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Contemporary painting and Indian politics
Dear Mr. Tharoor,
          This letter has reference to your article written in support of the judgment passed in favour of MF Hussain.
          I am an unknown Indian whose heart's every throb is meant for her mother-land and her culture. I feel myself extremely fortunate because I am born in India, the spiritual and divine land where even gods aspire to be born as human beings, our scriptures certify. It is my earnest wish to be born in this land birth after birth. I would rather prefer to be born as a blade of grass in this country than take birth in any other country as the most affluent person of the land. My love for my mother-land and my culture makes my heart bleed whenever any disrespect is caused to my country or my culture.
          I had the misfortune of seeing the paintings of M F Hussain in which he has painted Sita, Saraswati, Durga, Ganga, Yamuna and Bharata Mata etc. in awfully vulgar and obscene poses. A person is pained when the personalities he worships are disregarded, disrespected or ridiculed that too publicly. So I was pained and felt humiliated when I saw the paintings.
          Of course you might not have felt similar pain to see the same and Hussain's paintings might have amused you. That is very natural. One feels the pain only when he has respect for the personality who is disrespected.
          From your writing it never appeared to me that you have any motherly regards for Ganga, Yamuna, Durga, Sita or Bharat Mata. Therefore you have no problem whether they are worshipped or dishonoured. Because,  having respect for some body and praising his or her public humiliation do not go hand in hand. Applauding the humiliation or dishonour of somebody is possible only when you have no regards for the person who is being dishonoured. Can you tolerate if your mother is painted in the nude in a vulgar pose and the painting is auctioned publicly? Certainly not- if you are a worthy son. But if you join the offenders who offend your mother you certainly do not deserve to be called a 'son'. Because a son will prefer to die than to see his mother offended that too publicly. What to speak of praising the offenders!
          My statement may appear like a personal attack. But I found no other way to convince you. One should talk to a person in the language he understands. And I think this is the only language you might understand.
          You may have no respect for Bharat Mata and other goddesses and you may take pleasure in seeing them offended, but how do you qualify to ask us to tolerate the public dishonour of our mothers? I do not understand what kind of tolerance it is when a mother is offended before a son and the son, in stead of protecting the mother's honour should applaud the offender ?
                    Now a few questions about your tolerance and your advice for tolerance. Did you write any article in support of Salaman Rushdie when he was issued a death fatwa? Did you write in favour of the Danish cartoonist? Did you condemn the fundamentalism when Taslima was hackled?  To my knowledge you did not. And I am sure you can never do it. BECAUSE, YOU FEAR FOR YOUR LIFE. You know what will happen to you if you write such an article in favour of the offenders of Islam and advise the offended to tolerate the assault.
          But for you our case is different. You can rub salt to our injuries. Because we are Hindus. You can teach us to tolerate the insults of our mothers because you know no fatwa will be issued in your name. Your behaviour, in plain words is called "hypocrisy".
          With every passing day we are inflicted with a newer insult, a newer assault, a newer injury on our hearts. And people like you flay us if we make the smallest complaint and wince a little out of pain. Will you and your group please let us rest in peace?
          Time is the only witness to certify that Hindus are the worst sufferers who have suffered unthinkable tortures and humiliations for centuries after centuries in the hands of aliens. Now the same is being repeated in newer forms in which our own brethren are proud accomplices.
          But remember there is a limit to every thing.
Yours truly
Indulata Das<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Media Watch - Organiser

Taking liberties with Hindu beliefs

How one wishes one could put the issue of M.F. Husain’s assault on artistic decency on the back-burner and go ahead with life when there are so many vital issues waiting to be dealt with! But our secular press will not allow it. It must defend Husain to the last. Not one English newspaper has so much as touched the core issue of Husain’s painting depicting Hindu goddesses in—to be low key—despicable light.

According to Goa’s Gomantak Times (May 12), the Delhi High Court “has shown the way by dismissing the allegations of obscenity against Husain as ‘baseless’ and stating that nudity in art is an integral part of Indian culture”. Gomantak Times also supports the remark of the one-man Bench that “a painter at 90 deserves to be at his home, painting on his canvas”. Two points can be made in this connection. One, a painter at 90 (which Husain is) certainly deserves to be at his home. Two, nudity indeed is (more or less) an integral part of Indian culture. What is questioned is—and what our secular press refuses to face—depiction of Hindu goddesses, not just in the nude (which is enough in bad taste) but in total vulgarity. According to Prafull Goradia and K.R. Phanda, the former and M.P. and the latter, a retired Additional Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance, neither of whom can be described as members of “the rabid fringe of the Hindutva Brigade”, Husain’s paintings are “the ultimate in blasphemy”. What did they depict? One painting “has Sita masturbating on the tail of Hanuman”. “Another picture shows her sitting naked on the thigh of Ravana, while Hanuman is looking on.” “Then there is a bull copulating with Parvati in the presence of Shankar. Goddess Durga, with her name written in Devnagari by the painter is shown in union with her lion”.

One wants to know from Gomantak Times whether it really believes such paintings are examples of great art. This columnist long ago pointed out that a certain industrial house had published a collection of such paintings in the form of a book. In their book Goradia and Phanda have identified the House and have even noted that the chief of the industrial house had even provided a preface to the art book published by it. One wonders whether the gentleman ever consulted the company’s Board of Directors. An explanation must be sought from them. Why was the book withdrawn if the company felt that Husain’s art was legitimate? The right persons to pass judgment on Husain’s paintings should have been not a one-man Bench of the Delhi High Court, but an archbishop of the Catholic church, the head priest of the Parsi community and possibly a couple of leading imams from the Islamic community.

In their book, Profiles of Islam, Goradia and Phanda ask a legitimate question: “Why has no government considered banning Husain’s book?” Why? We don’t have an answer. We have a pathetic sense of understanding of secularism. Writing in Media Mimansa published by Makhanlal Chaturvedi Rashtriya Patrakarika Vishwavidyalaya of Bhopal, Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari, a former Judge of Supreme Court of India and presently Chairman M.P. Human Rights Commission has an important point to make. According to him “if media indulges in showing obscenity, corrupting the society, depraving and misleading our young generation, reasonable restrictions under Clause (2) or (6) of Article 19 can, and should be imposed on it”. In that same article, Justice Dharmadhikari notes that “human body of men and women are being regularly exposed as objects for advertisement, entertainment and recreation” and “it is definitely corrupting our youth and causing serious harm to morals of our society”.

