Hindol Sengupta asks the modern Hindu what Hinduism means to him. Watch Sengupta in conversation with Dr. Kapil Kapoor, a renowned scholar of sanskrit and literature.
Kapil Kapoor has had a legendary career as one of the finest teachers of linguistics and Indology in India. It was his idea for the Sanskrit department of JNU to be shaped in the form of a Swastika, the holy icon well-being of ancient India.
Dr. Kapoor speaks in this interview to me about a wide-range of issues including why there is no concept of heresy or infidel in Hinduism. Kapoor says that ‘Hinduism’ is probably a wrong word – even though most popularly used today – for a set of beliefs and philosophies of ancient India which gave some of the most sublime concepts known to man.
Kapoor talks about the Manusmriti, or the Laws of Manu, considered controversial today because some suggest that these laws validate caste discrimination, and that these laws are irrelevant in modern times. He also talks about the Purusha Sukta, the controversial verse in the Rig Veda, which defines different varnas (what we today colloquially call caste) by the different body parts of ‘Man’ with the shudras or lower castes as the feet.
Several scholars including the Scottish Sanskritist and Indologist John Muir have argued that this verse was probably a later day insertion into the Rig Veda. Kapoor also makes the point, in this context, that this division has been seen as vertical and therefore the shudras are the lowest but in reality ought to be seen as a horizontal man, lying down, and therefore all the varnas are at the same level.
Kapoor says even though ancient Indian culture or Hindu culture forms the basis of India, it does not exclude any religion or community – and is consistently welcoming and embracing of diversity.