What Hindus really want is justice – R. Sriram

Hindu Activism

R. SriramThe Hindus awakening seen in … an increasing sense of pride in the country’s rich cultural and religious heritage bodes ill for the Liberal Left which has always believed in denigrating Hinduism beliefs while praising or elevating those of other religions. – R. Sriram

An ideology’s durability and strength is often misunderstood by many. Its fiercest believers will always find little to complain but neutral observers can also be sometimes lulled into what is called “the willing suspension of disbelief” when it comes to the receding impact of a political or religious system on people. It is easy to miss the rumblings on the ground while focusing on an artificial sense of stability created by apparatchiks of an imploding ideology.

Liberalism is going through such a phase, both in India and overseas. In India, the shock of the Narendra Modi victory in 2014 has been worsened by the PM’s continuing popularity, the BJP’s electoral surge and the crippling inability of the opposition to even play token defence. This sense of anger, outrage and helplessness at the Right ecosystem’s inexorable march would have been more palatable if it had not been accompanied by a nationalistic and religious awakening among the country’s majority Hindu population. This awakening seen in outward displays of aggression, the increased passion and fervour with which festivals are being celebrated and an increasing sense of pride in the country’s rich cultural and religious heritage bodes ill for the liberal Left which has always believed in denigrating Hinduism beliefs while praising or elevating those of other religions.

Some arguments being made against this trend show the real fear among the Liberal Left brigade. According to these arguments, India’s biggest problem is a growing sense of Islamophobia, not terrorism, terrifying demographic change, joblessness or sneak attempts to divide the country. The Hindus, they feel are out to get their Muslim neighbours and their alleged hatred has been fed by rantings by fringe extremist groups.

This is so silly that one doesn’t know where to start. The Hindu does not feel victimised. He does not hate his Muslim or Christian brethren. He would willingly live and work with them and there are many instances where the people from two or three religions live in harmony. What he hates is a crass and corrupt political system that, aided and abetted by a section of power-hungry journalists, unelected bureaucrats and venal academics, try to denigrate the ordinary Hindu’s pride in his ancient culture religion and civilisation.

The Hindu is upset that a corrupt political system in a desperate search for votes will try and bring about cataclysmic demographic change with little regard for language, culture and religious feelings of citizens.

The Hindu is angry that a weak, impotent state will allow an implacable neighbouring foe to dictate terms while committing aggression in one part of the country in the garb of fighting for freedom. The Hindu is angry that Marxist and liberal historians have spent years whitewashing the crimes of Mughal imperialists and marauding Islamic invaders who looted, pillaged and destroyed Hindu temples while enslaving thousands of its people.

The Hindu is upset that nothing is being done to stop and roll back the creeping conversion movement that seeks to destroy Hindu identity in the northeast and southern parts of the [country].

This is the real issue. Not Islamophobia. The average Hindu is angry at the political system, its masters, whose slavish devotion to a foreign concept of secularism, is being seen as an attempt to deny the Hindu’s true sense of identity.

Take the recent attempts to revive the much-maligned theory of Aryan migration. People bent on reviving this discredited concept make an error common among liberal and left thinkers. A nation’s identity is not dependent on which migrant group was the first to cross the border centuries ago. It is dependent upon the dominant culture and religion practised by people of that country and region. In India’s case, it is Hinduism whether one likes it or not.

Egypt is an Islamic state. The fact Pharaohs ruled the country centuries ago and developed a vibrant, robust culture cannot take away the fact that Egypt’s identity is Islamic and its people practise an Islamic culture brought to the country by Arab armies in the eighth century. It is also wrong to link alleged victim-hood to economic security. For the Hindu, it is not economic insecurity that makes him angry and resentful, but a realisation that justice does not prevail under a corrupt political system.

It is not about whether he is poorer than the Muslim or the Christian. The belief that politicians have perverted the principles of natural justice for petty political ends has created a sense of anger and outrage. That anger is now manifesting itself in various ways and eroding the false ramparts built by pseudo-secularists and their entourage in media, academia and politics. This alone should give the Liberal Left warriors enough cause for worry. – The Economic Times, 24 July 2017

» R. Sriram is the Resident Editor, Economic Times, Mumbai.

HINDUS PROTEST DEMONSTRATION AGAINST PROFESSOR DONIGER AGAINST ON WEDNESDAY MARCH 10, 2010, IN FRONT OF NEW SCHOOL UNIVERSITY BUILDING ,Dr. Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School, will be honored by National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) on March 10th at The New School University Building, New York City for her book titled Hindus An Alternative History...PIC Mohammed Jaffer-SnapsIndia

 

How the NCERT covers up Islam’s role in temple destruction – Koenraad Elst

Gyanvapi Mosque Varanasi

Koenraad ElstNo matter how many cases of Hindu idol abduction [the secularists] manage to find, it will never amount to proof for the hypothesis … that Muslim conquerors and rulers did what they did because Hindus had inspired them to do it. – Dr Koenraad Elst

During the Rama Janmabhumi commotion ca. 1990, it was the “done” thing for secularists to deny that Muslims had ever committed destruction of Hindu sacred buildings and statues. This even became the official position worldwide, for practically all Indologists and India-watchers internalized it and zealously condemned any acknowledgment of Islamic iconoclasm as stemming from “Hindu fanaticism”. However, this position is hard to sustain, because it is so obviously untrue. Therefore, they have recently refined their propaganda strategy in two ways.