Would Gomantak Times dismiss Justice Dharmadhikari as belonging to “the rabid fringe of the Hindutva Brigade…. which value neither art nor good taste” and “play moral police and resort to brazen vandalism”? What sort of values is Gomantak Times talking about? It says: “Artistic freedom is too precious an asset to be frittered away”. Gomantak Times of course is defending Husain’s right to denigrate Hindu goddesses which it is free to do so, but in saying that artistic freedom is too precious an asset to be frittered away, its editor probably does not realise that that is precisely what Husain had done. He has frittered away artistic freedom.

It is the fashion among many of our editors who know little about art and less about artistic evaluation (how many newspapers have columns judging theatre, dance, drama, music, art and culture?) to sound profound. Nobody would question Husain if he drew nudes. What Husain has done is to debase an entire religion. And that is one point which our secular editors refuse to acknowledge. Husain has indulged not just in obscenity—something that can be laughed away—but in insulting an entire religion. Is one to take it lightly? All of Islam rises in arms at a picture (more precisely a cartoon) depicting the Prophet. Islamic feeling has been rightly hurt. If just a cartoon of the Prophet can incense Muslims, surely “the rabid fringe of the Hindutva Brigade” has a right to get angry at the depiction of Sita, Parvati and Durga in the most vulgar way? Defending Husain’s dirty work is no secularism.

It is defeatism, it is moral cowardice for which many secularists are rightly famous. Many Hindus—and not necessarily just the “rabid fringe of the Hindutva Brigade” —have felt deeply hurt but they are scared to speak out their minds lest our sick secular editors dismiss them as fascists, communalists, hate-mongers bereft of “good taste”, and similar abuse. What the one-man Bench of the Delhi High Court has said cannot possibly be the last word. Nobody in his right mind would question Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul’s upholding the primacy of artistic freedom, but artistic freedom, too, has its limits and these Lakshman rekhas should never be crossed. Husain is welcome to return to Mumbai and back to his home. If he has any sense of right and wrong, he would apologise to Hindus for hurting their feelings, so that the matter is finally closed and normalcy returns. But one thing needs to be said, and said loudly: the worst enemies of Hindus that Hinduism are not non-Hindus, but our so-called secular Hindus. The more one kicks them, the more they would like to be kicked even harder. They are a disgrace of any society considering that they have no self-respect. What understanding of art can one expect of such people?

The Well off Modern Indian is uncomfortable of his Hindu roots and feels that he will be considered unModern by his contacts in the West. That is the root of the negationism that pervades modern Indian thinking.

On an side was the Western Renaissance really a pagan revivial which got subsumed by the Church after Reformation?
On the topic of post 142.

While India's christoislamiterrorists - such as christian wannabe painter FN Souza and the similarly anti-Hindu islami MF Hussain - depict the kind of repugnant things that their christoislamism clearly inspires,

here is what Hindu Dharma says about the entirely different practise of the Hindus: the ancient Dharmic Art of Painting
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Chitrasutram 43-38,39
The art of painting that bestows the four-fold objectives of human beings viz., Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha is best among all the arts. Houses with the display of excellent portrays are (the) abode of auspiciousness.

Chitrasutram 43-11
Picture portraying emotions such as romance, humour and peace can be painted and displayed in houses. Emotions other than these shall never be displayed in anyone's house.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
The above also proves that the typically christoislamic themes portrayed by the faithful FN Souza and MF Hussain show sordid christoislamic events and emotions that "will never be displayed in any Hindu's house." Ours are abodes of auspiciousness. Being infested by christoislamism, their paintings consequently reflect their minds which have been made this disgusting by being laid to waste by christoislamism.

- It is obvious that FN Souza was making several different repulsive images of his own fictional mary-mother-of-jeebus. In one of them, he has painted her as a nude blue deformity - presumably she turned blue because she was holding her breath in anticipation of the never-forthcoming existence. Her hideously depicted figure may be either due to his total inability as an artist or because he secretly resents women, or so some psychologists have evaluated his disturbing condition.
- It is similarly immediately apparent to all Hindus that MF Hussain likes to depict the islamic Adam in an abhorrent display as some unrecognisable simian from islamic mythology on whose tail Khadija (Mohammed's first wife) is stuck. And in another of MF Hussain's tasteless (and rather islamically-blasphemous) images, he has Mohammed copulating with the underage (8-9 yr old) Ayesha, which, though historically accurate, may give offense to all - particularly as the act is depicted as being watched by Allah in the background. Also, he is excusing the event shown by painting the child Ayesha with what is understood as the body of a full-grown woman.

Hindus were not pleased with this unsecular behaviour of FN Souza and MF Hussain, but have found it hard to argue with them as they are only painting scenes of their own religion and are driven by the insipid and inept christoislamic presumptions to 'art'. (Maybe MF Hussain should become famous for his anti-islamic paintings in other countries...)

From Columbia Uty

Sources of South Asian art and architecture

<!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->
<b>Art and Culture of a Debased Society</b>
By: Dr.Dipak Basu
Looks like somebody is artificially promoting modern art in Indian subcontinent

Prices soar for modern Pakistani art

- Meera Mukherjee: the work and the life

<img src='http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080716/images/16editop1.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->THE DEPTHS OF THE MOULD
- Meera Mukherjee: the work and the life 
Aveek Sen

“You speak in one language, your thoughts and feelings are all different, yet your work is like ours — we just don’t understand how this is possible.” When the sculptor and writer, Meera Mukherjee (1923-1998), went to the Munich Art Academy in 1953 to study painting, sculpture, etching and lithography, this is how her European teachers and classmates expressed their bewilderment with her work.

