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Hindu Faith in Politics and Governance

‘Gandhi an example of Hindu faith in politics’ is an article written by Shreyas Limaye in The Daily, Washington. As the title suggests, the article talks about core values attached to Hinduism and the role these values had played in Indian politics and governance.

Some excerpts from the article

A devout Hindu himself, Mahatma Gandhi turned to religion to instill inner strength and courage among his followers and to lead them in the struggle against the British colonial rulers of India.

…Hinduism suggests a four-fold path encompassing realization of both material as well as spiritual values (purushartha). Dharma, artha, kama and moksha are the four ideals a Hindu attempts to achieve in life.

Artha and kama are attaining livelihood and fulfillment of pleasures in life. Dharma is the way of living a moral, just and disciplined life whereas moksha is the ultimate goal of spiritual liberation of soul.

Dharma is not a rigid code of conduct. Within a general framework of moral values, dharma is always changing, according to the needs and development of society and that of the human being.

Moksha is the absolute individual achievement, and Hinduism believes that fulfillment of the first three aspects of life is necessary before one moves on to the path of spiritual liberation.

Therefore, as per the Hindu polity, state is an instrument in promoting artha and kama (trade and culture) and most importantly in upholding dharma. Facilitating fulfillment of these three major ends for its subjects is the main function of the state.

...The interesting point to note is that none of them vouch for a theocratic state. Rulers are not religious heads and neither is the opposite supposed to happen. Function of the state is promotion of the interests of its subjects and not propagation of the religion of the rulers.

The Hindu idea of governance is secular. By secular, I mean freedom from sectarian influence. Officials and subjects have absolute freedom of worship, and Hindu history has numerous examples in which Maurya, Sunga and Gupta rulers adhered to this principle.

All the examples that the writer uses to illustrate the success of Hindu faith in politics and governance are from the past. To find successful application of the core values of Hinduism in politics and governance we have to dig in the past. And in modern times, the search begins and ends with Mahatma Gandhi.