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Giving Birth to Right

Hinduism and other religions cannot be used as a whip to punish artists who believes in the notion of freedom expression and choice. Culling examples from the recent Baroda incident Johny ML says that the growing subculture in the world wide web would ultimately subvert the agenda of the fundamentalists.

A society with a certain level of tolerance only can enjoy jokes. Jokes come out of irreverance. A joke is not a residual of the cultural memory, on the contrary it is a by product of the culture itself. Joke and spirituality result from a deeper understanding of a cultural situation. Culture includes religion also. There is a story; a wise mad man (most of the mad men are wise) namely Naranathu Bhranthan was spending a night in a cemetry. At midnight Chudala Bhadrakali (an incarnation of Goddess Durga) with ten heads and twenty hands came to the cemetry for performing her nocturnal dance. She saw this man sitting there without any fear. She tried to frighten him away. He started laughing. The puzzled Goddess asked him why he was laughing. Then he said, “Last week I was having a bad cold and my nose was running. I was just thinking how you would manage a cold with these twenty noses?”

This sense of humor is what makes religion acceptable. It was from this same sense of humor late Bhupen Khakkar painted ‘A Man from Vasad with Five Penises Suffering from a Running Nose’. Who is this five penise-d monster? A man or a God? Bhupen Khakkar does not answer this question. Art need not give answer to all questions. Its role to ask new questions thereby becoming the energy houses for pushing the culture ahead.

There is a reason why I draw parallel between the mad man’s story and Bhupen’s painting. The Baroda fame Neeraj Jain is offended by a painting by Chandramohan. The painting depicts a woman who looks like the representation of Goddess Durga, seen in the act of delivering a man. This painting has not been seen by many. The only ‘objectionable’ painting seen by the people is a cross with suggestions of limbs, apparently sending out a feeling of crucifixion. There is a real western commode kept just below the cross. One need not think too much to make a connection between the cross and the commode.

Before going into the issue of Cross, let us look the issue of Goddess Durga. Consider any world religion, from paganistic to the monotheistic, woman is held high in esteem. In Hindu philosophy woman is treated as goddess. She is the mother nature. She is The Mother. Where woman is worshipped there Gods resides. Even Manu, the codifier of Hindu laws says that woman should be protected at all stages of her life (even at the cost of her own freedom!). If woman is invested with all godliness and capacity to create and procreate, then how can one avoid the issues of menstruation, sexuality, pregnancy and giving birth? Interestingly, no religion has banned such depictions. Right from the paleolithic times to post-post modern times, human beings with artistic bend have tried to depict these issues. Anthropologists and sociologists say that taboos came into being for the simple reason that they were necessary for social ordering and governance. One cannot hoodwink the fact that these social ordering and governance were mostly the making of the Males.

Despite all these taboos, artists have been creating images of goddesses and women throughout the human history. Neeraj Jain thinks that it is an act of desecration. He thinks so because he feels that he is one of the new age messiahs who is born to protect the edicts of Hinduism. He does not know that Chandramohan also holds the same right on Hinduism and its pantheon of Gods. He has the right to depict a woman (as he is the son of a woman) and a Goddess as he has his natural right of being a Hindu. His act of depicting a Hindu Goddess in labour is primarily his freedom of choice and expression. Besides, he has the right to be irreverent towards what he believes in or what he comprehends out of it. Neeraj Jain cannot dictate terms on artists’ choice.

My argument naturally would raise a question regarding M.F.Husain’s right to depict a Hindu Goddess. If the fundamentalists argue that whoever born in India/Hindustan must be a Hindu, then Husain is a better Hindu than anybody else. He has lived a longer term in India than any hooligans braying for his blood. Husain’s right to depict a Hindu Goddess comes from his natural right of being an Indian and an artist. He has the right to interpret anything that belongs to his cultural heritage, irrespective of religious sentiments.