Her teacher of sculpting, Toni Stadler, one of the last of the Expressionists, was even harsher. He would tear up, at the end of each day, everything that she had sketched through the day, while the others in her class would continually deconstruct one another’s work in terms that seemed impossibly abstract to her. Full of despair, Mukherjee turned into an insomniac. One day, driven to the edge by months of sleeplessness, she took up a small piece of wood and crafted a bowl out of it. And, for the first time, Herr Stadler thought that she had got to something with this bowl, somehow managing to put her mind, and its struggle, into the woodiness of the wood and the bowlness of the bowl. She had broken into what she would later, long after she left Europe and its abstractions, repeatedly refer to as “identification” — the miraculous unity of medium, mind, process and finished work that comes, only rarely, at the end of the most exacting physical and intellectual labour. All her life, she could never decide whether this gift of “identified” work was rightfully the artist’s or the artisan’s. And this uncertainty would never cease to complicate the direction and integrity of her self-conscious evolution as a sculptor.

Seeing some of her work together at Galerie 88 in Calcutta recently, I was struck by how this struggle for identification still lived around the work like a restive, irresistible presence. <b>I knew nothing about her, but what I was looking at was not just art. It was the live wreckage of an entire way of being that exacted an absolute price from the person who chose to live it out and give it a few difficult and enduring shapes. Something like this comes through for me when I look at Ritwik Ghatak’s best films — unfinished, imperfect, fearfully untidy, intellectually driven yet always suspicious of the intellect’s despotism, corroded by an absolute giving of oneself to what one’s idea of the work asks for. But Ghatak’s self-destructiveness was very different from the corrosive idealism informing Mukherjee’s art and her craft.</b>

My sense of a life fully identified with the work made me read as much of her writing as I could find. There are long, recklessly candid interviews, autobiographical sketches, bits from her diaries, illustrated books for children, ethnographic studies of craft communities from all over India. I met some of the people whose lives were touched and changed by her life and art, and realized that this capacity to influence and bring people together came from a generosity of spirit that was vital to her creativity. I also came upon a set of photographs made by the American photographer, William Gedney, in the late Seventies and early Eighties that showed her at work in her own courtyard in Calcutta (picture). Gedney’s own restless, solitary, perpetually self-questioning genius had recognized a kindred spirit from what remained, as far as I know, an impersonal distance.

Mukherjee looked back on her years in Germany with characteristic ambivalence. She had felt alienated from the relentless intellectualism of Stadler’s set that seemed to take away from the immediacy of its relationship with the media and the processes of sculpture. This made her decide not to ever want to be an ‘intellectual’ or a ‘great artist’ within this modern tradition. <b>Yet, looking back, from this European perspective, on her early education under Abanindranth Tagore (she was 14 when she started going to his Indian Society of Oriental Art), she felt that his teaching of impeccable draughtsmanship, largely through a close imitation of the Ajanta frescoes, failed to initiate her into forming her own intellectual and critical point of view to what she was copying and imbibing. Even Delhi Polytechnic, afterwards, failed to teach her to think for herself. Her critique of the Indian masters — “blue-blooded feudals”, with the exception of Gaganendranath Tagore — remained fearless and radical throughout her life.</b>

Paradoxically, it was Stadler and some of his colleagues in Munich, who pushed her, via the Louvre and the British Museum, towards a discovery of India and its indigenous traditions. On returning to India, Mukherjee taught in a few schools, and as soon as she saved enough money, went off on a whimsically self-propelled tour of the country, starting with Dandakaranya and then going down south, trying to recover for herself the dwindling traditions of metal artisanship. <b>It was here, in her ethnographic trail, that Mukherjee ran into the most unresolvable of dichotomies, which made her think again of that ideal of identification. These craftsmen — the Bastar Gharuas, Nepali Sakya metal-workers, southern bronze-workers — embodied for her a way of working collectively and skilfully, a form of aesthetic labour, which appeared to be entirely free of the tormented self-consciousness that often paralysed her own work.</b> But these craftsmen were also fiercely protective of their knowledge, making her promise that she would never do their kind of work once she went back to the city. And all the time, the question that she kept putting to them was, “What do you think about when you work? What goes through your mind as you wield your tools and work with the metal?” To this, the usual reply would be, “Nothing.” And she would then be sent off to some chore, like making a paste of goat-turds in water, an instruction she would struggle to obey.

<b>Mukherjee realized that perfectly “identified” work — merging the artist with the artisan, urban with rural, labour with thought — was a pastoral ideal, the realization of which in some of the crafts she learnt and studied could not be replicated in the processes and products of her own art.</b> She would have to forge her own resolution of this crisis at every level and sphere of her life — combining the European lost-wax process of casting bronze with indigenous methods of improvised casting, or living a sophisticated and cosmopolitan life of reading, films, theatre, concerts, conversation and unconventional friendships, in the interstices of which would come her gruelling, anxiety-ridden sessions of casting from dawn to dusk in the suburbs. These sessions involved a whole community of co-labourers, and she would return to the city exhausted, her hair full of lice and her lungs of noxious fumes.

During the dhalai, her identification with the process was complete, and intensely physical. If the air-channels in the cast somehow got blocked while the wax was being replaced by the molten metal, dangerously trapping the air inside, Mukherjee’s body would enact, exactly, the suffocation that she imagined the burning kuton or mould to be feeling. She closely describes this terrible and compulsive empathy in a piece of prose called “Chhancher gobheer theke” (From the depths of the mould).

Everything else that Mukherjee was drawn to provided her with ways of reflecting on the crisis that rendered her own ideal of identification so difficult to realize and sustain. <b>She was profoundly attracted to Buddhism, which she saw not as a religion but as a way of life that combined creative labour and collective living with renunciation and a meditative inwardness. Yet, she also admitted the truth, and the value, of her own instinctive rejection of this collective ideal for a solitude that she came to see as the painful but necessary precondition of her art. “I say Yes to Buddham sharanam gachhami,” she would joke to her friends, “but No to Dhammam sharanam gachhami, and Never to Sangham sharanam gachhami!” </b>Similarly, with the Hindustani classical music that she sang and listened to passionately, the merging of the singer and the song, when the body created beauty of oceanic dimensions out of its own breath, or with the theatre she had dabbled in and always enjoyed watching, where the actor could become his role, the possibilities of identification became exhilarating to contemplate, but impossible to reproduce in her own art.

