Friday, June 10, 2011

Analyzing Hindu Philosophy: Hindu Gods, Nudity and MF Hussain

Here is a link to MF Hussain paintings:

I often encounter people that defend Hussein's nude goddess art saying something along one of these lines:

  1. We have nude sculptures in erotic postures in Khajuraho & elsewhere. 
  2. We have nude gods sculpted in Hoysala temples 
  3. Ours is the land of Kamasutra. Nudity is celebrated 
  4. There are statues of nude Bahubali worshipped.  

I would like to remind everyone that none of these arguments make sense.

  1. Khajuraho, Hoysala temple sculptures do not depict the gods and godesses. They are demi gods (like angels for instance) meant to convey a few spiritual points. They are NOT worshiped. 
  2. Kamasutra has never used Gods to depict sexual postures. 
  3. Bahubali is not a God. Jains dont believe in God. He is also not one among their 24 thirthankaras. His nudity indicates complete renunciation. 

Nudity has always been associated with renunciation in spirituality not just in India, but elsewhere too.

  1. Lord Krishna's story when Gopis clothes were stolen by Krishna to drive home the point that one has to rise above bodily inhibitions to attain God. 
  2. Bible quotes Jesus saying one has to go nude to the God.  
  3. Dattatreya the first Aghora was a Digambara.
  4. Jains and Aghoras, the epitome of worldy renunciation might bear no robes as a symbolic gesture and their own spiritual sadhana. 
  5. In Tantra, a few of the Dasha-MahaVidya godesses Kali, Tara, Bhairavi etc. are depicted nude. Bhairavi depiction is with blood smeared over the breasts.  

In these cases the nudity and the graphic nature symbolizes certain deep spiritual nature (Interested folks should read David Frawley's Tantric Yoga and Wisdome Godesesses ).

Can you recall how many of the stotras describe the beauty of Goddesses in very very graphic nature? I have lost count.

I'd quote one example. Adi Shankaracharya - one of the foremost monks and spiritually enlightened saint describes the Goddess Lalita Tripura Sundari as "Latha Phala Kucha Dwayi". That means the one with breasts with the size of the firm and right sized fruit on a creeper.

Nudity and nude descriptions, graphics have a place when done right. Normal nude paintings and sculptures do not use Gods and Goddesses.  When Gods and Godesses are depicted nude, it is strictly in a spiritual context.

Vivekananda said "Unless you are spiritually mature  enough, don't read Raslila, because you are going to mis read it". 

That's exactly happening In MF Hussain's context. He has no maturity, no class and applies nudity to the Hindu Gods in a totally wrong context in a wrong manner with the intention of generating controversy.

We all know bikini has its place in the sunny beaches. But one cannot walk into the corporate board room in bikini in the name of freedom of expression and not alienate folks and not generate controversy. 

While I do believe in freedom of expression, there is a saying in legal circles : "If one shouts 'Bomb' in a packed movie theater, one surely has exercised their freedom of expression but is responsible for the mayhem"

MF Hussain said in an interview 8 years ago that he has depicted Hitler naked to humiliate him and as he deserves it.  But then he depicted all of Hindu goddesses and even India nude and claimed nudity is a symbol of purity. Why this hypocrisy?  Did he paint his mother nude? Why not? He also painted his daughter clothed.

For all his nude art, India has been really tolerant towards him. There had been no attempts on his life. Few protests and attempts to destroy his nude art and a dozen lawsuits were filed against him.

Compare it with the case of

  1. Kerala professor whose hands got chopped off
  2. Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who lives in permanent fear with 3 attempts on his life due to his one cartoon 
  3. Salman Rushdie when our government rushed to ban his books, never allowed back to India and lives in permanent exile in UK 
  4. There was lot of push to ban DaVinci Code (I dont know if it materialized finally).
  5. Denying the stay of Taslima Nasreen in India

You be the judge.

I am no fan of modern art, but going by experts opinion, he was best among Indian modern art and should have just sticked with that. All his artistic talent is belittled by his "taking for granted" attitude and sheer mockery of faith of billions in the name of art. Mutual respect and respect of other's faith is the cornerstone of social human relationships. MF fails badly in that litmus test.

Those who express solidarity with him should apply the same rule always and express solidarity with the Danish cartoonist and others. I am sure none of them do for the fear of arm, limb, life or votes.

As they say in Sanskrit

Ashwam naiva, Gajam naiva, Vyagram naiva cha. 
Ajaputram balim dadhatu devo durbala ghatakaha

which translates as

Even the Gods are against the weak.When it come to sacrifice, we do not sacrifice a horse or an elephant or even for that matter a tiger. What ultimately is used for sacrifice is the poor goat

While the above statement is literally not true, it figuratively indicates the state of mind of Hindus today.

For me it is simple: No religion should be violated. Neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Christian nor Jew.

Sarve Janah Sukhino Bhavantu (Let all people live happily and prosperously)

But then that is only a mirage as long as we have people like MF and minority appeasing parties drooling for the votebank.