Hindus will not achieve an effective witness in an increasingly secular India without engaging seriously and intelligently in the world of arts and culture. Hinduism must reclaim the millenia-long tradition of artistic and literary greatness. Think of the aesthetic eye it took to design the great temples of pre-muslim invasion periods and paintings that stand majestically till today. Many of the world’s most technically perfect works of architechture and sculpture were built by strongly religious Hindus. Some of the Asia’s most renowned pieces of music were composed for worship, greatest and oldest Indian literature were all created by Hindu Saints. Hindu culture created a free and creative way of thinking that led directly to the best-written and most lasting works of literature. The genius of authors as diverse as Kalidasa, Kambar, and Shekilar were all products of Hindu thinking and Indian traditions which encouraged intellectual achievement. The creativity of these writers would be unimaginable to have attained in even the highest achieving cultures of the west. The study of Hindu theology itself relies mainly on commitment to logical thinking. (Those with any doubt of this must read the Vedas and Upanishads.) Intellectual curiosity, and the guaranteed personal freedoms that encouraged it, is the core exceptional hallmark of the Hindu history.
In this knowledge, it is supremely disappointing to observe the anti-intellectualism rising in Hinduism. Temples which were once synonymous with quality teaching and economic hub now have devotees who are purely dogmatic. Hindus who were once noted for their pursuit of noble lifestyles have recently defended the crass sideshow of a reality show family. Emails and Facebook forwards of the most factually ridiculous and easily refuted claims often start with those who claim to be an avid Hindu. Political strategists have certainly noticed this trend; Hindus are now regarded as intellectual lightweights, manipulated by simple buzzwords, and no longer worthy of sitting at decision-making tables even within the party effortlessly holding the Hindu electorate in its back pocket.
When Hindus fail to be intelligent and creatively active, we deny ourselves the rightful place in the Indian Political spectrum. This is also a great loss to the wider culture, both spiritually and creatively. Hindus from the film, literary, and visual arts industries have worked against the very religion which gave them the freedom to think independently. The battle for culture is a battle for hearts, minds, and souls. In bowing out of the wider culture, we are failing to show the world the Hindu alternative so effectively shown by the great writers and artists in our history. In surrendering the culture, we don’t only sacrifice better books or art; we surrender the spiritual fight for human souls. We are therefore not only failing ourselves intellectually, we are much more importantly failing our core values as Hindus.
We cannot stand back and complain about the loss of values in culture if we are not willing to engage with culture by creating more intelligent and moral choices. Our culture obviously has very little moral content left. One need to look no further than the average quality of the top television shows and movies (and the current string of uncreative sequels and remakes) to come to a very negative conclusion. The amount of time the average person spends reading published books compared to barely literate internet articles tells an even worse story. We must develop and use our talents to give our culture the true alternative for which the intellectually lost Hindus are already hungry for.