Of what ‘use’, then, would her art ever be, and to whom? Any artist who aspires to the condition of craft would inevitably push herself towards the desolation of this question. For Mukherjee, to affirm the sublime uselessness of Art in the manner of the Aesthete would be to risk the relegation of her own art to the limbo of the gallery and the drawing-room. Both nature and the world of ordinary human labour, even as they might inspire her art, could turn out to be indifferent to it in their own, unreflecting self-sufficiency. There was also her sharp dislike of the educated, middle-class viewer of art, the bhadralok “who thinks he knows a few things”. And sometimes, in her diary, there is the fear of what loneliness and egotism might achieve together: “this fear is the fear of growing cold”. Yet, she finishes her most ebullient interview, recorded in 1982, with a vision of self-sufficiency that resolves the crisis of identification in a circularity that is more mischievous than earnest: “If you become your own Idea, if you are your own Idea, then whatever you happen to be doing — that will become your Idea!”

Look at early Rajasthan paintings and see how they capture all the movements of modern contemporay art!- Surrealism, impressionsim(last picture) etc. I tell you modern art movement is fake and is an imitation of the Colonial encounter with India.

Rajasthan minatures
<!--emo&Sad--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/sad.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='sad.gif' /><!--endemo--> The 'symbolic protest exhibition' was organised by SAHMAT to protest against the non-inclusion of Husain's paintings at the India Art Summit which concluded here today.

The organisers said the police had been informed about the three-day exhibition that began on August 22. Meanwhile, they have extended the exhibition by a day.

Arpana Caur, a painter who was present at the time of the attack, said, "These men came near the paintings and tried to damage them. They were carrying placards with Jai Shri Ram written on them."

Police reached the spot soon after the incident, but they managed to escape.

Describing the attack as a "cowardly act", Rajan said, "the DCP of the area had been informed well in advance about a possible disruption but no security was provided making us an easy target."

Meanwhile, SAHMAT has called for a protest meeting tomorrow.

Deccan Chronile, 22 Sept 2008

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Afghan women have a brush with freedom
By Debarun Borthakur

When you have thousands of untold stories to narrate, but you can’t express them, art can act as the perfect mouthpiece. Spearheading an artistic revolution amidst the political dynamism in Afghanistan are a bunch of young women, who are determined to revive the artistic traditions of the country, and are keen on presenting a new era of contemporary Afghan art on the global arena.

<b>Centre for Contemporary Arts, Afghanistan, in collaboration with Indian Council For Cultural Research and Embassy of Kabul, organised the first independent art exhibition by Afghan women in the history of Afghanistan at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in the capital.</b> The exhibition highlighted the life of Afghan women, and showcased the various issues faced by them in recent years. Curated by the founder and director of the first art institute in Afghanistan, Centre for Contemporary Art, Rahraw Omarzad, the exhibition showcased 40 paintings by 18 young women artistes  between the age group of 16 to 25 years.

<b>The paintings reflected the trauma and pain that women in Afghanistan have gone through.</b> “We are not allowed to come out of our houses if we are not accompanied by a male member of the family,” said Yalda Noorie, a 26-year-old painter.  Paintings titled as Liberty, Remembrance, Power and Revolution had themes that focused on the life of women in Afghanistan, narrating stories of hope and agony. “We asked them to paint whatever they wanted to, as we never wanted them to confine their thoughts to any particular religion or issue,” said Rahraw Omarzad.

<b>How difficult was it to introduce the women in Afghanistan to contemporary art?</b> “Eighty per cent of the women had absolutely no idea about painting and art. Initially, we taught them drawing, and after three months we gave them hints of conceptual art and creative paintings. This is the result of one year’s training,” said Omarzad.

<b>Omarzad recalls the initial difficulties he faced in establishing CCAA. “The idea struck me when I was living in Peshawar as a refugee. By then, I was working for an art magazine. I called up a few painters to discuss the idea and asked for their support. We even thought of approaching the Pakistani government, and wanted to have talks with the Taliban, but later thought it would be too dangerous, so we went ahead and did it ourselves,” said Omarzad. </b>

How did the families of these young women artistes react to the idea of joining an art school? “Initially, it was difficult for us to get students. We made paper pamphlets with all the details about the institute and distributed them,” said the curator.

Now that these women are determined to do what they are best at, what are their expectations from the global market? “It is a new movement in Afghanistan, and of course, our art has a uniqueness. These painters emphasise more on the concept than the technicalities, and I think that is our USP. However, these young artistes don’t want to sell their paintings as they want to use them for other exhibitions,” said Omarzad. Except Khadija Hashemi, who sold one of her paintings to the minister of art and culture, Germany for $9,000, no other artist has ever sold any of her creations.

<b>With only two art galleries in Afghanistan (at Herat and Kabul), how is Omarzad planning to popularise art in Afghanistan?</b> “We want to open more art galleries in our country, but first we want to do something in Kabul,” informed Omarzad.  <b>Funded by the Women of the World Foundation, Centre for Contemporary Art in Afghanistan is a first-of-its-kind venture. CCAA is also planning to introduce photography and textile designing courses in the coming years.</b>

Did the Delhi High Court grant M. F. Hussein amnesty?
- U Narayana Das
Artistic Freedom & Social Responsibility
By U Narayana Das
<!--QuoteBegin-"ramana"+-->QUOTE("ramana")<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin-"Neela"+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE("Neela")<!--QuoteEBegin-->Follow up to ramana's X-post

<!--QuoteBegin-"ramana"+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE("ramana")<!--QuoteEBegin-->my comments:

BTW has anyone coaught on to the transformation of the imagination of the West? The popularity of Harry Potter and LOTR genre etc. I think they are reaching deep into the pagan past as their mythology is non-existent in the post christian/post englightnement/Post modern society. A society without mythology will cease to continue.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Interesting point. It has always baffled me as to why the West clung on to Christianity.

In fact, that is a pan-human question. Note that even in India, all kingdoms and kings always claim that they are the lineage of some Solar or other dynasty.<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

I have come to realize that modern Westerners cling to Science fiction and fantasy instead of mythology which is a pre-modern tradition.

