Posted in History-Culture

Savithri Shaming, Besides Others…

So Loyola College has come out with an apology removing the ‘offensive and derogatory’ Art work on display in their premises this morning. The century old Jesuit institution can blame only the relentless missionary activity in the state/nation for drawing flak. Loyola is not above suspicion. Whether there is a hidden agenda is a million dollar question. Let me make that clear at the outset. 

https://swarajyamag.com/insta/chennais-loyola-college-apologises-for-art-exhibition-which-depicted-hindu-symbols-in-derogatory-manner

Recap of an earlier Blog post of mine. With Edits.

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From the pages of the SHE WORSHIPER HINDU WOMAN…

Not unusual for one to come across this new phrase in our hyper sensitive Social Media these days : SAVITRI SHAMING (Saavithri refering to Satyavaan’s dharm patni Savitri from Hindu Itihaas-Purana times)

This is in reference to women who take to the bottle.

Further detailing may kind of go on like how ‘rural women draped in saris are champions of chastity and character whereas urban Indian women are not averse to gulping down a peg or two (of alcohol what else).’ Urban Indian women lacked morals and are shameless (why limit us to alcohol, we women are not into the wrong side of 40s without watching our share of hard porn, take it from me).

I am not an experienced or routine traveler so there is not much I can draw from my life book in this respect.

But my visit to Italy changed in many ways how I perceived things for years. Conservative but not blind or superstitious – that’s me. Liberal wherever I can afford to be. Restrained at times – not because of religion or law but because of sheer will-power. Nothing can be forced upon me and neither is anything taboo to me. Sab Chaltha Hai! That’s the attitude. Well, of course, some people really have problem with that. I am asking, Padi Thaandadhava Ellam Pathiniyaa?? Nee Paarthiyaa??

Whatever little misgivings or apprehensions or confusions I had got lost when during my first foreign residence in Malaysia I had for neighbours two Chinese couples in the next villa. Who slept in the same room and who swapped partners overnight. Nothing more can shock me now therefore, and the strange encounters I have had and life experiences of half a century have made me different in many ways from most of my regular ‘dharam patni’ (self categorization) relatives and friends back home. Some of my views shock even my best friends. They have not been where I have been, they have not lived my life.

Loyola college Art show brings to my mind this: Have Hindu temples ever been criticized for their more explicit stone carvings on sex? Sanathana Dharma (Hinduism) is not an organized religion like Christianity or Islam or even Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. We have no founders, no holy book like the Bible or Koran, no Vatican or Mecca, no Pope or Imam who have set boundaries for us. No prescribed code of conduct. May be this is why Hindu Dharma has survived centuries of onslaught by alien cultures and invaders. I also had a chance to glance at the ancient Roman temples which had all been converted into Catholic places of worship in Italy. There is no more trace of the original faith of the land. The surviving few crumbling precincts are the only reminders to what Romans were before Catholicity took over.

Hindu Jain carvings at world famous tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage site the Khajuraho temples. These carvings depict men,women, gods and goddesses and Devas (angel like) in various positions of sexual union.
Erotic Vishwanath temple scultures at Khajuraho, India


The case of most Asian and European nations is poignant. They were all swept over by either Islam or Christianity, whichever reached their shores first or whichever fought successfully the other. Hinduism on the other hand was not to be vanquished from the soil of Bharatha. We are Bharath and hopefully we shall stay Bharatha to eternity.

Hinduism’s chief characteristic is its inherent ability to grow in the face of adversity, drawing in the positive influences in due course. However there have also been a few negative implications. Whereas you can be an atheist, you can still be Hindu, an idolator, you can still be a Hindu, a non-idolator, you can still be a Hindu, a meat-eater and you can still be a hindu, a vegetarian and you can still be a hindu, a ritualist and you can still be a Hindu,  and etc., and etc., Hinduism however did have a damaging impact by way of crippling practices borrowed or copied from practitioners of foreign faiths that confine women, subjugate women to a lower position than men and other corrupt ideas.

The millennia ancient Hindu temple sculptures reflect to us today what a liberal society India once was. After all this is the land of ‘Kama Sutra.’ The world’s first ever Sex manual was penned in India by Vatsayana two millennia past. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kama_Sutra

Homosexuality finds mention in ‘Mahabharat.’ ‘Soma bana’ (liquor) was the drink of celebration that even Gods could not resist. Shiva smoked chillum (Marijuana). But that did not prevent Him from being revered the Creator and Destroyer that He is of the universe. Neither has that stopped us Hindus from following Him. Shiva resided in the cremation grounds. Shiva’s extreme followers the Aghoris feed to this day on corpses – the dead human bodies in burial sites. Average Hindus do not shy of Aghoris who we regard as pantheons of the highest degree of spirituality and detachment and devotion: the true state of Nirvana.

