Q&A: I request you to stop using the term Hindu Mythology?



In a month, we get numerous requests from the readers of the Hindu blog to stop using the term ‘Mythology’ in matters related to Hinduism. They are of the opinion that when we use the term Hindu Mythology, it essentially means that we are referring to all our culture and stories of Gods as "MYTHS" and not real incidents. Some have also provided a solution instead of Myth and Mythology use Hindu Civilization or Hindu Religious History.

Interestingly, The Oxford Dictionary describes the term Myth as a traditional story concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, typically involving the supernatural.

Merriam Webster describes Myth as a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.

These two definitions clearly suggest that Myths contains History.

But, the word Mythology and Myth has undergone a change of meaning over the years and both the terms today has negative connotations when used in religious matters.

And Myth or Mythology today means a set of widely held but exaggerated or fictitious stories or beliefs. This negative meaning is because Christianity, which controlled the English print and literature, never used the term Mythology and Myth with Christianity – for them all everything related to Christianity was historical. But the same Christian missionaries lavishly used Mythology and Myth to describe Hindu and Greek culture.

Education in India, which has the maximum population of Hindus, was never controlled by Hindus. Before independence it was by Christian missionaries and the British. After independence, it was by missionaries and leftists. Both groups only had contempt for Hindu culture. So Hindus was taught to associate the term Myth and Mythology with their religion.

But little did the Christian missionaries and leftists know that the greatness of Hinduism lies in its unparalled and universal message and not in history. So when a Hindu child was taught that Hanuman and Ganesha were myth in school, the child listened to it studiously and while returning back from school the child never forgot to pray before the first Hanuman Idol and Ganesha Idol that he/she saw.

This is because the greatness of Hanuman and Ganesha is not going to change if you term it as myth or stories or history. The greatness of a religion lies in its teachings and messages. Thus Hindus makes no distinction between mythology and religion.

In recent years, there is a growing insecurity among a section of Hindus and an attempt of tit-for-tat reply to those who insult Hindu culture. Unknowingly such people are trying to destroy the uniqueness of Sanatana Dharma by trying to create a timeline and history. When all the important religions in the world have a founder, Hinduism evolved through the ideas and teachings of enlightened human beings from time immemorial. So it will be foolhardy to create timeline and history to Hinduism.

Hinduism is undoubtedly one of the world’s most intellectually sophisticated religions and its teachings are hidden in thousands of symbols and mantras. Symbolism plays a major role in Hinduism and English language fails miserably to find a perfect definition to several words and symbols used in Hindu religion. A classic example is that of Sanatana Dharma, the real term used to define Hinduism. There is no exact phrase to define Dharma in English language.

So the use of Myth and Mythology along with literature associated with Hinduism is an easy escape for many people who use English language. Majority of the people who use the term Myth or Mythology does not mean to insult Hindu religion but they are forced to use it as it is the way they were taught and it is the most accepted term used around the world.

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