Monday, April 27, 2015
Manthratalk: The First Word : M.F. Husain and His Nudes of Hindu Dieties is Bull...: M.F. Husain’s Paintings represent bullying; they don’t represent secularism Some misguided people of India painstakingl...
M.F. Husain’s Paintings represent bullying; they don’t represent secularism
Some misguided people of India painstakingly portrayed paintings of Husain as representing secularism and secularist interests. However, Husain’s paintings only demonstrate selective derision of Hinduism than anything else. The recent issue of Charlie Hebdo killing makes one wonder about Husain. Unfortunately, Charlie Hebdo was not as conniving as Husain. He drew cartoons on many religious figures and his secularism was evident in all of his work. Husain only drew mocking paintings of Hindu deities, but not others. Husain’s followers (many were Hindus) and coreligionists have praised him for his mocking paintings of Hindu deities. However, Husain’s coreligionists were not as tolerant when it comes to their own religion. They are only tolerant when it comes to other religions than their own. They never bothered to condemn Husain’s caricatures of Hindu deities, but did so with Charlie Hebdo cartoons, and some even went so far as to kill Charlie Hebdo. May be one should be crafty like Husain to receive international fame and acclaim at the expense of other religions, but not their own.
One should not banish cartoons or drawings on any subjects including religious subjects. However one should be mindful of the choice, and question if one were to single out and draw discriminatory paintings or cartoons on a single religion. Targeting a single religion would constitute bullying rather than secularism. On that note it can be said that Husain's paintings are a bullying tactic.
Husain’s nudes of Hindu deities
I suppose, we could assume that Husain is doing a great favor to Hindus by drawing these images trying to open them up for secularism, and be open to taking any critique (even if it is silly) in stride. But why not render the same favor to other religions- may be his own religion? Why not draw Fatima or Aisha or Mohammad, if not nude at least in loving embrace of each other? He shows quite a restraint when it comes Islamic subjects, but goes berserk when it comes to Hindu subjects. What is wrong? For Husain Hinduism seems to be an easy target, a religion that could be mocked and made fun of with a couple of free and easy brush strokes. The paintings don’t even have to look good. He even won the highest civilian award for being so reckless with his drawings of Hindu deities. It even won him international acclaim and sympathy from anti Hindu elements worldwide. He is even seen as protector of Muslim sentiments and welcomed with open arms to immigrate to Khatar. Would the followers of other religions be as tolerant if he were to draw similar paintings of their revered deities? He did not even draw nudes of Hindu deities, he went even further; he drew caricatures of them. Would he similarly dare to draw caricatures of deities of other religions? Well, we know the answer, he never dared to do it; in fact he never even contemplated doing such a thing: One of the reasons he is regarded as the champion of the interests of Islam. His nudes of Hindu deities clearly show that he harbored animosity to towards Hinduism, which came out in the form of his paintings.
Caricatures of Hindu deities
What has Sita ever done to anyone? Her life was so lonely and so sad. She loved Rama, and suffered her whole life for being loyal to Rama, who cared more about his prestige and kingly duties than his wife. How can any one be so mean to Sita as to draw her nude riding on the shoulders of Hanuman? Hindus have always revered Sita as the most loyal wife of Rama. Stories of her faithfulness to Rama are part of her story. In fact, one of the common stories anyone hears about Sita is that she refused to go home when Hanuman visited her in Lanka and requested her to do so. Sita had told Hanuman to just convey her message to Rama. Why is it that Husain cannot be sympathetic to Sita and had to draw her nude riding on the shoulders of Hanuman? Was he such a misogynist that he is not interested in understanding feminine sorrows, or was he trying to mock Sita for being loyal to her love in times of intense struggle? Where does his sympathy lay? Does he hate monogamy? Is Husain’s issue with monogamy or Rama or Sita? May be living most of his life single might not have helped him understand the pleasures of monogamous love. At least he should respect the sentiments of others who understand it and still practice monogamy.
