Reintroducing Hinduism - The Narratives of Shri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi
Ramachandhran, Jenanee Dhevi
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Scholars credit the historian to be a narrator who rearranges facts in a plot that makes incomprehensible facts familiar. Narratives also play an important role in reframing outdated institutions in societies and making them more relevant and familiar. In this study, I look at the teachings of the Hindu spiritual Guru Shri Shri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi (1894 – 1994) and study how his narratives reframe two controversial social institutions in India, caste system and child marriage. Through my thesis, I have analyzed his teachings on these subjects in the book, Hindu Dharma, in the analytical framework provided by Sonja Foss in terms of the Setting, Characters, Narrator, Events, Temporal Relations, Causal Relations, Audience, and Theme. I have studied the Acharya’s use of various narratives devices such as analogies, comparisons between ancient and modern India, association with modern scientific and economic concepts, examples of successful and celebrated figures from Indian history, chants from the Vedas and so on to explain ancient institutions to modern Hindus. The Acharya’s narratives on caste provide a comprehensive definition of the original purpose of caste and he explains the benefits provided by these two institutions that are regarded as discriminatory and oppressive by modern society. Caste is narrated as an economic system that provided for people’s livelihood by eliminating competition and increased specialization and efficiency due to its hereditary nature. It also provided individuals with the opportunity to develop their innate talents and gifts by eliminating the struggle for daily sustenance. Child marriage has also been reconstructed as a beneficial and glorious practice that protects women, empowers them and helps them attain salvation through devotion and dedication to their husband. This study analyzes how such a reconstruction helps provide a solution, in terms of intellectual or emotional satisfaction, to the conflict faced by modern Hindus who are caught between two worlds – an ancient glorious India whose past achievements has inspired Indians and foreigners for centuries versus a modern developing society whose development is imbalanced and deterred by a long history of colonization and oppression, and the presence of social evils such as caste and child marriage.
Sage of Kanchi