Even in Gujarat, Hinduism gets a raw deal in school textbooks
Recently, after learning about the controversial textbooks from California, I became curious to know what is being taught in India. I picked Gujarat as a starting point. I read standard 1 to 10 (Gujarati and English medium) social science textbooks. I was shocked to see the absence of religious study; especially Hinduism. Or, in other words, it is not articulated properly. I found, Gujarati textbooks to be worse than the California textbooks as far as the Hinduism is concerned. My first reaction was that; probably the education board is trying to stay away from the potentially controversial religious matter behind the name of so called secularism. Which is understandable, however, it is not true either!
After looking at the detailed coverage of some other religions in the same textbooks, I am kind of lost and wondering why the Hinduism is left-out from the school curriculum. Why the majority religion which is followed by 88% population of Gujarat is left-out! Why is it the case, that in the birthplace of “Sanaatan Dharma”, state school boards go out of their way to control the information being published and spread, by suppressing the history of the land? Is it not the national motto of India: “Satyameva Jayate”? Then why is the state engaged in spreading untruths, and half-truths?
India’s thousands of years of history including pre-historic era as well as Golden era is totally ignored and the books literally start from 606 CE. Surprisingly, not much about the ancient India and India’s glorious time is ignored. Beside random references here and there, religious study; especially Hinduism is very much untouched or not articulated properly. The word “Rama” for God “Rama” is not used even for once!
I could find only one reference of Geeta, three references of Ramayana, as simple words; without any elaborations. Those are the core of Hinduism and India at large for centuries. Some explanations are must. Hinduism is pretty much ignored! No explanation of what is Hinduism, its belief system, its value systems! In short, students graduating from Gujarat would have no formal understanding of what is religion in general, what is Hinduism etc. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same narrative in other states as well. There are some details about the Vedas and Upanishads, but really difficult to understand!
No references of Gita or Hinduism in Gandhi ji and Swami Vivekananda topics. They both have close connections with Gita and Hinduism. They both were influenced by Hinduism and Bhaghvad Gita. Reference to Hinduism is missing.
We all know that the Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism have the same roots. This type of explicit clarification would have been fair, complete and would help building a strong solidarity between these religions.
In another word, students in their prime time of understanding would grow up without an important component of the world; which is religion in general! Ironically, it is not true either as I do see good coverage about the “Buddhism” and “Jainism” in standard 6. Which is welcomed. I am happy to see at least something about our 2 beloved religions! However, I can’t find even two complete sentences explaining what is Hinduism, its core value, teachings and belief systems! Nowhere from grades 1 to 10! The majority students who are Hindus would grow without knowing their own heritage. Just like Buddhism and Jainism, similar coverages should have been there for the Hinduism, Islam, and other religions in order to be fair and for completeness! That is the real secularism is all about! All or none! Rest is called non-secularism. I wonder why majority religion, Hinduism is left out!
Few examples from the Gujarat textbooks:
The textbook uses the Western scholars to make us realize the significance of Geeta, Ramayana and Mahabharata! It is kind of an insult of thousands of year old Hindu scriptures. Hindus are teaching Geeta to the world; not the other way around!
Buddhism from Gujarat textbook:
Nice explanation and teachings from Buddhism. These kinds of teachings from other religions such as Hinduism would have been fair in a secular country. Most importantly, I am wondering what is wrong in saying Buddha was born in a Hindu family? No harm there. It would simply help students in connecting different dots. It would help making a stronger India (Bharat). Books certainly failed to do so.
Jainism from Gujarat textbooks:
Nice teachings from Jainism as well. Happy to see it. Similar teachings from Hinduism would have been fair in the secular country.
Is this the only explanation of Hinduism in Gujarati textbooks?
This is the closest I found about Hinduism out of 10 books! Well, the book doesn’t even say it is about Hinduism. But, I safely assume so! “Hindu” and “Hinduism” words are not being used persistently throughout all books.
Really! The Vedas and Upanishads have no ties with the Hinduism? Are they not part of the Hinduism? If so, then what is wrong in using “HINDU” word with Vedas? Explaining Vedas without Hinduism is incomplete. It’s like introducing son without using his father’s name.
For a while, I thought; “Hinduism” is being treated as an “Indian Culture”. Which is not consistent either as “Buddhism” and “Jainism” are covered explicitly even though they are part of the “Indian Culture”.
Diwali as per Gujarat textbook:
Diwali is explained as “Festival of Lights” in standard 2 book. “The Festival of Lights” is a popular phrase in the Western countries for the past few years. “Victory of Good over Evil” would send a stronger message. Most importantly, there should not be any hesitation in saying Diwali is a Hindu festival or the biggest Hindu festival. That’s the real truth. The book seems to be shying away from using “HINDU” word; in fact, very persistently throughout all books! Contrarily, the book has no problems using “Jainism”, “Buddhism”, and “Islam” words. It seems minor, but an important concern.
Grateful to the invaders:
Standard 7 book is asking us to be grateful to the invaders because few artists got the opportunity to showcase their art. In fact, while many artists got the opportunity to showcase their talent, many of them were brutally killed also. No need to glorify invaders. I do not see a similar praising language and appreciations for hundreds of old beautiful architectures and temples!
Finally, I read some American textbooks to see what they teach about Hinduism. And, this is what exactly my first reaction was:
Even though American textbooks have some controversial material, I felt prouder being Indian/Hindu and more knowledgeable about the Hinduism after reading a few chapters of American textbooks than reading Gujarati textbooks from standards 1 to 10!