I now realize the importance of Bollywood movies like "Krissh" and "2050" genre for they are small steps in similar vein.<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

On Sulekha past, there was a mention of (a now famous) movie where the hero tries to find the lost Dhanush of Ram or something similar. It was a total flop. The movie simply did not find any resonance among Indians.

IMO, even <i>Om Shanti Om</i> which tries to reinterpret the Kapoor era through the lens of western "retro"-type acerbic irony (as seen in Austin Powers) did not resonate with Indians for those ironical elements, but rather for the humor, music, and so on. No indian was laughing at the buffoonery of "those hopeless kapoors from the 70's", but rather at the specific depicted situation.

In typical fashion, indians remain blind to many of these western introduced tropes and gimmicks and are uninterested by the insipid theological debates behind such depictions . Indians will even see outright propaganda films like 'Dharm' and remain absolutely unaffected . the situation is similar to the anecdote where missionaries abused the hindu gods and the Hindus would, in turn, join in with the abuse.

How many indians went to see Krissh because they are science fiction fanatics. They simply went to see hrithik Roshan. How many indians discussed theology of time travel after seeing that movie?? I can guarantee it was not at all a stickling point, just as the plausibility of plot outlines, in general, is not a stickiling point for heathens like indians.

The characteristics of naïve art are an awkward relationship to the formal qualities of painting. Difficulties with drawing and perspective that result in a charmingly awkward and often refreshing vision, strong use of pattern, unrefined color, and simplicity rather than subtlety are all supposed markers of naïve art. It has, however, become such a popular and recognizable style that many examples could be called pseudo-naïve.
Deccan Chronicle Apologises - Hussain Doesn’t!
<i>By U Narayana Das </i>
<b> Emirates art lovers welcome Orientalism</b>
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->So at a time when Orientalist art is enjoying a critical reappraisal and breaking auction records, it seems that critical and philosophical questions about the cultural appropriateness is mainly confined to the Western mind. The Emaratis of Sharjah scarcely even noticed.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
I think they dont know what Oreintalism is all about. Its more like a case of "a fool and his money are parted easily" or passing of raisins as houris!
<b>Were Hindus right to oppose M. F. Husain's art, or is legitimate artistic freedom being trodden upon?</b>
Koenraad Elst

Hindu Voice UK, July 2009

The first half of 2006 saw a number of incidents concerning the nude paintings of Hindu deities by veteran Muslim painter Maqbul Fida Husain. At least six court cases were filed against him and more than 150 demonstrations took place near Husain exhibitions, auctions, award ceremonies and litigation venues in places as far apart as New York, Washington DC, London, Mumbai, Delhi, Bhopal and provincial towns like Satara. In this article I have no intention of giving a full account of all this commotion, merely to develop my view on the basic question: are these nude depictions of deities justifiable under modern principles of artistic freedom?


Hindu organizations in Great Britain, most actively the Hindu Human Rights group, have organized protests against an exhibition of paintings by the Indian Muslim artist M. F. Husain. The Times of India (24th May 2006) carried a story of the exhibition held in Asia House in London of two nude portrayals of Hindu goddesses drawn by M. F. Husain. The exhibition was inaugurated by Kamlesh Sharma, India’s High Commissioner. Mr Ramesh Kallidai, the secretary-general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, an umbrella group that claims 270 Hindu organizations as members, told Times of India: “When it came t Prophet’s cartoons, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally condemned them. India was one of the first to ban Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses. Why should artistic freedom only be enjoyed by those who hurt and insult Hindus?”

Hindus protested against the Asia House gallery because they objected to its decision to exhibit paintings of Hindu goddesses engaged in what looked like acts of bestiality. While the Hindu groups had agreed to meet the organizers for discussion, they were beaten to it by unknown individuals who entered the exhibition hall and destroyed some offended paintings. No further talks took place, and exhibition was closed. Anti-Hindu commentators lost no time in amalgamating the dignified Hindu protests with an act of vandalism. The British Hindus set the record straight:

“These people also fail to acknowledge the right of the Hindu community to hold peaceful protests when our religion and culture are abused and defamed. The right to peaceful protest is integral to the functioning in any healthy democratic society. Following this logic, the thousands of anti-war protests must also be bigots and fundamentalists. (...) The wider problem is that this is not the first case of defamation against Hindus and Hinduism and it is something that the Hindu community has been concerned about for a long time and it is this defamation that leads to persecution of Hindus elsewhere in the world. It also creates the atmosphere in the West where the media and public becomes apathetic, ignorant and indifferent to the persecution and discrimination of Hindus and Hinduism across the world.”

When Lord Meghnad Desai, a prominent Nehruvian secularist, heard of the affair, he issued a comment putting forth three arguments. Firstly, the exhibition is being attacked because M. F. Husain is a Muslim. Secondly, Hindu Right groups have attempted to undermine artistic freedom. Thirdly, Hindu goddesses can be seen in a variety of poses which many may find erotic in the temples of Khajuraho, Tirupati and others. Let’s look into these claims.

<b>“It's normal for Goddesses to be naked”</b>

Like Lord Desai, M. F. Husain himself has claimed that his paintings were part of an existing Hindu tradition of depicting goddesses in non-Victorian poses: “We Indians are proud to create a civilization of art and culture, enshrined in the sanctity of Ajanta and Ellora caves and temples for last 5,000 years. There the images of Gods and Goddesses are pure and uncovered.” (Sify.com 13th March 2006)

However, it is simply untrue that goddesses are ever depicted while satisfying themselves with the help of a tiger’s tail, the way Husain depicts Durga. As for the more modest nudes, even these are far from the rule in Hindu iconography.