First, they now minimize Islamic iconoclasm but admit some of it. Not that they would concede the Islamic motivation for this mandir-and-murti destruction, but alright, some Muslims had done it. That, after all, is what human beings do, Hindus included, see? As long as Islam remains out of the picture, they are willing to admit a little bit of destruction for the sake of salvaging their own credibility.

Second, they now try to make Hinduism guilty of the crimes of Islam, viz. by providing the inspiration through its own example. Muslims destroyed Hindu temples because Hindus had destroyed Hindu temples. Provincials like our secularists and their foreign imitators try to lead you by the nose towards whatever happened within India’s borders, and never ask, nor want you to ask, what the record of Islam outside India is, including in the period before it entered India. They don’t want you to realize that Islam’s behaviour in India was only a continuation of its behaviour in West Asia and around the Mediterranean, starting with Mohammed’s own model behaviour in Arabia.

The secularist narrative is now being propagated everywhere and inserted into the textbooks of history, including in the projected new textbooks mulled over by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT). As per the official procedure, there is a provision for feedback from the public. A friend of mine sent in an objection to the NCERT’s scenario. What follows is the NCERT’s response, interspersed with my comments.

Bluff

The objection to the cited passage—that temples demonstrated the power and resources of the kings who built them and that is the reason why medieval rulers targeted the temples of rival rulers—can be substantiated by innumerable references.

This is a sheer bluff. The two examples given do of course not amount to the “innumerable” cases which they mendaciously claim to have. Nor have such numbers of cases been mentioned elsewhere. Yet, given the strong motive the NCERT secularists have to overrule the straightforward narrative of Islamic iconoclasm, they would by now certainly have published a book full of such evidence and made sure it was quoted in every relevant paper and editorial—if it existed.

Sheer bluff, we said, but in the real world, there is nothing “sheer” about bluff. On the contrary, a bluff is a mighty weapon that can produce impressive results. Take the Rama Janmabhumi controversy. The secularists suddenly claimed that all the Muslims and Hindus and Europeans who had unitedly assumed that a Rama temple had stood at the disputed site on which the Babri Masjid had been imposed, had all been wrong. They offered no evidence whatsoever for their proposed scenario (say, a sales contract in which a landlord sold Babar a piece of empty real estate to build a mosque on), and denied the evidence on the opposite side which had existed all along and which accumulated further once the challenge to bring more evidence had been raised.

Though their behaviour was that of conspiracy-mongers, their shrill bluff carried authoritative public opinion with it. They managed to make the Government abandon its plans for a negotiated settlement, they managed to have national and state governments toppled, they managed to trigger a number of bloodbaths, all through “sheer bluff”. Even when they collapsed one after another when questioned in court, even when their bluff had been exposed (though the media did all they could to hide this development from you), they have never apologized, never publicly admitted how wrong they had been. Bluff can get you very far in life, so the NCERT tries more of it.

Even the evidential value of their “evidence” is a bluff. No matter how many cases of Hindu idol abduction they manage to find, it will never amount to proof for the hypothesis they really want to push: that Muslim conquerors and rulers did what they did because Hindus had inspired them to do it. These conquerors mostly didn’t even know the record of Hindu kings, and at any rate they didn’t care. They would never have wanted to be seen imitating the idolaters and instead invoked the solid justification for iconoclasm within their own tradition. Mohammed himself had set the example, and in his wake came the conquerors of West Asia and the Mediterranean, unaffected by Hindu examples.

Power of discrimination

Consider the gold statue of Vishnu which was once in the Lakshmana temple of Khajuraho. The statue actually belonged to the rulers of Kangra, it was taken by the Pratiharas and finally by the Candell ruler Yasovarman just before 950 CE (and a near contemporary of Mahmud Ghazni). The inscription in the foundation stone of the Khajuraho Laksmana temple commemorated these events and stated—“With his troops of elephants and horses, Herambapala (Pratihara, ruler of Kanauj) seized it from [the king of Kangra]. Obtaining it from his son, the (Pratihara) prince Devapala, the illustrious (Candella) king Yasovarman—an ornament among kings and a crusher of enemies—performed the ritual establishment of [Vishnu] Vaikuntha [in the Laksmana temple at Khajuraho].

See F. Kielhorn, “Inscriptions from Khajuraho” in Epigraphica Indica, vol. 1 (1892), p. 192.

This example is a beautiful illustration precisely of how Hindu idol-kidnapping differs radically from Islamic idol-breaking. According to the NCERT itself, the Vishnu statue from Khajuraho was abducted not once but twice, and ended up (not walled into a lavatory or underfoot, nor smashed to pieces, but) consecrated as a prominent murti in a Vaishnava temple, exactly where it belonged. What was abducted, was merely an object of art, duly consecrated. There was no destruction of the religion behind the murti. It was used for Vaishnava worship in its original site, after it was abducted, and again after Yasovarman abducted it. Further, the worship at the temples robbed of their murtis, was perfectly allowed to continue, though they would have to install a new murti.

By contrast, in Islamic iconoclasm, the goal was to destroy the “idolatrous” religion of which the murtis were an expression. The destruction of murtis and the demolition of mandirs had the purpose of destroying Hinduism or whichever the Pagan religion behind some given murtis was. When Mahmud Ghaznavi was done destroying the Somnath temple, he did not mean to let Shiva worship resume at the site, not as long as he was militarily in a position to prevent it. While Yasovarman installed the abducted Vishnu murti for worship, Mahmud Ghaznavi would have the captured murtis destroyed or worked them into lavatory walls or into floors in order the humiliate them—not so much the murtis themselves but the religion they represented. In destroying the Somnath Shivalingam, he meant to destroy Shiva worship.

