OPINION

Ganesh Chaturthi - Sacred Ritual Or An Outlet For Frustration?

September 26, 2007
Uma Ranganathan

Returning to India hasn’t been as tough as I thought it would be. This is what I wrote to friends I’d left behind in Germany a couple of days back. They often asked me about my dual life, the one I led during the months I spent in Europe and the life I led back in India. In actual fact it is a bit of a pain I suppose, exchanging (among other things) the clean orderly environment of the west for the grimier, garbage filled, chaotic streets of India. Somehow it didn’t seem so bad this time round. It gets easier with the years, I reckoned, to slip back into the old routine and on this occasion I even found myself luxuriating in the feeling of being home again. Bucket baths, (which I love) being able to eat with your hands, being able to live and work at your own pace rather than to adjust to that of your host in whichever city you happen to be visiting. “I’m happy to be in Bombay again,” I mailed a number of people.

I’d forgotten about Ganesh Chaturti. Two days after flying back from Frankfurt I woke up from my afternoon nap to the dhoom dhoom of a deep bass which sounded like it came from the flat above us. Neighbor’s planning a bash tonight, I thought a bit woozily and went back to sleep. Over the next half hour it got worse. When I finally made my way to the guest room which doubles as my office and which faces the road, I discovered the noise wasn’t coming from the neighbor’s place at all but from the street outside our house.

“Ganapathi”, beamed our maid S at me who had spent the entire afternoon gawking at the spectacle unfolding below. She seemed simply delighted with life. Huge loudspeakers had been set up just outside the gates of our building to welcome the holy procession to the sea which was preparing to start from some enclave close by.

The noise predictably got worse with time. I found I could no longer work. I could no longer think, no longer write, no longer do much more than just listen to the thump and clash which reverberated along the entire street. The drumming and the booming at some point seemed so much like they were happening inside my head that I was threatened by a very real headache. With some luck I found that by closing the door of the room facing the road and escaping into the living room I could avoid about fifty per cent of the furor and even clear up a little space in my brain to think.

What were the festivities about, anyway? Ah, yes it was all centered around this elephant god who was supposed to smoothen your path to success. At times, noise in India brings on an amnesia which makes you forget your own name. The ruckus seemed to make mincemeat of any sense which might have been originally attached to the ritual. It was the birthday of Lord Ganesha wasn’t it. The day on which he was believed to uplift mankind with his very presence. Although Ganesha himself has been revered privately for centuries, the festival was popularized by the freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak, in order to increase people’s awareness of the freedom struggle. Ganesha himself stands for wisdom and intellect. Freedom, wisdom and intellect however seemed to be the last attributes which the horrible sounds emerging from the road reflected.

So what did those sounds reflect? What was the drumming really trying to say, I sat and wondered and it seemed to me, the noise was actually a reflection of the frustration and boredom which characterizes a large part of today’s youth. “I’m going crazy, I’m bored, save me from the burden of repression” seemed to be the main underlying message being banged out by the drum which lacked any sense of rhythm or musical quality. As with so many festivals in India, Ganesh Chaturti too – at least according to me – has lost its original significance. It is no longer about wisdom and intelligence and brings with it none of the sense of peace and sacredness which a spiritual ritual is supposed to be about.

At night, when a couple of huge idols in the vicinity had at last rolled out of sight to make their way to the sea, the world fell silent again. Lying in bed after dinner, listening to crickets chirp and the waves of the ocean lap around the rocks beyond the garden wall I sensed peace making a comeback in my life. In those last few minutes before being overtaken by sleep I felt I was once more in touch with something sacred.


Having wandered through various fields from special education to environmental conservation, Uma has been working these last fifteen years or so as a psychotherapist, mainly in India. Along with friends and colleagues, she conducts workshops and sessions in self awareness and is looking for people who are interested in creating an environment in which people actually listen to each other. Her book “Bombay to Eternity – memoirs of a laidback Rebel” was published in 2004 by Penguin India.
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#1
annamma
September 26, 2007
09:35 AM

Yes, I think we need to reclaim the silence and contemplation element in religion / spirituality. All religions these days think God and devotees alike need to be woken up...

One of my most memorable spiritual experiences is from several years ago, when at college. The chapel lights were doused. We were all sitting around on the floor in the dim light, leaning against the walls. I was sitting on the steps, looking out, the stars were shining overhead and the whole campus was quiet. There were songs being played, but pianissimo, very softly. Occasionally the clear voices would swell just a little, in a chorus, and it would be heartbreakingly beautiful. A few people sang softly along. We were all immersed in our own thoughts and reflections, yet together in a strange way. We felt at peace, together, and were refreshed and energised. I remember thsoe times.

Nowadays, the chapel lights are harsh, and the guitar/ drums are so loud that I sometimes cannot think while the music plays.

#2
annamma
September 26, 2007
09:36 AM

oops, sorry, uma...

#3
Sirius
September 26, 2007
10:06 AM

Wake up Annamma. People have various ways of spiritual expression, thats all. There are the Seventh day adventists with their bands, there are the rocking Hare Krishnas these days, what to say of our own motley crew of bhajan mandalis all over India. There are many levels of spiritual advancement, and for newbies loud celebrations are a helpful beginning, we simply got to look at them as freshers starting an exciting new journey and accomodate their noise.Later when they get refined they will also prefer solitude.It is eventually the togetherness that counts.Age differences show up too, youngsters celebrate loudly while mature persons may just softly sing along.

#4
Prasad
September 27, 2007
06:00 AM

Uma Its shame to india having children like you ,, when you call "garbage filled, chaotic streets of India " dont u feel ashamed of not extending your hand to build clean india ... dont u think U are also a person to make india like this,, being educated on indian grounds what u have done to your mother????. And regarding Ganesh Chaturdhi its the great devine feeling and ur heart just waves on the top of the world might u have experienced it by heart, Its ur weakness i could see...., Dont Scold india, that too people like u who fly leaving India in vain.....

