Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hindus, Hin-don'ts

Temple of doom
News from Puri

I'm not taking sides in this...I know better. Just stating the obvious; that this is going to keep on till somebody or a bunch of somebodies (probably in
south India) holds a referendum to "officially" redefine or define in the first place, since it was never defined in any scripture, what is a "Hindu."

It's not the first time the guardians of Puri's purity have been asleep the switch. Last year an Australian (I think) got in - which precipitated a ritual cleansing of the grounds - and around the same time there was a diplomatic faux pas when some Indonesian (presumably Balinese?) Hindus were not allowed in (guess they did not look Hindu enough...?).

At the time of the Indonesian incident, I read an Indian news report that such a conclave was being held, but never heard results.

Now I read of an incident involving the Thai Princess (--are Buddhists part of Hinduism? depends on who is counting, and why. In my experience, when it's to Hindu advantage, Buddhists are part of the "Om Kar Parivar") and another where a Bhubaneshwar temple was cleansed after a visit by someone - government minister in fact - from a "low caste." (not enough to be Hindu - you need to be the right kind of Hindu.)

The temple cleansing episodes remind me of the old story about Buddy Holly's family. Holly, the Texas rock legend, was very adamant about integration and socializing with Blacks. (It's okay to call them Black again...) This happened in a small town in the 1950s. Holly insisted on inviting some Black musicians in to his parents' house for dinner. After they left, he said, his parents "scrubbed the dishes five times with extra soap."

And why doesn't anyone fuss at the Parsees about the same issue? Well, for one thing, the Parsees are consistent!

Hey Balinese guys, next time "dress like a sadhu."


According to police, the foreign visitor, Sebastian, dressed like a sadhu. That made it difficult for security guards at the entrance to make out whether he is a Hindu or not. “He looked like a sadhu. He was wearing ochre robes of Hindu monks and yellow kurta with a shawl. He had also anointed sindur on forehead,” Singhadwar police station inspector-in-charge Arun Dalai.

Fearing more tension, the policemen escorted Sebastian out of the temple and detained him at the office of the Jagannath temple for hours.

36 comments:

dfalsberg said...

Whose fooling who> This reminds me of the whole "falasha" scene in Israel. Now falasha is atually a pejorative term, meaning outsider, referring to Jews of Ethiopian background. The PC Term is Beta Israel community The romantic background is that King Solomon "hooked up" with the Queen of Sheba and their offspring became Beta Israel. There are historically more tangible rationales for this "lost" tribe. Many Beta Israel customs became melded with christian practices over the centuries and this was used as an excuse not to allow them to emigrate. I remember in 84 when the head rabbinate finally allowed "Aliyah" but these new emigrants were required an all out immersion in modern orthodoxy which is Eastern European based Jewry.Anyway, today Beta Israel are somewhere between second and second and a half class citizens.Embraced by many but shunned by some which is pretty typical of just about any hot topic in Israel today.

Linda-Sama said...

it's all so hit or miss.

a year ago I was in Madurai with a non-Indian American Hindu friend, a devout Murugan bhakta. He lost his official "hindu papers" a long time ago, but they let him into the inner sanctum at Meenakshi.

I met an American woman in Chennai who was dying, another devout Murugan bhakta. She was on a pilgrimage to the 6 temples of Murugan -- they would not let her into the inner sanctum at the Shiva temple in Mylapore even tho she had her "official" papers.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

@Linda: now see, that shit is just mean, cruel, petty and hypocritical. Either the papers are official or they are not.

@Dfalsberg: Yep, I thought of the Falasha and the requirements for 'mikvah' baths, too.

Thanks for writing, everyone.

dfalsberg said...

