Hindu New Year: A Celebration of Unity and Heterogeneity

The Hindu New Year or Nav Varsh is celebrated with different festivals – Navratri, Gudi Padwa, Ugadi, Navreh, Cheti Chand symbolising the intermingling of religion with local culture and rituals and celebrating the beauty of heterogeneity, cultural assimilation and diversity.

It beautifully tells us that no culture is superior, while we should be proud of our culture, we must also respect the culture of others, that unity may not always be in homogeneity, we can be different and we have to learn to respect and celebrate the difference, that there is a certain beauty in co-existing which cannot be experienced in dominating and replacing. We must understand what our festivals try to teach us.. focus on the underlying essence, the ideas not the visible, the material.

Nav Varsh ki Hardik Shubhkaamnaye!

Appeal to stop the telecast of serial “Jodha Akbar”


I am writing this to appeal to urge you to stop the telecast of the recently launched serial “jodha Akbar” being aired on Zee TV as it can have a negative impact on the society. To begin with, the serial itself runs on the disclaimer that it lays no claim to any historical event. This disclaimer came after there were protests from the Rajput community and from some historians against the inauthenticity of the story being presented. The main argument is that there was no mention to “Jodha Bai” in the historical sources. This debate was also raised for the movie “Jodha Akbar” starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. It is important for the producers to state the historical source of the story. It should be binding for them to mention the exact historical accounts as history, we know and have seen, is not just the past. It has or is made to have serious implications in the present. One of the most shameful example is that of the demolition of Babri Masjid and the communal riots.

As stated previously, the producers of the serial “Jodha Akbar” has “negotiated” with the protestors and now there is a disclaimer before and during some scenes in the serial stating that the serial does not have any historical backing. The question then is, why is there a need to telecast such a serial? Why is there a need to use the names? Even if Jodha may not have ever existed, Akbar did. Where is the need to demonise him? It is shocking that this has been allowed in a communally-sensitive country. India is threatened with the forces of hindutva which claims the country to be the ancestral and “rightful” property of only Hindus, negating the claims of all other religious groups. It also demonises muslims and have used (or misinterpreted) history to serve their purpose. Even a “liberal” Hindu will agree to this baseless nonsense.

The fact is that history is too hazy. There is so much that can be said about these things. The fact that can be safely established is that religion was not a big deal when the rulers invaded the “country” (which did not exist at that time) in 14th-15th century. Also, desecration of temples was a political statement than a religious one. Historian Richard Eaton has talked about conquest mosques which were built by desecrating the earlier monument because it is quite a rule that an invading ruler establishes throne by destroying the symbols of the previous ruler. The fact is that the word “muslim” in a religious sense for the rulers did not emerge in the historical sources before 16th century. For a native in a kingdom in the now-Gujarat, a ruler from rajasthan was as much a foreigner as a turk. There is so much written on these issues. There is literature on how it were the British who had divded the history into hindu and muslim. But nothing has been read because the historical truth is not in line with the political motives. The historical truth negates Hindutva as baseless. One major point is that V D Savarkar, the founder of the ideology of Hindutva, had himself written in his book on Hindutva that whatever he is writing is for a political reason. Yet, nothing has been read. People have carried the biased colonial legacy and as a result, thousands of innocent people have lost their lives.

Thankfully, the forces of Hindutva seem to be resting with BJP focussing on “development” and the recent unpopularity of other Hindu fundamentalist groups. Some years back, the court had also passed a “secular” verdict on the ayodhya issue which was, thankfully, welcomed. But this serial seems to revive these forces as it re-iterates the baseless stereotypes about mughals. Akbar is shown to be this demon. He is shown to be a “Muslim” ruler. It is historically incorrect to use terms like “secular”, “conservative” or “liberal” for rulers as these terms are of recent origin but if I do commit the sin, just for this time, I will not be wrong to say that Akbar is popular for being “secular”. He is known for Din-i-ilahi, for rejecting the teachings of the ulama, for rejecting conservative Islam and for rajput-mughal alliances. If we read the history, we will know that this happened for many reasons. But according to the serial, it was Jodha, a Rajput princess who forced him to become “good”. Jodha had swore to some goddess that she will behead Akbar and throw the head on the feet of the goddess, bringing a very strong religious angle. It is also historically inauthentic. But a more important concern is the dangerous effect that it will entail. The serial re-iterates the notions about “muslim” rulers who invaded, discriminated, dishonoured women and tried to destroy the “hindu” culture.

