The Victory of Puritanical Christianity Over Hinduism

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by SvgGrdnBeauty, May 19, 2007.

  1. SvgGrdnBeauty

    SvgGrdnBeauty only connect

    From the Livejournal Group Sanatana Dharma :


    Will the Bharatiya Janita Party (BJP) eventually demolish Khajuraho? My experience of living in India and teaching the children of right-wing Hindu nationalist children in an international school showed me that the BJP of India are no less violent or dangerous than the Taliban or al Qaeda. All over the world, the stresses of modernity are driving the religious into the camps of the fundamentalists, and making them puritanical and insane:

    NEW DELHI, May 18 — It’s a heady time for Indian contemporary art. Never before has it fetched such extravagant prices and acclaim abroad. Never before have Indians at home been so prosperous as to support a proliferation of galleries, exhibitions and even investment funds devoted to art.

    But art and its inevitable transgressions continue to provoke fury in Hindu nationalist quarters, leading stalwarts to shut down an exhibition, drive an artist out of the country or, in the latest case, send a young art student to jail for a final-exam project deemed offensive. The student’s arrest has prompted protests from prominent artists across the country and dominated newspaper headlines in recent days.

    The tempest began on May 9 when a lawyer accompanied by police officers and television news crews marched into the art department at the respected Maharaja Sayajirao University, a state-run institution in Vadodara, in western Gujarat state. (Gujarat’s elected government is led by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.)

    The lawyer, Niraj Jain, based locally and affiliated with the party, said he was aggrieved by several works exhibited on a wall in the department library, including a painting — or rather a digital enlargement of a painted work — depicting a female form wielding weapons in her many arms, evoking a goddess from the Hindu pantheon, and giving birth. It was the final-year art project by Chandramohan, a graduate student who goes by one name.

    The university, at the urging of Mr. Jain, persuaded the police to arrest the student and put him in jail. His crime, the city police commissioner, P. C. Thakur, said, was “deliberately offending religious sentiments.”
    In response Chandramohan’s fellow students swiftly cobbled together material from the art history department archives and mounted an exhibition to underline the obvious: that even ancient Indian art is replete with explicitly erotic forms.
    What came next seems to have startled the art world as much as the arrest did. The university’s vice chancellor, Manoj Soni, demanded an apology from the acting dean of the art department and ordered that the protest exhibition be closed.
    The acting dean, Shivaji Panikkar, refused and was suspended. The administration took down the protest exhibition and then sealed the art history archives. “They want to control how we interpret our past,” said Parul Dave Mukherji, a former art history professor at the university who was on campus that week grading final exams.

    Mr. Soni has offered no public explanation and has declined several requests for a comment. In a statement the university called the works “highly deplorable.”
    Chandramohan was released on bail on Monday after five days’ imprisonment and has gone into hiding. He could not be reached for comment.

    Mr. Jain, whose police complaint set off the art school crisis, said he was proud of his campaign. He described the student’s artwork as an attack on Indian culture. “I cannot tolerate any insult to our culture and to our god and goddesses,” he said in a telephone interview. He said he was also offended by a student painting in which a figure of Jesus was placed before a toilet.

    It is not the first time artistic expression in this country has been squelched by state institutions. In Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, a court charged M. F. Husain, perhaps India’s most famous contemporary painter, with obscenity because of a painting he made of a goddess in the nude. Mr. Husain now lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai. Because he had not appeared for court hearings, the court recently issued a notice directing that his property in Mumbai be seized. (The Supreme Court has issued a stay.)
    India is rarely lacking for paradox, and one of the most striking is that the puritanism of today’s Hindu radicals coexists with a long tradition of graphic sexual iconography. Hindu temple carvings often feature elaborate scenes of copulation. Among the best-known examples, at Khajuraho, in central India, was invoked this week in newspaper commentaries skewering what was referred to as the moral police brigade.

    Writing in the Tuesday issue of The Indian Express, a national daily, Peter Ronald de Souza, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies, a research organization here, said of the Hindu activists who forced the student’s arrest:

    “It tells us not just they do not fear the wrath of the law, and that they believe censorship is acceptable in the service of a cause, but also they are certain that their actions would meet with social approval. So did the Taliban.”

    His commentary was headlined, “Will They Blow Up Khajuraho?”



    Though not charged with any offense, Mr. Panikkar, the art department dean, has also gone into hiding. Friends have warned him that opposing Hindu radical groups in Gujarat state is inviting trouble — and not necessarily protection from the police — he explained in a cellphone interview on Tuesday night.

    Wearily chronicling the chain of events, Mr. Panikkar said he had refused to apologize for the student’s artwork out of “principles and conviction.” He said he was “baffled” by the university administration’s crusade against a student project.

    Asked how long he had taught on this campus, he suddenly broke down in tears. He said he was an alumnus of Maharaja Sayajirao University and had been a professor of art history there for 27 years. “I can’t bear it,” he said, weeping. “My life and blood is here. My institution, which I love so much.”