#5
Sirius
September 27, 2007
10:44 AM

Drums are beaten to attract people, but these days such noise is superfluous, reminding us of the past.It has been replaced with AV shows, loud music, etc and all that makes it worse. I have rarely come across a peaceful religious gathering, but if you travel in the mountains of
Himachal you will come across meditators, silently sitting in groups and meditating. On the sea-front,of course there is bound to be noisy celebrations, we got to live with it.I personally sit in meditation to get my peace of mind,although I do attend these loud functions once in a while, I really would prefer they were better organised from the viewpoint of decibel levels and light levels, can't blame you for reacting to the harshness of it all.

Mr Prasad: If you feel it is a weakness of Ms Uma, then instead of making her see your viewpoint, you are also scolding her.That is not the right way either.
Are you jealous of the fact that Ms Uma may have been in USA while you were languishing in India? If you are jealous, the best thing for you is to introspect.Sorry but I am very direct sometimes, can't help it, my blood is like that.

#6
Sirius
September 27, 2007
10:45 AM

Drums are beaten to attract people, but these days such noise is superfluous, reminding us of the past.It has been replaced with AV shows, loud music, etc and all that makes it worse. I have rarely come across a peaceful religious gathering, but if you travel in the mountains of
Himachal you will come across meditators, silently sitting in groups and meditating. On the sea-front,of course there is bound to be noisy celebrations, we got to live with it.I personally sit in meditation to get my peace of mind,although I do attend these loud functions once in a while, I really would prefer they were better organised from the viewpoint of decibel levels and light levels, can't blame you for reacting to the harshness of it all.

Mr Prasad: If you feel it is a weakness of Ms Uma, then instead of making her see your viewpoint, you are also scolding her.That is not the right way either.
Are you jealous of the fact that Ms Uma may have been in USA while you were languishing in India? If you are jealous, the best thing for you is to introspect.Sorry but I am very direct sometimes, can't help it, my blood is like that.

#7
Sirius
September 27, 2007
10:49 AM

Sorry, my network showed an error while sending so I sent twice

#8
Man Singh
September 27, 2007
12:18 PM

A civilised person is always thankful to any other human being animal or isea that helped him in any way.

Ganesha festivals helped this nation in securing its freedom from British in aa big way. A lot of krantikaris were generated through through this ritual of Ganesh Festival in the Himalayan leader ship of Tilak.

Therefore contribution of Ganesha to te freedom movement is as great as that of Gandhi and hence deserve respect.

Let's be realistic and holistic towards our traditions as all of them contributed somehow or the other in our social life in some time in history.

Yes even today ganesha festivals can be used for social reforms. Why not?

In place of wasting time in criticising here I call upon all educated class of India to please come forward, take leadership role and contribute in the nation building.

If we keep on criticising simply and keep away from social life, we'll get `Lalus' in the forfront.

I am pretty sure Indians are good people , behave nicely if nice people come forward for leadership to re-establish Freedom, wisdom and intellect. Tilak did it. Why can'nt we.

I request Uma to take a lead in next Year and act as a role model.

`Dharm tantra se Lok shikhan' ie educating masses through dharmic activities has been the principle in India since ancinet times. People like Tilak reviwed them. Why can'nt we?

#9
Uma
URL
September 28, 2007
02:33 AM

Actually I really do love India. I do despair sometimes when I see the conditions we live in and how difficult it is to change things. The decibel level drives me crazy but I don't think I would want to live long term, anywhere else. At least not as yet.

Annamma I can totally understand the experience you had, it sounds wonderful. Sirius, I agree that young people have a different way of celebrating things but it also has to do with conditioning. It is also nice to know that you see "the other side" of the noise and don't hold it against those of us who really feel disturbed

Man Singh, criticism is not necessarily a bad thing. I don't know what you mean by "role model". I have none and don't want to be a role model for anyone. My work however does involve trying to make space for people to open up their minds and to each other which I think is what we need as a basis for progress. It's a slow process.

#10
annamma
September 28, 2007
07:11 AM

Sirius,
I agree that celebration tends to be loud, and that the young tend to be very loud when they celebrate; which is why I repeat that we need to re-kindle not religious celebration, which we do well enough, but the contemplative and relective part of spirituality. Youngsters take to it very well, given the chance; for instance, in the contemplative experience i wrote about, my friends were all seventeen-eighteen years old. India was famous for contemplative spirituality in eons past, it is sad that we seem to have lost out on that element these days. Perhaps we haven't really, but its certainly drowned out in all the noise.

#11
Sirius
September 28, 2007
10:27 AM

Contemplation is certainly not in vogue, but is not dying out either. It retains its status, and yes I agree we have to revive this traditional process. That means more trips to the Himalayas, more spiritual journeys inwards.It is but naturl for the youth to be caught up in the noisy atmosphere which ahs all the glitter, but I hope eventually that they will also surface to something calm and serene, though it takes many years of practice.

#12
Sanjay Garg
September 28, 2007
02:35 PM

Maybe it's just me but I find it a bit disconcerting when an Indian author uses the term "elephant god" to describe Ganesha. It is akin to an European describing Jesus as "the tortured and bleeding god" and this is something, imo, no mature, self-respecting European - religious or otherwise - is likely to do. To compound matters, the author goes on "The ruckus seemed to make mincemeat of any sense which might have been originally attached to the ritual", as though she really had a clue as the putative "original" purpose of the "ritual".

