I was contemplating about the similarities and differences of the Jews and Hindus through thousands of years old history and philosophy point of view. It’s very interesting indeed I realised. So I decided to write a few lines. Firstly, both the names Jew (from Yahud) and Hindu (from Sindhu) are approximately 3000 years old.
The Jews believe they are descendants of Abraham who had migrated to the ‘Holy Land’ (also referred to as Judaea or Israel later), from Mesopotamia/ Iraq, around 4000 years ago, according to legends. The name Jew, Judaea, Yahud all are derived from one Biblical name ‘Judah‘, a descendant of Abraham. Judah was the son of Joseph, son of Isaac, son of Abraham. Jewish historians and OT scholars do agree though that many other native tribes of the region, including Arabs, have co-opted themselves into the Yahud community through the ages and today consider themselves as proud ‘descendants‘ of the legendary Abraham and his sons.
GEOGRAPHIC CIVILISATION, NOT ONE RELIGION
The Zoroastrian Persians referred to all South Asians beyond the Sindhu river, right into the Indian Peninsula, as Hindus. They could not pronounce ‘s’ so. The Indian subcontinent was known as Hind (Sind).
The Jews were the people of a Geographic area, and not one particular religious belief as such. There were two ‘gods’ in Judaea – Ellohim and Yahweh, till the Torah tried to unite them into one community north and south. Around 2500-2000 years ago there were three religious denominations among the Jews, with distinct practices, philosophy and lifestyle differences. The Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes. The Essenes lived in communes/ ashrams, did not marry or indulge in sex, did not have children, believed in barter rather than money, donated away all their properties and riches, took regular dips in a ‘Holy River’ or tank to wash away their sins.
They lived away from cities / urban areas in wilderness to stay away from temptation and acquire good karma to achieve salvation in their next life. Their monastic lifestyle was very different from the followers of the Torah/ Jewish Bible. They believed in ‘Afterlife’, Heaven and Hell, etc which were foreign (I believe Indian/ Buddhist) philosophy. For the Pharisees and Sadducee, there was no afterlife. They did not believe in Heaven/ Hell- only a black hole without any rewards or punishments, called Sheol. For them not marring and having many children was going against God’s command. Because God promised to multiply them.
MANY PHILOSOPHIES AMONG HINDUS TOO
Similarly, Hindus are a civilisation, not one religion, with many many different beliefs, festivals and practices. Some worship Deities from the ancient Puranas. Others worship Vishnu-Incarnations from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Then there are some groups who only follow the Vedas- the Arya Samaj, Brahmos, etc. There were also the ancient Karvaks and the Sankhya philosophers who did not believe in a Creator or God. They were atheists.
NOW THE DIFFERENCES
The Jews are extremely proud of their history, geography, and civilisation. They are very aware of their ancient history, scriptures, homeland / Holyland, etc. Historic cruelty perpetrated upon them by Non-Jews has never been forgotten on the altar of secularism and such compromise. They teach the truth and not fiction to their generation next.
E.g., what happened in Masada has is immortalised in the Jewish mind from childhood even after nearly 2000 years.
Masada was a palace/ fort on a hill built by King Herod the Great. Towards the end of the long First Jewish-Roman war between 66-73 AD . A big group of rebels from among the Jewish Freedom fighters took shelter on top of the plateau at Masada, where there was a stock of food and water. The Romans soldiers, along with Jewish forced-labourers, made a long ramp to reach the walls of the extraordinary fort, completed after many months. But before they could breach the wall, the 960 fugitives slit their own throats rather than surrender to the brutal Romans and be crucified. In modern Israel batches of Israeli Armed Forces, cadets take an oath on top of Masada swearing that they will never forget and allow such tragedy again on their homeland.
In India even discussing about atrocities on Hindus is a taboo subject. It’s not openly taught to our children in schools either. History books are distorted to give the worse war-criminals respectability. Although an estimated 80-100 million Hindus were killed by Jihadi invaders from 7th century onwards – starting with Muhammad bin Qassim in Sindh/ North West frontiers. Hundreds of thousands of brave Rajput men and women have died fighting Mughals and other Muslim marauders – in Chittorgarh, in Rajasthan, Somenath in Gujarat, and Punjab & Sindh. In all of India actually. Independent India does not want to remember those millions of Hindu men, women and children- raped, killed and murdered as kafirs. Those dead Hindus could have probably saved their own lives easily by reciting the shahada (La Illaha Il Allah, Muhammad u rassul Allah- there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger) and converting to Islam. But they chose to die rather than accept an alien Arab religion.
Why don’t we have any intention of honouring those proud and brave Hindus through 1400 years of cruel history?? It’s a humongous shame I feel.
On the contrary, the Jews have never forgotten they’re fallen. They regularly mourn on Holocaust memorial days and by taking oaths on top of Masada. They have made the whole universe aware of atrocities on Jews through history, unlike Hindus who have everything except willpower.
India may be free but at one level Indians have not experienced genuine FREEDOM yet. We are still GULAAM. But we are definitely inching our way towards true civilisational freedom.