The American textbooks emphasize more on the Hindu value system, Hindu belief system, Maurya Empire, Golden era of Gupta, Ashoka, India’s invention of zero, Yoga, Karma, Dharma, decimal systems, numeral system, Pi, The Legacy of Indian Mathematics, Ayurvedic medicines, metallurgy, meditation, benefits of Vegetarianism, Caste system, Mahatma Gandhi’s influence over Dr. Martin Luther king and Nelson Mandela etc.; Nothing about the Mughals and British; whereas the school books in Gujarat left-out Hinduism and glorifies invader Mughals who, in fact, carried out looting, atrocities, destruction, and mass killings!”
Let me make it crystal clear. It is not my intention to denigrate Indian textbooks and praise American books. I am also not implying that India should copy American books. American books do have some (but less than Gujarati books) controversial materials about Hinduism and are already being challenged in the US courts. It is very shameful to see a horrible situation of the majority religion in own land!
Under to no representation of Hinduism in 10 Gujarati textbooks cannot be a simple mistake. Misrepresentation of Hinduism and India cannot be a mistake. Suppressing a history of the land cannot be a coincidence. Teaching 2 minority religions and ignoring Hinduism cannot be a simple coincidence! Not using “Rama” even for once and using Mughals” for 86 times cannot be a mistake. Not saying Vedas are part of Hinduism cannot be author’s ignorance. Having 2 books on Yoga without referencing a single “HINDU” word cannot be a simple negligence. Not connecting Yoga with Hinduism cannot be a mistake. The absence of the words “Geeta”, “Ramayana”, “Mahabharata”, “Karma” throughout all books cannot be a coincidence.
Not saying Diwali is a Hindu’s festival cannot be an innocent mistake. Introducing Mahatma Gandhi ji, and Swami Vivekananda without using a “Hindu” word or “Hinduism” cannot be an innocent error. Not using the “Iron-man” word for beloved Sardar Patel cannot be forgotten matter. Connecting Ashoka with Buddhism, but not with Hinduism cannot be a mistake. Not saying Buddha was born as a Hindu cannot be historian’s ignorance! Labeling Islamic architectural structures as Islamic but not labeling Hindu architectures or temples with Hindu word cannot be a secularism. Asking us to praise invader Mughals cannot be a misunderstanding. Focusing more on horrible period of Mughals rather than a golden era of ancient India cannot be a mistake. Manipulating truth and hiding facts cannot be a policy. Providing no-truth to half-truth cannot be a mistake.
One mistake can possibly be a mistake. Even a few mistakes can possibly be mistaken too, however, persistent mistakes with one theme cannot be mistaken! It is most likely a deliberate and systematic effort! It seems to be a well-thought, planning not to expose Hinduism and for that matter not to teach Buddhism and Jainism correctly. The Author’s intentions seem to break common links and close ties among these 3 religions. The Author’s intentions seem to hide greatness of Hinduism. I smell an evil motive here. Keeping students in dark or misguiding them is a serious crime. The books hurts sentiment of the 1 billion+ Hindus across the globe.”
What can be done next? Here are the suggestions:
The above discussion very clearly indicates that the India’s social science books requires major reforms; need to be re-written. Social science should articulate the historical facts (nothing but the facts) in a such a way that the students become more knowledgeable and feel proud of their religion, community, country, heritage, and the world at large. Hiding or keeping them in the dark from the facts of life does not make them good citizens. The school curriculum should be designed to allow students to observe societies dissimilar to their own in such a way as to broaden their understanding of people and places in an increasingly interdependent world.
I understand religions are the most controversial and sensitive subjects, however, while the world is suffering because of religious influences, while people spend the good amount of their time in religious activities, keeping students ignorant is not a good idea. Well, covering two religious and not covering other religions makes this hypothesis wrong! So, back to the important question; why some religions like Hinduism are discriminated throughout the whole education system?
In the absence of a formal study in schools, students would pick-up wrong and one-sided, biased religious ideologies. They become vulnerable to be influenced by the extremism. Which could potentially create hatred among people from different faiths!
Until we have an alternative way to provide a value based and character building education system, the basic religious study is essential. It is possible to teach religion without favoring any particular faith! Different religions can be explained without violating secularism.
Schools should provide the value based and neutral knowledge about religion in general. The Schools should provide the high-level (basic) introduction of all major religions of India. Students should be aware of value systems, teachings, and belief systems of different religions. Students should at least be exposed to the factual components of different religions. It is better to stay away from the imaginations, stories, fantasies, negativism, and controversies. Emphasizing the common teachings and/or common links of various religions could make students more open minded and tolerant! For example, while explaining Jainism, Buddhism, or Sikhism, it would be worth mentioning the fact that they all originated from the Hinduism! It would help creating a strong bond between these religions. The books failed to do so.
More details at the online petition: https://www.change.org/p/we-demand-to-correct-history-about-hinduism-in-gujarat-state-school-textbooks
If you have any questions or concerns, kindly contact me. I look forward to your acknowledgment of my letter.
B.E.(Mech.), M.S. (Computer Science)
Professionally an Engineer, and an entrepreneur. He has received a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the SVNIT Surat, India and a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the Illinois Institute of Technology, USA with a perfect GPA 4.00/4.00. He has a keen interest in bringing social justices and social reforms to make the world beautiful place to live.