In Hindu philosophy, one of the key motifs that Ganesha represents is as the beginning (defines the boundary) of the realm of duality (represented by his two tusks). Since it is in the domain of duality that the five human senses exist/ are experienced, Ganapati festival is a call to indulge in the five senses, to live large, to live life to the fullest in its diversity etc. etc.. The elephant head and the large belly on a human body are a depiction of an inflated five senses and teaches us to have fun, live life, rather than run away from it. Not to shut doors, close eyes and plug the ears.

Creating a "ruckus" and enjoying oneself is, in fact, part of the ritual, contrary to what the author claims.

#13
Uma
URL
September 29, 2007
01:14 AM

Sanjay, what's wrong with the term "elephant god"? I didn't know "elephant" was considered a bad word by some. I didn't mean to be insulting or offensive but on occasion I do tend to sound irreverent and this could be because I don't subscribe to any organized religion.

Noise hardly amounts to an enjoyment of the five senses. It only causes a headache and prevents you from truly indulging your senses. There is a level beyond which noise gets to be painful AND makes you deaf.

I agree, I am not an authority on Indian culture. As I keep saying I'm an "Anpadh" but I feel entitled to share my feelings on what goes on in my environment all the same.

#14
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
September 29, 2007
01:54 AM

Uma: Here's the thing, while some people for example Sanjay Garg here take "indulging the five senses" literally it probably has a more spiritual implication that is lost as usual on the masses. I don't think that when the scriptures of Hinduism were worded and elucidated anyone had an idea about what amplified stereos and dolby sound could do to one's senses. Such a "ruckus" can actually damage the senses instead of the spiritual bliss that "everybody" should ideally be experiencing (not just the ones who are dancing to the mega-beats).

Also, Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival that was started by Lokmanya Tilak to cultivate communal sense among Hindus at the time under foreign rule. Processions, religious gatherings etc hence were encouraged at the time.

Now Ganesh Chaturthi is merely a mockery of what tradition really calls for. The "indulgence of senses" has been replaced by "overindulgence of senses with obscene excesses". The "communal sense" has been replaced by a "sense of competition" where different communities within a city are seen vying to have the biggest, largest idol in spite of knowing fully well how harmful it is to the environment. The "live life" has been replaced by a "step on other people's right to live".

Ultimately, it is sad that so much can be lost to commercialization in the name of tradition.

Check out my article about Ganesh Chaturthi here if you get a chance...

http://desicritics.org/2007/09/15/142047.php

Another thing Uma: Unlike Mr.Garg here, I don't think that a person living in a secular democracy needs to know everything about Hindu festivals and rituals in order to voice a grievance about public festivities disturbing their own peace. If I were a Christian and was blasting Christmas carols using humungous speakers, then no matter what the bible says about Jesus Christ, I am disturbing my neighbour's right to peace. Similarly, if the loud music disturbed you, you need not have to be well-versed in the puranas and Ganesh aartis in order to voice your complaints over disrupted work schedules etc.

I remember that during my mid-term exams the Navratri festivals would literally make it difficult for us to study anything. The loud music went on until the wee hours of morning then and nobody got any sleep. Using religion to justify such a gross violation of other people's rights is just a convenient cop-out.

I don't know about being an outlet for frustration....but the sacred ritual has definitely become a commercial event where only some people get to decide how the festival should be celebrated by the rest of the city.

#15
Sanjay Garg
September 29, 2007
06:42 AM

@Uma: what's wrong with the term "elephant god"? I didn't know "elephant" was considered a bad word by some. I didn't mean to be insulting or offensive but on occasion I do tend to sound irreverent and this could be because I don't subscribe to any organized religion.

No one is asking for reverence or requiring you to join an organized religion, just that you do not misrepresent. This is not the Indian way. "Elephant god" is clearly symbolic - as every 4th grader knows - not meant to be used reductively without a line or two explaining the symbolism, if you feel compelled to use the term elephant god. It would be like saying "Jesus drank blood" without explaining the symbolism.

Noise hardly amounts to an enjoyment of the five senses. It only causes a headache and prevents you from truly indulging your senses. There is a level beyond which noise gets to be painful AND makes you deaf.

One person's noise is another's rock, opera or item number. This is highly subjective and I'm not sure we want to go here.

As I keep saying I'm an "Anpadh" but I feel entitled to share my feelings on what goes on in my environment all the same.

Agreed. We are all learning and we are all entitled to share our feelings. So did I.

#16
Sanjay Garg
September 29, 2007
07:52 AM

@Aditi: Here's the thing, while some people for example Sanjay Garg here take "indulging the five senses" literally it probably has a more spiritual implication that is lost as usual on the masses.

There is a spiritual aspect to the Ganesha symbolism but it has nothing to do with the five senses.

In one of his seated postures, Ganesha's right leg is depicted curled up underneath his body with the big toe ostensibly pointing to the center of his being. This is to convey the message that one can indulge literally and excessively in the five senses but make sure never to lose connection with one's spiritual "real" core.

One of the symbolism around Ganesha's mount - the mouse - conveys the message that one can be heavily involved in earthly enjoyments via the five senses, yet be light enough spiritually to be able to ride on a mouse.

In this case, it appears to me that the so-called masses actually have it more right than the "classes"

#17
smallsquirrel
September 29, 2007
08:49 AM

sanjay... sorry but I think you're being an elitist. I know many many Hindus who have referred to Ganesha as the elephant god, Hanuman as the monkey god... and so it goes.

#18
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
September 29, 2007
09:54 AM

Sanjay Garg: You could point out a million things about Ganesha's trunk, eyes, shoulders, the crown on his head and pull out various symbols (which btw I believe are subject to interpretation), I will still NOT think it justifiable to wreck my neighbour's peace with loud music systems and megaphones. Instead of being apologectic if I look towards Ganesha's bellybutton and the little finger of his left hand for symbolic rationalization of how my violation of other people's peace is justified, then that to me is even worse.