One day, a man needed some paper to light a campfire, but he had none. His friend suggested: I have some paper, wait. And he took his wallet to produce a wad of dollar bills. The friend turned out not to see any significance in the dollar bills, only their material dimension. Whether a little rectangle of paper was a currency note worth an exchange value, or a newspaper clipping containing specific information, or merely a blank slip of paper, they were all the same to him: enough paper to light a campfire with. Now that is Nehruvian secularism for you: a deliberate suspension of the power of discrimination. This wilful superficiality claims not to see any difference between abducting an object without any further consequence and destroying this object as part of the attempted destruction of the religion it stands for.

Lalitaditya

From a different cultural zone note also the example of the conflict between the soldiers of the Gauda (Bengal) ruler and the ruler of Kashmir, Lalitaditya. The episode concerns the moment when the Bengali rulers chose to attack the idol of Vishnu Parihasakesava who was providentially saved because the soldiers mistook this image of the royal God for another. The Rajatarangini notes—“Though the king was abroad, the priests observed that the soldiers wanted to enter, and they closed the gates of the Parihasakesava shrine. Aroused with boldness, the soldiers got hold of the silver Ramasvamin image, which they mistook for Parihasakesava. They carried it out and ground it into dust. And even as Lalitaditya’s troops who had come out from the city were killing them at each step, the Gaudas continued to break it into particles and scatter them in every direction.

See Ranjit Sitaram Pandit, trans., Rajatarangini: The Saga of the Kings of Kashmir, The Indian Press, Allahabad, 1935, pp. 326-28.

Note firstly that this Lalitaditya episode is also related, complete with the spin dear to the NCERT, in Robert M. Hayden, Aykan Erdemir, Tuğba Tanyeri-Erdemir, Timothy D. Walker, Devika Rangachari, Manuel Aguilar-Moreno, Enrique López-Hurtado, and Milica Bakić-Hayden, Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites and Spaces, 2013, p. 136-137. As you can see, the Nehruvian secularist bluff is being spread far and wide and is acquiring the status of academic orthodoxy.

We are here dealing with a typical case of Western imitators, if not careerists who want to serve the current orthodoxy of battling “Islamophobia”. Concerning India, they have completely swallowed the Nehruvian bias. Thus, about Islamic iconoclasm deniers Romila Thapar and Richard Eaton, they say: “As scholars of India in the late 20th century, their aim in doing so is to counter the accusations by Hindu nationalists that the Muslims uniquely violated the sensibilities and rights of Hindus by destroying temples, by showing that Hindu rulers had done much the same thing before Muslims reached India.” (R. M. Hayden et al., Antagonistic Tolerance, p. 136)

It is in itself commendable that they point out the political intentions of these academics. These have a purpose other than dispassionately seeking the truth, which to Marxists would only be “bourgeois objectivity”. While not in itself disqualifying their research, it should at least set some alarm bells ringing. But this political bias only enjoys the unquestioning approval of the new generation of dupes.

So much have they already internalized the belief in Hindu iconoclasm that they take it one step further: “From the perspective of the AT [= Antagonistic Tolerance] project, of course, it would be surprising if Hindu rulers had not done so.” (R. M. Hayden et al., Antagonistic Tolerance, p. 136)

Naturally, they should think so, for it fits in with the reigning paradigm that “all religions are essentially the same”.

At the end, when practical conclusions are drawn, fashionable academics tend to differentiate again and favour Islam over Hinduism, e.g. by clamouring about “Islamophobia” but ignoring “Hinduphobia” (including their own); but at some point within their narrative, it is useful to put forward the equality and sameness of all religions, viz. in order to preclude or drown out all specific Hindu complaints about distinctly Islamic behaviour.

Since those authors are only second-hand spokesmen of the Nehruvian view, they sometimes let on facts that, when properly analyzed, don’t really fit their narrative, e.g.: “Tantalizingly, Eaton (2000a:293) mentions that temples not identified with royal patrons were generally left unharmed.” (R. M. Hayden et al., Antagonistic Tolerance, p. 136)

Tantalizing? Only if you pursue the Nehruvian paradigm. In fact, it follows logically from the difference between Hinduism and Islam. If at all there were Hindu kings who “harmed” temples because through them they wanted to harm hostile kings, they clearly opted for a policy that constituted another distinction with Muslim iconoclasm: they left politically irrelevant temples untouched. By contrast, when Muslim armies went on an iconoclastic spree, they did not care about these petty considerations, precisely because their motive had nothing to do with “royal patrons” but only with non-Islamic religion.

Thus, when the Ghurid army ca. 1193 destroyed a “thousand” temples in Varanasi (as admitted by Eaton), obviously, not all of them had enjoyed royal patronage. But all of them contained Pagan idols, and what was enough to get the Muslim conquerors in a destructive mood. This off-hand refutes the whole point of this new-fangled soft-Marxist hypothesis: that iconoclasm had nothing to do with religion.

Now, as to Lalitaditya, he defeated the Gauda king, invited him with the  Parihasakeshava (Vaishnava) idol as a guarantee for the Gauda king’s safety, yet had him murdered. To take revenge, the Gauda servants contrived to visit the relevant shrine in order to destroy this idol. Though they mistook another idol for Parihasakeshava (and apparently the story is gleefully told in order to convey this idol’s supposed cleverness in arranging for its own safety at the expense of another), they did indeed destroy the idol that they could lay their hands on. The fragmentation of the idol is duly described.

