Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Padmavathi discourse - Rajat Mitra

Rajat Mitra
Survivors, Memory and the Burial of Truth in Bollywood

There is a well known book on the eminent director Steven Spielberg’s making of the movie ‘Schindler’s list’. The book was written by a polish reporter who worked with him and was fascinated by how Spielberg dealt with a highly sensitive and emotional topic as holocaust in Poland. As he writes, ‘Spielberg went to Poland to talk to numerous survivors, read avidly on everything on the subject, talked to people who told him about their memories to understand the subtle emotions that people carried in order to understand the tragic reality that remained enveloped for a community’.
I had read that book at a second hand store. The book is a revelation on how you make works of art, especially books and films on sensitive topics such as war, genocide and gulags.

The author talks of the core theme of the novel Schindler’s list as being the pain of the community that is not understood and difficult to project on screen. The pain the Jews felt at being thrown out of their homes having lived in for centuries, being herded like cattle in trains to be killed in mass extermination camps and the silence of the world, all were issues that stared them in the face. He writes of the dilemma of the director as not just how to show the pain in day to day events as it actually happened but also the emotions the present generation Jews still carry about that chapter of their 2000 year old history.

Of all the writings I have gone through about Rani Padmini (Rani Padmavati), I find the story by Abonindronath Tagore, nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, to be one of the best. When I first read it as a teenager, I understood and felt the dilemma of the queen at being responsible for the suffering of her people. As Rani Padmini began to realize that her beauty is the cause of so many deaths in Chittor, her desperation and holding herself responsible for it is was described poignantly by the author. I understood that she wasn’t a vain, narcissistic woman who was self absorbed. Her ambivalence, her dilemma not only I felt in every sentence of the story, it was so real that it took my mind to a land where valor and honor ruled supreme and kings and queens faced a tragic reality together. Nowhere while reading it I felt she was egoistic as a queen but the people of the fort loved her and she loved them back befitting a queen. That made it worse for her as she saw the upcoming massacre.

To me the stories of Spielberg and Bhansali have an uncanny similarity but their styles as a film makers come as just diametrically opposite to me while dealing with sensitive issues. Both directors depict an issue and an era where lust, greed and power tried to overcome every human moral virtue of what was good in society. The irony is that while one researched it by going in the hearts of people, studied in depth to make it a story depicting human condition, the other is how a mass tragedy is converted into a mindless entertainment and turned into an insensitive drawl.

I remember a visit with my father to Chittor fort when I was fifteen. We were taken around the fort in a tonga, a horse drawn cart. I have forgotten most of that journey except three things the tongawala showed us. The first was the mirror in which he said Allaudin Khilji saw Rani Padmini, the second where the women of Chittor committed Jouhar and the third where Allaudin Khilji rested for three days in Rani Padmini’s palace before going back.

His voice was full of grief as he told us the story and showed us around, especially the second place. The story, he said, he had heard sitting at the feet of his grandmother with other children. His voice full of emotions was soon replaced with pride as he told us why the Ranas of Chittor are called Maha Ranas and no train from Chittor will ever go to the center of Delhi [it was true then]. At that time they stopped before reaching New Delhi station. He talked of the warriors, Gora and Badal and described their valor as how they were central to the story of Rani Padmini.

The grief of the Rajputs and perhaps much of the rest of India over that incident is not over and perhaps won’t be for a long time to come. The Jouhar, where thousands of women immolated themselves, are an image every Rajput child carries inside as his or her identity. Through stories, the grief has been passed on from generation to generation. Till the time efforts are made for a closure through acknowledgement, through poetry and literature by later generations, the trauma of a society will not be laid to rest and will continue to haunt

Sadly the films with the likes of Bhansali and Bollywood do nothing of the kind. They don’t bring a closure. They do the opposite of that. They open raw wounds again and fragment us as a society even further due to their insensitivity.

The film by Spielberg on the other hand took a giant step towards bringing in a closure by portraying a painful chapter of Jews with sensitivity, research and humility. A reason lost to the film makers of Bollywood and why they fail to achieve this goal that can bring in healing of a lifetime. They don’t understand such movies are about survivors and their feelings, first and foremost. Witness the actress, Deepika Padukone saying, ‘We have regressed as a nation’. No, we haven’t, Ms. Padukone. The whole of Bollywood industry needs to grow up from a culture of insensitivity into a mature industry.
The image of Jouhar has become an indelible identity for Rajputs and perhaps for many Indians who will hold on to this past of their ancestors that is fragmented and full of humiliation for an entire race. The images existed then as an island of resistance in midst of brutalities by Mughals. Today their existence is challenged by historians and liberals who try to crush it saying that our past should not be defined by the survivors and their memories but by the very absence of it.

If a director like Bhansali would have made Schindler’s list, would he have shown Jews dancing in groups wearing fancy costumes before being herded like cattle in trains for gas chambers? Would Deepika Padukone acting as a Jew, be having a fantasy about some Nazi officer singing a song? Why not in the name of artistic freedom or in the name of free speech, some might say.

Who will care if the sensitivity of a race whose women killed themselves regularly to protect their honor be lost in that process to the future generation? Didn’t the British believe we Indians are regressed and ruled us based on that hallowed principle. Isn’t it a question of freedom of expression?
A spokesperson for congress recently said that female literacy rate in Rajasthan is more important than the current Padmavati debate. Sure, why not Mr. Spokesperson? Self respect and honor – they come only after we learn to speak English? They are meaningless till our society becomes English language savvy and people are able to speak in a polished manner? Till then we will let others define it for us?

A familiar argument of colonial times given by ‘Barra Sahibs’, ‘Why discuss certain things in front of natives? Natives can’t think after all’.

A columnist, a socialite, who represents a vast mass of intellectuals, too wrote in a national daily sometime ago. In her article she said she wants to protect the battle of this beautiful queen from the most savage attacks she has faced, more savage than the attack on her honor by Allaudin Khilji, in her opinion which is the current one. Perhaps a queen lusted at and at the center of a humiliation, the lives of thousands at stake is difficult to imagine for her. Perhaps she has forgotten that feelings of humiliation existed in those days too, in a far more raw and savage form than it is today. There were no hiding spaces for those who became the center of it unlike now.

She says cinema occupies its own universe. No, it doesn’t Ms. Author. Cinema is part of the same universe that you and I, a million Indians living in slums breathe in day after day and feel in their bones. It is reflective of your life, my life and is the universal human condition that governs the genocides, the fate that befell our people regularly from invasions and led to Jouhars. The longings and sufferings of those women while they immolated themselves in the fire or the Jews who were gassed in concentration camps remains a voice that hasn’t died.

If you cared to pause and heard the voices of the people you were making a film about Mr. Bhansali, you wouldn’t have made them dance and sing the way you did. You would show a voice of a people whose descendants then would have faith in you because someone is respecting their memory. Memory remains a raw nerve even after centuries of silence, Mr. Bhansali that will good for you to remember when you make your next film.

The Jews who died in camps, the women who immolated themselves still serve as a beacon of hope and light to millions of people. It is something the directors of Bollywood have yet to understand it seems whose vision of everything is entertainment first and is typified by dancing in front of the camera. Queens, Kings, survivors, their persecutors including all dance in abandon in Bollywood movies to show a peculiar human condition no film critic has figured so far. Who will tell them it doesn’t express the deeper emotions of mankind and its tumultuous history? The emotions that emerged during the times societies were in trouble and faced annihilation, the ambivalence and doubt that plagued them is of another kind.

