In Indian mythology, Lord Hanuman is considered synonymous with strength, wisdom, loyalty, bravery, humility and brahmacharya.
Given that not all of these traits and qualities, especially celibacy, can be attributed to Shiv Sainiks, it is amusing to hear tales of their new-found bhakti for the Lord of monkeys.
On Monday morning, Shiv Sainiks forced organisers of an annual cultural festival at IIT-Bombay to remove a painting resembling Hanuman. According to reports, Shiv Sainiks had a problem with the way Hanuman was depicted in the painting.
“The painting was in bad taste. It hurt the religious sentiments of many people. This is not the way to the portray a Hindu deity like Hanuman. Students should not have portrayed the deity like that,” Sena leader Datta Dalvi told the Indian Express.
Shiv Sainiks are known for their selective bouts of sensitivity, an affliction that has classical signs of bigotry, xenophobia (except for pop stars) and bullying. They are particularly renowned for the brand of bravery that has become the norm among "nationalists" in India: Attack individuals, artists, writers, vulnerable groups, in fact, everyone who can't hit back — for everything else, there are, of course, the real soldiers.
Such is the nature of their bravado — throwing ink, digging up pitches, threatening singers, boycotting films, extorting donations in the name of soldiers, patriotism — that nothing about their antics now seems surprising. But, sometimes even the Shiv Sainiks outdo themselves. The incident at IIT-Bombay is one such incident of the Shiv Sainiks sliding further down into the bottomless pit of absurdity.
Let us not go into a debate on the right to freedom of expression or the argument about art transcending every boundary. Let us also not even talk about the role of art in seeing beyond the conventional, widening our horizon through creativity and intuitive logic. For the average Shiv Sainik, these arguments would be too much of an intellectual burden, even weightier than the burden of Dronagiri on Hanuman's palm.
So, let us counter the outrage of the Shiv Sainiks with their own logic or the lack of it.
The Shiv Sainiks ordered the removal of the painting at IIT-Bombay because they objected to Hanuman's depiction as a man carrying a pen in one hand instead of a mace. Yes, a pen in Hanuman's hand hurt the Shiv Sainiks. Laugh if you want about their obscurantism. But, also pity the Shiv Sainiks. For they know nothing about the legend of Hanuman.
Nobody can be sure if they have heard of the old adage about the pen being mightier than the mace. But, being the self-proclaimed purveyors of Hindutva, they may have heard what their ancestors may have been chanting for centuries — Hanuman Chaalisa, an ode to the deity comprising 40 chaupais (quatrain) composed by Goswami Tulsidas.
What does Tulsidas tell us about Hanuman in the ode. He calls Hanuman gyan-gun sagar (an ocean of wisdom) and hails the lord of monkeys for knowing the truth of the three loks (heaven, earth and hell). To quote: Jai Hanuman Gyan-Gun Sagar, Jai Kapeesh Teehun Lok Ujagar. Further, Tulsidas calls Hanuman vidhyawan (erudite) and chatur (intelligent).
If Shiv Sainiks knew their mythology and related literature, they would have known that in the Tulsidas hymns, Hanuman is depicted as an unparalleled symbol of both bravery and wisdom. So, who is really insulting Hanuman by objecting his depiction as a man carrying a mountain in one hand and a pen in the other? Obviously the ignorant Shiv Sainiks.
Perhaps the Shiv Sainiks want even our deities to be cast in the mould of their idea of Hindutva: Where everyone is a brainless twit with a weapon slung on the shoulder; a raging blind bhakt unaware of our rich cultural heritage, wisdom and traditions.
The Shiv Sena is indeed an odd entity. It didn't utter a sigh when hundreds of crores of taxpayer's money was proposed to be spent on a statue in Maharashtra, a state facing acute water shortage, agrarian crisis and high incidence of debt-related suicides. It rarely, if ever, protests on issues that affect the aam aadmi. Instead, it pursues a strange brand of politics centred on peripheral, even inconsequential, debates around pseudo-nationalism, WhatsApp brand of bravery — all talk, no action — and selective pop patriotism inspired by notions of religious superiority, regional chauvinism and danda activism.
But, considering their claim of representing Hindutva and its interests, the least that can be expected of the Shiv Sainiks is to have some basic knowledge of our mythological traditions and the traits of the deities they claim to protect. Perhaps, to begin with, the Shiv Sainiks can chant the Hanuman Chalisa: It teaches the virtues of humility, bravery, wisdom and loyalty.
As Tulsidas said: Pray to Hanuman, like a buddhi-heen (bereft of wisdom, knowledge) for bal (strength), buddhi (wisdom), vidya (knowledge) and for getting rid of kalesh (problems) and all varieties of vikaar (ailments).
On current evidence, Shiv Sainiks need every bit of the Lord's blessings!
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Updated Date: Dec 27, 2016 15:16:04 IST