So, this indeed is one rare case where Hindus destroyed a Hindu idol. To be sure, they did nothing to Vaishnavism in Kashmir, nor in Bengal, nor anywhere else. They only wanted to get at that particular idol, a radical difference with the numerous campaigns of idol-breaking by Muslims, who were not so fussy. While Hindus did it, Hinduism was not involved. On the contrary, the text itself stipulates that their motive was quite mundane, viz. vengeance for their murdered king. The perpetrators did not quote any Hindu scripture prescribing: “Thou shalt destroy a Parihasakeshava idol whenever thou seest one!” They did not invoke any idol-breaking model behaviour of a Vedic rishi.

Islamic iconoclasm

We have spent some time writing out several pages in analyzing the NCERT response to an objection. To be sure, a fool can famously ask more questions in a few lines than a normal man can answer in a number of pages. Nevertheless, the fact deserves mention that, through misdirection, the NCERT has succeeded in keeping us busy all while the true answer was so simple. We have been forced to deal with two of the handful of cases of idol-abduction and iconoclasm by Hindus as the supposed reason for Islamic iconoclasm, when in reality, Islamic iconoclasm had nothing to do anything good or bad done by a Hindu. And no secret is made of this in Muslim chronicles, clear enough about the real motive.

Neither the folks at NCERT, nor the Nehruvian historians, nor their foreign followers, have ever succeeded in finding a Muslim chronicle saying that “the Sultan was inspired by Hindu example to destroy idols and demolish temples”. The point, after all, was not finding fault with what Hindus may have done (though finding fault with Hindus is certainly also on the secularists’ agenda), but to explain through Hindu behaviour the known Islamic conduct of iconoclasm. This relation between Islamic iconoclasm and Hindu example has never ever been established. On the contrary, whenever Muslim iconoclasts feel the need to motivate their destructive behaviour, they cite Islamic examples, first of all, the destruction of the idols in the Kaaba by Mohammed himself.

And let alone the words in chronicles or elsewhere, it is actual deeds that prove the radical difference between Islamic iconoclasm and any possible Hindu attitude. The NCERT itself quotes a case where a Vishnu statue was abducted, and then installed for worship by the abductor himself. If such were the example followed by Muslim iconoclasts, we would expect to find mosques where Hindu statues from, say, the Somnath temple or the Rama Janmabhumi temple had been installed. Unlike the Nehruvians, we are not provincials and will not confine ourselves to India, so images of Apollo, Osiris, or any other deity will also do. Pray, NCERT, where is that mosque where an abducted idol has been installed for worship? We are not asking for two examples, just one. – Pragyata, 31 March 2017

Surya Temple at Marttand, Kashmir from Hardy Cole's Archaeological Survey of India Report 1869

Hindus in Spain organise to create a united voice – PNE

A Hindus gathering in MadridThere are about 50,000 Hindus in Spain, including Hindus of Indian descent and Spanish followers of Hinduism. They are spread all over the country but Canary Islands have the largest concentration of them. – Punjab News Express

Hindus in Spain are reportedly coming together to form a united platform to work on issues of common interest and be a voice for the community.

A Federación Hindú de España (FHE) has reportedly been formed in Spain to unite all Hindus, defend, preserve, and promote Hinduism, challenge and correct academic misrepresentation of Hinduism, advise local, regional, and national governments on Hinduism, make Hindu representation, promote authentic yoga, and claim equal standing with other religions.

FHE reportedly intends to approach and enroll or affiliate other Hindu temples, organizations, and groups all over Spain who are not members yet. In future, it also plans to conduct educational programs, train Hindu priests, and create a directory of Hindu temples, institutions, associations, and groups in Spain.

According to reports, founding Hindu groups included Veda Dharma (Madrid), Sudha Satva (Valencia), Arsha Vidya (Madrid) and Advaita Vidya (Barcelona); while Centro Védico Dharma (Alicante) and Om Shiva Shakti (Barcelona) joined later. FHE is expecting three other Hindu groups to join.

Meanwhile, distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, commended efforts of Hindu groups and community in Spain to unite in order to give Hinduism a voice.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that it was important to pass on Hindu spirituality, concepts and traditions to coming generations amidst so many distractions in the consumerist society and hoped that this Hindu federation would help in this direction in Spain. Zed stressed that instead of running after materialism; we should focus on inner search and realization of Self and work towards achieving moksh (liberation), which was the goal of Hinduism. Zed also urged the federation to actively indulge in interfaith dialogue with other religions to help promote harmony in the Spanish society.

Per a rough estimate, there are about 50,000 Hindus in Spain, including Hindus of Indian descent and Spanish followers of Hinduism. They are spread all over the country but Canary Islands have a large concentration of them.

There are various Hindu groups in Spain; some of which are reportedly officially registered, while many are not registered yet. There are about 40 Hindu temples, worship-places, and worship-groups in Spain, including temples in Valencia, Malaga, Melilla and Madrid; Hare Krishna temples in Madrid, Barcelona, Tenerife, Malaga, besides an institute and a farm, plus followers, groups, and movements of Brahma-Kumaris, Mata Amritanandamayi Amma, Sathya Sai Baba, Siddha Yoga, Sahaja Yoga, etc. Various Hindu festivals, including Rath-Yatra, are celebrated. There is also a Hindu temple in neighbouring Gibraltar. – Punjab News Express, 8 June 2017

Hindu temple in Benalmádena, Malaga, Spain

Freeing temples from state control – Subramanian Swamy

Srirangam Temple Gopuram

Subramanian SwamyWhat is scandalous is the corruption after the takeover of temples as politicians and officials loot the temple’s wealth and land, and divert donations of devotees to non-religious purposes. – Dr Subramanian Swamy

The Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment on January 6, 2013, allowing my Special Leave Petition that sought the quashing of the Tamil Nadu Government’s G.O. of 2006 which had mandated the government takeover of the hallowed Sri Sabhanayagar Temple (popularly known as the Nataraja Temple).