In the Hindu worldview, kama or eroticism has a place among the finalities of human life. This may well be the idea behind the depiction of some sexual scenes on the outside walls of Khajuraho temples. However, it is not because the Khajuraho buildings are temples that they depict sex between deities. These sculptures are only on the outside, not inside the abode of the deity, and they depict scenes from all aspects of human life. They send the message that one should always have the deity as the central point in one’s life even though one is engaged in worldly activities. About one tenth of them are of a sexual nature,a and none of these involves characters recognizable as Saraswati, Lakshmi or other deities. Inside the Khajuraho temples, the idols of Shiva, Nandi, Durga, the incarnation of Vishnu and Lakshmi etc. are clothed normally. All over India, deities have been shown in temples as described in the scriptures and normally no idols of deities are shown nude or in sexual positions.

There are arguable exceptions. One is the Tantric deity-couples, frequent in Tibet but rare in India, who may be shown in a dignified copulation posture, not doggie-style or lying down missionary-style as pornographers would prefer, but the god sitting in lotus posture with the goddesses sitting on his lap embracing him. I am the happy owner of a statue of Ganesha in copulation with a female partner, which incidentally gives the lie to Paul Courtright’s thesis of Ganesha as a symbol of phallic limpness. None of Husain’s contested paintings even dimly resembles these icons.

The second exception is the icons of naked saints, not gods, who observed a vow of nudity as part of their ascetic discipline. This chiefly concerns Mahavirs Jina and some of his followers. But obviously there cannot be a trace of sensuality, let alone Husain’s perversity, in those depictions of celibate saints.

In an open letter to Lord Desai, Hindu Human Rights also explained that Hindus were “offended at his depiction of Draupadi as naked, as in Hindu tradition it is Lord Krishna who saves her modesty in the Maharabhata”. Effectively, in a central episode of the most influential text of Hinduism, the Mahabharata¸ Draupadi is threatened with nudity as an act of humiliation, and the deified hero Krishna is credited with saving her from this shame. Husain identifies with the Kaurava rascals by taking her clothes off after all. The very least that the epic story teaches is that ancient Hindus were not so carefree about nudity after all.

At this point I have to correct a position I had taken in an internet discussion after a naked depiction of goddess Saraswati by Husian had caused some commotion. I had pointed out that Saraswati had been introduced in Japan by the Buddhists under the name Benzai-ten, and that this goddess does get depicted naked. Indeed, a naked sculpture of Benzai-ten is shown in many books of Buddhist or Japanese art history (e.g Louis Frederic: Les Dieux du Bouddhisme, Flammarion, Paris 1992, p.223 ff.). However, that sculpture is not functioning idol in a temple but located in a museum. In a temple, such a naked sculpture is clothed every morning, and worshippers only see her clothed. This practice of clothing a sculpture is not uncommon in Hindu-Buddhist devotionalism, e.g even the giant Bamian Buddhas in Afghanistan used to be clothed. The Japanese are less prudish than the Indians, but even they worship their deities in clothed form. Likewise, even the impudent Greeks depicted only Aphrodite, the goddess of erotic love, in the nude; but Artemis, Athena, Demeter and other goddesses are always shown covered.

<b>“Nudity is normal in modern art”</b>

In a letter published in The Gurdian, 2nd June 2006, the HHR, in line with its other progressive statements regarding full integration of Dalits, action against female infanticide etc., refutes the allegation that it represents an anti-art obscurantism: “We protested against the Asia House gallery because we object to its decision to exhibit paintings of Hindu goddesses engaged in acts of bestiality (Letters, May 26 and 30). Maghnad Desai seems to think such images can be found in Hindu temples, but, as we have written to him, we dispute this and challenge him to produce evidence. All our statements show we have always maintained we are not anti-art. After all, where else can we find the range of expression we find in Hindu literature, poetry, painting, dance, music, sculpture, drama, spiritual epics, architecture, costumes and jewellery. But when we see Hindu imagery and symbolism adorning toilet seats, bikinis, magazine covers etc., it becomes easier to see why so many people in the media and politics are ignorant and apathetic when it comes to highlighting the plight of Hindus in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, [etc.].”

There is a certain pluralism and fluidity in contemporary standards about what is acceptable and what is not. Some standards are nonetheless still standing firm, and they can be ascertained approximately with the comparative method: replace the question of nudity in different contexts and see what is accepted there. For a precise instance: “Those supporting the nude paintings of Hindu goddesses by Husain should answer in the affirmative the following question: will they accept an exhibition of a nude painting of their beloved ones?”

Hindus may not realize that some artsy people in the West would indeed not mind having their loved ones or themselves depicted naked. But this is unlikely to be true of Lord Desai, much less of M. F. Husain. And for this, we have the testimony of Husain’s own paintings.

“Nudity is a form of innocence”, say Husain (Sify.com 13th May 2006), who describes himself as a “a humble and ardent contributor in creating a great Indian ‘Composite’ culture”. Yet, the pattern emerging from a survey of his paintings suggests nudity isn’t all that innocent to his own mind. Husain shows the Prophet’s daughter Fatima fully clothed; his own mother fully clothed; Mother Teresa fully clothed; Muslim poets Faiz and Ghalib fully clothed; an unnamed Muslim lady fully clothed; but goddess Durga naked and in compromising position; goddess Lakshmi naked on Ganesha’s head; goddess Saraswati naked; Draupadi naked; Hanuman naked with Sita sitting on Ravan’s thigh; Bharat Mata naked, with names of India’s provinces written on her flesh. Even more telling is a painting showing a fully clad Muslim king with a naked Brahmin, and one showing four 20 th-century leaders, among them Gandhi decapitated and Hitler naked.

So, it is hard to find fault with the Hindu group’s conclusion: “M. F. Husain depicts the deity or person he hates as naked. He shows Prophet’s Mother, his own mother, daughter, all the Muslim personalities fully clothed, but at the same time Hindus and Hindu deities along with Hitler are shown naked. This proves his hatred for the Hindus.” The HHR suggests to Husain’s patrons: “It will be very much appreciated if these art traders dare to make nude paintings of their beloved ones, and what to say of Mohammed the Prophet, and exhibit [these] in the name of art.”

