Buddhism

Pattanaik is quick to seize on the “Suitable Boy” kiss: But Khajuraho analogy doesn’t fit

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Devdutt Pattanaik has again pulled a fast one. His twitter timeline has an image of a sculpture, most likely from Khajuraho, where a kiss is being performed. He followed it with another one such image. He taunts “Hindutva” and he mocks saffron warriors including True Indology.

Pattanaik has done so in response to the Netflix serial “The Suitable Boy” being in crosshairs for showing a kiss inside a temple. His import is Hindu Dharma has always been nonchalant about such activities, that sex was a part of life and openly exhibited in public view. That the Hindu dharma today is hostage to Hindutva extremists. And that the right-wing Hindu governments is fuelling it. He kills the other bird with one stone in dragging saffron warriors and True Indology. Who’s the boss here now?

The misinformation is deliberate. It hides that temples like Khajuraho were built when Buddhism was the flavour. When Hindu dharma was in retreat. So, a show had to be put on devdasis and apsaras. Shringara too which was one of the Navrasas. Such images were put on exteriors of temples so visitors don’t lose sight of their roots. People still kept their padukas outside the temple. Inside was still sacred. Pious and devotional thoughts were still encouraged. Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata still ran around the four corners.

Temples of past must be seen in their contexts. Cities came around temples and not the other way round. Temples were where artisans, writers, sculptors, poets could earn their living. The donation from the Kings and Rich kept the tradition, the folklore, the civilization alive. Music were performed. Debates happened. People gathered. The heritage received a fresh coat. Temples were more than just Gods.

But they were not Lodhi gardens or venue of sex escapades. They were still essentially abode of Gods. A place where a pure mind and a pure body could meet divinity. You were encouraged to wash yourself clean. Yogis did tapasayas, people took vows, sought forgiveness from the residents of heavens.  A Menaka was seen a temptation to break the sadhana of a Vishwamitra.

So it’s facile on Pattanaik’s part to spin a story which could show Hindutva as no different from Crusaders or Jihadis. Hindutva was a word coined by Veer Savarkar. He was an atheist and used it to define all who lived in India. This was to counter the assertion of Muslim fundamentalists of his times. “Hindutva” was a pamphlet published in 1923 when the Khilafat movement was at its peak and had gripped Mahatma Gandhi. Hindutva to him implied Hinduness of its people. It didn’t have religious connotations. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) also doesn’t use it in a theological sense.

Men like Pattanaik and Shashi Tharoor know how to please their masters. The narrative that India is in grip of religious extremism and Narendra Modi’s BJP is fuelling it. That Hindutva is the raging fire which would burn up Muslim homes, rape its women and leave its children destitute. That ultimately it would break up India in dozens.

The stance on “Suitable Boy”, if anything has come late. Netflix has been begging for censure for some years now. It surely is good business for Netflix to stoke controversy and there is no better way than to show Hindu extremism. Everyone watches the show, money keeps raining and those who promote Netflix—Left-Liberal moneybags of course—have their hands full with bounty.

Pattanaiks surely help in confusing Hindus. To sow division in ranks. To earn one more invitation to Indian consulate in Canada (never mind he would never praise Modi government for this show of Liberalism). One more pre-order of a million on next book.

So folks, no kissing in temple for me. No overlooking the agenda. No public relations exercise from Hindus. We would scream and we would exhort for that’s the only way we could throw off the weight of centuries. To strain every sinew of ours, to exert every vocal cord at our command. If we look bad, too bad.

 

Why “Shaktimaan” matters and not cows in India

We all know Shaktimaan the horse. From March 14 to April 20 this year, between its unfortunate injury and death, it remained a front page news on our lily-pure newspapers. Such love for protection of animals doesn’t extend to illegal cow slaughters. Never ever a word. Instead, cow-protectors are seen as a plot of Hindutva’s agenda. That veneration for cows, without VHP, RSS or BJP prop, doesn’t exist.

Before I am dismissed as a Hindutva foot-soldier, an anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim, anti-beef Hindu fundamentalist, let’s look at Indian constitution’s position. After all, this is where all hysteria should end.

Prohibition of cow slaughter is a Directive Principle of State Policy in Article 48 of the Constitution. It says: “The state shall endeavour…in prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.” On October 26, 2005, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity of anti-cow slaughter laws. Only Kerala, West Bengal and India’s northeast don’t have any restrictions on cow slaughter.