The Madras High Court Single Judge and Division Bench had in 2009 upheld the constitutionality of the G.O. by a tortuous and convoluted logic that new laws can overturn past court judgments that had attained finality earlier. The Supreme Court in 1953 had dismissed the then Madras Government’s SLP seeking the quashing of a Madras High Court Division Bench judgment of 1952 that had upheld the right of Podu Dikshitars to administer the affairs of the Nataraja Temple while dismissing all charges of misappropriation of temple funds against the Dikshitars. The Supreme Court thus made this judgment final and hence that which cannot be re-opened. But in 2009 the Madras High Court did precisely that. In 2014, in my SLP, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde therefore termed this re-opening of the matter as “judicial indiscipline” and set aside the 2009 Madras High Court judgment as null and void on the principle of res judicata.

In their lengthy judgment, the Bench has clearly set the constitutional parameters on the scope of governmental intervention in the management of religious institutions. In particular, the Court has opined that any G.O. that legally mandates a takeover of a temple must be for a fixed limited period, which I had suggested as three years.

The Dravidian movement intellectuals and politicians in various parties in Tamil Nadu are incensed with the judgment. The recent article “Reforms in the House of God” (A. Srivathsan in The Hindu January 13, 2013) is one such example that laments the Supreme Court judgment.

In this Dravidian movement background, it is not difficult to understand the views of those who believe that Hindu temples ought to be managed by the government, and that any deviation is a social, ethical, moral and legal sacrilege! In Mr. Srivathsan’s article it is stated that: “For almost a century, the Tamil Nadu government has been trying to bring the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple or the Sabanayagar Temple as it is officially known, under state administration”. This is one expression of the outlook that only Hindu religious affairs need to be managed by the government. The obvious question, why should a “secular, socialist” government control only Hindu places of worship, but not Muslim and Christian religious institutions clearly has been avoided.

But the country has moved on after the phase of British imperialist grip on Tamil Nadu during which phase the Dravidian Movement was founded. Prominent leaders of this Movement had declared that “blowing up of the Nataraja Temple by a cannon is the goal of the Dravidian Movement”. Unfortunately for them, in the last two decades, the rising popularity of the Hindu religion among the youth, and the debilitating corruption in financial affairs of the Dravidian movement have made such a violent aim unattainable. But the biggest roadblock is the Constitution of India.

In fact, what is scandalous is the corruption after takeover of temples by the Tamil Nadu officials, MLAs and Ministers by looting the temple wealth, lands, and jewels, and the reckless diversion of donations of devotees to non-religious purposes.

For example, temple properties: Tamil Nadu temples, under Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department, has control over more than 4.7 lakh acres of agricultural land, 2.6 crore square feet of buildings and 29 crore square feet of urban sites of temples. By any reasonable measure, the income from these properties should be in thousand of crores of rupees. The government, however, collects a mere Rs. 36 crore in rent against a “demand” of mere Rs. 304 crore—around 12 per cent realisation. How much is under the table only a court-monitored inquiry can reveal. In any corporate or well-managed organisation with accountability, those responsible would have been sacked. Yet, we have people rooting for “government administration”.

Temples themselves: The Srirangam Ranganathar Temple paid the government a (yearly) fee of Rs. 18.56 crore (2010-11) for “administering the temple”; for employees rendering religious services, like reciting Vedas, pasurams during the deity procession, no salary is paid. There are 36 priests in Srirangam who perform the daily pujas—they are not paid a monthly fixed salary. They are entitled to offerings made by devotees and a share in the sale of archana tickets. Yet the temple pays a monthly salary ranging from Rs.8,000 to Rs.20,000 for the temple’s government-appointed employees, like watchman, car drivers etc. who perform no religious duties.

The situation is “significantly” better at the famous Nelliappar Temple in Tirunelveli. In this temple, priests performing daily pujas are paid monthly salaries, but ranging from Rs. 55 to Rs. 72 (and this is during 2010-11). But did some politician not say you can have a hearty meal for Rs. 5 per day? But it is just Rs. 1.65 per day, going by the standards of the “secular” government.

Many large temples maintain a fleet of luxury vehicles, typically the “fully loaded Toyota Innova”, for the use of VIPs! And for the use of assorted Joint and Additional Commissioners and, of course, the Commissioner himself. It is very difficult to understand the religious purpose such extravagance serves or even a ‘secular’ purpose! The HR & CE Dept takes away annually around Rs. 89 crore from the temples as administrative fee. The expenditure of the department including salaries is only Rs. 49 crore. Why does the government overcharge the temples—literally scourging the deities—for a sub standard service?

Temple antiquity: The third “contribution” of the government is the mindless destruction of priceless architectural heritage of our temples.

There are several instances of sand blasting of temple walls resulting in loss of historical inscriptions; wholesale demolition of temple structures and their replacement by concrete monstrosities; in a temple in Nasiyanur near Salem, an entire temple mandapam disappeared, leaving behind a deep hole in the ground, literally.

Recently the government started covering the floor of Tiruvotriyur Thyagaraja Temple with marble, a stone never used in south Indian temples. The original floor was of ancient granite slabs with historical inscriptions. There are several initiatives for “renovation” of temples—the bureaucrats rarely consult archaeologists or heritage experts. Without knowledge, experience, competence or appreciation and with great insensitivity they use inappropriate chemicals on ancient murals, insert concrete/cement structures, use ceramic tiles to “embellish” sanctum sanctorum and construct “offices” within temple premises. Ancient monuments 300 to 1000 plus years old are never “renovated”, only “restored”, a distinction that escapes the babus.