I am pushing glumness death and resurrection. You must see Barbara Mayerhoff's half hour video "In her own Time." One of the greatest anthropologists of her era comes to terms with her own lung cancer and dying while studying an ultra-orthodox Fairfax oommunity. Barbara inhales the fumes of strict observance without diminishing the modern coat of doubt surrounding her. She does the mikvah, she does a get which is extremely intriquing. She divorces herself from her given name and is renamed (Can't remember so I will just say Chanah)/ The hope is that when the Angel of death is shopping for Barbara Mayerhoff he will instead stumble upon Chanah Mayerhoff and be tricked into thinking she's not the one and will therefore get passed over,,,tricky, tricky but alas The Angel wasn't fooled but Barbara left us with some of the most remarkable cultural anthropology of her time and place.

Linda-Sama said...

"that shit is just mean, cruel, petty and hypocritical."

yes, bullshit. I am sure that my friend got in because he looks like a sadhu. and my gut tells me that the woman did not get in because she was blond....;)

John said...

I am with the temple priests on this one.

For private associative life, and particularly if it is about something as private (and irrational) as religion, discrimination on any basis, including even completely frivolous ones, is completely legitimate as long as a religion or private association is legitimate.

On the other hand, criticism of such discrimination has no legitimacy.

c said...

dear john.

they should integrate your ass.

gov'nor wallace is died too.

SloganMurugan said...

Reminds me of the Guruvayoor Temple in Kerala. They have such strange rules too.

Sirensongs said...

@Slogan Murugan: I love Kipling; referring to a specific one?

@John: A troll has no legitimacy, either.

John said...

Dear Sirensongs,

I will have to reflect on the issue of troll legitimacy.
But my instincts tell me already that you might be wrong...

As for the main question... It is generally taken for granted by the prevalent politically correct "wisdom" that antidiscriminatory principles should apply everywhere and anywhere, and that such attitude is undicriminately good and legitimate (while the other never is).

However such "taken for granted" approach proves flawed when one takes the risk to look more closely at the specifics.

Through intellectual discrimination to the abolition of blind ideological antidiscrimination!

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

@SloganMurugan: Guruvayoor recently had a flap over whether to admit a Sri Lankan minister's wife, who was Buddhist; unlike Puri, they decided to let her in because Buddhism was part of "the Hindu family" (so does that mean I, as a Buddhist, can come in?).
@John: And a troll is a troll is still a troll. Get back under your bridge.

John said...

Are you discriminating against the "clochards" now, Sirensongs?

Ah, it's so easy to label something a "troll" when it challenges our chosen beliefs.

A humoristic tone makes it even easier, even if it was there just to dedramatize the disagreement.

c said...

John,

you may be an actual person with legitimate opinions. that is no excuse for you to ake over the agenda on a blog that is not yours. Maybe you should start your own blog(send me a link to it) . A person gets called a troll mostly because another is irritated by them to the point that they dont want to listen anymore , to the first person's opinion. I suggest, if I may that at this point, it's better if we stopped trying to talk to the irritated person, at least for a while...

Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
c said...

sudarshan,

i think you miss the point. gainest she tried into the temple of avalokitesvara, who , unlike brahmin centric hindu temples, is a manifestation of the buddha.buddhism doesnt do manu and brahminism.they got a different grading system.
if my karma makes me born so high that i'm brahmin, how come i have such an unsightly paunch? can't karma ensure i am highborn, good looking AND rich?

oh oh ...can my karma ensure that brad pitt gets dumped and anjelina jolie takes up with me?

i'll sing anjelina nee begane baro with plenty of devotin....

Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
c said...

i dont want to be born a flower. i want to be born bambi.

my paunch is from eting too much dudhyonam at parthasarathy temple. tey give me two big balls of venn pongal and dudhyonam at parthasarathy temple.

what if i lived according to WASP dharma and worked out hard and had many girlfriends simultaneously and made plenty of money and had a hose on the coast in cape cod mas?

will i in my next birth get with anjelina jolie, who, for her sins, will be stuck with me?
;)

Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
c said...

I can't see how it can be ok to fixate on a paramatma(sply one that you talk through brahmins to) and not ok to fixate on angelina.