There can be only one reason to do these paintings, either fame or to prove his superior intellect by bullying others by proving other's beliefs as silly. It seems likely that towards the end of his life he became a megalomaniac and probably not sure what he had to do to fulfill his desire. If not, then it is only probable that he had harbored such animosity towards his fellow countrymen who are Hindus that he had to express it in such way as to bully them and prove his superiority. Otherwise it is difficult to understand how or why he would resort to drawing such images, which he had never done before during his long career. The government of India should politely withdraw the civilian award Padmasri bestowed on him for his reckless drawings that hurt the sentiments of millions of Hindus worldwide.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Himalayan Earthquake: A Disaster on the Roof of the World
The world woke up to the disastrous earthquake in the Himalayas today, April 24, 2015. This is what the scholarly and scientific community had been warning South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia in the past few decades. Constructions, especially urbanization and building of roads especially tunnels underneath the Himalayan mountain ranges have proven disastrous in this area. This is exactly what I have discussed in my recent article, "Himalayan Ranges, Glaciers, Lakes and Rivers: An International Ecological, Economic and Military Outloook," (Webb, J., and Wijeweera, A. Eds. 2015. Political Economy of Conflict in South Asia: Causes, Implications & Solutions. London: Palgrave - http://www.amazon.com/Political-Economy-Conflict-South-International-ebook/dp/B00TR5JF7I/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1429988347&sr=1-2&keywords=Wijeweera). Military and economic activity of nations in this region is exposing Himalayas to undue stress and danger pushing it into facing disastrous consequences. I cannot emphasize enough of the impending dangers of such militaristic and building activities in the Himalayan regions. China's planned five tunnel roadway connecting southern Tibet to Nepal, and the large Hydro-electric project planned in Tibet would further push this region into danger. Instead of bringing development to this region such large dams, and roadway tunnels only spell impending disaster to this region.
Pushing Himalayas into danger is not only a problem for Tibet or Nepal, but the whole of Asian region. Any large earthquakes may spell absolute danger since it may cause avalanches, and make the rivers to change course. Any collapsing hill ranges, and flooding rivers will not only cause dangers to the immediate foothills in the Himalayas, but would bring environmental consequences for the deltas of Ganga-Yamuna, Indus and Sutlej rives in India and Pakistan; Brahmaputra and Padma rivers in India and Bangladesh; and other large rives in China and Southeast Asia.
Large nations like India and China must proceed with caution and build an alliance to protect the Himalayas and avert danger through reducing construction and military activity in the Himalayas.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Amaravathi is the Best Name For Andhra Capital
The state government of Andhra Pradesh has recently announced the name of its new capital to be Amaravathi, a name that evokes historical significance, religious legends, linguistic and artistic achievements. Andhra Pradesh state has kept the old name, while ten districts separated from it are called Telangana formed the new state. However, there are some new opportunities in front of Andhra Pradesh to name its new upcoming capital, ports, and airports. This is an opportunity for Andhra Pradesh to reflect on its rich heritage and draw appropriate names from its great historical past to inspire and infuse future generations of Andhra Pradesh with pride, and self respect.
Naming of new state capitals with historical significance or changing the names of existing state capitals to reflect their respective historical significance is not an uncommon occurrence in India. For example Gujarat separated from Maharashtra, and their new capital is appropriately named Gandhinagar. The names of capital cities of Maharashtra, Bengal, and Tamilnadu are changed accordingly in the recent past to reflect their past cultural heritage.
Name is an important aspect of a culture, and Andhra Pradesh has an important and long historical heritage behind its existence, which must be reflected by the name of its new capital appropriately. Historically, the Krishna-Guntur region of Andhra Pradesh has been a focal center of Philosophy, literature, and religion. This place is memorialized by a number of eminent personalities of Andhra Pradesh who have made this region their residence. Several Andhra dynasties are well known not only in Andhra Pradesh, but across India. Satavahana, Ikshvaku, Kakatiya, and Vijayanagara dynasties come to mind right away. Numerous literary stalwarts also graced the land of Andhra Pradesh. Nagarjuna's Madhyamikavada is known not only in India, but across the world. It is a noted fact that Srikrishna Deva Raya composed his Amuktamalyada after a vision from Andhravishnu (also known as Srikakulandhravishnu), when he visited the temple in Srikakulam of Krishna district. Acarya Nagarjuna spent part of his life in Nagajunakonda monastery in Guntur district.
Satavahanas empire is the first significant historical state of Krishna-Godavari river basin. Satavahanas are also known for supporting Buddhist and Hindu religions equally. Krishna-Guntur region also has several firsts to its credit. The first temple of India was discovered in the Nagarjunakonda excavations in the Krishna river basin. The excavations also revealed inscription dedicated to Ashtabhujaswami, the first inscription dedicated to Vishnu, in his eight-armed form. One of the major Satavahana trading cities is Amaravathi. Several trade routes of India are connected mainly through waterways connecting cities across India. Amaravathi is a central city with two roads each passing from north to south on its right and left sides respectively. Selecting the name Amaravathi as the name of the new capital of Andhra Pradesh is a fitting reminder of this historical heritage. Linguistically, Amara is a Sanskrit word, which means 'eternal', or 'endless'. It is also the name of the capital city hosting the residence of King of Gods, Indra, eternally reverberating with fine arts entertaining gods, and goddesses endlessly.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
The Silk Road project is praised as a path to revive of trade between China and Europe as it once existed in almost 2000 years ago. However, the geographical landscape of the region has changed completely from what it was about 100 C.E to 300 C.E. During that time in history most of Middle East and Europe is united under the Roman Empire in what was termed Pax Romana by historians. Similarly China is united under the Han empire, one of the the largest empires of premodern China. Today China is united under one political state, but the case of Europe and middle east is different.
