7 Nov 2007
In a time when we are surrounded by sordid dramas in the neighbourhood, where anarchical sounds of dictatorship, violence and separatism from Islamabad, Kathmandu, Dhaka and Colombo combine with a perspiring and disillusioned Prime Minister in Delhi trying to find his feet, the strength to look joyous and light lamps of hope on Diwali can be derived only from sources that have defined and enlightened our land since ages.
On a mundane level, the question often asked is 'where is the light'? A painter who is in self-exile fearing reaction to his nude paintings of Sita, Mother India, Durga and other religious icons, was honoured with a doctorate at the Jamia Milia Islamia on October 30 in Delhi with three thousand students and a glitterati, consisting of a large number of Hindus too. The vice-chancellor, in the presence of the Vice-President of India, described Husain thus -' Maqbool Fida Husain, the most respected artist of our times'. An art gallery, too, was dedicated to this painter. The vice-chancellor described Husain's paintings as "a profound encounter with civilisational archetypes where the mythic and the secular collide". What is mythic and what is civilisational was not explained but one can try to learn these terms seeing Husain's paintings. It's difficult to understand what Mr. Husain has painted unless we see them. A student from Jamia has e-mailed me pictures of a couple of his paintings which perplex a connoisseur as to why such a 'top-end earning' name in arts should choose a nude style only when he has to paint Hindu goddesses? A few paintings' introductions go like this - Durga in sexual union with Tiger, Lakshmi naked on Shree Ganesh's head, naked Saraswati with Veena, Shri Parvati nude, naked Brahmin and naked Bharat Mata (can be seen on my blog- tarun-vijay.blogspot.com ), while other paintings describe a well-clothed mother of the painter, a fully attired Muslim lady etc. Why this se divide? Isn't it shocking and unacceptable? Would they show the same liberalism if the cartoonists from Denmark were also invited to a university here and conferred doctorate for their 'distinguished services to the world of art and caricature'? The spectre of India's seat of power and the elite in self-denial and a silence of the powerful reminds of that infamous 'private purgatory' period of Bush senior in the nineties. When US President George H W Bush was in office, an Associated Press article quoted a White House spokesman about punishing those expressing disagreement with the President's policies, threatening they would "suffer in their private purgatories.
Purgatory, of course, in Roman Catholic doctrine, is just like hell, only temporary - a place where souls suffer for minor, venial sins until they are sufficiently cleansed to enter heaven.
Are Hindus being subjected to such a hell through continuously making them suffer indignation and humiliation in a land which bears their mark unquestioningly on every inch of her vastness? Is it too much to recall one of those songs of agony read years ago with painful lines -
Eminent destruction of my body, Is this the deliverance I was expecting? Plunging my hands in my stomach... Waiting for the final butchery! Still continuing my pogrom on myself, Such horrible thing to taste, I'll never reach the end! Am I, blaming myself again! Sinful actions, I'm falling in despair!!! This terrible thing took my body and my soul! In a land which prayed for the good and happiness of all on this earth without discrimination - Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Niramaya (let all be contended and healthy) Hindus are refugees post-Independence, targeted by jihadis , Maoists and Christian rebels (in the NE), their tormentors are given state awards, and a continuity of light and wisdom brought to this era through a vicissitude of assaults and invasions is again threatened and mocked at by their own blood brothers. Those who find the assertive Hindu inconvenient, try to superimpose their own beliefs and ideas of their civilisation over the native one. Why?