So you could tell me that Ganesha's fan like ears actually are a symbol for how people should be using dolby systems and playing loud music to disturb their neighbour's peace, but you know what? Here I choose to invoke the other sense that Ganesha represents: one of Buddhi or intelligence (Ganesha is also called Buddhipriya) which tells me not to blindly trust human interpretations of symbolism to justify my very selfish need for overindulgence and inconsiderate revelry and instead use my own good sense in deciding what is the right thing to do.

And I will not budge on this one so we can just agree to disagree. Though this might save you some time typing out a rebuttal.

#19
Sanjay Garg
September 29, 2007
11:25 AM

@Aditi: First, let me say that it is quite irrelevant to me whether or not you choose to agree with my point of view. Rather, the driver of my rebuttals are any misrepresentations or discrepancies I perceive in your comments. Think of it as community service to the extent that there are are other interested readers in this forum.

Second, buddhi is not intelligence. Rather, it is more closely associated with intellect and is understood be that discriminative knowledge which hides the Truth. Since one needs discriminative knowledge only in the realm of duality, this faculty is necessarily associated with Ganesha. Key point is that excessive faith in buddhi is just as blind as "blind trust".

This aside, I do agree that people should not be forced into celebrating Ganesha Chathurthi. Since this does not appear to be case, one wonders why all this bellyaching?

#20
Sanjay Garg
September 29, 2007
11:41 AM

smallsquirrel: What makes you think that it is those other Hindus that are not elitist other than your own personal biases of course?

After all, the vast majority of Hindus use the term Ganesha/ Ganapati etc. and there are no Sanskrit, Hindi or colloquial equivalents for elephant/ monkey god etc.

#21
Sirius
September 29, 2007
12:51 PM

here are some other names of Lord Ganesa:-

Vakratunda : One with a broken tusk (now does it not sound similar to an elephant god?)

Mahakaya : Massive huge body (what does that indicate)

So we can always say with respect : Lord Elephant god with a broken tusk, and I am sure he won't mind!

It is surely the respect we hold in the heart for his form, that counts.

#22
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
September 29, 2007
03:05 PM

Sanjay Garg:

"Second, buddhi is not intelligence. Rather, it is more closely associated with intellect"

Hmm, an interesting approach towards fighting a losing battle. Please check the theseaurus...intelligence is a synonym for intellect :) So dunno what point you made there.

Equating intelligence or percpetion to blind trust is may I say for lack of a better word, daft. Obviously your idea of "intelligence" is far different than mine.

The "bellyaching" Mr.Garg, is due to the public nuisance created by those who are using amplifiers and music systems to disturb other people and then apply convenient 'symbolism' as a last ditch effort to justify this violation. And due to India's secular adoption there actually are, believe it or not, non-Hindus who share our Mahan Bharat. So this whole "excessive indulgence of the senses" sounds great until it arrives in your backyard and disrupts your activities, peace and/ or sleep.

By the way, how many people have tried getting a woman in labor or a sick person amidst the Ganesh Chaturthi mania to the hospital in Bombay during Ananta Chaturdashi? The musicals, the long processions, the lezhim dancers and the large trucks carrying the huge idols move at an ant's pace and transporting patients needing immediate attention to the hospital is a virtually impossible task.

Which symbol Mr.Garg justifies this. Is there a part of the Ganesha idol, the trunk, the eyes, the feet perhaps that justifies a seige of the city for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations?

Following are the sanskrit terms for each of the god's who you claim have "no Sanskrit or Hindi colloquial equivalents for elephant or monkey god"

Ganesh: Gajanana (one with an elephant face)
Gajamukham (one with an elephant face)
Gajendra (god/ leader of elephants)
Gajavadhana (one with the voice of an elephant)

Hanuman: Kapisha (leader of monkeys)
Kapeeshwara (leader/ god of monkeys)
Harimarkatamarkata (monkey god)

I remember the translation of a Sanskrit shloka from my studies a few years ago meant the following

"Sometimes before assuming other people's biases it is important to examine our own"

You are right in a way, Mr.Garg...this does seem like community service now!

:)


#23
smallsquirrel
September 29, 2007
03:12 PM

sanjay... prepared to be schooled by the firang. yes dear, I studied sanskrit... maybe yours is rusty but mine is OK... so... I bring to you just some of the names of Ganesha with their translations, cause I think you've forgotten them...

Gajakarna... one who has eyes like an elephant
Gajanana and Gajananeti both mean elephant-faced Lord
Gajavaktra... one who has mouth like an elephant

#24
smallsquirrel
September 29, 2007
03:14 PM

oh snap, aditi posted while I was typing mine out... anyway....

(big grin)

#25
Sanjay Garg
September 29, 2007
06:09 PM

@Sirius: Much of Lord Ganesha's polymorphic forms, aspects, actions etc are based on an elephant symbolism but that does not justify a translation to elephant god. Why do that when we already have well-established names, descriptions, symbolism, stories, mythology, philosophy etc associated with Ganesha. About as hokey as introducing "Suraj Singh" literally as Sun Lion!

So we can always say with respect : Lord Elephant god with a broken tusk, and I am sure he won't mind!

I don't really have a direct line with Lord Ganesha, so find myself unable to verify this claim :-)

It is surely the respect we hold in the heart for his form, that counts.

I'm not psychic. My issue not what is in someone's "heart", rather with the quality and accuracy of what the author is tangibly communicating about Lord Ganesha in writing.

#26
Sanjay Garg
September 29, 2007
10:33 PM

@Aditi: Please check the theseaurus...intelligence is a synonym for intellect :) So dunno what point you made there.

