This is not yet another celebratory piece on Sachin Tendulkar. This article is an insight into Indian culture and the reasons why Tendulkar is lauded as “God of cricket”.
Elevating a mere mortal to the status of divinity has perplexed non-Indians, leading to heated exchanges on online cricket forums between the Indians on one side and non-Indians on the other side of the cultural divide. Having been in the thick of such exchanges, I would like to believe that the Indian way of worshipping a special hero has got much to do with the Indian culture and the society we live in.
The first time Tendulkar was given that divine status was not by an Indian but by Australia Matthew Hayden, who said: “I have seen God. He bats at No 4 for India!” It was following Hayden’s comments that did the Indian media - known for its extremes – began addressing Tendulkar as “God of Cricket”. As celeb after celeb used it at will in social and conventional media, the sobriquet got legitimacy of sorts.
Now let’s look into traditional Indian culture. Or, to be precise, Hindu culture -given that Hinduism is the majority religion in our country. Unlike every other major in the world, from Islam to Christianity to Buddhism to Judaism, Hindu mythology and tradition is not about just a single God. Ranging from Shiva to Vishnu and down to the Nandi to Garuda and the likes, Hindus have an astonishing army of Gods in many forms. Besides, there are quite a few domestic deities in every corner of India.
It’s not uncommon in Indian tradition to elevate mortals to divine status – dead or alive. And one need not look beyond the Shankaracharyas, Jeeyars, Sai Baba, to name just a few. Adding to the numbers are a slew of Godmen. Every Indian village has a headman who is accorded God-like status. Besides, do we not keep pictures of our deceased parents and grandparents in the prayer place of our home and elevate them to divinity level?
Without getting into what is right or wrong, all one can say is that the practice of elevating humans to the status of God has been since time immemorial in Indian culture, but especially among Hindus.
India has had iconic cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. But they never got the God-like status Tendulkar enjoys. Why? It’s simply because he is a paragon of virtue. His impeccable behavior and his ability to remain calm even in the most provocative of circumstances, his ability to remain a symbol of excellence, has all contributed to give him a status that no cricketer has ever earned. His ability to remain so rooted despite achieving so much has staggered not just the nation but the entire world.
India has many heroes, but just about everyone at some point of time has displayed mortal traits. Despite being in 24x7 media limelight, never once has he been seen on the wrong side. It seems almost beyond human ability! God!!!
(Dr Arvind Subramanian is a Chennai-based dental surgeon presently pursuing higher studies in his field. He is also a classical dancer, philanthropist, orator and a writer)