Some secular modern painters might in good faith depict Hindu deities in the nude and mean it when they deny that this has any disparaging intention. But M. F. Husain is not one of those. He is a Muslim fanatic who gives a new expression to the old Islamic contempt for Hinduism. Muslim rulers in the past expressed their contempt by placing Hindu deity sculptures in roads for treading them underfoot, or in lavatories. Husain seeks the same effect by depicting the deities in poses that he and many onlookers find contemptible. As for the secular art collectors who now support him in the name of artistic freedom, he takes them for a ride by using the visual language of modernism and the liberal rhetoric of artistic freedom to package the age-old Islamic message of hatred.

<b>“Husain is a Muslim”</b>

The same Hindu bodies who have joined the sensitivity bandwagon are usually also those which avoid polemic with Islam. When given an opportunity, they will rather join hands with Muslims to prove how nice they are. Many Hindu organizations, such as the Hindu American Forum, have passed resolutions condemning the Danish Mohammed cartoons. In the State Assembly of Andhra Pradesh, the Hindu nationalist BJP supported a resolution to the same effect, which was passed unanimously, also and especially with the support of the so called secularists. These Hindus were naive to expect any signs of gratitude in return, whether from Muslims or secularists. Indeed, now that Hindus themselves allege blasphemy, no one comes out in solidarity with them.

Unlike in France or Germany, where prominent media came out in support of the Danish cartoonist by republishing the cartoons, the British and American media downplayed the affair as much as possible and refrained from showing the cartoons, possibly in a concern not to make matters worse for their occupation troops in Iraq. At any rate, they went out of their way not to offend Muslim sensibilities. An earlier HHR statement observes: “We understand that the media in the UK did not publish the Mohammed cartoons as a deliberate decision. And we also understand that no academics (or people like Lord Meghnad Desai) protested about the decision. In fact, it is possible that they would be all applauding the decision of the media.”

Yet, when it comes to Hindu sensibilities, different standards apply. Here, Desai stands up for a Muslim painter’s “artistic freedom to take Hindu gods and goddesses as his theme”. In its letter to The Guardian, HHR explains: “More seriously, he accuses us of raising this issue because of M. F. Husain’s religion. This is completely baseless; we are proud of our interfaith work and have spoken on radio with Muslim leaders to support their efforts to end attempts to demonize their community.”

Another activist group, the Mumbai-based Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (Committee for Hindu Popular Awakening) claims in reply that it “has handled many similar campaigns against deliberate insults of Hindus and Hinduism by Hindu painters, for example Shri. Subash Avchat, Dnyanesh Sonar, Mahendra Pandit amongst others.” There are at any rate plenty of Hindu-born anti-Hindu secularists, and those among them with an artistic vocation might feel inclined to insulting Hinduism through paintings too, just as the scholars among them do with anti-Hindu theses. Reacting against Hinduism, but it is not the only one; a commitment to Islam is another.

The case of M. F. Husain is probably one of mixed motives. The engouragement by secularists to insult Hinduism certainly played a role, but the more fundamental reason may well be his own ingrained Muslim hatred of “idolatry”.

In the debate about the Danish Mohammed cartoons, Muslims eagerly quote the words UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Oraganization of the Islamic Conference in Istanbul on 13th April 2006, where he affirmed the importance of basic freedoms as well as the need for sensitivity towards other cultures: “We must stress that rights carry with them an inherent responsibility, and should not be used to degrade, humiliate or insult any group or individual.” But these Muslims have not matured enough to take this maxim to heart in their own treatment of non-Muslim cultures.

<b>My view</b>

In contrast with the Hindu human Rights group, which has fully integrated the modern outlook, many Hindu advocacy groups have reacted to the Husain paintings in a humourless, unimaginative, crude and repression-centred manner. For example, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti put forward the following demands: “1. That M. F. Husain be arrested and put behind the bars immediately. 2. Immediate removal of all objectionable paintings of Husain from the Kashmir Mission Auction. 3. That M. F. Husain be socially ostracized so that no one dares to commit such a mistake in future.” And again: “Arrest Mr. Chetan bhatt [a London-based political science professor who came out in Husain’s support] and other evil intellectuals for promoting hatred. Socially ostracise M. F. Husain, Lord Desai and others supporting M. F. Husain’s paintings from offices and galleries.”

It can’t be a good advertisement for Hinduism that its activists have not advanced beyond this stage of purely reactive, emotionalist and repressive thinking. The people who came out in support of M. F. Husain’s insulting paintings can safely be suspected of an anti-Hindu animus, but that, after all, is their privilege. Neither in the ancient Hindu tradition of open debate nor in modern Western framework of freedom of expression can their opinion be a valid reason for arresting or otherwise harassing them.

Within that framework, it is nonetheless legitimate to try and persuade people into abandoning insulting practices. Companies depicting Hindu deities on shoes or underwear have indeed agreed to withdraw these products after friendly negotiations with Hindu protestors. The people concerned are usually outsiders to Hindu culture and South-Asian politics, and precisely because there is a silly innocence about their improper gimmicks, they don’t insist on their “right to artistic expression” when properly informed.

The matter may be different with hate-driven secularists and Muslims. As demonstrated in the M. F. Husain affair, Hindu opposition only makes them more arrogant and more eager to rub it in. Even there, I believe Hindus should muster the self-control to maintain respect for ancient Hindu and modern international norms regarding freedom of expression. This is very precious and benefits everyone in the long run.

One reason why many Hindus don’t value their right to free expression, is that they never use it, at least not in matters where it would provoke controversy. Kofi Annan’s admonition cited above, which Muslims use to bully their critics into silence, is being sincerely observed by most Hindus. Without being asked or pressured, they try not to offend Muslims and Christians. It is commendable that Hindus have the good taste not to put images of Jesus or Mohammed on underwear or toilet seats. But it is regrettable that they also silence their own critical faculty and refrain from taking a frank look at the doctrines of their declared enemies. If they tried to do that once in a while, they would soon come to value the need for a legally guaranteed freedom of expression.



I had originally read this essay a couple of years back in Elst's last book "Problem with Secularism" which is not yet available online, and I think this is one of clearest commentaries on the issue.

And this too did not escape the criticism of Sandhya Jain who accused Elst to be a Racist! (His being a closet jesuit/opus dei out there to cunningly destroy the Hindus-- this we had heard before, but white racist: wow!!)