Never in the history of mankind has a civilisation lived so long in a continuity that baffles the western observer, who is accustomed to look at universe in a 2000-year-old time frame. Hindus, alone are the people on this earth who are training their spaceships for a voyage to the moon while living traditions that go beyond the imaginable realm of five-thousand-year-old statistical data and literature. From birth to death, whether it's the commissioning of a new naval ship or muhurat of a Bollywood film, a huge mall for world class IT software or a new track laid for railways - the mantras that are uttered with the breaking of coconut and sprinkling of holy water are the same that were chanted during Mahabharata and Ramayana, during Vikramaditya's coronation and Shivaji's Rajyabhishek - enthronement. It's so obvious and natural to us that we fail to see the significance of the thousands of years' unbelievable continuity that we live in our daily lives - in our homes and offices. When the Chief Election Commissioner of India does his duty most elegantly, going beyond any doubts, he also sports the mark of this centuries old civilisational continuity on his forehead - in the shape of a Vaishnav tilak - a sign of his spiritual school of thought. The same mark was visible on the forehead of Guru Vashishtha, Guru Vishwamitra and ancient sages millenniums ago, who would be, ironically in today's secular days, asked to prove their existence through birth certificates. Our President shows the same mark of cultural flow on her forehead with pride. Sorry to say, all this is being subjected to go extinct in a methodical way helped by the same forces who destroyed Somnath. Hindus, in the land of Lakshmi, Durga and Kali, can't accept this destruction of their self in cowardice. And there are reasons to cheer up and light a lamp. A nation lives through her glorious past and the highest levels of academic achievements of their ancestors and not by denying or denigrating them. Why can't we be happily proud of our cultural ethos and the pursuits of our forefathers, and why a secularism is being imposed on us that demands to dispossess us of our spiritual wealth dismissing all that as 'myth' and 'communal obscurantism' while the world looks at us with admiration for those very values? Recently, Washington Shakespeare Company 'proudly' presented 'The Divine Drama Series- A Festival of Classical Sanskrit Theatre' with these words in its introduction - Like Greek drama and the works of Shakespeare, Sanskrit drama, which flourished in India from the first millennium BC to the first millennium AD, belongs neither to time nor place nor specifics of situation - it achieves universality through incisive specificity. Sanskrit drama allows the audience access to the fundamental essences of humanity through a process of stylized, meditative ritual...... Characters are often tested but for the most part remain unchanged. Heroic Romances, Epic Fables, Symbolist Fantasies, Political Intrigue and Urban Secular Dark Comedies - Washington Shakespeare Company's (WSC) "Divine Drama Series" has it all. Gaurav Gopalan, the imaginative producer-director at WSC hails from Delhi who studied Sanskrit before going to the US for realising his dream to 'produce Sanskrit Drama in the states'. He told me about his wonderful idea that drove him to places,-- 'I spent a year researching the canon and selected representative works to introduce Washington audiences to this rich theatrical tradition (Sanskrit plays from India written from 2 century BC to 12 century AD - or thereabouts form the longest continuous theatrical tradition in world drama and in its time the only significant drama occurring in the world (being preceded by the great Greek Classical Theatre and followed by Classical Chinese Drama) - a continuous and vibrant tradition lasting nearly 1200 to 1500 years; in comparison Greek Drama lasted around 300 to 400 years and England's Renaissance Drama - of which Shakespeare was a crowning achievement - lasted less than a century).' He met Christopher Henley, Artistic Director of WSC, who 'has a deep interest in world classics' and the ground was set for something unprecedented. He says, 'We started with performance and discovery workshops on the Divine Drama in early September. This included local professional actors who had shown an interest in the series. The discovery workshops focussed on The Abhigyan-Shakuntalam and were a detailed study of text and dramatic presentation. In the series I direct the reading of Shakuntala (which was a wonderful success), and the other Kalidas piece - the romantic court comedy Malavika-Agnimitram , along with the Little Clay Cart by Shudrak. Last week Jessica Lefkow directed two one-act plays adapted from the Mahabharata by Bhasa - the earliest extant Sanskrit playwright. We selected Duta-vakyam (The Messenger's Speech) and Uru-Bhangam (The Shattered Thighs) which book-end the great epic war of the Mahabharata and trace the fall of Duryodhana from a proud boastful king to a broken man. It was very successful and moving.' Isn't it ironic to see our genius being appreciated in Washington but humiliated in Delhi?
It's India that gave the oldest and the most scientific language Sanskrit to the world, our ancestors gave mathematics, invented zero, measured the circumference of the earth and the speed of light and evolved the science of medicine that encompassed surgery and the art of keeping healthy. Today, just to earn dollars, an atheist government invites tourists for 'Ayurvedic tourism' that has existed here since time immemorial in 'god's own country'. The numerals are still called Indian numerals or Hindse (in Arabic) because they are our gift. The most practical solutions to the problems of environmental degradation are found in the Upanishads and millions in this land still find it worthwhile to study the ancient wisdom even if it doesn't bring any Gurgaon-Bangalore type lucre and prestige in an era when destruction of Hindu icons is considered a sign of modernity and progressivism. More than one hundred and twenty newspapers and magazines in Sanskrit are published and villages and colonies are emerging where every one speaks in Sanskrit. ( http://www.samskrita-bharati.org/newsite/vision.php). Private spiritual channels are flourishing each day and the most 'secular' marketeers find it beneficial to produce millions of Sanskrit audio-video cassettes and CDs and start columns on Dharma. But it's only for a market and when it comes to state policies and vote banks, the reverse happens. A government which pursues a policy of indigenous language annihilation on a scale greater than the brutal pogroms of savages occupying Americas post-Columbus' discovery of an 'India', can't raise the levels of confidence and honour of a people in whose genes worshipping Lakshmi every Diwali as an invocation to light and prosperity intertwined with Dharma and culture is embedded inseparably. This Diwali let's pray for wisdom that would empower our nation on our foundation and not on a borrowed one. Eternal, ancient foundation, for an eternal modern outlook.