Lose the thesaurus, we are talking Indian philosophy here and the latter does make a clear distinction between buddhi (intellect) and intelligence.

Intellect is seen as a faculty of the mind which, in turn, exists only in duality. Otoh, intelligence is equated with Pure Consciousness and transcends duality. Said differently, universal intelligence limited by the time and space of duality is manifested as buddhi or intellect.

Equating intelligence or percpetion to blind trust is may I say for lack of a better word, daft. Obviously your idea of "intelligence" is far different than mine.

This is a misrepresentation of my position, not to mention mixes up apples (intellect), oranges (intelligence) and bananas (perception) ;-) Another thing. Regardless whether we define intelligence differently, there is no excuse for misstating my position.

And due to India's secular adoption there actually are, believe it or not, non-Hindus who share our Mahan Bharat. So this whole "excessive indulgence of the senses" sounds great until it arrives in your backyard and disrupts your activities, peace and/ or sleep.

India is a free country. I don't believe non-Hindus are being forced to participate in any Hindu festivals, rituals etc. To me, this still sounds like a lot of nit-picky bellyaching.

By the way, how many people have tried getting a woman in labor or a sick person amidst the Ganesh Chaturthi mania to the hospital in Bombay during Ananta Chaturdashi? The musicals, the long processions, the lezhim dancers and the large trucks carrying the huge idols move at an ant's pace and transporting patients needing immediate attention to the hospital is a virtually impossible task.

This is a cheap shot. Have you made a similar analysis when essential services are closed during Christmas holidays, Easter, Ramzan etc? or for that matter during Sunday closures?

Btw, thanks for all the Sanskrit research but none of these terms equate to elephant god. It is not just that googling "elephant" and listing the results is trivial, even the term "god" has no one-for-one Hindu equivalent.

#27
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
September 29, 2007
11:07 PM

Sanjay Garg: Well, as for the whole "intellect versus intelligence in Indian philosophy" crap, I will not dignify it with a reply. It is funny to say the least. We are communicating in English. Intellect and intelligence are English words. YOU used them. Perception is ALSO a synonym for the two and you are being PETTY in order to provide some poppycock explanations. I hope readers will be able to see through the crap.

Now, did you say I made a cheap shot about the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations halting traffic? I was not speaking of public holidays at all. I was talking about the public nuisance that is created by the million processions that stall traffic for hours. NO CHRISTIAN or MUSLIM celebration has EVER caused such a traffic hazard in MUMBAI. EVER. We just use secular as a title for our nation. India is a "free country" for those who don't voice their opinion against a violation of their peace. The public nuisance created by loudspeakers is a violation of public rights. But when this is voiced we have Hindu fundamentalists raising their hackles ready to fight. This is "forcing people to be included in the revelry". One has no choice other than to leave their home AND THAT IS UNFAIR.

All of the terms I have used equate to Elephant God. You don't wanna see it, your problem, your ignorance. Can't cure it. Gajeshwar, Gaja: Elephant, Eshwar: God.

And you are welcome.

I AM a Hindu. I am devotee of Ganesh. We have celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi for years. We have invited people over for aartis, hosted a Ganesh idol and indulged in all the senses to our fills...but we never, ever would rationalize to provide justifications for disturbing our neighbour's peace on our account by giving Hindu symbolism as a sorry excuse for our inconsiderate behavior.

#28
Seema
URL
September 29, 2007
11:24 PM

Five years of Sanskrit reading and even I know that Buddhi: mati: intelligence :) And English speakers probably know that intelligence=intellect as well.

And what is this one-for-one equivalent? Trying to be trivial are we? Or is intolerant? Or biased? Touchy maybe? :)

A lot of people when referring to Ganesh use the term Elephant God. It is not disrespectful. It describes him and is an English term to refer to the God. He has the face of an elephant for god's sakes? Why pray is it so offensive, Mr.Garg? Do you find Ganesha's Elephant face offensive?

Something tells me Mr.Garg wouldn't have been so upset if this article was about how loud Christmas carols are disturbing public peace in India :D

#29
Uma
URL
September 30, 2007
01:00 AM

Guys, this exchange has been quite educative for me.

Aditi, I loved that one about how the ears could be interpreted as a symbol of dolby systems. I will include that when I talk about Ganesh to my friends in Europe :)

Generally learned a whole lot of new terms for Ganesh and Sirius I also liked your suggestion - Lord Elephant god with a broken tusk, or maybe Lord with a massive body.

#30
Deepti Lamba
URL
September 30, 2007
01:05 AM

Uma, I know what you mean. In our village whenever the festival season starts religious music blares 24/7. Trouble is that the warring factions blare their chants, music, speeches etc at each other and we are caught in the middle of the cacophony.

I used to get bugged but then decided that since I can't beat them might as well join them so I play loud music on our powerful DVD player when they play their stuff.

There should be zero tolerance for noise pollution but in India noise and crowds go hand in hand, all we can do is add contribute to the pool of noise or go silently mad:)


#31
Uma
URL
September 30, 2007
01:31 AM

Dee, comrade-in-arms! I often do the same thing when faced with radios/loudspeakers blasting out the neighborhood. Play my stereo at full volume. I don't think that's the best way to combat noise pollution but what to do! If I must be subjected to noise I prefer listening to my own choice.

#32
Chandra
September 30, 2007
01:49 AM


The word "elephant God" is something you read when Reuters/AP file reports out of India for western audiences. It is funny when Indians describe it this way. But we are like that only.

This 'noise' business is an absolute nuisance. Most of these guys who indulge in this are probably part-time thugs. But again, is this is more of a 'Mumbai' problem?

#33
Ledzius
September 30, 2007
03:52 AM

In my neighbourhood, the Ganesha procession occurred unfortunately at midnight. Many people in my apartment complex would have lost at least a half an hour worth of sleep because of that.

