“Smritiquestions Rahul ‘manhood’”, read the headline of an article published by The Telegraphon January 5, 2019. The article claimed that Union Minister Smriti Irani appeared to question Rahul Gandhi’s ‘purushartha’ (‘manhood’) while comparing it with that of BJP President Amit Shah. In the article, Smriti Irani is quoted saying, “The BJP president earned his post through his manhood, Rahul got his thanks to his mother’s blessings”.
The Siasat Daily, an Indian Urdu newspaper from Hyderabad, has also published a report claiming that Irani had questioned Gandhi’s manhood while referring to ‘purushartha’.
‘Purushartha’ refers to industriousness
The statement ascribed to the textile minister said,“बीजेपी के अध्यक्ष अपने पुरुषार्थ से बने है। राहुल गाँधी अपनी माता के आशीर्वाद से कांग्रेस के अध्यक्ष बने है।”.
The Telegraph translated the word ‘purushurtha’ to manhood,while the appropriate translation should have been, “The BJP President earned his post through his industriousness/hard work, Rahul got his thanks to his mother’s blessings.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also used the term ‘purushartha’ on several occasions. In a recent speech given at Car Nicobar, Modi had used the word to suggest that due to the hard work/efforts of people in Car Nicobar, the island which was destroyed in the 2004 tsunami has been rebuilt today.
‘Purushartha’ in Hinduism
The word also has a philosophical meaning in Hinduism. In Hinduism, ‘purushartha’ literally means ‘an object of human pursuit’ or ‘human aims’. It is a composite word in Sanskrit formed by two words: human, who is a rational being and aim, which means a purpose or an objective. According to the Vedas, there are four ‘purusharthas’ (aims of human life) – Dharma (righteousness/moral values), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire/love) and Moksha (salvation/liberation).
On page 159 of Contemporary Hinduism by author Robin Rinehart, it is mentioned, “Hindu ethicists have arrived at these four goods because they are the most general goods all human beings seek. All humans aim at economic prosperity, political power, satisfaction of sexual instincts, and desire to live in society governed by moral rules and ideals.”
In conclusion, The Telegraph rather embarrassingly misinterpreted ‘purushartha’ by crudely translating it to ‘manhood’ whereas the meaning of the term in Hinduism has philosophical significance and in the context of the statement made by Ms. Irani, simply meant industriousness/hard work.