VIVEK RAMASWAMY is said to be “rising” in opinion polls in America in his bid to seek the Republican candidacy.
In an attempt to appeal to white Christian fundamentalists who are concerned about a brown man not of their faith running for the White House, Ramaswamy has been claiming that “there is no wokeism or transgenderism” in Hinduism.
However, “that Hinduism does not exist”, Dheepa Sundaram, assistant professor of Hindu Studies at Denver University, told the Sunday programme on Radio 4 last weekend.
She added: “Vivek Ramaswamy has predicated a lot of his campaign on decrying on what he calls transgenderism. Non-binary identities are actually part of the tradition and we have deities that are half-man, half-woman so there’s a huge gamut of mythology and scripture that ground this kind of identity in the divine world in Hinduism.
“But he has argued that Hinduism doesn’t believe in this particular tradition – (he) believes there are only two genders. And that’s very much of a rhetorical and strategic move not really rooted in fact.”
Many years ago, I visited the Elephanta Caves a boat ride from Bombay (now Mumbai) and saw the stone carvings dating from the fourth to the ninth century of Ardhanarishvara (Sanskrit for “Lord who is half woman”). The right male half of the figure is adorned with the traditional ornaments of Shiva, whose consort Parvati is on the left.
Sundaram commented: “Vivek Ramaswamy has…. tried to position himself as even more Trump than Trump. That is his attempt to ameliorate some of the resistance to him as a non-Christian and as a brown person running for the nomination of the Republican party.”
The presenter Edward Stourton implied Britain is a much more tolerant society: “We have a Hindu prime minister in this country, but we have a political culture where people don’t worry very much about religion. You have a culture where particularly fundamentalist Christianity is incredibly important.”
Sundaram explained the main issue Ramaswamy faces in his campaign “is convincing a primary base of voters that are conservative, Christian and lean to mostly white supremacists… I do think it is working, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough for him to win.”
The Indian diaspora usually bathes in reflected glory, but is likely to make an exception for Ramaswamy.