The saying I mention in the beginning of the post is more reinforced on the outsider when they look at our current state. Rabid evangelicals spouting their foul propaganda, Maoists conducting their campaign, and scheming Islamists try to convert gullible natives to their fold one way of the other and yet knowledgeable Indians just lead their normal lives.
But Hindu history suggests that we were never so placid. In fact, we are a race which even brought arrogant Gods to their knees. The story of the lifting of the Govardhan mountain reveals this.
(link)Govardhan Puja is celebrated the day after Diwali. It is the day Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. As per the story, Krishna saw huge preparations for the annual offering to Lord Indra and questions his father Nanda about it. He debated with the villagers about what their 'dharma' truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He continued to say that all human beings should merely do their 'karma', to the best of their ability and not pray or conduct sacrifices for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna then lifted Mt Govardhan and held it up as protection to his people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme. This aspect of Krishna's life is mostly glossed over - but it actually set up on the basis of the 'karma' philosophy later detailed in the Bhagavat Gita.
It also represents the downfall of Indra, and a new beginning in Hindu philosophy, from a more sacrificial/ appeasement oriented worship, to a more spiritual plane of thought. This evolution of thought in Hinduism was brought about by Krishna, and therefore he has been the most important Hindu deity since then - considered an 'avatar' of the supreme. The more we look at his life story - we find him to be a great reformer of his time.
More such examples abound the nation. While celebrating Govardhan Pooja, not only do we sing hymns which most of us do not understand, but the whole importance of Govardhan lifting incident is lost on us. Time we remember the spirit, and act on it in our own ways.