A wonderful read on Homosexuality in Mahabharatha: http://devdutt.com/articles/mahabharata/on-krishnas-chariot-stands-shikhandi.html?fb_action_ids=778475405502878&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=feed_opengraph&action_object_map=%7B%22778475405502878%22%3A10150812094478251%7D&action_type_map=%7B%22778475405502878%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

Relieved that Hindu vigilantism was not there in ancient India. Had it been, neither would we have Kamasutra today nor Khajuraho. An Aurangzeb or Tipu Sultan wouldn’t have become our favourite (anti) heroes! Our self-appointed custodians of Hindu Dharma would have seen to that! Shame on to you the so-called literates of India! All your education has come to a naught! 

Today’s India’s backwardness can be explained with curtailment of our liberal creative ideas and a corroded outdated value system, and superficial imposition of caste divisions in the intermittent centuries (may be from 7th century CE to somewhat present day). Dominant sections of Hindus have been in the forefront promoting such a skewed and biased ideology and society that has rendered India the most damage. Europe soon woke up to rationality and there seems to be no looking back since.

Books like Da Vinci Code etc and those fictions I had read over decades did instill in me a strong sense of curiosity about what I was to witness in Vatican and Florence and Paris (although after a considerable lapse of time). I had indeed done but a mild and insignificant research before embarking on the trip. Yet nothing prepared me for the sense of awakening, rekindling and liberation and euphoria I felt walking through the galleries where centuries of indescribable creativity adorned their walls by way of oil paintings and tapestries and frescos that brought to life the uncountable facets of life and times in the middle-ages, as well as the rebel and cunning ways the wisest men devised to leave a piece of their mind for future generations to ponder over. It was for me, like walking through a time-machine. I literally transgressed into medieval age where men wore long robes (or none) and women strolled bare breasted and where in the chaos of the streets and war scapes, an arrow or sword piercing one’s chest was not as uncommon. Thank you Renaissance artists for the greatest gift. You gave life to my vivid imaginations. While I have found our Hindu temple sculptures enchanting, they were still mystical sort of. What I saw in the European museums was life frothing at full stream.

Michelangelo. I adored this genius for the rebel he was over his art. Taking a guide is advisable in Vatican. He can shed light into facts that you may otherwise overlook. Before Vatican I had already had an entralling visual treat of genitals of the French, the Roman, the Greek and others (from other galleries and museums only!) but nothing prepared me for what awaited me in the Catholic capital of the world.

The Sistine chapel was not to be photographed but many violated the rule clicking away their phones and cams clandestinely . I did not click pictures which I thought I could anyway google.

Here are some of Michelangelo’s mischiefs in the wall-to-wall frescos that I loved.  To borrow words from a critic, the Renaissance artists were the greatest trolls of all times. This at a time when an astronomer like Galileo could be guillotined for blasphemy (asserting that it was the Earth that revolved around the sun and not vice versa).

The six pack God in Creation
God’s exposed naked bums
The sissy priest Biagio Da Cesena with his crotch in snake’s jaw in Hell on the Day of Judgement
The Sistine Chapel, Vatican
The Renaissance Artists were the greatest trolls of all times!

To say that I was overcome with awe in Vatican could be the understatement of my lifetime. My admiration for the man was galloping in leaps and bounds by the minute that it hit soon the ceiling of the hundreds of years old chapel wherefrom the artist’s immortal life works caressed my eyes and soul at the same time. His damnation at hell of a priest (Biagio Da Cesena) who wanted to cover up the genitals (by way of boxers (?!)) (that the papal office successfully managed to in certain works of renaissance artists as we noticed in some cases) who was Michelangelo’s worst critic, with his crotch in the jaws of a snake was not nearly as shocking as looking at God’s bums after the rebel painted Him in six-packs because he reasoned, for a mortal man to be perfect when he knocked on the doors of the other world, the immortal God has to be perfect in the first place to receive him !

May be for seasoned travelers and voracious readers, this is stale news. Not for me. These details I never knew of, although I have read about renaissance artists. I skim, to be precise. Reading is for real intellectuals not for housewives like me. My knowledge of others’ scriptures (in this case the Bible) is also pathetic.

The rebel in the renaissance artists in an age when death stared from every corner of the street eager for any slight, their reckless courage and creativity – this is what impressed me the most.

Even in the holiest of holy shrines of Catholics, the excesses (?) were tolerated as a form of expression and art. In fact they were viewed as something aesthetic, the same way hindu kings imagined when they commissioned our temples.

History has recorded the bloody Crusades and to what extent Church unleashed brutality and exercised unrestrained powers matching that of emperors in the agonizing centuries.

But such a powerful tyranny hardly prevented the creative geniuses from expressing what they wanted to by way of sculptures, paintings, frescos and tapestries which have all survived the tumults and jolts of a war-torn era to present times to bring to  life in front of our eyes, proofs of rebellion and non-conformity and liberation of  mankind.

How many Hindus can deny what Hindu temple sculptures depict. Are you ashamed to look at them because our Gods are copulating in public. Do you denounce our temples because they are explicitly erotic carvings.

What happened to the spirit of Hinduism?

In the intervening centuries, Arabic/Persian/Mongol/Turk/European invaders had managed to wrap the ‘Sari pallu’ over the head of Hindu women (at least partially). South Indian Hindu women used to cover their heads with sari pallu only when widowed  (no more now). (some Hindu women do cover their heads when driving scooters with the dupatta serves as sun-screen. Very common sight in Indian roads these days). Right Wingers, you have anything to say on this.

