In December of last year, I wrote a post attacking the prudishness in Indian society. In that post, I may have mentioned the influence of Abrahamic religions such as Christianity and Islam playing a role. Here, I am going to expand on this topic.
Often I hear of Hindu responses to various questions that seem to have a resemblance to Christian or Islamic reponses. These responses tend to talk of a supreme lord and faith in a higher lord.
This probably starts in the 13-16th centuries, when India was being invaded by Islamic territories, such as those instigated by the Moghul empire. Hinduism at that time was surely able to interact with Islam and Islamic ideas. This would affect the Hindu idea of God, or the gods, particularly gods like Vishnu. Vishnu was the preserver and maintainer of the universe in Hindu myth. These days, he’s often depicted as benevolent god with many aspects of a messianic or saviour figure, mainly in the form of his avatars. Vishnu sends an aspect of himself to the earth, sometimes born from human parents. There’s two avatars that immediately come to mind when it comes to this criteria: Krishna and Kalki, but especially Kalki.
Kalki is believed to be the tenth avatar of the deity Vishnu, but what stands out is that his story seems much more akin to the idea of Judgement Day seen in all three of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Essentially, a demon named Kali (not to be confused with the goddess Kali) rules the earth and brings an age of “sin” and misery where people no longer worship God (or the gods) or remember the name of God (did people even remember the name of God before?), after which Vishnu sends an aspect of himself to be born on earth and grow up to destroy the evil being and bring a new golden age, where he will rule the earth for 1,000 years. Sounds familar? It’s the Christian story Judgement Day and the Thousand Year Kingdom, which also appears in Islam. You know, the one where God destroys the “wicked” world ruled by Satan and insititutes an age of peace, purity, and goodness (of course, we know what that really means).
The thing is, it came after Christianity and Islam were founded and during the time it was founded. The story of Kalki is contained in the Kalki Purana, which was written about 1,000 years after the Vishnu Purana, a body of texts containing stories about Vishnu as well as stuff about the Gupta empire, which was written in the 4th century. At the time the Kalki Purana was written, India was being invaded by Muslim territories, and was surely interacting with Abrahamic ideas.
Thus the story is an example of an Abrahamic influence on Hinduism, but it’s not really rooted in Hindu ideas, since not only does it fly in the face of their belief in life, death, rebirth, which logically would mean no final end, but it also ruins the point of Shiva being the destroyer who destroys the universe to leave room for creation. It just doesn’t fit in with Hinduism besides being a direct Hindu translation of the Abrahamic judgement day.
Judgement day wouldn’t be the only Abrahamic idea to leek into Hindu belief. I have also heard of an idea of Heaven and Hell crop up in Hindu thought, albeit in its own way. The early Vedic Hindus did not believe in such a concept, but it crept in later, most likely from exposure to, and interaction with, Abrahamic ideas. What’s stranger is that most people go to the abode of Yama to be judged, but if you follow Shiva or Vishnu you get an easier ride, or so I’ve heard. A kingdom or abode of God is even mentioned, sometimes referred to as Vaikuntha (the abode of Vishnu). This is also very Christian. Then we have the conflict of two beings known as devas and asuras. In Vedic Hinduism, devas and asuras were simply two kinds of gods are semi-divine beings with different domains who occasionally compete for the divine elixir known as soma. Asura was actually a title for gods, it meant “mighty”. Later on, the devas/gods would be associated with good, truth, and order, while asuras would be “demons, often lumped in with evil spirits called rakshasas, and represent evil, “sin”, falsehood, and chaos. This mainly comes from Zoroastrianism, but it has Abrahamic elements involved.
There’s another trait of Abrahamic and Western morality that would corrupt Indian society and religion. Their hatred of sexual liberty and openness. Those following this site probably remember the link on the top of this article. Today, Indian society is choked up on traditional values at their worst and repression of sexual honesty and liberty, and they don’t even talk about AIDS. All this is claimed to be in service of “traditional Indian values” when it’s actually an affront to Hinduism, which is known for openness about sexuality. The self-appointed moral guardians aren’t defending the values of their country, they’re seeking to impose Western values, be it consciously or otherwise.
And I think it has something to do with the British conquest of India. Britain in the 19th century was painfully prudish, and this sexual repression would naturally spill over into India when they took it over in 1858. They tried to censor the sexual part of Indian religion and cracked down on the sexual openness in Hinduism. And it’s worth noting that, in that time, Britain was still a Christian nation. The end result of this, and attempting to copy the West, has led to a degradation of Indian culture, the oppression of the youth, and the silencing of anyone who tries to talk about AIDS and sexual diseases. This is even worse when you consider the belief in self-denial, in the form of the belief in destroying the ego, self, and desire
And then there’s the monotheistic strands, involving a deity names Ishvara, or how some call one god The Lord, like Krishna (though that might just be ISKCON).
All in all, I have a respect for Hinduism, but I have no respect for the Abrahamic influences seeping into it, and what it’s transforming Indian society, and possibly turning Hinduism into.