'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Translations - Hindus, Hinduism and Hindutwa

For quite a while, I had been looking for some serious information on Sri Narayana Guru, Kerala's eminent spiritual leader and social reformer. Last week, I found and read just what I wanted - a biography/study by N V P Unithiri on the master. This book deserves to be read by everyone in Kerala; it also deserves to reach a much wider audience thru translations.

The book is also of interest for its forceful articulation of the Marxist take on many religious and inter-faith issues. Some quotes (in my free translation):

1. Sri Narayana Guru visited a Buddhist temple in Ceylon in 1926. On display there were pictures of Indra, Brahma and so forth. The whole place was filthy and full of Brahminical symbols. Seeing all this, the Guru remarked: "Seems many of the Buddhist practices were actually laid down by Brahmins!"

2. "Even the most enlightened and principled Hindu monk, while he may profess tolerance for other faiths, will turn a blind eye to the serious flaws in Hinduism (of course, if some persistent adversary points them out, then, and only then, he might criticize those flaws) and single out and praise its desirable features unto the heavens and hence constantly try to somehow establish that Hinduism is the best religion going around. Invariably, such a monk will end up being a mere apologist for Hinduism as it exists - warts and all - and worse, an endorser of the antics of Hindutwa revivalists. "

The context for the above statement: Many from the Right (from Arun Shourie to P. Parameswaran) and some others (Wikipedia for example) have said Sri Narayana Guru was a Hindu sage. And there are many intellectuals who think it is totally wrong, indeed, nothing short of an insult to the Master, to 'limit' him with the H-word.

3. "The Guru systematically refuted and rejected the Bhagavadgita's conception of Varna and caste. That apart, he hardly ever quoted or discussed anything from the Gita. The clear inference from this is that he did not accord the Gita the status of an inspired spiritual treatise; in fact, he did not even think of it as in any way deserving the status of an ordinary religious text."

Note: Marxists in general seem to dislike the Gita. I have seen D D Kosambi refer to its philosophy quite dismissively. Even the far more plebian filmy lyrics of Vayalar (a staunch Communist fellow-traveler) accuse Brahminical priests of "obscuring the clarity and brilliance of Indian Vedanta with the smoky Gita" (my interpretation of the song "Eeswaran Hinduvalla...").


Paul Zachariah has always had interesting things to say on Hindus. His notes on attending a Malayali Federation get-together in Damam, Saudi Arabia (an extract from 'Nabiyude Nattil'):

"Just like at any Gulf Malayali meet, all castes, all parties, all cults - evangelists, God-men worshippers,... - were very well represented. Even Savarna Hindu fanatics had come down in strength. The last named of the lot promptly began cribbing about just having to live in a Muslim country and I had only one question for them: "Then why the hell did you come to slave here? You could have happily sat around in Kerala and practised your Sanatana Dharma!" Since for the Arab, everyone from Kerala is a Malabari, these Savarnas have even managed to form their own exclusive cabals here and there, without attracting attention. Indeed, I pity the Arab: as it is, he faces the onslaught of radicalized Islamists; and now, Hindu extremism sneaking in under the radar!"


The Demon(ized?) Gujju:

The prose poem "kyaa?!" by Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan (my translation):

On the train, I met a Gujarati trader on his way to Kerala.

"What's your good name?" he asks. "Ramakrishnan"I say.

"Great, Ram Kissen, Ram Kissen, Ram Ram!" he approves and sits a bit closer to me and asks: "Are you a meat eater?".

I respond: "Not particularly; and what about you?"

"We Vaishnavas are staunch and pure vegetarians!" he declares.

"But some of you grass-eaters cut open a pregnant woman's belly and ate the foetus, right?" I ask; "And then, you ate the mother too, right? How come?"

He metamorphoses turns into a hideous ogre. With bloodshot eyes and bared fangs, it growls at me: "kyaa?!"