Therefore, I appeal that this serial should be banned from being telecasted on the grounds that it is historically inauthentic, demeaning and has the potential to revive communal tensions in the country.

 See http://muslimmirror.com/eng/broadcast-body-urged-to-stop-telecast-of-communal-serial-jodha-akbar/

M.F. Hussain – An artist misunderstood

M.F. Hussain has passed away at the age of 95. Within minutes of the reporting, Facebook and twitter was flooded with condolence for the most-famous and also the most-controversial artist. The news had come as a shock for many. I, myself, took some time to accept this news. I wasn’t his fan but his struggle which continued until his last breath earned him deep reverence from thousands like me. I am not a student of art nor have I ever made serious attempts to study art so for me, Hussain Sahab was the ‘man in great controversies’.

The first time I heard of M. F. Hussain was when he was barred from entering a hotel as he was barefoot. I was fascinated by his sense of ‘style’. Then he became for the little girl, the ‘notorious’ artist. But not that I cared about it! Last year, following a lecture by an eminent Historian, M.F. Hussain re-entered my domain of thinking. I then got a different version of him. When I heard of his demise, I was remorseful. But what added to my grief were some tweets and comments. Some continued to label him as “Anti-hindu”, “obscene” and “anti-Indian”…and even swore. I found that disgusting. But more than that, I thought that M.F. Hussain died without being given justice.

M.F. Hussain was a proverbial figure in the Indian contemporary, modernist art. He had bagged the highest National awards in India and was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Being an Art illiterate, I don’t think I can discuss his contributions but the title of “Picasso of India” accorded to him is suffice..isint it? So what had went wrong?Hussain’s controversial paintings revolve around nude Hindu deities, naked picture of Mother Goddess and caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. Religious fanatic groups had opposed these paintings and had threatened the life of the artist. Hindu fanatic Organisations accused him of hurting the sentiments of the Hindu community and labeled him as “Anti-Hindu”, “Anti-Indian”. Seeing the extremism grow, M. F. Hussain went into self-imposed exiles.

But was he really a communalist? Had he really degraded Hinduism and Hindu deities? The art community has a ‘different’ take. The celebration of nudity explicit in Hussain’s art was not new, they argue. The Ancient and Medieval past is full of it. One bicycle round around Khajuraho will be enough to prove his innocence.Hussain, any art student will tell you, in these controversial paintings had only combined mythical imagery with modernist techniques. It was his visual translations of Ramayana and Mahabharata. And I said “translations” not interpretations! Hussain’s “Mother India” is another unlucky painting. This painting depicts a naked woman representing India. Art Historians like Sumathi Ramaswamy have pointed out historical parellals for this inconography. So again, Hussain was just following the legacy. But yes, she was potrayed naked…sparking a more fierce protest. Nudity in Art is seen as a symbol of purity and has a long history. Besides, Hussain’s “Mother India” cannot hurt the hindu sentiments as she was a national deity…not their jagir!

The artist community sees the transformation of Hussain as a symbol of secularism into “a muslim sexual predator who’s act of painting nude is seen as an act tantamount to rape” (Art Historian Tapati G. Thakurta), in the background of emerging fascist forces. The paintings were released in 1970s but the petitions began post-babri in 1996.

M.F. Hussain has been seen as an “Anti-Indian”, an “Anti-Hindu”. But he is seen as a post-colonial, nationalist artist. His work has been seen as national in content and international in form. His gesture of being barefoot is dubbed as “nationalist”. Through this, he sympathized with the impoverished masses who were also barefoot. His act is also seen as symbolizing him being in direct contact with the “soil” of India.Historians such as David Gilmartin and Barbara Metcalfe refer to him as the “civilizational” artist. He considered the Hindu deities to be Indian deities. M.F. Hussain could not have hurted “hindu” sentiments also because he was an agnostic. He was, thus, not under any “religious” obligation to proclaim the superiority of Islam.

He is described as a “simple and great man” by his contemporaries. His only misfortune was his family religion. It made him a good target. He became the victim of the dirty politics in this country. He was an “artist misunderstood”.

also published at http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2011/06/mf-hussain-an-artist-misunderstood-heres-why/