Before you burn me at the stake on beef trade, remember most beef produced, consumed and exported is buffalo meat which is not considered sacred to a Hindu. Besides, most cow-slaughterhouses are illegal. It’s a rampant illegal practice where cows are shipped to restriction-free states. Wikipedia says: “In 2013 in Andhra Pradesh, there were 3,100 illegal and 6 licensed slaughterhouses in the state.”

Sure, in practice, States take uneven position on the matter. Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have the strictest laws against cow-slaughter. Assam and West Bengal permit slaughter of cows 10-14 years old. In many states though cow-slaughter is a non-bailable offence. The terms of imprisonment could extend from a mandatory 6 months to 5 years.

So get this straight. Cow slaughter makes you a criminal in most of India. And please spare me this Hindutva tag. For cow slaughter was opposed by notable Muslims from the Mughals’ times.

Muslims and cow-slaughter

Emperor Babar ruled in 1526 that killing of cows was forbidden. Akbar (1556-1605), Jahangir (1605-1627), Ahmed Shah (1748-1754) all had restricted bans on cow slaughter. Yes, Aurangzeb deviated but Bahadur Shah Zafar completely banned cow slaughter in 1857. The de facto sultan of Mysore, Hyder Ali (1762-1785), punished cow-slaughter offenders by cutting off their hands.

It’s a fallacy that cow-slaughter in India began with the arrival of Islam. Vedas describe many gods such as Indra and Agni having preference for cattle meat. Sure the various invasions of Islamic rulers around 1000 AD made it common. Along with sacrifices of goats and sheet, cows too became a sacrificial animal, particularly on the occasion of Bakri-Id.

As in most things, British rule in India was trouble. They were used to eating beef. Slaughterhouses sprang up all over India. In 1944, British placed restrictions on slaughter due to cattle shortage. After all, they were required for transport, cultivation and milk among other purposes. But it came too late in the day. A historical survey, between 1717-1977, reveal that out of 167 communal riots, 22 were directly attributed to cow slaughter.

Arya Samaj, which opposed many existing practices of Hinduism in the 19th century, including idol worship, polytheism, child marriage, widow celibacy, the caste system, accepted the cow worship. Dayananda Saraswathi in 1881 opposed cow-slaughter as an anti-Hindu act. In 1683, Sambhaji, the eldest son of Shivaji, is said to have executed a cow-slaughter offender.

Ranjit Singh (1801-1839), founder of the Sikh Empire, banned cow slaughter throughout his domains. Cow was as sacred to the Sikhs as to the Hindus. Cow slaughter was a capital offence and offenders were even executed.

Let’s look at the stands of our revered leaders during British Raj. Mahatama Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malviya, Dr. Rajendra Prasad all had vowed to ban cow-slaughter in case India got its “Swaraj.” Let’s listen to Gandhi’s words: “Not even to win Swaraj, will I renounce my principle of cow protection…I worship and I shall defend its worship against the whole world. The central fact of Hinduism is cow protection.”

In 1966, Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan wrote thus to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi: “For myself, I cannot understand why, in a Hindu majority country like India…there cannot be a legal (cow slaughter) ban.”

Why Cows Matter

Animals have always been worshipped in India as deities. Elephant-god Ganesh, monkey-god Hanuman, Vishnu’s fish, tortoise and boar forms, their “vahanas” such as swan, bull, lion and tiger were all major deities. As well as snakes out of fear; and crows as the abode of the dead.

Cows are sacred to Hindus as a companion to Lord Krishna. Dairy products have always been essential in Hindu culture. Panchagayya, a mixture of five products of cow milk, curd, ghee, urine and dung, is consumed in Brahmanical rituals. Cows and bull—such as “Nandi”—have been the symbols of Dharma. Owning cattle was—and is—a status symbol in many parts of India. It’s dung is a source of fuel and fertilizer. Hence, its position as a maternal figure—“Gau Mata”– to a Hindu’s mind. Buddhism and Jainism both rooted for cow-protection.

It’s a delicious irony of history that Hindus and Muslims together revolted against the British East India Company in 1857 for being made to use gunpowder greased with cow and pig fat. As cow is sacred to Hindus, the consumption of swine is forbidden in Islam.

So recognize facts as they are. Sure punish where law is taken into hands. But for god’s sake, don’t think cow-protection is a political manipulation. It’s constitutionally guaranteed and you subvert it at your own peril.