2010-08-02 11:15:55 UTC
By Subodh Kerkar
kerkarart at gmail.com
Once again the religious
sentiments of Hindu Janajagriti
Samiti and Sanatan Saunstha are
hurt. This time by some
outstanding paintings of Hindu
Gods created by Dr. Jose
Pereira. The paintings depict
Krishna with naked Gopies, Lord
Shankar dancing with naked
maidens and many other scenes
borrowed from Hindu mythology.
The paintings show great
influence of Indian sculptures.
In fact they are based on
sculptures from Ajanta, Ellora
and other Shaivait rock
Dr. Pereira obtained his doctorate for his thesis 'Influence
of Shaivism on rock temples of Deccan and Konkan'. He has
detailed drawings and tracing of each sculpture which
influenced his paintings. The images are not out of his
imagination but based on orthodox Hindu sculptures.
The Samiti members have perhaps not visited Ajanta and
Ellora. Otherwise they would put up a demand that Shiva and
his naked maidens as well as Krishna and his consorts be
Recently some Muslim fanatics in Saudi Arabia cut off breasts
of mannequins in ladies garment stores because they were
partly exposed. If the Hindu Janjagriti Samiti is allowed to
carry on what they are doing, the bare bosoms of Indian
temple sculptures are in great danger!
Before I move on with my arguments, it is relevant
to write a little about Dr. Jose Pereira. He is
one of the most interesting persons I have ever
met. While studying at J. J. School of art he
enrolled himself at Siddhartha College and obtained
his masters in Sanskrit. After his doctorate he
proceeded to Portugal and became a research
assistant at the University to study east west
cultural relations. This brought him to Goa to
study our Mando traditions. He concluded in his
book that Goan Mando is not an imitation of
Portuguese Mando but has its independent existence.
This view was not very palatable to the then
Salazar regime in Portugal. Dr. Pereira had to
leave the country or face arrest.
He proceeded to Benares and became a research scholar at the
Benares Hindu University, studying architecture. From 1960 to
1969 he traveled all over India studying influences of
colonial rule over temple and church architecture. He has
very interesting observations about Indian influences on
churches and western influences on temples.
'Indian Baroque' is the term he coined for the so called
colonial buildings. He then went to New York and taught Hindu
theology at Fordham University.
Dr. Pereira's works are based on solid foundations. He is a
devout catholic, yet has tremendous respect and fascination
for Hindu scriptures. "Do you find conflicts between the two
faiths?", I asked him. "I find that the basic principles of
Hinduism and Christianity are the same", he answered.
"Geeta and Bible both praise compassion and love of God and
hold it superior to the omnipotent and all powerful aspect of
the almighty". And then he quotes a Sanskrit sloka to make
his point. "The phonetics of Sanskrit are based on drums of
Shiva", he chuckles.
He can recite the whole Geeta in Sanskrit and loves doing it.
Dr. Pereira is a great scholar and a humanist. He belongs to
the traditions of Dharmanand Kosambi, Dr. Mashelkar, Dr. Anil
Kakodkar and our own Ravindrabab Kelekar.
And when Xavier Centre of Historical Research exhibited his
works, the religious sentiments of some people were hurt.
The centre withdrew the exhibition supposedly to avoid
causing communal tension. I must point out that in the same
exhibition was exhibited a work by Dr. Pereira showing
crucifixion. His Christ is also completely naked!
"Religious feelings getting hurt", which I call
'Religious Sentihurtitis' is a fairly new disease
which has become endemic in our country. It is far
more dangerous than Chikungunya and Swine flu
because it can actually make us appear like foolish
pigs! This disease has spread amongst all
religious fanatics, across religions.
Hussein's paintings, my Ganesh drawings and Dr. Pereira's
works caused 'Religious Sentihurtitis' to Janjagriti members.
Rushdie's satanic versus and the Danish cartoon set the
epidemic amongst Muslim fanatics. And the Christian fanatics
caught 'Religious Sentihurtitis' due to the film Da Vinci
Code and recently due to some satirical verses written by a
Benaulim poet criticizing a priest (as if the priests should
be above criticism).
This is a strange disease. When the conditions are prone to
gaining some political advantage, the disease makes its
appearance. The patient actually invites the disease. The
symptoms are quite funny. The patient of 'Religious
Sentihurtitis' presents with beating his breasts. Then he
starts making police complaints against the cause of the
disease. This is followed by taking delegations to
politicians, burning of effigies and making phone calls of
protests and threats. The affected person makes a nuisance of
himself to the rest of the community. He might even go to the
extent of planting bombs, which very often may result in
blowing off his own bottoms!
When I analyze the patient of 'Religious
Sentihurtitis', I realize that this disease is not
caused by any outside virus. It actually does not
require any specific etiological reason. Religious
sentiments can get hurt for no reason or for any
'Religious Sentihurtitis' is a psychosomatic disease! The
only treatment for such a disease is psychiatry. And if the
patient becomes a nuisance to the society he has to be
forcibly admitted in a mental institute.
Recently I was participating in a debate on 'How far can the
freedom of expression be stretched?'
My answer to the question is simple. The freedom of
expression can be stretched to infinity. In a civil,
democratic society there can be no curtailing of freedom of
speech, even if what is said is offensive to some people.
Actually 'freedom to offend' gives meaning to freedom of
expression. What is the use of having freedom of speech
without freedom to offend?
If I am free to say goody goody things about a subject and
not allowed to criticize from fear of offending, the freedom
of expression defeats its purpose.
India is an ancient civilization. It has religious
and cultural pluralism as its foundation.
Societies, religious groups should be mature enough
to take criticism and hear different viewpoints.
The history of mankind shows that revolutions and discoveries
have happened only through freedom of expression, and that
too because people showed courage to offend. There are
hundreds of examples. The church was offended by Galileo's
Heliocentric theory of 1610. It was only in 1992 that the
Vatican officially accepted his theory!
Technically, the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of
expression. It is a fundamental right. However, the same
constitution takes away the freedom through many sub-clauses.
It is like having the preamble of the constitution with
The history of freedom of expression in India is
checkered. It is a history of freedoms and bans.
Freedom has often been sacrificed at the altar of
political correctness. I can understand a religious
fanatic party like BJP banning Jaswant Singh's
Jinnah, but the Congress which is supposed to have
Nehruvian blood flowing in its arteries has often
displayed similar tendencies.
Strong actions should be taken against groups which use
muscle power to close down painting exhibitions, poetry
readings and scientific discussions against superstitions.
The Hindu Janjagriti Samiti does not represent Hindus. I am a
Hindu and I refuse to allow them to represent me. Actually
the Janjagriti is required to save Hinduism from themselves.
Hinduism is a great religion with rivers of varied thoughts
flowing in its basin. Tolerance is at the core of Hindu
thought. Members of the Sanatan Saunstha were allegedly
involved in planting bomb in Diwali celebrations in Margao.
Their plan was to kill people and blame it on Muslims. This
is the most "unhindu" act. Sanatan Prabhat, their
mouthpiece, is not a newspaper but a dispenser of communal
Chief Minister should take strong action against such fanatic
acts. Mr. Kamat, are you listening?