The author of the above said column writes that the legend of Padmavati was invented by a Sufi saint and Rajputs are not the sole owners of her legend. Why, did Sufi saints have nothing better to do than create mythical Hindu women characters? 

History has countless interpretations as is claimed by our secular brigade. Only the one by survivors doesn’t figure in that according to them. And of course many interpretations are created by paid historians to sow confusion and doubt in the minds of survivors of the future generations so that the version of the victors remains the only one. The victims in every age had to fight to get their voice heard. When they didn’t their voice turned into deathly silence and was used for entertainment.

Like millions of others I also saw the trailer of the dance sequence of Padmavati. I felt full of disgust that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Whether that dance was done by Rani Padmini or not is not what bothered me. The image I carried of her was of a stoic noble queen who felt for her people and stood as a symbol of courage that was noble, just and upholder of human dignity of her people. When I had read the book by Abonindronath Tagore, I had felt an impending and unforeseen tragedy in the air that will wipe out her people forever and change the history of her land forever. When I saw the trailer, I felt none of those emotions.

The Bollywood film industry has not touched sensitive themes in a way like their counterparts in other parts of the world have done. Ours is an industry in transition, growing out of showing entertainment films to making films that may have a surreal, disturbing and painful quality. The genocides, the partition, riots and mass violence belong to that genre. I wish our filmmakers and actors would realize that sooner than later and make it following one cardinal rule. The survivors and only the survivors need to find their voice, their pain through the artwork and feel it has been heard and brought out sensitively. That is the rule every great art work and writer and director follows. In the process it may open a raw wound again but it is needed when truth is shown after being suppressed for long.

It is perhaps the first right of the survivors and not that of media, intellectuals or even historians to define that reality for us and to say whether that pain has been addressed or not.

The Rajputs, her descendants of the royal family, are the survivors of the horrendous carnage that took place centuries ago in the name of bigotry and lust. It is the descendants of survivors of those who deserve to be heard even if it is a whisper. Not hearing it can turn it into release of avalanche of emotions for the descendants.

When you make a film on trauma, a carnage that is as real in your heart as if it happened only yesterday, it is imperative to listen to that voice and that voice alone before anyone else. Otherwise it is the perpetrators voice that dominates and takes the center stage.

Our land has gone through many atrocities and the memory of those events remains suppressed but alive. The voice of the victims has been relegated to the background as not worth listening to. Let us listen to that voice now and hope that it reigns this time.

