//A text book for study on Indian religious traditions

A text book for study on Indian religious traditions

Pathways to Peace is a compilation from varied sources on different religions. The book has 11 units on as many as nine religious traditions of India, including Sufism and Lingayat traditions. It has come out as a ready-made text book for a course in religious traditions of India. Every unit has a definite structure with sufficient material to get an overview of each tradition and some critical questions at the end for discussion and debate.

Though this is a compilation, what is striking is the dispassionate approach the author has taken to look at all traditions with respect and not intercept them with long-held biases and prejudices. It is this quality which will go a long way in making this book an important source for teachers to help students in cultivating mutual respect among religions.

Some delicate issues

While the book has been compiled with utmost care, a couple of issues may seem somewhat unnerving to people who are sensitive to recent developments. One is the recent issue of the Veerasha and Lingayat controversy in Karnataka. While the author has attempted to define what both these terms actually are, much more clarity is required. Veerashaivism existed in India much before the emergence of Lingayatism by Basavanna in the 12th century. While Veerashaivism had Shiva as the deity of worship, Basavanna’s Shiva is not. The Shiva of Veerashaivism is the cultic deity while that of Basavanna is a universal god. 

While debating Hinduism, the author puts Ramayana and Mahabharata as segments of ‘Itihasa’ in the Smriti tradition. Itihasa may simply refer to ‘history’. The term ‘Itihasa’ in the Vedic context is not merely history; it means ‘historical legend’ which is different from chronology.

The author has suggested questions to ponder at the beginning as well as at the end of each unit. The questions at the beginning help to gather the reader’s prior knowledge of each religion. One question at the beginning of the unit on Islam (Unit 10) caught my attention: ‘What is your impression of Islam?’ It is an important question, perhaps for different reasons than what the author would have intended. It is a fact that the one religion that carries the burden of everyone’s prejudice in India is Islam. Thankfully, the unit does more than just ward off most of our pre-conceived ideas of Islam. The author has indeed looked at Islam with utmost objectivity and tried to separate the real from the false.

What gives even more weightage to this mini compendium is the fact that it has crossed several seasoned hands before it has reached the press. Hence, each unit has a standard structure which is presented in a highly readable style.

  • Title: Pathways to Peace
  • Author: Fr. Balakiran Kumar, SJ
  • Publication: ATC Publisher, Bengaluru (2019)
  • Price: Rs. 180

The author teaches in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at St Aloysius College, Mangalore, and is the Director of Community Radio Sarang.