Some selected readers’ Opinions
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Is that light, the way and the truth?
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Namita , Indonesia , says: As an Indian woman, I would like to ask Hussain and all our so called intellectuals a simple question. We consider our goddesses a part of our families and our homes. If this was your mother, sister or daughter, would you paint her in the nude and display her in a five-star hotel or art gallery?(8 Nov, 2007 0840 hrs IST)Seema , Dallas, USA , says: What an article Tarun ji! Happy Diwali first of all. Shame on Jamia Milia for "honouring" Hussain for his bigot and derogatory paintings of Hindu Goddesses. How would they feel if we honour Rushdie or that Danish cartoonist in the name of art and journalism. It is a pity state of our nation and hard times for Hinduism that we have no self-respect left and are being insulted left and right. Also, it is a pity that media is not standing up against such bigots like Hussain and Karunanidhi. These people should be stripped of their Indian citizenship.(8 Nov, 2007 1120 hrs IST)Ham TVNS , Hyderabad , says: M F Hussain, the painter reminds me of Ghazni. He gets at this age the perverted pleasure by painting the Hindu mother goddesses of Vedas in nude. The Hindus in America, who helped the Bush Government to recite the Upanishad shlokas in the Senate, shall take up the cause. The Indian government, could not take any action but without shame boasted that they are tolerant. In fact, the mother goddess Saraswati represents the arts, literature, education (spiritual as well as academic) and the art of painting. This artist, it seems, has no belief in his art of painting. On behalf of Mr.Tarun I am submitting this and I hope this sees the light on the occasion of the festival of lights and makes all concerned bold and courageous to shower some sort of enlightenment on this misguided painter at least now. (8 Nov, 2007 1810 hrs IST)Ashok , Derby,UK. , says: Dear Tarunji, your brilliant article has certainly enlightened my Diwali, sitting here alone in front of my laptop in Derby in the UK. It's a cold blustery evening here but my heart was warmed by your inspiring article. I, however, remain an optimist about Hinduism and India. Hinduism is too vast, too big, too great, too powerful to be slighted by a man (great artist for his followers) like Hussain or a bunch of pseudo secular persons trying to honour him. (9 Nov, 2007 0208 hrs IST)
Kaustav Chatterjee , Chennai , says: Persons like MF Hussain come and go and are forgotten within 50 years or so but my eternal India lives on with its gods and goddesses for zillions of years. My urge to the fellow country men is not to despair as our culture alone will triumph in the end. [13 Nov, 2007 1240 hrs IST]manik , bangalore , says: Dear Tarunji, please start writing where and how Hindus need to improve. You have travelled to so many countries and learned about a variety of religions, cultures. For example, teach people how to bring more spirituality/conscience/reason and purity in celebrating Diwali, Holi, Vijaydashmi.[11 Nov, 2007 2153 hrs IST]ktej , usa , says: Wonderful article. Hats off to dear Tarunji and TOI. If these words do not open the eyes of the dishonest government politicians, I do not know what would. Thanks again. [11 Nov, 2007 0716 hrs IST]Dinesh , mumbai , says: Dear Tarun ji, Please accept my best wishes on the festival of light. We need people like you who keep doing work like this for empowerment of our great nation BHARAT. A great article. [10 Nov, 2007 1431 hrs IST]Pradeep , U.A.E , says: Shree Tarun Ji, all your articles are mind opening. Because of great souls like you Hindus are realising the value of their culture and taking pride in their religion. I hope such writings will continue in future also. [10 Nov, 2007 1055 hrs IST]Vijay Kumar Shrivastava , Morrisville,NC,USA , says: It is a great article by Tarunji at the time of festival of light. May God bless Mr. Hussain along with all other Indians.[9 Nov, 2007 2109 hrs IST]