantify faith and the government cannot test “belief”. So the solution:


I did so much thinking only to find out that the priest at Guruvayoor has already nailed this problem. Why bother with the unfathomably deep irrationality of testing a person’s faith when a triplicate, double-notarized, single signed “Certificate of Hinduness” can be issued by philosophical guardians of religious purity – the Indian Bureaucracy.

If this isn’t gilma, I dont know what is.