More importantly, the Supreme Court, in the 2014 Chidambaram case has held that the government cannot arbitrarily take over temples, which is what has been happening in Tamil Nadu under the Dravidian movement’s influence.

In the case of Trusts and Societies, takeover of temples can happen, the Supreme Court held, only on establishing a clear case of mal-administration and that too the takeover can be for a limited period, and the management of the temple will have to be handed back immediately after the “evil has been remedied”.

There are several large temples in Tamil Nadu under government control for several decades. If the Supreme Court judgment is applied, then the government is in illegal, unethical and unfair control of these temples. apart from being answerable for innumerable acts of dereliction of duty, defiling of temples that has resulted in loss of several thousands of crores of rupees to the temples and to their antiquity. That is my next move—to liberate all Hindu temples presently in government control on expired GOs. In the future we need to bring some mosques and churches to rectify the mismanagement going on in these places. Then the secularism of India’s intellectuals will be truly tested. – The Hindu, 12 September 2016

Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

Gujarat: Life imprisonment for killing cows – Parimal A. Dabhi

Vijay Rupani

NewsChief Minister Vijay Rupani said that while he was “not against any food,” he wanted to make Gujarat “shakahari (vegetarian),” “We do not want Jersey cows, but Gir and Kankreji cows instead,” he said. – Parimal A. Dabhi

The Gujarat government Friday amended the state’s Animal Preservation Bill to entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment and a minimum of 10 years for cow slaughter after it was passed in the assembly in the absence of the Opposition Congress and with the visitors’ gallery packed with saffron-clad Hindu priests.

Speaking on the amendment, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that while he was “not against any food”, he wanted to make Gujarat “shakahari (vegetarian)”, “We do not want Jersey cows, but Gir and Kankreji cows instead,” he said.

Rupani also described Gujarat as a “unique state”, which followed the tenets of Mahatma Gandhi—“non-violence and truth”. “This is Gandhi’s Gujarat, Sardar’s (Vallabhbhai Patel) Gujarat and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s Gujarat,” said Rupani.

The passage of the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 2017 came eight months after seven Dalits were beaten by self-styled cow vigilantes for alleged cow slaughter in Una.

The punishment for cow slaughter under the earlier law was imprisonment ranging from three to seven years. The new law also makes offences under the amended Act non-bailable.

The amendment was cleared after the Speaker suspended members of the Congress for creating a ruckus before the Bill was passed.

When the amendment Bill was introduced over a month ago, it had a maximum punishment of ten years imprisonment. On Friday, however, the ruling BJP moved to enhance the punishment to a life-term.

In another major amendment, the Bill included a provision that vehicles caught in transporting cows, beef or beef products illegally will be forfeited to the state government. The maximum fine for the offence has also been increased from Rs 50,000 to one ranging from Rs 1 lakh-Rs 5 lakh.

Besides, the punishment for conviction for illegal transportation of cow, beef or beef products has been increased from three years imprisonment to seven years.

The Act allows transportation of animals of cow progeny with permission, but not between 7 pm and 5 am.

The statement of the Bill reads, “In the year 2011, the State Government had made certain amendments in the said Act for better implementation of the Act. It is, however, experienced while implementing the said Act that still more stringent provisions are required to be made by amending the said Act for curbing the menace of illegal slaughtering of the animals covered under the said Act to provide for more stringent punishment and effectively check the rampant use of vehicles for transporting such animals.”

During the discussion on the Bill, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said, “This is not a Bill, but a feeling of crores of Indians. It is my humble attempt to give voice to the cows being killed by butchers. A single drop of cow blood falling on earth pains Hindus. With this law, Vijaybhai Rupani’s government will make Gujarat cow-slaughter-free.”

Jadeja also offered his respects to the “Hindu saints” in the visitors gallery, and said that he was “feeling proud as a Hindu” to introduce the Bill in the House.

One of those present in the gallery, Kaniramji Bapu of Dudhrej in Surendranagar district, an important religious seat of the Maldhari community (cattle herders) in Gujarat, said, “We oppose cow slaughter and believe in its preservation. And so, we came here in support of the Act. Cows should be preserved and their slaughtering must end.”

Another religious figure, Mahant Vikramgiri from Ghela-Somnath of Jasdan in Rajkot district, said, “Around 300 sadhu-sants have come to Assembly. Since the government had announced that they will bring the Bill, we knew it in advance and are here to support it.”

In 2011, when Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, the state government had imposed a complete ban on slaughter of cows, transportation and selling of cow meat by amending the Act. – Indian Express, 1 April 2017

» Parimal A. Dabhi reports for The Indian Express in Gujarat.

Gujarati Sadhus

Aghora’s radical egalitarianism makes Reza Aslan yearn for inequality – Bharavi

Man Sitting Under Tree IconAslan is truly a worthy heir to Sufi luminaries like Amir Khusrau and Ahmed Sirhindi who so eloquently expressed their contempt and detestation for the stench of idolatory and polytheism in the land of Hind. – Bharavi

Now that there is a lot of indignation in the Hindu community about the way the Muslim, Iranian-American religious writer Reza Aslan has gone about depicting Hinduism in a CNN program titled “Believer,”[1] it would help to understand issues at hand that run deeper than overt “Hinduphobia” and stereotyping.  Mr. Rajiv Malhotra and some members of the Hindu Students Council have broadcast a video “rebuttal” of sorts, questioning Aslan’s intentions in reaffirming western stereotypes of Hinduism.  