    Of course, all governments want to “control the past,” but, in this case, the BJP politicians want to refashion Hindu culture into a simulacrum of the puritanical religious culture of their body-hating, neo-Gnostic, Protestant former colonialist occupier. The irony is positively chilling. To paraphrase Nietzsche: “Look too deeply into the abyss [of modernity], and you BECOME the abyss!”

    More about the rise of Hindu fascism:
  2. Bhaskar

    Bhaskar Members

    *rolls eyes* My Guru was the founder of the VHP, meant to be a guild of swamis and teachers and a forum for dialogue and growth, but it was hijacked in no time. He refused to have his name associated with it after that.
  3. SvgGrdnBeauty

    SvgGrdnBeauty only connect

    ::nods:: its so sad to hear when things start out with good intentions and get corrupted like that.

    On a different note...I'm pretty sure that they can't touch Khajaraho because its protected as a world heritage site by UNESCO. But that's legally of course... ::le sigh:: I hate when people mix politics in with archaeology...its because of the worth of objects.
  4. Jedi

    Jedi Self Banned

    I know its terrible. People at my university are afraid of doing any archeological digs in India, too much government interference. I heard though, that it is the same for the congress government as well.
  5. niranjan

    niranjan Member

    The BJP and the RSS is important , in order to protect the interests of the hindus and their rights, no doubt, but this kind of fundamentalist attitude should also not be tolerated .

    The Hindus should become more assertive, in order to protect their interests and rights as the BJP and the RSS is doing, and at the same time go down on any form of religious fundamentalism by these guys as well.

    However at the same time, artists should also make sure that they don't use their artistic licence to promote vulgarity and depicting the beloved gods of the hindus in a vulgar manner, which will also hurt the feelings of the hindus.

    They should also be sensitive to the feelings of the devout hindus, and be more prudent in their artistic creativity .
    They cant complain of hurt feelings if they are violating the feelings of devout hindus themselves.
  6. nirmalamaya

    nirmalamaya Member

    Oh no....
    I hope that they dont/cant do anything to Khajuraho.
  7. snake sedrick

    snake sedrick Banned

    This is truly unbelievable. Don't you think the artists who did these sculptures were 'devout hindus'? Proabaly, they were more devout than many to-day with their anti sex puritancal notions.

    And the puritanism doesn't come as a result of western influence - it's innate in many schools of hindu philiosophy.

    As for art in general - there is nothing wrong with erotic art. It is the minds of those who are offended by it that need looking into.
  8. Jedi

    Jedi Self Banned

    I agree that they are fundamentalist but I disagree with you if you think they are protecting "hindu interests". I don't think holding unto a vague concept of Hindu pride is going to do much except harass some muslims or people who don't fall into their category of "Hindu".

    What Hindus need is knowledge about their own religion, no one has a clue of our philosophy. Sure, everyone knows about the vedas, upanishads, gita etc, but no one cares to hear whats in there. No one bothers to understand the spiritual gifts that India offers.
    So many Indians learn more about their own religion in USA than in India. In India, from what I have is all about being western, ha! in my own city talking in my own language makes me look "uneducated" to my own Indian folk. For them, I need to speak in english to gain respect. No matter what kind of an idiot I am, if I speak english well, I am considered very intelligent.
    People know telugu, but they still won't speak it. Sigh, I guess some blame it on a century of prejudice under the British Raj but I think it is our own fault. In fact, the british actually helped translate all these scriptures, they had more respect for these scriptures than Indians today... even if their interests were in preserving their own British Raj.

    but then again how can you blame the bollywood brainwashed Indian public we see today? I mean, how many people are going to understand this ancient understanding of humanity and human life? Even the very scriptures themselves declare that only after many births one comes to some understanding of these teachings. Knowledge does not flow to people who are incapable of understanding or showing interest in it.

    In reality, there are only very few real "Hindus" and most of them are not even in India and some of them are not even from Indian descent.
  9. Jedi

    Jedi Self Banned

    There was an artist (I think in New york) who made a potrait of Mary the mother of God in feces taken from cows or some other animal (It was probably an year ago, i am not really sure). A lot of christians were offended by it and with good reason.
    This is a similar situation, if you consider someone your mother, and another individual disregards the same person and insults your own mother, then you will feel offended. It is the natural reaction, they have the right to be offended by such things, just as this artist has the right to offend them, what the artist needs to do is be sensitive to these feelings if he does not wish to offend anyone. Ofcourse, incarceration is a little too extreme, but he should atleast say he is sorry-ofcourse unless he is foolish enough to think offending people is a great way to be famous or something like that.

    People do not and will not tolerate an insult to their culture.
  10. snake sedrick

    snake sedrick Banned

    But erotic temple art is part of Hindu culture, as are explicit books on sex like the Kama Sutra. It clearly stems from periods when people had a different, less uptight attitude towards sex.