If I am a vegetarian today, it is by choice. I recommend vegetarianism to anyone and everyone but would not want to force it down the throat of any one. I am spiritual, I follow the rituals that I am comfortable with, but I have still raised a son who, I can proudly say, claims to be agnostic. Logical, reasoning, scientific. Being rational is not a crime.

Covering up will not cover up your ‘karma’ and smoking or boozing or even prostituting has got nothing to do with one’s character or integrity. Smoking or Boozing or Eating Meat or Prostituting is still better than lying, cheating, betraying, judging people. Even lacking affection is a crime. Shirking responsibilities is the worst of all. Shifting blame no better. Dashing hopes? Get offended for right reasons. Know the difference.

I was reading a Karma story that went on like this:

A king was feeding the poor. An impoverished brahmin was in the queue to receive his thali from the king. A vulture was flying over the place then with a viper in its talons. A drop of the viper’s venom fell in the food from a height of over a hundred meters. It was a miniscule dose but enough to kill the brahmin who was relishing it in total trust in the cool shade of a tree.

A few days later, a traveler was visiting the kingdom. He noticed an old woman selling her wares in front of the king’s palace. The traveler was tired and asked the old woman whether he would receive charity of food if he knocked on the Raja’s doors.

The woman said, ‘don’t. because the king gave food to a poor brahmin. on eating it the man died. the king poisoned and killed the brahmin. so he could kill you.’

The traveler turned away from the palace gates on hearing the story, hungry to his bones.

Later, in (Hindu) hell (we also have heaven and hell, mind you!), Yama Raja was seated on his thrown when Chitra Gupta brought up the matter of deciding the Karma of this incidence.

‘Who should get the bad karma, my lord?’ Chitra Gupta asked Yama. ‘Because a man, that too a brahmin has been killed. This man did not meet his natural death. So the bad karma in this context needs to be accounted. The snake’s venom killed it. But the snake was carried by the vulture who had no intention of killing the man just like the raja. But if not for the king’s food, the brahmin would not have died. So should I apportion negative Karma to all the three parties – the snake, the vulture and the king?’

Yama Raj took a minute to ponder over his question. Then he addressed Chitra Gupta, ‘the king, the viper and the vulture are all parties to the bad karma that killed the brahmin but inadvertently, so are they all not innocent parties?’

‘But bad karma is bad karma, my lord, and the karma has to be accounted, as you know’ said Chitra Gupta, ‘this is the law of nature!’

And Yama Raj declared, ‘in that case add the bad karma to the old woman who gossiped not knowing facts, for lying,  for misconstruing facts and for misleading deliberately. Her involvement may not matter but in this case she must carry the unaccountable bad karma of the unnatural death!’

Chitra Gupta hailed Yama Raj’s ruling. The king of Death never made a mistake. Day of Judgement may be for Catholics but dear self-made Hindu vigilantes, this is what Hindu Philosophy is about. This is Hindu Dharma. This is Hindu Karma. I am not sure where I found this gem. Panchatantra?

Hinduism is the least judgmental fold in the entire world. There is no yardstick by which you can define the Sanathana Dharma.

Guys, keep your dharam patnis within four walls if you want to. But remember we have also had a Panchali in our history. Cross out your new lingo ‘Savithri Shaming.’ Shame on you. As Indian women make remarkable strides in the world arena, the prejudices against them ceaselessly persist. I am the woman who sports a bindhi and I am still the woman who has no qualms about raising a toast with my friend with – vodka or cognac even though I am vegetarian from birth. I am the woman who is Lalitha worshiper, I am the woman who celebrates ‘Her’ over ‘Him’ and I am also the woman who will brook no nonsense over branding or judging women. Cheers to that !

It is those societies who rise above a petty and narrow mind-set that finally succeed and excel.

America does, Europe does, China does because they are not advocating the diktats of a God who none of us have ever met with in heavens and come back from, to share our experiences.

If you are going to confine Hinduism to cows and sari pallus, getting offended for anything and everything and nothing, none can do more harm to the Dharmic fold than you. Give creativity the space it deserves. Hindu Dharma is so vast and diverse, a way of life like none other, that you don’t have to react to every Tom, Dick and Harry who may malign (intentionally or otherwise) the faith. Hinduism is all absorbing like the very Ganga that your sense of insecurity is unwarranted. After all this, I cannot suppress my rising jubilation that someone dares.

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PS: In Middle East, I am seeing a lot of rebel art from the war torn hell holes. I am in Loyola College position right now! Considering where I am, I cannot go forward and post pictures here! Art is representative. Art I understand is a subtle medium to convey a message. Art reveals the pain, the ache, the yearning, the craving and even the absence of soul. Art confronts the demons. Art speaks the unspoken word. Art is bold and Art can open your eyes. Art for Art’s sake please! The art that moved me to tears was from Iraq. At that time, I ceased to be a Thamizh, a Hindu, an Indian. I became Humanity.

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