For starters, it must be noticed that Reza Aslan finds himself in the U.S.A. because his family fled the Islamic revolution in his native Iran, circa 1979. Though born in a Muslim family, he converted to Christianity, but returned or, as the terminology goes, “reverted” to Islam.  Currently, he is a professing Muslim. Had he been a true heir to his brutally extinguished Aryan-Iranian heritage, he would surely have been at least more balanced, if not more respectful and nuanced, in his depiction of the last vestiges of the common Indo-Iranian religious heritage in the multifarious forms of Hinduism in India, a civilization that gave refuge to Zoroastrian Iranians fleeing before their equally Iranian compatriots who converted to Islam. But, having been put through the wringer, as it were, of the Religions of Love and Peace, all Understanding and Compassion has been conclusively wrung out of him. What Ishwar Sharan perceptively stated of the betrayal of Hindus to the Portuguese Catholic invaders by Syrian Christians applies to him in its totality: “… [the] Christian religion … harbours in its heart a demon that divides mankind into friend and foe on ideological grounds.”[2]  The Qu’ran, which is but the “Bible in Arabic” insofar as its basic contents are concerned, bettered the instruction by summarily and firmly reinstating the original Yahvist spirit by abolishing all hints of Jesus’ divinity and Mary’s phantom gestation that, according to Christians, resulted in a case of human parthenogenesis.  

It matters little that Aslan piously proclaims his personal preference for Islam while proclaiming “good will and peace to all men” on his website, which deserves to be read in full by befuddled Hindus:[3]

That’s where religion comes in. Beyond the doctrines and dogma, the do’s and the don’t’s, religion is simply a framework for thinking about the existential questions we all struggle with as human beings.

It is, as the Sufi mystics say, a “signpost to God.”

Can you have faith without religion? Of course! But as the Buddha said, if you want to strike water, you don’t dig six 1-foot wells; you dig one 6-foot well. In other words, if you want to have a deep and meaningful faith experience, it helps—though it is by no means necessary—to have a language with which to do so.

So then, pick a well.

Different words, same thing

My well is Islam, and in particular, the Sufi tradition. Let me be clear, I am Muslim not because I think Islam is “truer” than other religions (it isn’t), but because Islam provides me with the “language” I feel most comfortable with in expressing my faith. It provides me with certain symbols and metaphors for thinking about God that I find useful in making sense of the universe and my place in it.

So … what do you believe?

But I know, just as the Buddha did, that while my personal well may be different and unique, the water I draw from it is the same water drawn from everyone else’s wells. Indeed, having drunk from many wells in my spiritual journey, I consider it my mission in life to inform the world that, no matter the well, the water tastes just as sweet.

Consider the following parable by the great Sufi master Jalal ad-Din Rumi, which I recount in my book, No god but God:

A Persian, a Turk, an Arab and a Greek are traveling to a distant land when they begin arguing over how to spend the single coin they share in common. The Persian wants to spend the coin on angur; the Turk, on uzum; the Arab, on inab; and the Greek, on stafil.

A linguist passing by overhears the argument. “Give the coin to me,” he says. Taking the coin, the linguist goes to a nearby shop and buys the travelers four small bunches of grapes.

“This is my angur!” cries the Persian.

“But this is what I call uzum,” replies the Turk.

“You have brought me my inab,” the Arab says.

“No! This in my language is stafil,” says the Greek.

The travelers suddenly realize that they were all asking for the same thing, but in different languages.

My goal—as a scholar, as a person of faith, and now as the host of “Believer” —is to be the linguist, to demonstrate that, while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.

And that, regardless of whether you, too, are a believer or not, is a lesson worth learning.

See, multiple wells, same water! Multiple languages, same grapes! Aslan’s stated goal in the series “Believer” is to convince you, like a latter-day Gandhi, that “while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.” Hell, why can’t we all just get along like one big happy family!? Where are those vasudhaiva kutumbakam hippies when you need them?

Firstly, note that the Buddha (a rank Pagan) was the one who talked about multiple wells reaching the same water. Any Abrahamic prophet worth his salt would have taken umbrage at this kind of laissez-faire approach, so there are no matching quotations from the Abrahamic traditions, especially Reza’s own. Even the oft-quoted sura 109 of the Qu’ran often bandied about by Muslims as evidence of Islam’s “tolerance” declares:

Say: O ye that reject Faith!
I worship not that which ye worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
Nor will I worship those whom you have worshipped,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your Way, and to me mine.

The sura is also suggestively titled “Al-Kafirun”—The Unbelievers. For different wells with the same water, you definitely have to summon Kafir help and surreptitiously slip it in while ostensibly taking a stand as a convinced Muslim.

Hindus should additionally note that even for an aspiring Sufi mystic like Aslan, it becomes a positive strain to extend real courtesy about “more often than not, expressing the same faith” to the rank Pagans/Kafirs that Hindus are with their pantheism and polytheism, thereby revelling in the great “sin” of kufr and shirk—of “associating partners with Allah.” Aslan’s pir Rumi frequently and variously uses “Hindu” as a symbol of all that is wrong, the (despicable) colour black, darkness, evil influence, and especially the nafs (the base soul) that is in urgent need of reforming. That is the lineage of teachers (guru-shishya parampara) that Aslan subscribes to. So, Hindus should thank Reza Aslan, and take his timely reminder as an opportunity to examine the true sayings and history of Sufis and their silsilas from original sources, as also the accounts of the havoc that they wrought to Hinduism, rather than the homilies dished out by several negationists who also masquerade as “eminent historians.”  No Sufi is known to have protested the treatement of Hindus and Hinduism by any sultan—no wonder Aurangzeb was lionized as a “zinda pir”—a living saint. Aslan is truly a worthy heir to Sufi luminaries like Amir Khusrau and Ahmed Sirhindi who so eloquently expressed their contempt and detestation for the stench of idolatory and polytheism in the land of Hind.