And this peculiar custom of processions is not confined to Hindus anymore. I have come across Virgin Mary processions here in Bangalore, accompanied by crackers and blocking traffic for a considerable amount of time.

I guess we don't have any noise or public nuisance ordnances, and even if they exist in books, no one is brave enough to enforce them, lest they start major rioting.

But that's India for us.

#34
Sirius
September 30, 2007
05:53 AM

All I remember about celebrating Ganesa festival is the small deities they kept at home for ten days, then in a procession they went and immersed the deity, and distributed some tasty prasadam. Truly, all that really attracts me to these festivals is the prasadam.It is yummy, very spiritually uplifting.

#35
Sanjay Garg
September 30, 2007
06:53 AM

@Aditi: Well, as for the whole "intellect versus intelligence in Indian philosophy" crap, I will not dignify it with a reply. It is funny to say the least. We are communicating in English. Intellect and intelligence are English words. YOU used them. Perception is ALSO a synonym for the two and you are being PETTY in order to provide some poppycock explanations. I hope readers will be able to see through the crap.

If this emotive outburst and colorful language is meant to divert attention, then it isn't working on me. Just because we are using English words to approximate some Hindu ideas and concepts does not give you the license to substitute English meanings for them. Elementary!

At least one major, modern Hindu school of thought - Kashmir Shaivism - does in fact differentiate between intelligence and buddhi (intellect), just for your edification. And, the very first chapter in all Indian schools of thought is to carefully distinguish perception from buddhi (intellect). Perception is the knowledge humans gain using their five senses, buddhi is used to evaluate and discriminate "right" from "wrong" knowledge. Quite absurd to mix them up.

Now, did you say I made a cheap shot about the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations halting traffic?

No, I didn't. Please go back and get it right.

We just use secular as a title for our nation. India is a "free country" for those who don't voice their opinion against a violation of their peace. The public nuisance created by loudspeakers is a violation of public rights. But when this is voiced we have Hindu fundamentalists raising their hackles ready to fight. This is "forcing people to be included in the revelry". One has no choice other than to leave their home AND THAT IS UNFAIR.

So, what is your suggestion? that Hindus stop celebrating their festivals? wouldn't that just be western secularism?

All of the terms I have used equate to Elephant God. You don't wanna see it, your problem, your ignorance. Can't cure it. Gajeshwar, Gaja: Elephant, Eshwar: God.

Ishvara is not God. Of course, both Hindus and Christians conceive of one Supreme Reality, but the conception of each one is quite different. While Hindus celebrate the multiplicity of conceptions (as internal pluralism), the Abrahamic religions demand mono-conception (which they equate with monotheism). Ishvara is manifested in countless forms inside the cosmos, affording an individual access via his/her personal choice of form. But God is said to get very p---- off at multiple form of Him, according to Abrahamic religions. Therefore, Ishvara is not God.

I AM a Hindu. I am devotee of Ganesh. We have celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi for years. We have invited people over for aartis, hosted a Ganesh idol and indulged in all the senses to our fills...but we never, ever would rationalize to provide justifications for disturbing our neighbour's peace on our account by giving Hindu symbolism as a sorry excuse for our inconsiderate behavior.

Ganesh Chaturthi is an utsav where ut = uplift, transcend + sav = everyone, the community. Utsav is meant to uplift the entire community out of their day-to-day personal and caste-based (chauvinistic) identities into a joint celebration of being human. In a pluralistic identity-based culture like India's, utsav plays an important role in maintaining harmony amongst the various identity groups. A little extra noise is a small price to pay for that, imo.

#36
Sanjay Garg
September 30, 2007
07:58 AM

@Seema: Five years of Sanskrit reading and even I know that Buddhi: mati: intelligence :) And English speakers probably know that intelligence=intellect as well.

Things are not quite as simple as "reading Sanskrit" and voilà! "I know what is the meaning of buddhi". You also need knowledge of Indian philosophy to understand how the various schools of thought distinguish buddhi (intellect) from intelligence.

For example, the Nyaya schools of philosophy are primarily concerned with logic and reasoning in the material world so they are understandably indifferent to the distinction between buddhi (intellect) and intelligence.

Other schools - Advaita, Kashmir Shaivism etc - break things down into finer detail, postulate more categories & they do make the distinction.

And what is this one-for-one equivalent? Trying to be trivial are we? Or is intolerant? Or biased? Touchy maybe? :)

Grow up. I already gave examples in my response to Aditi.

A lot of people when referring to Ganesh use the term Elephant God. It is not disrespectful. It describes him and is an English term to refer to the God. He has the face of an elephant for god's sakes? Why pray is it so offensive, Mr.Garg? Do you find Ganesha's Elephant face offensive?

You missed the point again. Why use elephant god when we already have the appropriate words - Ganesha, Ganapati etc - in our own language? Would we translate Seema and introduce her as "Please meet boundary" ;-)?

Something tells me Mr.Garg wouldn't have been so upset if this article was about how loud Christmas carols are disturbing public peace in India :D

Something tells me Ms. Seema that some Tom, Dick or d'Souza would have raised an objection. This is the beauty of a free country - each of us has a chance to express our own opinion. We do not have to be all things to all people, all at the same time.

#37
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
September 30, 2007
10:27 AM

Mr.Garg:

If people read our above exchanges and Uma's article they will know that this issue is not about "a little extra noise" (Have you actually been to Bombay for Ganesh Chaturthi?), or "knowing Sanskrit names for Ganpati" or (for heaven's sakes), if "it is intellect or intelligence I am using to make the right choices" etc. :) I don't like having a debate for the sake of having a debate where the opposition picks on whatever they can get their hands on (The "Oh, look look you said Buddhi is intelligence, it is actually intellect. Haha, I win!" approach is too grade school like for my taste).