Her reaction:

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->I am at a loss to understand why Ashok puts out certain types of articles
always. <b>Koenraad has indulged in typical white racism</b> - telling aggrieved Hindus to basically shut up and stick to Gopal Gokhale types of petitions only. He
tries to impress us that the Shitty White Corporates that put Hindu gods on
shoes and toilet seats withdraw (sic) the products when better informed!!!
Really? An illiterate Hindu does not need to be informed about such things -
they never happen in India. This happens repeatedly with the Shitty Whites
because they want to test if Hindus are still alert about these things, or will
let them pass. It is the most offensive form of white racism, and they don't let
up, the Bas@@@@@

Husain is another bas@@@@ poster painter, fit for the gutter only. He is
doing iconoclasm and everyone knows it. What Koenraad does not say in its
lengthy epistle is that the Religious Muslims denounced Husain and distanced
from him, and the secular ones kept quiet, and it was only the white stooge
Hindus who stood by him, as Koenraad himself does in his seemingly subtle way.

White people love nudity because they are civilisationally naked. Hindus
have the concept of Digambara - clothed in air - a highly pristine form of total
purity that the west cannot even begin to comprehend. So you have cheapies
talking about nudity of the Divinity, and cheapy artists like Anjolie taking
pot-shots at Digambara and trying to make out that it is the same thing, which
it is not.

Husain's patronage - like that of Rushdie - comes from the Shitty white
colonialists, and we are not amused at his defence by another white from a
formerly colonial nation.

Sandhya Jain
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->I am at loss to understand Sandhya Jain's response. When I read SJ's response to KE's article, I see a high degree of convergence between the two atleast on this issue. KE is saying (like many of us have said earlier) that:

a) Nudity is not celebrated in Indian civilization.

b) The digambar type of "clothing" is way much different that the regular nudity that abounds in West. The former reflects spritual upliftment, while the latter is rooted in one's primordial desires (kaama).

c) MF Hussain was committing an act of violence when he depicted Hindu Devis and Devas in nude.

d) THe argument that it is ok to do nude paintings of Hindu Devis/Devas because similar stuff exists in Khajuraho is misleading and distorted. It is rooted in dishonesty.

e) Many Indian champions of "freedom of art" would baulk at the idea of depiction of their own near and dear ones in nude forms. Thus they are being hypocritical.

So, what is the problem here. The only thing KE did not mention (which SJ would have liked him to) is that many Muslim orgs denounced MFH's paintings. Frankly, the denouncement of these orgs is the least of my worries. As SJ correctly pointed out, that here the challenge is not from Muslim orgs, but from the "secular" Hindus who consistently portray crap as bhagvat-prasaad, and vice-versa.

She accuses KE of supporting MFH subtly. I would request her to kindly explain her position.


<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->This is a typical sanctimonious attitude by a person who lives outside his bhumi and thinks he can look down upon India and Indians because he is “in” with the whites.

To begin with (and I really don’t have the time for these kind of sterile exchanges) – the very paradigm invoked by Koenraad - are these nude depictions of deities justifiable under modern principles of artistic freedom? – is false and illegitimate. When a dharmic tradition is being discussed, the intellectual titillation of the white man cannot be the standard by which the dharma, its depiction in art, and its perception by living bhaktas will be understood, much less accepted.

If that is the case, then – 1] Begin with artistic depictions of Jehovah and show me how far you can go with it. 2] Islam will come next, NOT before the Jews (because that is the hierarchy) and that is where the whites start sweating profusely.

Coming to Elst:-

1] Nudity is NOT observed by Jaina saints as part of their ascetic discipline. First of all, there is no nudity in dharma. The Digambara Jaina Muni becomes Digambara (clothed in air) when he attains the pinnacle of his dharmic consciousness; the clothes fall with the loss of false consciousness, and it is not as if there is training in living naked like in a nudist camp in America. There is naturally no sensuality here, and there is no need for Elst to even raise this here.

2] Meghnad Desai is a British Lord, and of no relevance to me.

3] What does Koenraad mean when he calls Krishna a “deified hero.” I do hope you realise that he is saying that the Mahabharata is not Itihasa, but mythology! And when he says that at the “very least that the epic story (abt Draupadi’s disrobing attempt) teaches is that ancient Hindus were not so carefree about nudity after all” – he IS being offensive, and he must explain WHO said that Hindus were carefree about nudity.

Hindus who are awed by the white skin must also explain why they do not take offence to such puerile writing that passes as a discourse on Indian culture.

4] The issue is NOT if ‘Those supporting the nude paintings of Hindu goddesses by Husain also accept a nude painting of their beloved ones.’ HOW can Divinity be equated with a perverse human being who may love to go around naked? That Scarlett Keeling who was murdered in Goa was abandoned by her mother who went off to be naked in Karnataka – does that justify insulting the Hindu divinities?

5] Who is Koenraad to decide that there is no valid reason to arrest Husain?

6] He thinks he is smart when he says that ‘Companies depicting Hindu deities on shoes or
underwear have indeed agreed to withdraw these products after friendly negotiations with Hindu protestors. The people concerned are usually outsiders to Hindu culture and South-Asian politics, and precisely because there is a silly innocence about their improper gimmicks, they don't insist on their "right to artistic expression" when properly informed.’

Koenraad should not try to pull that on me. This be innocent once, not every time!

7] What does it mean:- “I believe Hindus should muster the self-control to maintain respect for ancient Hindu and modern international norms regarding freedom of expression. This is very precious and benefits everyone in the long run...”

THIS is the same as demanding that Hindus shut up when Husain insults their gods, when the white sh1t put gods on toilet seats and shoes.

Nachiketa, who wanted to give SHOES to the Indian Prime Minister but won’t DARE nurture the thought for the American President, wants me to prove that Koenraad is trying to support the Denigration of Indian gods in the name of freedom of expression.

It sounds like Free Trade – that is what was used to justify the Opium Trade in China. Today, the trade is called evil, but continues with western patronage, and to the benefit of Western banks, and everyone knows it.

So I conclude – I don’t suffer this kind of duplicity lightly, and I am not so easy to fool either.

Warm regards

Sandhya Jain

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