Deracination, and recovering roots and Sanskrit - Aatish Taseer

What Sanskrit has meant to me  

I had come to Sanskrit in search of roots, but I had not expected to have that need met so directly. I had not expected my wish for a ‘historical sense’ to be answered with linguistic roots.
Aged twenty-seven or so, when I first began to study Sanskrit as a private student at Oxford, I knew nothing about the shared origins of Indo-European languages. Not only did I not know the example given in my textbook—that the Sanskrit ãrya, the Avestan airya, from which we have the modern name Iran, and the Gaelic Eire, all the way on the Western rim of the Indo-European belt, were all probably cognate—I don’t even think I knew that word, ‘cognate’. It means ‘born together’: co + natus. And natus from gnascor is cognate with the Sanskrit root jan from where we have janma and the Ancient Greek gennaõ, ‘to beget’. Genesis, too.
And in those early days of learning Sanskrit, the shared genesis of these languages of a common source, spoken somewhere on the Pontic steppe in the third millennium BC, a source which had decayed and of which no direct record remains, absorbed me completely. Well, almost completely. The grammar was spectacularly difficult and, in that first year, it just kept mushrooming—besides three genders, three numbers and eight cases for every noun, there were several classes of verbs, in both an active and middle voice, each with three numbers and three persons, so that in just the present system, with its moods and the imperfect, I was obliged to memorise 72 terminations for a single verb alone.
And still I found time to marvel at how the Sanskrit vid, from where we have vidiã, was related to the Latin videre—to see—from where, in turn, we have such words as video and vision; veda too, of course, for as Calasso writes in Ka, the ancient seers, contrary to common conception, did not hear the Vedas, they saw them! Or that kãla, Time and Death, should be derived from the Sanskrit kãl, ‘to calculate or enumerate’—related to the Latin kalendarium, ‘account book’, the English calendar—imparting, it seemed to me, onto that word the suggestive notion that at the end of all our calculations comes Death. Almost as if kãla did not simply mean Time, but had built into it the idea of its passage, the count of days, as it were.
These thrills were so self-evident that I did not stop to ask what lay behind them. But one day, a few months into my second term, the question was put to me by a sympathetic listener. An old editor at Penguin. I was in London assailing him over dinner, as I now am you, with my joy at having discovered these old threads, when he stopped me with: But what is this excitement? What is the excitement of discovering these old roots?
An oddly meta question, it should be said, oddly self- referential, and worthy of old India. For few ancient cultures were as concerned with the how and why of knowing as ancient India. And what my editor was saying was, you have the desire to know, fine—you have jijñãsa, desiderative of jña: ‘to know’—but what is it made of? What is this hunting about for linguistic roots? What comfort does this knowledge give? And, what, as an extension, can it tell us about our need for roots, more generally? It was that most basic of philosophical enquiries: why do we want to know the things we want to know?
I grew up in late 20th century India, in a deracinated household. I use that word keeping in mind that racine is 'root' in French, and that is what we were: people whose roots had either been severed or could no longer be reached. A cultural and linguistic break had occurred, and between my grandparents’ and my parents’ generation, there lay an imporous layer of English education that prevented both my father in Pakistan, and my mother, in India, from being able to reach their roots. What the brilliant Sri Lankan art critic, Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, had seen happening around him already in his time had happened to us (and is, I suppose, happening today all over India).
‘It is hard to realize,’ Coomaraswamy writes in The Dance of Shiva, ‘how completely the continuity of Indian life has been severed. A single generation of English education suffices to break the threads of tradition and to create a nondescript and superficial being deprived of all roots—a sort of intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West.’
This is an accurate description of what we were. And what it meant for me, personally, as an Indian writer getting started with a writing career in India, was that the literary past of India was closed to me. The Sanskrit commentator, Mallinatha, working in 14th century Andhra, had with a casual ‘iti-Dandin: as Dandin says’, been able to go back seven or eight hundred years into his literary past. I could go back no further than fifty or sixty. The work of writers who had come before me, who had lived and worked in the places where I lived and worked today, was beyond reach. Their ideas of beauty; their feeling for the natural world; their notion of what it meant to be a writer, and what literature was—all this, and much more, were closed to me. And, as I will explain later, this was not simply for linguistic reasons.
I was—and I have TS Eliot in mind as I write this—a writer without a historical sense. Eliot who, in Tradition and the Individual Talent, describes the ‘historical sense’ as: a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense, he feels, compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but that [for him]—I’m paraphrasing now—the whole literature of Europe from Homer onwards to that of his own country has ‘a simultaneous existence’.
My problem was that I had next to nothing in my bones. Nothing but a handful of English novels, some Indian writing in English, and a few verses of Urdu poetry. That was all. And it was too little; it left the bones weak; I had no way to thread the world together.
The place I grew up in was not just culturally denuded, but—and this is to be expected, for we can only value what we have the means to assess—it held its past in contempt. Urdu was given some token respect—though no one really bothered to learn it—but Sanskrit was actively mocked and despised. It was as if the very sound of the language had become debased. People recoiled from names that were too Sanskritic, dismissing them as lower class: ‘Narindar,’ someone might say, ‘what a driver’s name!’ They preferred Armaan and Zhyra and Alaaya. The Sanskrit teacher in most elite schools was a figure of fun. And people took great joy at having come out of a school, such as The Doon School, say, without having learnt any more Sanskrit than a derisive little rhyme about flatulence.
What was even more dismaying was that very few people in this world regarded Sanskrit as a language of literature. In fact, Sanskrit, having fought so hard historically to escape its liturgical function and become a language of literature and statecraft, had in the India I grew up been confined once again to liturgy. And an upper-class lady, on hearing that you were learning Sanskrit, would think nothing of saying: ‘Oh, I hate all that chanting-shanting.’
Sanskrit was déclassé; it was a source of embarrassment; its position in our English-speaking world reminded me of the VS Naipaul story of the boy among the mighty Mayan ruins of Belize. ‘In the shadow of one such ruin,’ Naipaul writes in The Enigma of Arrival, ‘a Mayan boy (whatever his private emotions) giggled when I tried to talk to him about the monument. He giggled and covered his mouth; he seemed to be embarrassed. He was like a person asking to be forgiven for the absurdities of long ago…’
To have Sanskrit in India was to know an equal measure of joy and distress. On the one hand, the language was all around me and things that had once seemed closed and inert came literally to be full of meaning. ‘Narindar’ might have sounded downmarket to the people I had grown up with, but it could no longer be that way for me. Not when I knew that beyond its simple meaning as ‘Lord of Men’, nara—cognate with the Latin nero and the Greek anér—was one of our oldest words for ‘man’. Some might turn their nose up at a name like Aparna, say, preferring a Kaireen or an Alaaya, but not me. Not when it was clear that parna was ‘leaf’, cognate with the English ‘fern’, and aparna, which meant ‘leafless’, was a name Kalid ¯a sa had himself given Paravati: ‘Because she rejected, gracious in speech though she was, even the high level of asceticism that is living only on leaves falling from trees of their own accord, those who know the past call her Aparna, the Leafless Lady.’
My little knowledge of Sanskrit made the walls speak and nothing was the same again. Words and names that had once seemed whole and complete—such as Anuja and Ksitaja—broke into their elements. I saw them for what they were: upapada compounds, which formed the most playful and, at times, playfully profound compounds. Anuja, because it meant ‘born after’, or ‘later’, was a name often given to the youngest son of a family. And ksitaja, which meant ‘born of the earth’—the ja being a contraction of jan, that ancient thread for birthing, begetting and generating—could be applied equally to an insect and a worm as well as the horizon, for they were both earth-born. And dvi|ja, twice born, could mean a Brahmin, for he is born, and then born again when he is initiated into the rites of his caste; it could mean ‘a bird’, for it is born once when it is conceived and then again from an egg; but it could also mean ‘a tooth’, for teeth, it was plain to see, had two lives too.
So, yes: once word and meaning were reunited, a lot that had seemed ordinary, under the influence of the world I grew up in, came literally to acquire new meaning. Nor did the knowledge of these things seem trifling to me, not simply a matter of curiosity, not just pretty baubles. Because the way a culture arrived at its words, the way it endowed sabda with artha, gave you a picture of its values, of its belief system, of the things it held sacred.
Consider, for instance, sarıra or ‘body’. One of its possible derivations is from √srr, which means ‘to break’ or ‘destroy’, so that sarıra is nothing but ‘that which is easily destroyed or dissolved.’ And how could one know that without forming a sense of the culture in which that word emerged and how it regarded the body? The body, which, as any student of John Locke will tell you (1), had so different a significance in other cultures.
I thought it no less interesting to observe the little jumps of meaning a root made as it travelled over the Indo-European belt. Take vertere, ‘to turn’, from the old Latin uortere: we have it in Sanskrit too: vrt, vartate: ‘to turn, turn round, revolve, roll; to be, to live, to exist, to abide and dwell’. It is related to the German werden—‘to become’. From where we have the Old English wyrd—‘fate, destiny’; but also werde: ‘death’. That extra layer of meaning restored, it was impossible ever to think of Shakespeare’s ‘weird sisters’ from Macbeth in the same way again.
What Sanskrit did for me was that it laid bare the deep tissue of language. The experience was akin to being able to see beneath the thick encroachment of slum and shanty, the preserved remains of a grander city, a place of gridded streets and sophisticated sewage systems, of magnificent civic architecture. But to go one step further with the metaphor of the ruined city, it was also like seeing Trajan’s forum as spolia on people’s houses. The language was there, but it was unthought-of, unregarded, hardly visible to the people living among it: there as remains, and little more. There are few places in the world where the past continues into the present as seamlessly as it does in India, and where people are so unaware of it.
Neither is the expectation of such an awareness an imposition of the present on the past. Nor is it an import from elsewhere; not—to use the Academic’s word—etic, but deeply emic to India. For it is safe to say that no ancient culture thought harder about language than India, no culture had better means to assess it. Nothing in old India went unanalysed; no part of speech was just a part of life, no word just slipped into usage, and could not be accounted for. This was the land of grammar and grammarians. And, if today, in that same country, men were without grammar, without means to assess language, it spoke of a decay that could be measured against the standards of India’s own past.
That decay—growing up with as little as I had—was what lay behind my need for roots and the keenness of my excitement at discovering them. It was the excitement, at a time when my cultural life felt thin and fragmentary, of glimpsing an underlying wholeness, a dream of unity, that we human beings never quite seem able to let go of. But there was something else. In India, where history had heaped confusion upon confusion, where everything was shoddy and haphazard and unplanned, the structure of Sanskrit, with its exquisite planning, was proof that it had not always been that way. It was like a little molecule of the Indian genius, intact, and saved in amber, for a country from which the memory of genius had departed.
1 ‘Though the Earth, and all inferior Creatures be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the State of Nature hath provided, and left in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property.’


"For the benefit of the pretentious ignoramuses, let me say that Sanskrit is not all mythology and mumbo jumbo."

Anand Rajadhyaksha says
"A wonderful perspective by Narayani Ranganathan on why Sanskrit.
It is a right step by this Government whose impact will be seen 15-20 years later.
Meanwhile, I have a question: when I had passed SSC in 1973, Sanskrit and French were optional languages. You could take either of them. Most convent schools offered French.

Just how many of those who learnt this International Language, spoken in more countries around the World than English, have taken matters forward to benefit from this exposure to French?
The HRD Ministry will have to make more opportunities available for those studying our heritage. Investments will have to be made in encouraging studies that unravel the wealth of knowledge that Sanskrit holds and will have to be harshly monitored to ensure that they do not become sinecures nor pastures for parasites. Knowledge would be forthcoming in the field of architecture, especially eco friendly low cost habit for rural India, water preservation and health, apart from literature. For the benefit of the pretentious ignoramuses, let me say that Sanskrit is not all mythology and mumbo jumbo. "
Narayani Ranganathan In the recent Sanskrit controversy, there are two things I have gathered from the posts on FB.
One, that most minorities in India are vocal about not giving any ground to anything that has anything to do with majority's religion - Sanskrit is a thing that they believe is one of them (They don't think of it as an ancient heritage of this land to be preserved) Their argument is that putting it on school curriculum would be communal.
In that, a particular gent from the world of advertising comes to mind. He has said in his FB posts that he prefers Urdu to Sanskrit, and would support that being included into the school curriculum. Strangely, never does he think his open baiting as communal.