Obviously the tenets of a religion (Sanskrit, English or otherwise) mean a lot more to you than being considerate towards your neighbour's right to peace. Thats ok. There are several people like you who find excuses to step onto their neighbour's "freedom" during festivals. I had stated earlier...lets agree to disagree. We belong to very different mindsets. No matter what books, symbols, priests say, creating a public nuisance would just plainly bother my own conscience.

I have started to realize how much of India's "secularity" and "freedom" is actually put to practice.

So you win Sanjay Garg...in fact you win every year, with every loudspeaker, amplifier, aarti and Bollywood film song emanating dolby system outside people's windows for Ganesh Chaturthi. You do win. :)

#38
Jay
September 30, 2007
11:35 AM

Western secularism? Do you mean nations where ALL religions are accepted and respected and people know how to celebrate their own religious festivals without causing a public nuisance? Where there are rules and everybody's rights and freedom is protected?

None of the comments above recommend that people stop celebrating their festivals. They merely speak in favor of celebrating the festivals so as to respect their neighbour's and fellow citizen's rights as well.

If that is "Western secularism" then we should seriously consider adopting it or stop this hypocritical use of "secularism" when refering to India and just make it a Hindu nation. Right?

And by the way, the reason Ganesh is called or referred to as Elephant God is cause he IS an elephant, he has the face of an elephant. Gaja means elephant and if colloquial use of terminology is offensive to you, you shouldn't be on public forums. You are way too easily offended :)

If Buddhi can be intellect versus intelligence in English (inspite of being a Hindu concept) then Ganesh can be Elephant God.

#39
Sirius
September 30, 2007
12:12 PM

Another name of Ganesa is Jyotirganeswara (the illumined Ganesa)

#40
Kamlesh
September 30, 2007
01:04 PM

I personally love the loud loud sounds of the festival. Times have changed and so also the ways to celebrate have changed.
It is great fun to go from one area in mumbai to another to check our the various Ganesha idols and see which one is the best.
Its a festival...so enjoy.

And let me tell you guys it is a harmless festival.

What are your views on Thanksgiving when a million turkeys are killed mercilessly to celebrate family reunions?
What are your views on Eid when a million cows are slaughterd to celebrate?
Geeze...that seems like a peaceful festoval isn't it?

Having said that Ganesh Chaturti is an absolute harmless, enjoyable , loud, colorful celebration.

#41
annamma
September 30, 2007
01:31 PM

WOULD ANYONE LIKE IT IF I WENT AROUND SCREAMING LIKE THIS!! You'd tell me, or at least think, that I was crude, rude, and could I keep off the capitals please...it raises everyone's hackles.

Well, thats what a lot of our festivals are like; frankly, they're painful. I don't care which religion they belong to, making noise and disturbing others does not create harmony, either social or medical...it does the opposite. And its no way like a "little" extra noise, really...

#42
Chandra
September 30, 2007
02:16 PM

Jay: And by the way, the reason Ganesh is called or referred to as Elephant God is cause he IS an elephant, he has the face of an elephant. Gaja means elephant and if colloquial use of terminology is offensive to you, you shouldn't be on public forums. You are way too easily offended :)

Chandra: The term 'Elephant God' is an inaccurate description.

An elephant God conjures up an image of Indians praying an elephant as a God. That is not true.
Fundamentally, Ganesha was not an elephant. Nor did he look like a complete elephant. On the other hand, describing Nandi as a Cow God would be quite accurate. The infamous Ashwathamma was an elephant.

Secondly, it is silly that an Indian who has lived in India would describe it that way. It smacks of ignorance, nothing less. All these other explanations are excuses, nothing less.
When once ignorance is discovered, the sensible thing is to either shut up or be brave enough to apologise for providing inaccurate information.





#43
Chandra
September 30, 2007
02:26 PM


Sorry..that would be Nandi the Bull

#44
Jay
September 30, 2007
03:34 PM

#42 Chandra & Sanjay Garg:

Then the millions of people who pray and pay obessiance to an actual, live elephant on Tuesdays as it makes its way through the crowded Bombay city owe you an apology! Elephants pass through streets close to Prabhadevi and near the famed Sidhivinayak temple where people offer him modaks and bannas and say the Ganesh Stotra to him. On Ganesh Chaturthi and on Ananta Chaturdashi also these elephant mahuts are invited by Ganesh temples where devotees offer prayers and prasad to the majestic being.

They all do not owe anybody any apology and their faith does not deserve to be belitteled because a few desis are unneccessarily touchy/ petty. Describing a God who has the face of an elephant and is referred to as Gajanan and Gajeshwar is neither ignorant nor disrespectful.

In fact by repeatedly claiming that the title of an "elephant god" is something offensive some of you are inadvertently insulting a lot of Ganesh devotees. YOU owe them an apology. So be brave enough and apologize. Go on. And please don't give more excuses.

#45
Sanjay Garg
September 30, 2007
03:36 PM

@Aditi: Thanks for asking. I was raised in Kolkata and Mumbai with Durga Puja and Ganesh Chaturthi. I found the celebrations exciting, colorful & fascinating, brightening an otherwise pedantic and mechanistic "modern" lifestyle.

On the one single day when the murti immersion actually happened, usually late nights, we knew in advance that traffic would be affected & just avoided it. Saved all the bellyaching later.

I have started to realize how much of India's "secularity" and "freedom" is actually put to practice.

Really? Ask Indian Muslims about freedom. No western "secular" nation allows 5-a-day Azaan blaring from loudspeakers; no western "secular" nation allows Shia's to celebrate Muharram, when profusely decorated taziyas are carried through Indian city streets with mourners beating their breasts lamenting and grieving, accompanied by drumbeats; during Bakr-Id, numerous goats and sheep are sacrificed throughout the country.

