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Why I Am a Hindu summary

Shashi Tharoor

An insider’s guide to the history of Hinduism

3.4 (207 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

"Why I Am a Hindu" by Shashi Tharoor is a personal exploration of the author's Hindu identity, providing a nuanced understanding of the religion's history, beliefs, and practices, while critiquing the Hindu nationalist movement in India.

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    Why I Am a Hindu
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    Hinduism is a rich religion full of diversity.

    Every faith is unique. Take the Semitic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the most common creeds in the Western world. Each has its own distinctive set of beliefs about the world and the divine. But they also overlap: all three, for example, believe that there’s only one God and that he’s a real, if intangible, entity. A true believer must accept that core doctrine.

    Hinduism, on the other hand, is a completely different kind of religion. Unlike their monotheistic counterparts, Hindus believe in many gods. These include Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, and Shiva, the destroyer. There are also a wide array of sacred texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the Rigveda. Every Hindu is free to choose which god she worships, which texts she reads and when and where she prays.

    That makes Hinduism a deeply personal faith which varies from one believer to the next. The common thread? Every Hindu strives for self-realization and oneness with Brahman, a genderless soul which represents the ultimate truth permeating all reality. The absence of rules means that Hindus can follow different paths toward that goal: no one but the individual believer can determine which one is best suited to achieving their spiritual aims.

    This idea is deeply rooted in the tradition itself. Take Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), a monk whose religious teachings have had a profound effect on the author’s understanding of his own faith. According to Vivekananda, anyone can achieve divinity if they study, pray and maintain their discipline. How exactly they did that, he argued, was up to them – after all, the path to divinity can’t be predetermined. Dogma and doctrine thus took a back seat in Vivekananda’s understanding of Hinduism. What really mattered was merging one’s soul with Brahman and achieving true freedom.

    As we’ll see in the next blink, this profound commitment to diversity and freedom means that Hinduism even recognizes the value of following different religions.

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    What is Why I Am a Hindu about?

    Why I Am a Hindu (2018) is a meditation on religion and national identity from the perspective of one of India’s leading politicians, Shashi Tharoor. Written with an eye to the rise of Hindu fundamentalism, it unpacks the 4,000-year-old history of his faith and argues that today’s Hindutva movement is perverting an ancient tradition of tolerance and diversity. If Indians want to see their country flourish, Tharoor concludes, they’ll have to reject the ruling party’s chauvinism and embrace that great cultural legacy.

    Why I Am a Hindu Review

    Why I Am a Hindu (2018) by Shashi Tharoor is a thought-provoking exploration of Hinduism and its significance in contemporary India. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Tharoor's insightful analysis sheds light on the complexities of Hinduism, offering a nuanced understanding of its diverse traditions and practices.
    • The book challenges misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding Hinduism through rigorous research and the author's personal experiences, fostering a deeper appreciation for the religion.
    • Tharoor's compelling arguments about the importance of pluralism and inclusivity make this book a timely and essential read for anyone interested in understanding the role of Hinduism in contemporary society.

    Who should read Why I Am a Hindu?

    • Politics buffs and history students
    • Anyone fascinated by one of the world’s largest religions
    • Champions of multiculturalism and tolerance

    About the Author

    Shashi Tharoor is an Indian parliamentarian, author and ex-diplomat. A member of the Indian National Congress party, he has represented the district of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala since 2009. His previous books include the novel Riot (2001) and An Era of Darkness (2017), a study of British misrule in India during the colonial period.

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    Why I Am a Hindu FAQs 

    What is the main message of Why I Am a Hindu?

    The main message of Why I Am a Hindu is an exploration of Hinduism's diverse practices, beliefs, and its role in modern India.

    How long does it take to read Why I Am a Hindu?

    The reading time for Why I Am a Hindu varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Why I Am a Hindu a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Why I Am a Hindu is a thought-provoking read that offers insights into Hinduism's history, philosophy, and current social and political relevance.

    Who is the author of Why I Am a Hindu?

    Shashi Tharoor is the author of Why I Am a Hindu.

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