The case of Europe is changing since the foundation of EU (European Union).
From the sixth century onwards the historical silk road between China and Europe benefited Northern Eurasia more than it benefited India, China, or Europe. After the sixth century silk road trade declined between China and Europe due the decline of Roman empire in the Middle East, and Northern Eurasia began emerging as a powerful zone of power. Middle East and Northern Eurasia developed and Islam spread across this region between 7-10th centuries. The Mongol Empire of 12 century emerged out of this power vacuum, and China knows the results of such development more than any other nation in this world. As a result of the Mongol empire China went from being the largest and most prosperous state to a poor state in the 1300s. Similarly, large parts of India became part of the Islamic empire ruled by the Delhi Sultanate.
Unless China wants to repeat this history it is advisable to leave Silk-road to the forgotten past.
Friday, January 30, 2015
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Hinduism: Religion or Not?
“What‟s in a name?” asks an old saying, but the notion that a name is not necessarily synonymous with an identity has not stopped the western scholars of India initially from engaging in lengthy debates regarding the names given to particular peoples or religious practices. While naming “races” of peoples of India, and connecting the races to languages of India, occupied much of the early discourse on Indian ethnic identity, the current academic discourse centers on the use of the term “Hindu,” an umbrella term meant to identify and group the peoples associated with the indigenous religious and cultural systems of India. The conversation about the use of this term and what the term represents takes up more space in post- colonial studies than any other issue related to India or Indian history, culture, and identity.
The debate about how to classify the religion(s) of India is currently discussed without much agreement among scholars, leading to a rift; there are those who argue that “Hinduism” appropriately identifies an indigenous Indian socio-religious and cultural sphere, and there are those who argue that the purported “Hindu” identity is nothing more than a construct, existing only in the imagination of the West, conveniently but erroneously grouping a wide diversity of beliefs, practices, and traditions into a single, supposed entity. The subject of whether or not the term Hinduism legitimately refers to a religion has raged in Western academia for the last decade and continues to inspire publications.
Several scholars had demonstrated the use of the term Hinduism historically in India to denote religion of India, as well as contradicted superfluous arguments by several scholars of Hinduism, who argue Hinduism is a colonial construct. Scholars argue that Hinduism was known by that name as early as fifth century, which was used consistently to refer to the religious practice consistently until twelfth century. Then it is not hard to imagine what may have happened since twelfth century, and how regional traditions of Hindu religious practice become the norm, although distinct, but not different from Hinduism of earlier centuries. The next five hundred years is a period of religious discrimination and persecution in India. Temples were destroyed, festivals were banned, large gatherings such as Kumbhmela, and pilgrimages were also banned. So the practice of pan Indian Hinduism gives way to local and regional practices, due to lack of facility to connect widely. It was no surprise that by the time British arrived in India in the seventeenth century, Hinduism, might have looked like Hinduisms, with distinct practices in each region of India. It was no wonder the colonial views of Hinduism attempted understanding the many practices distinct in some aspects and similar in other aspects, and also the textual background of Hinduism.
Ancient sources of India, especially classical texts refer to religion as Dharma, and Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma, which means eternal faith. However, Hinduism is consistently referred by the name 'Hinduism,' since the early fourth century. However that did not stop scholars from suggesting that Sanatana Dharma was different from Hinduism without any substantial evidence, and recently a new field of study evolved in the western academia based on the argument that Hinduism is not a religion, but a colonial construct. All this because Hinduism is not referred in the classical texts by that name, but only as Sanatana Dharma. Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma, name is only secondary matter in India. The religion is eternal and its practice is established.
Indeed, the issue of name does not seem to be a central issue in India. Some children are not given a name until they are admitted into school, and even after that, they are referred to by numerous names. The child is then called by his or her given name in school and in other official settings but continues to be called by his/her various nicknames in familiar and informal environments. This does in fact cause some confusion but does not do great damage to either the child or those that refer to the child by these many names. In fact, the more popular one is the more names one acquires, which is also true of gods, goddesses, and religions in India. To be referred by only one name commonly in perpetuity is a western notion. Names multiply in India with increasing popularity. The exercise of questioning the existence of Hinduism as a religion seems to me to be one such confusion of names rather than any major issue with regard to Hinduism and its practice in India.
India's own indifference to its historical tradition is partly to blame for this state of things. Academic study of Hinduism in India is limited to a handful of universities which is also cited as one of the reasons by the Hinduism deniers as evidence of its non-existence as a religion in India. Under the garb of secularism successive governments in India since 1947 ignored Hinduism, while supporting traditions labeled as minority faiths such as Islam, and others with funds as well as permitting academic study in the universities. It might seem strange that universities in India would offer academic study of several faiths, but not Hinduism. It could only be hoped that academic study of Hinduism would be offered in the Universities in India soon.