Im sorry you cannot discuss your casteism here , coherently...and would instead insist on such manu dharma ideological propaganda....

If you don't mind, I'd like to continue talking about real things like angelina...

Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
c said...

ok...bye then cruise samedha katie holmsaya namaha. anjelina jolie swaha...

(you can talk this bilge about how you gotta do a shitload of punya to be born a brahmin...and thus get let into a temple, and I cant call it for what it is?manu dharma propaganda?) somehow seems unfair...

John said...

c,

I'm sorry, but your "agenda takeover" accusation cannot resist any kind of rational scrutiny (whatever it means anyway).

As for your "intense irritation" speculation, because it is a speculation, it would be unfair vis a vis the author of this blog for me to comment.

Raghubeer said...

Angelina Jolie is a woman of loose character to put it mildly..

Being born a Brahmin doesn't mean shit. It is your karma and what qualities in your temperment are brahminical.

Sirensongs said...

@Sudarshan #1: banning "foreigners" from a temple cannot be "an ancient practice," since in ancient times there were not enough foreigners round to warrant making such a rule (that's why it's not embedded in scripture). Sort of like saying "no photos" is an ancient practice. At what point in the Vedic or Puranic era did the scribes decide you could not use a Nikon camera?

"Let ancient practices stay the way they are" doesn't work for patriarchy, sati, dowry, or other forms of racism...won't work as a logic here either.

-Having said that, I still do not claim to take a side in this debate, just pointing out some inconsistencies. I certainly don't feel that temples should be forcibly integrated a la the Little Rock high school in US. That would be violent and create ill-will.

And thanks for your thoughtful writing; you have obviously given this more than reactionary thought and that, I appreciate. :-)

Sirensongs said...

@Raghubeer: I have to agree about Jolie. She actively contributed to breaking up, at minimum, two marriages (not including her own former ones), that of BB Thornton and more recently Pitt-Aniston. Not cool in my book.

c said...

Blasphemy!!! may the goddess angelina(anjelinaya angushtabhyam namaha) forgive youse!

c said...

and sirens, didn't they teach you this in veda school?

(ancient verse that came from the brighu maharishi)

canonum nikonum ramam abhorum.

Raghubeer said...

Sirens,

Pity that they have Jolie as UN "goodwill" ambassador.

Same can be said about many Indian actresses like Sushmita Sen.

John said...

Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk. tsk, c,

You are "taking over the agenda of this blog, that is not yours", with this Angelina...

John said...

Dear Sirensongs,

You say "That would be violent and create ill-will".

Of course, but more importantly, there would be absolutely no legitimacy in doing so, for the reasons I explained in my first comment.

John said...

And you are right about the issue not being about ancient practices.

It is purely about legitimacy.

And in this particular case, and for reasons explained before, the temple priests do have legitimacy.

Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
c said...

"There are references in some puranas, including Bhagavata Purana."

There is also a reference to this in the ramayana after the uttara kandam in a section called the karuma kandam.

Sirensongs said...

@Sudarshan: it must be nice to know exactly what "The lord" does and doesn't care for. Maybe if I pray really hard I can be so privileged in another lifetime...!

Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Broadway said...

The proponents of religion of "one" god, are global players, where as proponents of "multiple" gods are local players. By this I mean, just like communism, there are no borders in Islam. Whereas, the idea of "utopia" for a "hindu-nationalist" does not run beyond the realms of Indian subcontinent. A person tagged as "Hindu-Nationalist" asks for few basic things: The segregation of spiritual pursuits from Duty and sense of Justice (dharma) is what is advocated by everyone who is tagged as "Hindu-Nationalist" from everybody in this nation.

To oppose this, there are alien ideologies, which believe in concepts like "religion", "Infidel" and in principle deny the segregation of polity and spirituality (Deen and Daulat).

The irony is that, most of the Indics or "Hindus", themselves have forgotten about the idea of Dharma. They too have started equating Dharma as synonym to religion and rashtra as synonym to nation-state. hence all the confusion.