[Reader-list] Fwd: Feel free, Mr. Husain. Go paint Qatari leaders

Shuddhabrata Sengupta shuddha at sarai.net
Fri Mar 12 04:47:28 IST 2010

Dear Pawan,

My copy of the highly respected Sanskrit lexicographer Vaman Shivaram  
Apte's 'Practical Sanskrit English Dictionary' (Motilal Banarsidass  
Publishers, Delhi), which I always keep close at hand, lists 19  
meanings and forms of the word linga on page 1666, including some  
that approximate the 'Mark' and 'abstract symbol of god' that you  
refer to.

However, definition 10, clearly states - Linga - is- "The genital  
organ of Shiva, worshipped as a Phallus". I think Vaman Shivaram Apte  
is competent to explain what the term 'Linga' represents in Sanksrit.  
If this were not the case, there would be no reason why his  
dictionary would have  been in continued usage as a scholarly and  
pedagogical tool since it was first published in 1890.

You could also check the more voluminous dictionary of Monier Monier  
Williams, (also Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi) which, though  
not as close at hand as the Apte, is still sufficiently close at  
hand  for me to consult it readily. Monier Williams too, on page 901  
glosses Linga - as the "male organ or phallus (especially that of  
Siva) worshipped in the form of a stone or marble column which  
generally rises out of a yoni, and is set up in temples dedicated to  
Siva". Of course there are several other senses of the word given,  
but undeniably, for Monier Monier Williams, as for Apte, the Linga is  
also Siva's phallus. The world of Sanskrit lexicography and  
dictionaries is more or less bracketed between Apte and Monier  
Williams. If anyone had to look for what 'Linga' means, he or she  
would have to look in one or both these books.

I agree with you that any 'wrong description where it involves faith  
of millions would be a wrong thing to do'. Having said that, I wonder  
why you want to perpetuate an incomplete and partial explanation of  
the term 'Linga'. Clearly, one of its robust senses is that of being  
Shiva's phallus. If you think that this is not the case, or if you  
intend to indulge in dissimulation, as you seem to be doing, then you  
are in fact insulting the faith and practices of millions who know  
very well what the word 'Linga' means.

As someone who has time and again seen countless depictions of Shiva  
with an erect phallus in tantrik Shaivite or Shakta contexts and  
temples in Bengal, I find your suggestion that this in fact  
inauthentic quite insulting and disturbing. It certainly does  
violence to some of the cultural inheritances that I can claim for my  
Bengali folklore's affection for 'Nangta Shib' and his prodigious  
member is something we could all celebrate for its joyous affirmation  
of erotic and procreative energies. Why on earth would you want me,  
or anyone else, to be ashamed of it instead?

Perhaps you need a closer acquaintance with the traditions you say  
you revere. A close reading of any standard Sanskrit dictionary could  
be a start.



On 11-Mar-10, at 7:30 PM, Pawan Durani wrote:

> Sir ,
> I am not competent enough to explain what it represents . Any wrong
> description where it involves faith of millions would be a wrong thing
> to do.
> One explanation on videa you may find at following link
> http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7750003834905326157#
> in Sanskrit In Sanskrit, linga means “mark”. ..
> Also another explanation is :
> Lingam as an abstract symbol of God
> Some knowledgeable interpreters of Hindu scripture believe the lingam
> to be merely an abstract symbol, and point out that Lingams in many of
> the more important temples are not of the shape described above.
> Furthermore, many are the instances in Hindu lore where a sundry rock
> or pile of sand has been used by heroic personages as a Lingam or
> symbol of Shiva. For example, Arjuna fashioned a linga of clay when
> worshipping Siva. Thus, it is argued, too much should not be made of
> the usual shape of the Linga. This view is also consonant with
> philosophies that hold that God may be conceptualized and worshipped
> in any convenient form; the form itself is irrelevent, the divine
> power that it represents is all that matters.
> Sri K. Thirugna Sambantha, in his excellent web site of Saivism,
> explains that the Siva lingam is the ruparupa aspect because it is
> neither a manifested form of Siva, nor is it formless, because the
> linga is a tangible piece of stone, and a symbol of God. Thus, it is
> intermediate between the formless Absolute, Parasiva, which is beyond
> the sensory perception of man, and the many manifest forms of Siva.
> Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami explains in the lexicon section of his
> book, Dancing with Siva, that "Sivalinga is the most prevalent icon of
> Siva, found in virtually all Siva temples. It is a rounded,
> elliptical, aniconic image, usually set on a circular base, or
> peetham. The Sivalinga is the simplest and most ancient symbol of
> Siva, especially of Parasiva, God beyond all forms and qualities. The
> Peetham represents Parashakti, the manifesting power of God. Lingas
> are usually of stone (either carved or naturally existing, svayambhu,
> such as shaped by a swift-flowing river), but may also be of metal,
> precious gems, crystal, wood, earth or transitory materials such as
> ice. According to the Karana Agama (6), a transitory Sivalinga may be
> made of 12 different materials: sand, rice, cooked food, river clay,
> cow dung, butter, rudraksha seeds, ashes, sandalwood, darbha grass, a
> flower garland, or molasses."
> Ref : http://www.thaiexotictreasures.com/shiva_lingam.html#Lingam% 
> 20as%20an%20abstract%20symbol%20of%20God
> Regards
> Pawan
> On Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 7:16 PM, anupam chakravartty  
> <c.anupam at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Dear Pawan,
>> What makes you think that linga is not phallus?
>> regards Anupam
>> P.S. could you please also source an input which prove my claim as  
>> untrue?
>> On 3/11/10, Pawan Durani <pawan.durani at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Source : http://rummuser.com/?p=2993
>>> A letter by Dr Mrs Hilda Raja to N.Ram
>>> Dear Ram,
>>> I have taken time to write this to you Ram — for the simple reason
>>> that we have known you for so many years — you and The Hindu bring
>>> back happy memories. Please take what I am putting down as those  
>>> that
>>> come from an agonized soul. You know that I do not mince words and
>>> what I have to say I will — I call a spade a spade — now it is too
>>> late for me to learn the tricks of being called a ‘secularist’, if
>>> that means a bias for one, and a bias against another.
>>> Hussain is now a citizen of Qatar — this has generated enough of  
>>> heat
>>> and less of light. Qatar you know better than me is not a country
>>> which respects democracy or freedom of expression. Hussain says  
>>> he has
>>> complete freedom — I challenge him to paint a picture of Mohammed,
>>> fully clad.
>>> There is no second opinion that artists have the Right of Freedom of
>>> expression. Is such a right restricted only to Hussain? Will that
>>> right not flow to Dan Brown — why was his film Da Vinci Code not
>>> screened? Why was Satanic Verses banned — does Salman Rushdie not  
>>> have
>>> that freedom of expression? Similarly, why is Taslima hunted and
>>> hounded and why fatwas have been issued on both these writers?  
>>> Why has
>>> Qatar not offered citizenship to Taslima? In the present rioting in
>>> Shimoga in Karnataka against the article Taslima wrote against the
>>> tradition of burqa which appeared in the Out Look in Jan 2007.  
>>> Nobody
>>> protested then either in Delhi or in any other part of the country;
>>> now when it reappears in a Karnataka paper there is rioting. Is  
>>> there
>>> a political agenda to create a problem in Karnataka by the  
>>> intolerant
>>> goons? Why has the media not condemned this insensitivity and
>>> intolerance of the Muslims against Taslima’s views? When it comes to
>>> the Sangh Parivar it is quick to call them goons and intolerant etc.
>>> Now, who are the goons and where is this tolerance and sensitivity?
>>> Regarding Hussain’s artistic freedom it seems to run unfettered  
>>> in an
>>> expression of sexual perversion only when he envisages the Hindu  
>>> Gods
>>> and Goddesses. There is no quarrel had he painted a nude woman  
>>> sitting
>>> on the tail of a monkey. The point is he captioned it as Sita.  
>>> Nobody
>>> would have protested against the sexual perversion and his
>>> orientatation to sexual signs and symbols. But would he dare to
>>> caption it as ‘Fatima enjoying in Jannat with animals’?
>>> Next example is the painting of Saraswati copulating with a lion.  
