Hinduism, for most within its fold, is a way of life. It has no one pope, no one text, no inflexibly prescriptive ritual, no mandatory congregation and no one presiding temple. It is precisely for this that it has continued to flourish since time immemorial, sanatan and anant. Shashi Tharoor’s The Hindu Way is thus appropriately titled. It gives a broad-brush introduction, tarrying on some details but, in general, providing a bird’s-eye-view to the practice and ideology of a religion that defies rigid definitions.
For Hindus, to know a little more about their religion is essential, especially today. While accepting that Hinduism is a way of life, it would be incorrect to say that it is only an amorphous and diffused collation of customs and festivals. The core of Hinduism is its spiritual legacy, which constitutes a grand edifice of thought, notable for its cerebral energy. Hinduism as a religion is inseparable from Hinduism as a philosophy. If Hindus are adrift from the deep philosophical moorings of their religion, they are deliberately choosing the shell for the great treasure that lies within. When religions are largely reduced to rituals, there is always the danger that the form will become more important than the substance. Tharoor’s book is an important attempt to counter this danger.