Aslan’s preoccupation with the Hindu “obsession” with purity deserves close examination. While on that job, it might perhaps not hurt to remind Aslan that, in strains of traditional Islam, especially the Shi’ism rampant in his native Iran, the Kafir is also “Najis—impure—at par with urine and feces. This is also why Pakistan was so named, for the “Pak” or “Pure” thereby separated themselves from the “najis” Hindus. Incidentally, this objective fact of Islamic jurisprudence also gives the lie to Aslan’s sanctimonious statements about the allegedly unique Hindu “obsession with ritual purity.” Islam is also concerned with ritual purity, only it is based on different assumptions (or “obsessions”). And, the very ritual act of wudu (ablutions) performed by the believers before each of their five daily prayers are testimony to the selfsame “obsession” with ritual purity. Indeed, in this case at least, while “while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.” Or obsession, just for consistency. For those who care to inquire further, the hadiths are quite explicit about “correct” methods of purifying oneself after communing with nature, based on prophetic precedent and a traceable chain of transmission (isnad), no less. We hope Aslan will remember this during the next time he rolls out his prayer mat or ascends the metaphorical CNN tower for the broadcast of the next episode of “Believer.”

Aslan was apparently attracted to Aghora because he discerned in the members of this sect a group of proto-revolutionaries who actively flouted Hindu norms of purity and caste exclusiveness (i.e. “obsessions”). Now, Aghora literally means non-ghora i.e. “non-terrible.” The followers of the Aghora path, the Aghoris, literally try to view the entire world as “non-terrible,” not merely in a metaphysical sense or for reasons of political correctness, but also in a very physical sense. They seek to go beyond the “pairs of opposites” that, in their view, arise from the illusory sensory perception of differences, of personal likes and dislikes, and feelings of pleasure and pain. And, to truly follow this idea, they conduct themselves indifferently in the extreme, even eating substances that humans normally find bizarre or disgusting, which provides what presstitutes (journalists) call a “good copy” for Aslan and his handlers at CNN.

The Aghori sadhu in the CNN video first drank some of his own urine—as in his view—there was nothing that was intrinsically “disgusting” about it. We may say that he did not just walk the talk, but also drank it and lived it. Then, he graciously wanted to extend the same courtesy to his newest acolyte in the person of Reza Aslan who promptly voted with his heels. The urine in the Aghori’s palm was, to borrow Aslan’s cordial and engaging phraseology, a very unique form of water from a very unique well that exorcised Aslan of his revolutionary zeal.

Notes

  1. CNN: Face to face with a cannibalistic sect (video clip).
  2. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple (2010), Chapter Nine
  3. CNN: Reza Aslan: Why I am a Muslim.

Despite religious opposition the Bank of England will keep beef fat in its banknotes – Akshat Rathi

New plastic five pound note

Akshat RathiCritics … have strong philosophical or religious grounds for rejecting animal-derived products in money. “This is unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the UK,” reads the petition [to the Bank of England]. –  Akshat Rathi

“We demand that you cease to use animal products in the production of currency.” More than 130,000 people recently signed this petition, aimed at the Bank of England. (Who says central banking doesn’t stir up passions?)

The animal product in question is tallow, derived from beef or mutton. The bank admitted that its new plastic notes, launched with the £5 in September last year, contain trace amounts of it, stoking some controversy.

But after an extensive investigation into alternative methods to make the money, the bank said, essentially, “deal with it.” The fat-laced fiver will continue to be printed, as will a new plastic tenner, starting in September this year.

“Trace,” chemically speaking, means a substance is present in fewer than 100 parts per million, or 0.01% of the total. But when all the paper £5 and £10 notes are replaced over the next few years, there will be some 1.1 billion plastic banknotes in circulation, each containing trace amounts of tallow. How many cows, then, will die in the name of British money?

On average, slaughtering one cow yields 40 kilograms of tallow. Considering that a banknote weighs about 0.7 grams, each contains roughly 0.00007 grams of tallow. That means the total amount of tallow that those new £5 and £10 plastic notes will need is around 77 kilograms. That means the Bank of England’s move to plastic notes, which Bank of England Logoare more secure and durable than paper notes, comes at the cost of two cows to date. By comparison, the UK slaughters some 2.6 million cattle each year for food.

This still may not satisfy critics who have strong philosophical or religious grounds for rejecting animal-derived products in money. “This is unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the UK,” reads the petition.

Weighing these concerns against the cost of changing course, the bank decided that the tallow will remain. The bank has already spent £70 million ($88 million) on printing notes now in circulation and buying materials for more in the future. In its opinion, the outrage caused by an “extremely small amount” of tallow does not outweigh the advantages of the newfangled notes, nor justify spending more taxpayer money to produce notes in a different way.

For now, the £20 and £50 notes, which are printed on paper, will remain free from animal fat. The bank is looking for plant-based alternatives in time for 2020, when the £20 is scheduled to get its plastic makeover. – Quartz, 16 February 2017

» Akshat Rathi is a reporter for Quartz in London.

Beef Tallow