Two, Hindu apologists who are very embarrassed about it. They cannot segregate between religion and heritage either. Strangely again, the repeated baiting by the above mentioned gent comes across to them as rational, never communal.
My two bit. Think of Sanskrit as heritage - something that has to be preserved. It has noting to do with ANY religion. Merely India's past. Save on the bile.

Aparna Krishnan Any way are we so apologetic about religion ? The majority of our country is deeply religious and their dharmam revolves around religion. And Sanskrit does also hold religion in its vastness. Yes, we should also have Urdu.

Aparna Krishnan  Just because the BJP have brought this us, a mindless response seems to be to treat Sanskrit itself as untouchable. Added to this is a deep disdain for all that is indian. 

Kannan Thandapani The problem is not about Sanskrit or Hinduism.
As long as a specific way of life, or a specific language is projected as superior or the mother of ALL or the ONLY heritage of India, we will continue to have these debates. ( Not you, but you can see the
ruling parivar, and friends on your own threads doing it). The left-out others will continue to object. (and then be branded as leftist or Dravidian)

Why is there not an equal urgency to protect and promote the Pali/Prakrit heritage, or the Tamil or the tribal heritages? Why are we not celebrating Dhammapada and other Buddhist/Jain texts as equally precious as the Gita or Upanishads? Why would we not hail Sangam literature as a pinnacle of poetic achievement that needs to be savoured by all Indians? Why can we not hold Tholkappiar on the same pedestal as Panini?

It is easy to dismiss the dissenters as pretentious ignoramuses. When the move to promote Sanskrit is accompanied by equally sincere measures to preserve and celebrate our Other cultural heritages, the genuine suspicions will give way to a hearty welcome.

Aparna Krishnan Totally agree Kannan. Yes, it does sound monolithic, but I assumed that it was because here the issue has been Sanskrit as it has been the topic brought up by the Education Minister. Every vernacular and every vernacular literature is important. It is not either-or, but and-and-and. And I do not think Naveen's position would be different. Naveen ?
Aparna Krishnan My major issue, and there you would be completely on board, is the dismissiveness of the educated indian towards things indian. that is part of our very education, and our colonied mindset. In the issue under discussion, Sanskrit has been at the receiveing end. In another situation if a school were to convert its uniform from skirt-socks-belt-tie (I grew up like that, sweltering in socks and shoes in delhi heat !) to pavadai, dhavani can you imagine the uproar. That is what I am addressing in my defence of Sanskrit.
Aparna Krishnan The educated indian is the bane, having got so deeply colonied. Very often the 'respect' for tradition is for a uprooted culture, as shown by admiring and learning classical dance and music, and not by incorporating in daily life, as shown by dressing in simple indian mores only, speaking indian only ... Sadly by admiring consciously and unconsciously things western, in the reveres etoken they look down on the ordinary and poorer Indians who speak indian (and broken English), dress indian ...
 Naveen Manikandan Periasamy Kannan Thandapani Yes, Tamil and vernacular languages should take precedence over Sanskrit. But, while I object to imposition of Hindi, I find that encouragement of Sanskrit will bolster the attempt to preserve regional language. I have great regard and pride for Tamil, but Dravidian politicians who want to remove the spiritual element in Tamil are not worthy of assuming the role of preservationists. They do not even know how far the language dates back and what the palm leaf manuscripts are all about.

Sanatana Dharma - Sunny Narang

23 November 2015 at 11:08 ·(via Sunny Narang)
Hinduism includes a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions, but has no ecclesiastical order, no unquestionable religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book; Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monotheistic, monistic, agnostic, atheistic or humanist.

... The west has no single word for "Dharma" .

