Himachal Pradesh has the highest proportion of Hindu population among all the states and union territories in India, but on the flip side, one finds minimal support for forces that want to ride on the Hindutva ban wagon; the proof for this can be taken from the recent Shimla name change saga where some members of the ruling BJP and the Sangh Parivar proposed to rename Shimla to Shyamala.
The most common reason given by the bhagwa namaskar lobby in doing so was that the name Shimla brought with it a colonial legacy and if it was renamed Shyamala then one could get back a traditional vibe as Shyamala is an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali.
But this agenda of playing the religious card to garner votes which got implemented quite well in the Allahabad-Prayagraj episode got outright rejected by the Himachali people. Various polls on social media conducted by opposition politicians and various local organisations lay stake to the claim made, where in totality one can say that more than 90 percent of the population was against the proposed decision and the aftermath of which was that the state government as always took another u-turn stating that it never proposed for the name change at the first place.
No to Hindutva
But all this has some deeper agenda attached with it. For some years fundamentalist groups in the state are trying to diverge the direction of Hinduism to Hindutva, but they have been unsuccessful and the primary reason for that is the tradition of Hindu philosophy which prevails here, as in the majority of the 10,000 plus temples in the state (2011 census), Shaivism and Shaktism tradition is followed and very less influence of Vaishnavism and the Adi Shankaracharya founded Smarta tradition is found, the latter two traditions are the ones whose core fundamentals are manipulated by the Hindutva forces to spread their propaganda.
Another prominent factor is the unique devta phenomenon wherein a radius of every 10 km one can find a separate family deity being worshipped.
The state’s people primarily worship Shiva and are believers in Shaivism. Majority devtas are also known to be the incarnations of the deity, like say Baba Balak Nath, a prominent devta in the lower parts of Himachal and Mahasu Devta a prominent devta in the upper parts of Himachal.
Prominent Shiv temples in the state like Kinner Kailash, Mani Mesh, Churdhar are considered more holy by the people than any other holy pilgrimage in the country.
On the other hand, the Shaivism tradition is duly supported by Shaktism which focuses on the worship of goddesses considered to the supreme form of power. Temples like Jwala Mukhi, Naina Devi, Hidimba Devi, Hateshwari Mata, Chintpurni Mata, Bhima Kali, Chamunda, etc. are more important to the people than any Dharmasastras or Purana cited holy places.
This different form of Hinduism from the Hindi belt states is why one can safely say that Hindutva will never find a footing.
A prime example of this unique and tolerant form of Hinduism which exists here can be that of the “goat”, in many parts of Himachal goats are sacrificed in local festivals as an offering to the deity which is then consumed by the worshippers.
On the other hand, in many parts goats are nourished and taken care of due to it being a sacred animal of many other deities, but never has Himachal witnessed a goat centered riot or mutton ban call, this is the beauty of the state and its diversity loving people, and all this is due to the unique blend of Shaivism and Shaktism which prevails here.
Being Aware of the Saffron Lobby
With all that being said the normal Himachali needs to be vary of the recent trends the Ram Mandir, Ayodhya and Vrindavan angles may never work here but the Shyamala episode is an eye-opener as to how the Hindutva forces are preparing to damage the Shaivism and Shaktism tradition like it damaged Vaisnavism in the name of Ram and Shyam.
(Vishal Sharma is currently pursuing an MA (Public Policy, Law and Governance) at the Central University of Rajasthan. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)