If one goes by the same line of Neeraj Jain, one has to ask whether he belongs to the Hindu religion. His surname, Jain shows that he belongs to Jainism. Jainism is a religion established around 6th century BC. The Jains who believe in the Pantheon of Thirthankaras is a minoirity religion in India. Jainism stresses on spiritual independence, equality of all life and non-violence. Self control for attaining the supreme knowledge is the motto of Jainism. If so what does Neeraj Jain have to do with Hindu Gods and Goddesses? How does he become the custodian of Hinduism?

Let us look at the legal side of our country. India does not legally accept polyandry or bigamy. It considers adultry as a legal offence. In that case, one should say that all the religious epics should be banned as they are filled with examples of bigamy, polyandry and adultry. Will Neeraj Jain ask for banning Mahabharata and Ramayana? These texts and other related texts have detailed descriptions on explicit sexual acts, seducing and extra-marital affairs. Won’t they set bad examples for our children? But the majority of the Indian citizens have developed a cosmopolitan world view that could accommodate literature as literature and moral as moral.

The fundamentalist minority within the Hindu Religion that vouches for Hindutva, however does not understand this. They generate an issue and take political mileage out of it. They do not mind even sleeping with the enemy for gaining the ulterior motives. That’s why Neeraj Jain suddenly finds an ally in Rev.Emmanuel Kant of Baroda. This Christian leader came to the Faculty of Fine Arts and expressed the ‘Church’s’ displeasure on displaying a Cross with a Commode under it. But he did not seem to have created much fuss over it as he new that his words would ultimately give leverage to Neeraj Jain’s act of vandalism. Nor did it become clear that the various denominations of Christanity in India took any interest in this issue.

The Cross and the Commode symbolize the torture of Christ on cross. The artist here functions between irreverance, joke and sympathy. He takes off from the Duchampian subversion of a commodity and connects it to the religious symbolism of Christianity. Could Christ have ejected bodily fluids while on the cross? A genuine question of anyone who would like to go a bit deeper than skin? In childhood, most of us have wondered whether those Gods sit in the sky would piss and shit on us? It has an innocence. When those world beauties are paraded in various suits, in their plastic best looks, one would tend to ask, do they piss, sweat and shit? It is a cultural irreverance. The Church that promoted Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of Christ’ with lot of blood and sweat on screen, should be able to digest a young artist’s genuine effort to look at the truth of Christ.

Neeraj Jain must be knowing the meaning of Gurukul, where students learn things from the Guru and live as a part of the environment. All educational institutions are the modern time Gurukuls. The Hindu texts say that when a war, famine or any other calamities happen the Ashrams, Gurukuls and Women should be protected. Neeraj Jain does not understand anything about that. He violated the sanctity of an educational institution in the name of Hinduism! This incident should be a pointer for the legal and governing bodies of India that they should be pro-active in making laws that prevent religious interests and hooligans entering in such socially sanctified spaces.

This protector of Hinduism has resorted to the new style of media management. He brought his own media men to ‘mediatize’ his act of vandalism (his brave act !). He must be sad that it was not televised ‘live’. These days Indian television channels send their crew everywhere, even the nook and corners of remote villages, so that a family feud, a dalit being beaten up, a man being pushed into fire, a pastor being roughed up, an adultrous couple in compromising act, sadhus accepting bribe, fake sexologists curing young men and women, well known Swamis talking about commission for converting black money into white etc, could be televised ‘live’. This Neeraj Jain did never think of those pack of thieves within the Hindu religion, who in the name of Hindutva raping the very modesty of this country, as seen in the television channels. He should be cleaning up his own stable, which would perhaps take a life time, before he sets foot on the field of art and culture, which, even if he tries his best his brain would refuse to understand.

I would like to tell all those aspiring protectors of morality that there is a subculture developing all over the world, which is more powerful than the mainstream culture, through the internet. However, you guys try to stop Chandramohans and Husains from expressing their creative freedom, there would be thousands of Chandramohans and Husains coming up in these areas of subculture and destroy the false castles of morality that you create. If you have any doubt, just go to google and type out ‘Indian Women’. You will end up in watching a lot of pornography. World Wide Web will not yeild to hooliganism for they too have a space in the democracy of World Wide Web.


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