You can call yourself , what you want , that is the freedom of being on this soil and land. What is essential is that you believe that there is a link between your infinite inner space and the cosmic space , between your being and the nature that surrounds you . That life is a journey to be discovered , with or without a concept of God .
And that no one else has a right to impose their path on you . We keep having dialogues and communion " Satsang" and we also fight and war on our understanding of the various interpretations . We influence powers that be to follow our path but in the long cycle of the times , what we vanquished can rise again , and what won can go into hibernation .
But nothing that has been founded on this soil, has ever believed that its path is the sole truth and the only truth. From Rigveda and even before that , our nature is multiple pathways and multiple seekers .
Sunny Narang
#PerpetualWanderers #LandOfEternalSpiritualDiscovery #IndefinableIndia
Vedic ? Sramana ? Sanatan Dharma ? Hindu ? Sampradaya ? Hindutva ? Arya Samaj ? Lingayat ? Ramakrishna Mission ?
Anyone living on this land , forget anyone outside gets confused by actually what to call oneself as an "religious" identity compared to , lets say a Christian or Muslim or Jewish . According to our land's understanding these are Sampradaya , a lineage of a school started by a single Guru/Messenger/Messiah .
The Rigveda itself indicates that Truth is one - "ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti agnim yamam matariswanam ahuh" (meaning Truth is one, but the learned refer to it in different names like agni, yama, matariswan).
So we are not a "religion" , we are a system of knowledge and experience that celebrates seekers of eternal cosmic truth/s . And there are many "sampradaya" or "ways" . Vaishnava , Shaiva , Shakti, Tantra , Buddh , Jain are all sampradaya . They compare to the Semitic ways .
The west has no single word for "Dharma" .
You can call yourself , what you want , that is the freedom of being on this soil and land. What is essential is that you believe that there is a link between your infinite inner space and the cosmic space , between your being and the nature that surrounds you . That life is a journey to be discovered , with or without a concept of God .
And that no one else has a right to impose their path on you . We keep having dialogues and communion " Satsang" and we also fight and war on our understanding of the various interpretations . We influence powers that be to follow our path but in the long cycle of the times , what we vanquished can rise again , and what won can go into hibernation .
But nothing that has been founded on this soil, has ever believed that its path is the sole truth and the only truth. From Rigveda and even before that , our nature is multiple pathways and multiple seekers .
Veer Savarkar has his own socio-political understanding like "Hindutva" , just as Gandhi has his "Satyagraha" , or Ambedkar his , or Periyar his own .
For me all political thought is like a social-power "sampradaya " , ultimately all come under an understanding of "Eternal Cosmic Order" which is way above any sect , spiritual, political or ideological .
For me " Sanatan Dharma" is the concept. The Eternal, from forever to forever , the search for the experience that is the deepest foundation of our being . Everything else is bound to a "sampradaya" .
The history of wandering monks in ancient India is partly untraceable. The term 'parivrajaka' was perhaps applicable to all the peripatetic monks of India, such as those found in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism.
Śramaṇa (Sanskrit: श्रमण, Samaṇa in Pali) means "seeker, one who performs acts of austerity, ascetic" .
The Vedic people see Sramanas as parallel to them. It is very possible that many mystic and ascetic spiritual traditions thrived which were pre-Vedic .
One of the earliest recorded use of the word Śramaṇa, in the sense of a mendicant, is in verse 4.3.22 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad composed by about the 8th century BCE.
The concept of renunciation and monk-like lifestyle is found in Vedic literature, with terms such as yatis, rishis, and śramaṇas. Early Vedic literature from about 1000 BCE, mentions Muni (मुनि, monks, mendicants, holy man), with characteristics that mirror those of Sramanas. Rig Veda, for example, in Book 10 Chapter 136, mentions mendicants as those with Kesin (केशिन्, long haired) and Mala clothes (मल, dirty, soil-colored, yellow, orange, saffron) engaged in the affairs of Mananat (mind, meditation).
Rigveda, however, refers to these people as Muni and Vati (वति, monks who beg).
केश्यग्निं केशी विषं केशी बिभर्ति रोदसी । केशी विश्वं स्वर्दृशे केशीदं ज्योतिरुच्यते ॥१॥
मुनयो वातरशनाः पिशङ्गा वसते मला । वातस्यानु ध्राजिं यन्ति यद्देवासो अविक्षत ॥२॥
He with the long loose locks (of hair) supports Agni, and moisture, heaven, and earth; He is all sky to look upon: he with long hair is called this light.
The Munis, girdled with the wind, wear garments of soil hue; They, following the wind's swift course, go where the Gods have gone before.
— Rig Veda, Hymn 10.136.1-2
The Śramaṇa movements arose in the same circles of mendicants in ancient India that led to the development of Yogic practices, as well as the popular concepts in all major Indian religions such as saṃsāra (the cycle of birth and death) and moksha (liberation from that cycle).
The Śramaṇic traditions have a diverse range of beliefs, ranging from accepting or denying the concept of soul, fatalism to free will, idealization of extreme asceticism to that of family life, wearing dress to complete nudity in daily social life, strict ahimsa (non-violence) and vegetarianism to permissibility of violence and meat-eating.
Buddhist commentaries associate the word's etymology with the quieting (samita) of evil (pāpa) as in the following phrase from the 3rd century BCE Dhammapada, verse 265: samitattā pāpānaŋ ʻsamaṇoʼ ti pavuccati ("someone who has pacified evil is called samaṇa").
The word śramaṇa is postulated to be derived from the verbal root śram, meaning "to exert effort, labor or to perform austerity".
The śramaṇa refers to a variety of renunciate ascetic traditions from the middle of the 1st millennium BCE.The Shramanas were individual, experiential and free-form traditions.
The term "Śramaṇas" is used some Indian texts to contrast them with "Brahmins" in terms of the their religious models.
Part of the Śramaṇa tradition retained their distinct identity from Hinduism by rejecting the epistemic authority of the Vedas, while a part of the Śramaṇa tradition became part of Hinduism as one stage in the Ashrama dharma, that is as renunciate sannyasins.
Sanātana Dharma (Devanagari: सनातन धर्म meaning "eternal dharma" or "eternal order") has been proposed as an alternative, "native" name for Hinduism (Hindi Hindu Dharm हिन्दू धर्म) "Hindu religion".
The term was mentioned and explained in depth in Vedic literature (Rig Veda) (4-138) and was used during the Hindu revivalism movement in order to avoid having to use the term "Hindu" which is of non-native (Persian) origin.
In current-day usage, the term Sanatana Dharma is used to emphasize an "orthodox" or sanatani ("eternalist") outlook in contrast to the socio-political Hinduism embraced by movements such as the Arya Samaj.
The phrase dharma sanātana does occur in classical Sanskrit literature, e.g. in the Manusmrti (4-138) and in the Bhagavata Purana, in a sense akin to "cosmic order".
Dharma ([dʱəɾmə]; Sanskrit: धर्म dharma, Pali: धम्म dhamma; Tamil: அறம் Aram) is a key concept with multiple meanings in the Indian religions Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. There is no single word translation for dharma in western languages.
In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’.
In Buddhism dharma means "cosmic law and order", but is also applied to the teachings of the Buddha.In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for "phenomena".
In Jainism dharma refers to the teachings of the Jinas and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the "path of righteousness".
The Classical Sanskrit noun dharma is a derivation from the root dhṛ, which has a meaning of "to hold, maintain, keep".
The word "dharma" was already in use in the historical Vedic religion, and its meaning and conceptual scope has evolved over several millennia.The antonym of dharma is adharma.
In the Rigveda, the word appears as an n-stem, dhárman-, with a range of meanings encompassing "something established or firm" (in the literal sense of prods or poles). Figuratively, it means "sustainer" and "supporter" (of deities). It is semantically similar to the Greek ethos ("fixed decree, statute, law"). In Classical Sanskrit, the noun becomes thematic: dharma-.
According to the authoritative book History of Dharmasastra, in the hymns of the Rigveda the word Dharma appears at least fifty-six times, as an adjective or noun. According to Paul Horsch, the word Dharma has its origin in the myths of Vedic Hinduism.
The Brahman (whom all the gods make up), claim the hymns of the Rig Veda, created the universe from chaos, they hold (dhar-) the earth and sun and stars apart, they support (dhar-) the sky away and distinct from earth, and they stabilize (dhar-) the quaking mountains and plains.
The gods, mainly Indra, then deliver and hold order from disorder, harmony from chaos, stability from instability - actions recited in the Veda with the root of word dharma.
In hymns composed after the mythological verses, the word dharma takes expanded meaning as a cosmic principle and appears in verses independent of gods. It evolves into a concept, claims Paul Horsch, that has a dynamic functional sense in Atharvaveda for example, where it becomes the cosmic law that links cause and effect through a subject. Dharma, in these ancient texts, also takes a ritual meaning.
The ritual is connected to the cosmic, and ‘‘dharmani’’ is equated to ceremonial devotion to the principles that gods used to create order from disorder, the world from chaos.
Past the ritual and cosmic sense of dharma that link the current world to mythical universe, the concept extends to ethical-social sense that links human beings to each other and to other life forms. It is here that dharma as a concept of law emerges in Hinduism.
धर्मः तस्माद्धर्मात् परं नास्त्य् अथो अबलीयान् बलीयाँसमाशँसते धर्मेण यथा राज्ञैवम् ।
यो वै स धर्मः सत्यं वै तत् तस्मात्सत्यं वदन्तमाहुर् धर्मं वदतीति धर्मं वा वदन्तँ सत्यं वदतीत्य् एतद्ध्येवैतदुभयं भवति ।।
Nothing is higher than Dharma. The weak overcomes the stronger by Dharma, as over a king. Truly that Dharma is the Truth (Satya); Therefore, when a man speaks the Truth, they say, "He speaks the Dharma"; and if he speaks Dharma, they say, "He speaks the Truth!" For both are one.
— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.xiv
In Hinduism, a sampradaya can be translated as ‘tradition’ or a ‘religious system’. It relates to a succession of masters and disciples, which serves as a spiritual channel, and provides a delicate network of relationships that lends stability to a religious identity.
Sampradaya is a body of practice, views and attitudes, which are transmitted, redefined and reviewed by each successive generation of followers. Participation in sampradaya forces continuity with the past, or tradition, but at the same time provides a platform for change from within the community of practitioners of this particular traditional group.
A particular guru lineage is called parampara. By receiving diksha (initiation) into the parampara of a living guru, one belongs to its proper sampradaya. One cannot become a member by birth, as is the case with gotra, a seminal, or hereditary, dynasty.
Nevertheless, there are also examples of teachers who were not initiated into a sampradaya, Ramana Maharshi being a well-known example.
A sannyasin belonging to the Sringeri Sharada Peetham once tried to persuade Ramana to be initiated into sannyasa, but Ramana refused.
The word Hindu is derived from the Indo-Aryan/Sanskrit word Sindhu, the Indo-Aryan name for the Indus River in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent (modern day Pakistan and Northern India).
According to Gavin Flood, "The actual term 'Hindu' first occurs as a Persian geographical term for the people who lived beyond the river Indus (Sanskrit: Sindhu)", more specifically in the 6th-century BCE inscription of Darius I (550–486 BCE).
The term 'Hindu' in these ancient records is a geographical term and did not refer to a religion.Among the earliest known records of 'Hindu' with connotations of religion may be in the 7th-century CE Chinese text Record of the Western Regions by Xuanzang, and 14th-century Persian text Futuhu's-salatin by 'Abd al-Malik Isami.
Thapar states that the word Hindu is found as heptahindu in Avesta – equivalent to Rigvedic sapta sindhu, while hndstn (pronounced Hindustan) is found in a Sasanian inscription from the 3rd century CE, both of which refer to parts of northwestern South Asia.
The Arabic term al-Hind referred to the people who live across the River Indus.This Arabic term was itself taken from the pre-Islamic Persian term Hindū, which refers to all Indians.
By the 13th century, Hindustan emerged as a popular alternative name of India, meaning the "land of Hindus".
The term Hindu was later used occasionally in some Sanskrit texts such as the later Rajataranginis of Kashmir (Hinduka, c. 1450) and some 16th- to 18th-century Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava texts including Chaitanya Charitamrita and Chaitanya Bhagavata.
These texts used it to contrast Hindus from Muslims who are called Yavanas (foreigners) or Mlecchas (barbarians), with the 16th-century Chaitanya Charitamrita text and the 17th century Bhakta Mala text using the phrase "Hindu dharma".
It was only towards the end of the 18th century that European merchants and colonists began to refer to the followers of Indian religions collectively as Hindus. The term Hinduism, then spelled Hindooism, was introduced into the English language in the 18th-century to denote the religious, philosophical, and cultural traditions native to India.
Hinduism includes a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions, but has no ecclesiastical order, no unquestionable religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book; Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monotheistic, monistic, agnostic, atheistic or humanist.
The religion "defies our desire to define and categorize it". Hinduism has been variously defined as a religion, a religious tradition, a set of religious beliefs, and "a way of life."
From a Western lexical standpoint, Hinduism like other faiths is appropriately referred to as a religion. In India the term dharma is preferred, which is broader than the western term "religion". Hindu traditionalists prefer to call it Sanatana Dharma (the eternal or ancient dharma).
Hindutva, or "Hinduness", a term coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 1923, is the predominant form of Hindu nationalism in India. The Bharatiya Janata Party adopted it as its official ideology in 1989. It is championed by the Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliate organisations, notably the Vishva Hindu Parishad, along with the older term Hindu Rashtra .
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, an Indian independence movement activist interned in Ratnagiri prison in the 1920s, sought to disassociate the term Hindu from Hinduism.
His tract, Essentials of Hindutva, better known under the later title Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?, defined a Hindu as one who was born of Hindu parents and regarded India as his motherland as well as holy land. The three essentials of Hindutva were said to be the common nation (rashtra), common race (jati) and common culture/civilisation (sanskriti).
Hindus thus defined formed a nation that had existed since antiquity, Savarkar claimed, in opposition to the British view that India was just a geographical entity.
This notion of Hindutva formed the foundation for Savarkar's Hindu nationalism, which included in its fold the followers of all Indian religions including Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, but excluded the followers of "foreign religions" such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.
Savarkar's formulation of Hinduness was regarded in his time as akin to a scientific discovery, a "revelation".
K. B. Hedgewar, another Indian independence activist in Nagpur, who was concerned with the perceived weaknesses of the Hindu society against foreign domination, found Savarkar's Hindutva inspirational.
He visited Savarkar in Ratnagiri in March 1925 and discussed with him methods for organising the Hindu nation.
In September that year, he started Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, National Volunteer Society) with this mission. However, the term Hindutva was not used to describe the ideology of the new organisation; it was Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation). . The official constitution of the RSS, adopted in 1948, used the phrase "Hindu Samaj" (Hindu Society).
In the words of an RSS publication, "it became evident that Hindus were the nation in Bharat and that Hindutva was Rashtriyatva .
Both the terms "Hindutva" and "Hindu Rashtra" were used liberally in the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, a party Savarkar became the president of in 1937. Syama Prasad Mukherjee, who served as its President in 1944 and joined the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet after Independence, was a Hindu traditionalist politician who wanted to uphold Hindu values but not necessarily to the exclusion of other communities.
He asked for the membership of Hindu Mahasabha to be thrown open to all communities. When this was not accepted, he resigned from the party and founded a new political party in collaboration with the RSS. He understood Hinduism as a nationality rather than a community but, realising that this is not the common understanding of the term "Hindu," he chose "Bharatiya" instead of "Hindu" to name the new party, which came to be called the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
Thus, yet another term "Bharatiya" came into parlance with rough resemblance to Hindutva, which continues to be used in the successor party Bharatiya Janata Party to this day.
According to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Hindutva is an inclusive term of everything Indic. He said:
Hindutva is not a word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with the other cognate term Hinduism, but a history in full. Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. ... Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race.