>>> Here
>>> again his perversion is evident and so is his intent. Even that,  
>>> let’s
>>> concede, cannot be faulted — each one’s sexual orientation is each
>>> one’s business I suppose. But he captioned it as Saraswati. This is
>>> the problem. It is Hussain’s business to enjoy in painting his  
>>> sexual
>>> perversion. But why use Saraswati and Sita for his perverted
>>> expressions? Use Fatima and watch the consequence. Let the media
>>> people come to his rescue then. Now that he is in a country that  
>>> gives
>>> him complete freedom, let him go ahead and paint Fatima copulating
>>> with a lion or any other animal of his choice. And then turn around
>>> and prove to India — the Freedom of expression he enjoys in Qatar.
>>> Talking about Freedom of Expression — this is the Hussain who
>>> supported Emergency — painted Indira Gandhi as Durga slaying
>>> Jayaprakash Narayan. He supported the jailing of artists and  
>>> writers.
>>> Where did this Freedom of Expression go? And you call him  
>>> secularist?
>>> Would you support the jailing of artists and writers Ram – would you
>>> support the abeyance of the Constitution and all that we held sacred
>>> in democracy and the excessiveness of Indira Gandhi to gag the media
>>> writers – political opponents? Tell me, honestly why does Hussain
>>> expect this Freedom when he himself did not support others with the
>>> same freedom he wants? And the media has rushed to his rescue.  
>>> Had it
>>> been a Ram who painted such obnoxious, degrading painting – the
>>> reactions of the media and the elite ‘secularists’ would have been
>>> different; because there is a different perception/ and index of
>>> secularism when it comes to Ram — and a different perception/and  
>>> index
>>> of secularism when it comes to Rahim/Hussain.
>>> It brings back to my mind an episode that happened to The Hindu some
>>> years ago. [1991] You had a separate weekly page for children with
>>> cartoons, quizzes, and with poems and articles of school  
>>> children. In
>>> one such weekly page The Hindu printed a venerable bearded man —  
>>> fully
>>> robed with head dress, mouthing some passages of the Koran —  
>>> trying to
>>> teach children. It was done not only in good faith but as a part of
>>> inculcating values to children from the Koran. All hell broke loose.
>>> Your office witnessed goons who rushed in — demanded an apology —  
>>> held
>>> out threats. In Ambur, Vaniambadi and Vellore the papers stands were
>>> burned — the copies of The Hindu were consigned to the fire. A  
>>> threat
>>> to raise the issue in Parliament through a Private Members Bill was
>>> held out — Hectic activities went on — I am not sure of the  
>>> nature and
>>> the machinations behind the scene. But The Hindu next day brought  
>>> out
>>> a public apology in its front page. Where were you Ram? How secular
>>> and tolerant were the Muslims?
>>> Well this is of the past — today it is worse because the communal
>>> temperature in this country is at a all high — even a small friction
>>> can ignite and demolish the country’s peace and harmony. It is  
>>> against
>>> this background that one should view Hussain who is bent on abusing
>>> and insulting the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Respect for religious
>>> sentiments, need to maintain peace and harmony should also be  
>>> part of
>>> the agenda of an artist — if he is great. If it is absent then he
>>> cannot say that he respects India and express his longing for India.
>>> Let’s face it — he is a fugitive of law. Age and religion are
>>> immaterial. What does the media want — that he be absolved by the
>>> courts? Even for that he has to appear in the courts — he cannot run
>>> away. After all this is the country where he lived and gave  
>>> expression
>>> to his pervert sadist, erotic artistic mind under Freedom of
>>> Expression. I simply cannot jump onto the bandwagon of the elite
>>> ‘secularist’ and uphold what he had done. With his brush he had
>>> committed jihad — bloodletting.
>>> The issue is just not nudity — Yes the temples, the frescos in  
>>> Konarak
>>> and Kajhuraho have nude figures. But does it say that they are Sita,
>>> Sarswati or any goddesses? We have the Yoni and the Phallus as  
>>> sacred
>>> signs of Life-of Siva and Shakthi — take these icons to the streets,
>>> paint them — give it a caption it becomes vulgar. Times have  
>>> changed.
>>> Even granted that our ancients sculptured and painted naked forms  
>>> and
>>> figures, with a pervert mind to demean religion is no license to
>>> repeat that in today’s changed political and social scenario and is
>>> not a sign of secularism and tolerance. I repeat there is no quarrel
>>> with nudity — painters have time and again found in it the  
>>> perfection
>>> of God’s handicraft.
>>> Let me wish Hussain peace in Qatar — the totalitarian regime with  
>>> zero
>>> tolerance. May be he will convince the regime there to permit  
>>> freedom
>>> of expression in word, writing and painting. For this he could start
>>> experimenting painting forms and figure of Mohamed the Prophet- 
>>> and his
>>> family. And may I fervently wish that the media — especially The
>>> Hindu, does not discriminate goons — let it not substitute tolerance
>>> for intolerance when it comes to Rahim and Antony and another index
>>> for Ram.
>>> I hope you will read this in the same spirit that I have written.  
>>> All
>>> the best to you Ram.
>>> Dr Mrs Hilda Raja
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Shuddhabrata Sengupta
The Sarai Programme at CSDS
Raqs Media Collective
shuddha at sarai.net

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