    I doubt very much the artists concernd executed these works merely to get fame and fortune. I agree that some western art these days ets out to offend.
    However, the case of the Virgin made of excrement is also a comment perhaps on the corruption and rotteness in the catholic church, with it's cover ups of child abuse and so on. In that sense, it is a valid work of art IMO.
  11. niranjan

    niranjan Member

    Nothing wrong in these devout hindus who sculpted erotic poses of common people.

    It is erotic poses of the gods, who hold a high position in many hindus that I condemn, unless eroticism is made to depict a religious ideal , like that of shiva-shakti , and the shiva linga.
  12. niranjan

    niranjan Member

    They are indeed protecting hindu interests .

    And where have they harrassed muslims who don't fall into their category of "hindu". There are many muslims in the BJP in good positions, and the bjp fielded muslim ministers as well, when they were ruling.

    And why on earth do you think the Britishers introduced the MACAULAYS EDUCATION PROGRAMME during their stay in India, underrating Indian achievements and charecterising Indian sages as fools.

    As Karl Marx said, "Divorce a people from their heritage, and they will be easy to persuade." And the britishers exploited this psychological fact to their advantage, much to the disadvantage of India and the whole world.

    Vivekananda criticised severely Macaulays education programme, and it is noteworthy that it was his disciples, Bose and Gandhi, who thrashed the Britishers from India.

    Well, there are many in India who know the scriptures and practice them, and can be said to be real "Hindus" or aryas.

    And indeed there are many non-indians as well, who can be stated to be real "hindus " and aryas as well , which includes blacks, and have made contributions to hindu thought and culture.
  13. snake sedrick

    snake sedrick Banned

    Good job those ancient sculptors were on a more enlightened level then.
  14. SvgGrdnBeauty

    SvgGrdnBeauty only connect

    They prob. were. lol.
  15. kitty fabulous

    kitty fabulous smoked tofu

    I'm not Hindu, but as an art history nerd I have to jump in here and clarify what is hopefully just a misunderstanding regarding Chris Ofili's art, specifically, The Holy Virgin Mary and the artist's intent, rather than merely an ignorant knee-jerk attempt to forcibly interpret all art from the same limited religious, cultural and aesthetic viewpoint. In spite of the media bruhaha surrounding the painting's exhibit in the Brooklyn Musem of Art's 1999 "Sensation" exhibit, it is both presumptuious, and, I believe, quite incorrect to assume Ofili's intent was to insult and offend Christians.

    Ofili is of Nigerian descent, and studdied cave art in Zimbabwe, which affected his style. The use of elephant dung in The Holy Virgin Mary and other paintings is in reference to its ritual use, where it is a symbol of fertility. Ofili's work also makes abundant use of blaxploitation and gangsta rap images, and in The Holy Virgin Mary's case, images cut from pornographic magazines, usuing a collage technique combination with the elephant dung in order to challenge racial and sexual sterotypes. In this light, the elephant dung and erotic images combined with the Virgin Mary make a similar statement about sacred sexuality, in actuality depicting Mary as a sort of Mother Goddess of fertility (Mary Mother of God), and does so in a manner that jars our thinking and forces it to question and stretch our preconceived ideas in order to gain truer understanding of the work.

    The offense, as in the case of the student's banned art mentioned above, exists only in the eye of the beholder, which is in part the meaning behind the works.

    wikipedia article on Chris Ofili, also check out the image of the beautiful No Woman No Cry, featured in the article:
  16. Jedi

    Jedi Self Banned

    Interesting :D , well now that makes alot of sense, thank you Kitty fabulous... I didn't know that elephant dung is a symbol of fertility in Africa.

    But about the argument that the offense is in the eye of the beholder... the same could be said about the "non offense" . That is, we could say that 'non offense' is also in the eye of the beholder.

    In that, if you take a culture in which there is no notion that elephant dung is a symbol of fertility... and display this art, then you will get a very different reaction. The artist who does not want to offend such people , should be careful when displaying such an art piece to that culture. Here, the 'non offense' is in the eye of the artist.
  17. kitty fabulous

    kitty fabulous smoked tofu

    so are you suggesting artistic expression should be limited exclusively to culturally popular views? i am trying to understand your position regarding "non-offeniveness". as an artist, i could not bear to live in such a society! is not one of the functions of art to stretch and challenge our ideas, and encourage growth and change?
  18. ChiefCowpie

    ChiefCowpie hugs and bugs

    jedi, i noticed you called cow dung "feces" when in the hindu religion it is considered pure... for instance, murtis are bathed in cow dung to clean them
  19. snake sedrick

    snake sedrick Banned

    The implication being that sex is 'low' I suppose.
    The penis isn't to be depicted unless its god's penis.
  20. Jedi

    Jedi Self Banned

    No no, I am not saying that artistic expression should be limited to popular cultural views, but I am suggesting that any artistic expression involving things that are considered cultural can never not offend everyone, hence it will always offend someone. The artist should remain aloof to this and do what he has to do for the sake of artistic expression. However, if some one uses his artistic prowess to intentionally offend others, I consider him a fool.

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