A village is the unit - Gandhi

"Society based on non-violence can only consists of groups settled in villages in which voluntary co-operation is the condition of dignified and peaceful existence.

A society which anticipates and provides for meeting violence with violence will either lead a precarious life or create big cities and magazines for defence purposes. It is not unreasonable to presume from the state of Europe that its cities, its monster factories and huge armaments are so intimately interrelated that the one cannot exists without the other.

The nearest approach to civilization based upon non-violence is the erstwhile village republic of India. I admit that it was very crude. I know that there was in it no non-violence of my definition and conception. But the germ was there."

M.K.Gandhi, Harijan, 13-1-40, pp. 410-11

Ayurveda - Childs severe urinary problem

(via Dr. P.L.T. Girija)

Severe and chronic urinary problem of years
Female, 4 years

Medical History
The child had suffered severe pain in urinary tract from infancy. She would cry
continuously and the parents realized the reason only when she was old enough to be
able to communicate to them. She also did not have sensation of passing feces, and
therefore had no control over her bowel movement. Her appetite had always been very
poor. The child had been admitted in many hospitals and besides medications,
invasive procedure had also been done. Over ten different private doctors had been
consulted. The mother guesses the cost must have run to two lakhs though they
stopped keeping count. Economically they come from a lower middle class

The child from infancy would cry a lot. As the mother had very little breast milk, the
baby was on formula feed from the beginning. At four months the paediatrician advised
a change in the formula feed and the baby started having loose motions and would cry
ceaselessly. She was hospitalized for a week. But her loose motions continued and the
bouts of crying became more severe. A change of the formula feed was
recommended, but the loose motions continued despite the change.

At six months she was taken to a well known children's hospital. There a scan was
recommended. As the child was continuously crying they gave her 10ml dose of a
sedative so that she would sleep and they could take the scan. As she still kept crying
she was given another 5ml and then the scan was taken. Then the mother was told
that the small and large intestine had got stuck, and that a pipe would have to be
pushed up the anus and air blown in to force them apart. When that procedure was
conducted, the child shrieked so continuously that the family was unable to bear it and
left the room. Even after the procedure the child kept crying. In a week the child’s
weight came down from 6kg to 4.5kg, and the mother according to her own account felt
that she would ‘lose her child’, and got the child discharged against medical advice.
The doctors had planned three such procedures in all, though after the first procedure
they decided that the next two may not be needed. The financial cost there was Rs.

