Shashi Tharoor's 'Thulabharam Mindset': Why I see Tharoor as a staunch Hindu revivalist who will likely join BJP/RSS soon

With his support to Sabarimala traditionalists, his book 'Why I Am A Hindu' and now, his thulabharam practice, Shashi Tharoor has shown his Hindutva colours. His transit seems simply a matter of time.

 |  5-minute read |   22-04-2019
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Congress leader Shashi Tharoor recently got severely injured in a self-created tragedy while following a superstitious practice — Thulabharam.

Of course I wish him a full and speedy recovery, along with, I am sure, many others. That said, we must examine whether the practice of getting himself weighed against a commodity while performing the thulabharam ritual is a spiritually enlightened act or a superstitious procedure.

Thulabharam is a Hindu practice of offering wealth to idol deities. Among the religions where there is no idol worship, thulabharam is not performed. It is actually a superstitious belief of the rich who generally do not believe in philanthropic ways of spending on the poor.

Instead, they donate wealth to idols placed in temples.

That is how the Padmanabhaswamy Temple of Thiruvananthapuram acquired hundreds of tonnes of gold, which is still lying in its storerooms, without serving any national economic purpose.

Tharoor now wanted to contribute to that kind of waste of wealth.

Why did an intellectual of his stature do that?

If the masses follow his example, that is, give whatever they have in thulabharam to God or Goddesses, does it make people poorer or richer? How many Hindu temples, which get the thulabharam wealth, are running English medium schools/colleges of the kind that Tharoor studied in (Montfort School and St. Stephen’s College, Delhi)? If he had that kind of wealth, why did he not establish good English medium school for the poor in his constituency? He was the one who mocked the middle class by saying he would travel “cattle class” in solidarity with all our “holy cows”.

He got weighed himself at the Gandhari Amman temple in a thulabharam ceremony on April 15 — the thulabharam broke and he got seriously injured.

What he weighed himself against — gold or silver — is not known.

Once upon a time, kings used to weigh themselves against gold and donate it to Hindu Gods/Goddesses. Tharoor is not a king but a scholar, who commands a lot of respect within the nation and outside. A few years back, he even contested for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations.

But ever since he wrote Why I Am A Hindu, he is behaving like a Hindutva ideologue, who has no concern for people’s economic, social and cultural welfare — but who is more concerned about his welfare here in this world and is looking for a ticket for his seat in heaven too.

Significantly, Tharoor also opposed the Supreme Court judgment allowing women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple. He defended himself on the issue like any other Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or BJP man, saying it is Hindu tradition and also the temple's tradition.

I do not think Tharoor is Machiavellian, someone who does not believe in such superstitions, but only pretends to believe. We know many Congress politicians were known as Machavellians. They used to — even now some do — pretend to believe but in actual life, they were rationalists.

Tharoor is like a typical Kerala Nair, who serves in many temple committees, even though he is not eligible to serve in those temples as priest as he is Nair, not a Brahmin. He is a believer in Nairite Hinduism which does not ask for spiritual equality. To my mind, there is no spiritual coherence and positive egalitarianism in this belief.

Tharoor, both by his theoretical understanding as it comes to us through his book, Why I Am A Hindu, and by practice of thulabharam or man-woman inequality, as in the case of the Ayyappa temple issue, has, as I see it, deceived the very idea of intellectualism.

Some of the serious intellectuals we respect as Indians, having come from a Hindu Brahmin family, left Hinduism and moved closer to Buddhism, which does not have any such superstitious practices. The best examples are Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi and his father, Dharmananda Damodar Kosambi.

DD Kosambi was a great mathematician, statistician, philologist and historian. Intellectual traditions grow better in rationalism — not superstition. Rational thinking and practice are the foundations of serious intellectualism. Tharoor never seems to have shown any respect for Buddhism, which is Indian as well as global.

As I wrote earlier, “After reading Tharoor, I can only say that the Congress will be lucky if he does not join the BJP if it retains power after the 2019 elections. He has left enough room for a transit.”

Tharoor’s thulabharam — and his support to the anti-women agitation at Sabarimala — are a natural corollary of his book Why I Am A Hindu, in the same tradition of the RSS.

Nirmala Sitharaman, visiting him in hospital even at the peak of electoral heat, is not just a benevolent gesture, in my view, but also an acceptance of ideological alignment.

The BJP considers him the right man in the wrong party.

Without the direction of the RSS and some form of approval by Modi, Sitharaman would not have paid that visit.

It is ‘not civility’ that was the reason for Sitharaman’s visit, as Tharoor wants us to believe. It was part of a political tactic. If Tharoor hadn’t been injured in a Hindu temple, if he hadn’t written Why I Am A Hindu, she would likely not have shown such ‘civility’.

Indeed, assuming Tharoor was injured in a mosque, would Sitharaman have shown that civility? Would the RSS and Modi have allowed her to show the same ‘civility’?

Tharoor is not an enlightened reformist Hindu — he is an educated revivalist Hindu, as the RSS organisation is.

To repeat what I said, with this kind of thulabharam mindset, if the BJP/RSS come back to power, whether Tharoor wins or loses, he would be with them — not with Congress.

The Congress’ soft Hinduva would not be able to hold its flock together because many of them have the same feathers as the RSS — not Jawaharlal Nehru. 

Also read: An elitist bigot to the patriarch women dread: 5 times Shashi Tharoor has dropped his liberal mask

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Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

The author is political theorist and social activist.

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