From six months onwards the child was prescribed sleeping tonics in increasing doses
by various doctors to address her severe pain. No doctor was able to address the
problem, and the child had had many courses of medicines, injections and enemas.
One doctor advised that the child be given only mother’s milk, and kanji to
supplement. But, the mother said, that the problem was that she did not have enough
milk. Another doctor said that there was urinary infection as she was passing motions
without proper bowel control and that she should be toilet-trained. But the child did not
seem to have the sensation of passing motions and the question of toilet-training did
not arise. They had also not admitted her in school for these reasons. One doctor advised that she be put in school, as that may resolve the problem if it was psychosomatic. So the child was put in school and an ayah was allotted to the child fulltime to address her sudden passing of stools.

The last prescription included KMac and Eva Q. The mother said that the doctor had
told her that K Mac was to cause a morning bowel movement for the child so that there
would be better comfort during the day. Though it has documented side effects it was
advised for long term use. The other drug was Eva Q which was advised for two years.
A pharmacist warned the mother against its long term use. So the mother started
phasing it out on her own.

The unbearable pain during urination continued unabated, and at nights the child was
unable to sleep. A doctor advised that she be seated in a tub of warm salt water when
the pains came on. The mother said that sometimes through the night the child used to
be kept in the tub. The last hospital told her that during the next visit the child should
be admitted for a day and urine would be collected for 24 hours through a catheter for
tests before the next course of intervention could be decided. The mother was

During pregnancy the mother had a lot of urinary difficulties, and had had a lot of
medications. She had also had many antibiotic courses for a cold that lasted through
her pregnancy.

The child was brought to the ayurvedic clinic with the main complaint of severe pain
and burning in the urinary tract. Urination caused severe pain, and urine would come
out in drops. The pain in the urinary tract often lasted through the night. The previous
night the pain had been so severe that through the night the child was kept in a tub of
warm water. The child also had no sensation of passing motions, and thereby no bowel
control. She also had a long standing problem of loose motions, and had had three
loose motions that morning. With the main complaint being severe pain and burning
during urination, she was prescribed three medicines to normalize the flow of urine. A
medicated oil was prescribed for external application below navel and around the
urinogenital region. She was also prescribed a choornam to improve her power of
digestion, strength and general health. Along with this she was prescribed a diet which
was suitable for her condition.

On her second visit two weeks later the mother reported that the child was quite well.
She said that within two days, the pain and burning during urination had almost
completely gone, and the child was also able to indicate when she wanted to pass
motions. The child was advised to continue the same medicines and to come after a
month for review. The child has been well since then.

It sounds unbelievable that such suffering of years was addressed so promptly by
ayurveda, but with proper diagnosis such relief is possible. From the ayurvedic point of
view the elimination of urine and motion were seriously impaired due to severe
aggravation of vata (one of the three disease causing factors in the human body) in the
urinogenital region. Aggravation of vata had also impaired her power of digestion. As a
result the child had very poor appetite. Any attempt at resolving this condition
depended entirely on bringing the aggravated vata to normalcy. Only then it could carry
out its normal function of elimination of urine and feces from the body. This was
achieved through the medication as well as diet prescribed to the child. In this case
the child was lucky to have found an effective cure in ayurveda. However it must be
pointed out that all diseases are amenable to treatment and cure only in their initial
stages. They are difficult to treat when they become old and chronic.

Padmavathi - Sandeep Balakrishna

Does Sanjay Leela Bhansali Have the Guts to tell the Full Story of Ala-ud-din Khilji?

And so it begins again.
As the release date for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest opium-addled celluloid perversity approaches, all manner of politicisation has erupted once again. If Karni Sena’s preemptory antics are on the one side, its wealthy, celebrity Sepoy cousin, Devdutt Pattnaik is on the other.
Going by the Left-Liberal-Sepoy cult’s own definitions, Karni Sena is a fringe group, backward, regressive and the rest.
In which case, is Devdutt Pattnaik a modern and progressive rape apologist? Why doesn’t he try and spout the same anti-patriarchal nonsense to Nirbhaya’s parents? Here’s a better idea: why doesn’t Devdutt Pattnaik try playing the role of a modern-day Malik Kafur to a modern-day Ala-ud-din Khalji? Plenty of Khaljis and aspiring Khaljis can be found in the ranks of the ISIS, LeT, & co. He’ll perhaps revise his definition of rape. Or perhaps “settle down” like Malik Kafur.

MF Hussainification of Bollywood

As I had remarked in my Firstpost column earlier this year, Bhansali’s Padmavati is the latest product of the MF Hussainification of Bollywood.
The late perverse painter M.F. Hussain seemed to have a special penchant for painting perverted images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, and then claiming victimhood when his “creative work” evoked outrage from Hindus. Guess who came to his defence each time? Hindus, not Muslims. I mean, the Army of the Faithful from the aforementioned toxic cult. This piece by Arun Shourie analysing the Hussain phenomenon is still the gold standard on the issue.
This secular, barefooted excuse for a painter, secure in the strength of said Army made the movie Meenaxi in 2005. Some lyric in one of its songs apparently offended the members of the delicate Religion of Peace. In turn, they expressed their sadness by threatening to cause serious trouble. Some names issuing the threat: Raza Academy (remember the Azad Maidan?), Milli Council, All-India Muslim Council, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind and Jamat-e-Islami. Poor Painter. This time around neither Hussain nor the Army of the Cult, the valiant supporters of his “artistic freedom” claimed that he was a victim. In fact, they claimed nothing. Tongues had been dispatched for scheduled maintenance.

The operating principle in both Hussain and Bhansali’s case is the same.
Notice first that in the lexicon of those who are shouting for Hussein the point about not hurting religious sentiments manifestly does not apply to the Hindus: in their case the alternate principle of the right of the artist to paint as he pleases takes precedence. The Hindus notice this duality more and more… depicting women completely naked has for centuries been very much a part of European painting and sculpture tradition; but do the artists not stop at using this tradition for portraying Virgin Mary naked? It is not the freedom of expression these worthies are committed to. They are committed to their having freedom alone.
This was written in 1996 and as we notice, the situation has progressively worsened in these twenty years. If anything, over the past decade or so, the said MF Hussainification has simply escalated most notably in that abyss of depravity called Bollywood.
Neither is it restricted only to MF Hussain nor to the choice of themes. The other celebrity purveyor of MF Hussainification is Girish Karnad who calculatedly glorified the bigoted and insanely cruel despot Muhammad Bin Tughlaq and later, Tipu Sultan. Of course, it has paid rich dividends: Karnad occupies the high table in Sultan Siddaramaiah’s kitchen cabinet.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali has merely joined their ranks.
It’s nobody’s case that Bhansali shouldn’t make Padmavati as a love story or whatever his premise is but not at the expense of distorting and/or suppressing historical facts, which we shall briefly examine.

The Record of Lover Boy Ala-ud-din Khalji

The first historical fact is that Ala-ud-din Khalji stands at the forefront of being one of the most savage Muslim tyrants who wreaked boundless atrocities upon Hindus in his military campaigns, and his social and economic policies.
It was under Ala-ud-din Khalji’s rule that South India for the first time got the full taste of the true horrors of an Islamic invasion — the flourishing and wealthy Hindu cultural centres of Devagiri (today’s Daulatabad), Dwarasamudra (Halebidu), Srirangam, Chidambaram, Madurai, and Rameshwaram were reduced to flaming wastelands in its wake.
Another historical fact is that he captured a handsome Hindu teenager from Gujarat, rechristened him Malik Kafur and used him as a personal sex slave. It is telling that this Hindu boy was also known as “Hazaar Dinari,” meaning “(a slave) purchased for 1000 dinars.” Ala-ud-din’s contemporary chroniclers and other later Muslim historians describe in some detail his degenerate sexual habits and unbridled lust for women. Ala-ud-din was responsible for reducing the Vaghela queen Kamala Devi to the status of a concubine in his vast harem — Devdutt Pattnaik’s favourite way of fighting oppressive patriarchy.
Ala-ud-din also joins the lengthy list of Muslim invaders who destroyed the Somanatha temple and sent its Murti to Delhi “where it was laid down for the faithful to tread upon.” (History and Culture of the Indian People: Volume 5, Page 19).
These historical facts are truly the proverbial tip of the iceberg of the savage career of this bigoted despot.

Artistic Freedom or Artistic Sadism?

And so, a movie based on this historical figure must necessarily include some or all these documented historical facts from primary sources.
Does Sanjay Leela Bhansali have the courage to tell the story of Malik Kafur’s expeditions to the South? Does he have the guts to show the story of how a courtesan saved the Moola Murti of Sri Ranganatha in Srirangam from certain destruction at the hands of Malik Kafur’s barbaric army by sacrificing her own life? This episode if done well, has all the makings of a commercially successful blockbuster. Does Bhansali have the nerve to narrate the tale of the circumstances under which this Hazaar Dinari was purchased? Actually, Devdutt Pattnaik would love this one: a riveting, true historical tale of the pure love between an unconquerable Alpha Male and Handsome Boy.
But Sanjay Leela Bhansali has drunk deep from the fount of the past masters of deception: Girish Karnad et al. Therefore, he’s taken refuge under the claim that his movie is based on Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s imaginary literary saga titled, Padmavat written 200 years after Khalji’s death. In which case — if Padmavati is indeed an imaginary character, why bring the real, historical king Ala-ud-din Khalji into the picture?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali can’t have his cake and eat it too: he knows full well the kind of associations and painful memories that Ala-ud-din Khilji evokes among Hindus, and specifically Rajputs notwithstanding Jayasi’s imaginary saga. Despite the moral and ethical hellhole that Hollywood has become, will it dare even today, to make an imaginary love story between a beautiful Jewish woman and Hitler?
I won’t dwell in detail upon the justified outrage and hurt that the Rajputs in particular and the larger Hindu society have expressed at Bhansali’s perverse distortion but will touch upon a few key points that have led us to this pass.
The first concerns artistic freedom. We can examine this with a quote from Padmashri Dr. S L Bhyrappa’s preface to his bestselling historical novel, Aavarana:
Anybody who embarks upon writing a historical work essentially needs to do concrete research to support even the tiniest detail. The author’s responsibility is towards the historical truth of the subject on which his/her work is based. When truth and beauty are put on a scale, the writer’s fidelity must invariably be in favour of truth. A writer doesn’t have the moral right to violate truth and take refuge in the claim that he/she is only a creative artist.
The question therefore, is not whether one community is shown in good or poor light but one of basic integrity and fidelity to facts. In Bhansali’s case, it is apparent that his so-called “historical” love story is being filmed at the expense of Rajputs. There’s a term for this: artistic sadism.
Indeed, Padmavati is in the same league of the other distortionist 2008 movie Jodhaa Akbar, which took an imaginary character named Jodhaa while whitewashing Akbar’s massacre of about 30000 Hindus in his barbaric sack of Chittorgarh. In Salman Rushdie’s words,
Even the Emperor succumbed to fantasy. Queens floated within his palaces like ghosts, Rajput and Turkish sultanas…One of these royal personages did not really exist. She was an imaginary wife, dreamed up by Akbar in the way that lonely children dream up imaginary friends, and in spite of the presence of many living, if floating, consorts, the Emperor was of the opinion that it was the real queens who were the phantoms and the nonexistent beloved who was real. He gave her a name, Jodha, and no man dared gainsay him.
And so the second point, tied to artistic and creative freedom is the contemporary reality that in the name of democratisation of arts, any semblance of any standard has been abandoned, and well-informed critics are silenced with — we’re seeing this unfold as I’m writing this — shouts of “creative freedom,” “regressive,” “intolerance,” “fascism,” “right wing fringe,” etc.
Third: the history of Bollywood itself. In its fledgling days, the industry was significantly populated by the victims of Partition and barring very few, the flavour of movies mostly included tragic love stories, dark melancholies like Pyaasa, socials, rare comedies, and over-dramatised patriotism.
The 1970s decade witnessed an explosion in the ranks of the pimps of Nehruvian socialism on a gigantic canvas apart from giving us those mindless masala movies. The post 2000 era’s takeover of Bollywood by the Karan Johars of the world gave us movies that were far removed from reality, characterised by a slavish aping of Western lifestyles, normalisation of liquor consumption, and hedonism.
Or to put it bluntly, these movies and their makers are culturally as far removed from the millions of culturally-rooted Indians as say, Kim Kardashian is from Rama Navami.
But the marked factor underlying this entire history of Bollywood is a near-complete absence of a good number of movies with mythological and classical themes.

When we contrast this with South Indian cinema’s history for the same period, we see how (mostly) the Telugu, Kannada and Tamil mythologicals (Pauranika) and historicals (Aitihasika) have continued to remain classics witnessing re-releases even today. And how, even today, there are talented filmmakers who make stellar movies using these themes. If a regional movie with limited markets can make a super-expensive and hugely successful movie like Bahubali, what prevents Bollywood from doing something similar with its seemingly endless budgets? A partial answer can be found in this “review” which sees only the “rape of Avantika” in Bahubali, and concludes that a movie rich in (Hindu) mythological references is “dangerous.”
Which brings us to the fourth point. If movies are art and are a form of creative expression, what explains the recent slew of agenda-based films like say, Mumbai Meri Jaan, which shows the Bhagavad Gita as being responsible for the Hindu character named Suresh (played by Kay Kay Menon) for developing hatred towards Muslims.
One can add Haidar, PK, Black Friday and Parzania to this list. On the other side of this coin, why hasn’t there been a single Bollywood movie on say Chandragupta Maurya, Shivaji, Maharana Pratap or even the Gupta Empire? Even if one cynically reduces this to a Hindu — Muslim argument, the fact still remains that these are truly fantastic themes to make compelling movies.
From this flows the fifth point, which is fundamentally about the absence of a level-playing field in Bollywood regarding specific themes — be they historicals or mythologicals. And the total lack of a general sense of openness.
Could we for instance, imagine Bollywood making a movie like Agora, which heart-wrenchingly and artistically narrates the tragic fate that Hypatia met at the hands of Christian imperialism in moving detail? Or the brilliant Spotlight,which is an expose of pervasive pedophilia inside the walls of the Holy Catholic Church? One can go on listing many more such excellent films.
But the fact that such films don’t ever get made in Bollywood is because of the selfsame lack of openness: creative freedom must essentially be accompanied by courage especially when dealing with sensitive subjects, both historical and contemporary.
So the easier way out is to do what Sanjay Leela Bhansali seems to have done: make an imaginary love story between a predatory bigot and a proven plunderer of women and his potential victim who preferred to die than submit.