Meanwhile, France has gone after the headscarf like its embarking on a new revolution and the U.S. can't stand the sight of Sikh turbans.

Not sure what other freedom and secularism you have in mind but on planet Earth, no one does it better than India, imo.

#46
Jay
September 30, 2007
03:37 PM

#40 Kamlesh: So your rationale is: "Because Thanksgiving kills turkeys and Eid kills cows Hindus should be allowed to do their own share of noise and environmental pollution" ??

Basically "Screw the environment and lets have our fun...other religions get to do it!!!" right?

:)

#47
Seema
September 30, 2007
05:07 PM

#45:

Sanjay Garg: This is very interesting...

"Ask Indian Muslims about freedom. No western "secular" nation allows 5-a-day Azaan blaring from loudspeakers; no western "secular" nation allows Shia's to celebrate Muharram, when profusely decorated taziyas are carried through Indian city streets with mourners beating their breasts lamenting and grieving, accompanied by drumbeats; during Bakr-Id, numerous goats and sheep are sacrificed throughout the country."

What precisely is you definition of secularism? Do you think secularism means the state's tolerance of any religious ritual no matter how much it interferes with city operation or peace?!!

A brief definition of Secularism from Wiki (pay attention to the second sentence): "Secularism is generally the assertion or belief that certain practices or institutions should exist separately from religion or religious belief. In one sense, secularism may assert the freedom of religion, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions".

This means that if one were to beat a drum in a public place thus violating state regulations of environmental protection (US Environmental Protection Act 1990) then no religious biase or excuse (such as detailed symbolism by Hindu priests etc) can be used to let people violate this law.

I was raised in the US so I do not know if Indians are protected by this law but here in the US if my neighbours are causing a statutory nuisance using loudspeakers, if people of a certain religion are blocking traffic or if a religious ritual is somehow interfering with the lives of other citizens then they cannot use religious license to break state laws. I as a citizen CAN call the police and ask that I not be subjected to the nuisance of loudspeakers. THAT is the definition of secularism as a few of us know it. From your above comment I got the impression that you somehow think secularism means allowing religious practices no matter how they interfere with state regulations. The blaring Azan shouldn't be allowed neither should the loudspeakers with constant aartis and the traffic hazardous processions if they are violating a law.

By the way, who told you that the US cannot stand the sight of Sikh turbans? :) Plenty of friends, relatives and colleagues wear turbans to work without issue here so I have no idea why you are putting up this reff? I wear bindis to lab and my boss wears her sarees. So taking one stray piece of news out of context for dramatic effect, are we?

#48
Sanjay Garg
September 30, 2007
06:03 PM

@Jay: Western secularism? Do you mean nations where ALL religions are accepted and respected and people know how to celebrate their own religious festivals without causing a public nuisance? Where there are rules and everybody's rights and freedom is protected?

All religions are respected? you must be kidding or referring perhaps to Indian, not Western secularism. If anything, western secularism is fundamentally and deeply anti-religion, anti-spirituality.

It would be digressing too much from the thread to discuss the Western brand of secularism in detail. Even though it would take five minutes to at least begin debunking that urban myth.

None of the comments above recommend that people stop celebrating their festivals. They merely speak in favor of celebrating the festivals so as to respect their neighbour's and fellow citizen's rights as well.

The devil is in the details but I certainly agree with the theory.

If that is "Western secularism" then we should seriously consider adopting it or stop this hypocritical use of "secularism" when refering to India and just make it a Hindu nation. Right?

Wrong. India's secular credentials are impeccable & no western nation comes even close. If there is any "hypocrisy", it is not India's fault but is the result of a genetic design flaw in the modern nation state, which btw is a European construct based around the "one nation, one people" concept.

Given this genetic flaw, it is inevitable that all modern nations feel a constant gravitational pull towards the majority belief system. Every secular nation can thus be labeled "hypocritical" and the true test will be which nation is less so.

The flaws of Western secularism are too numerous to be enumerated here. Suffice it to say that it has divided people along racial, religious, national, and cultural lines. If Western secularism ever came to India, then the Indian subcontinent will almost certainly end up becoming balkanized. And this is just for starters.

And by the way, the reason Ganesh is called or referred to as Elephant God is cause he IS an elephant, he has the face of an elephant. Gaja means elephant and if colloquial use of terminology is offensive to you, you shouldn't be on public forums. You are way too easily offended :)

Last I checked, an elephant typically has more than a face, including a backside and a middle that connects the two :-) given that Ganesha still sports 2/3rds of a human body and only 1/3rd elephant, it still does not merit - going by your "logic" - the label elephant god.

In any case, the key significance of having an elephant face on a human body is to convey, among other things, a sense of larger-than-life five senses - for a human. By focusing lamely on the elephant rather than the symbolism, the author misrepresents Ganesha.

#49
Sanjay Garg
September 30, 2007
06:29 PM

@Jay: Then the millions of people who pray and pay obessiance to an actual, live elephant on Tuesdays as it makes its way through the crowded Bombay city owe you an apology! Elephants pass through streets close to Prabhadevi and near the famed Sidhivinayak temple where people offer him modaks and bannas and say the Ganesh Stotra to him. On Ganesh Chaturthi and on Ananta Chaturdashi also these elephant mahuts are invited by Ganesh temples where devotees offer prayers and prasad to the majestic being.

Nice try but it doesn't wash. Devotees are simply invoking Ganesha into a live elephant, exactly as other deities can be invoked into various murtis. It is to these deities - and to the power they represent - to which people offer their prayers, not the physical object in front of them. Hinduism 101.

Describing a God who has the face of an elephant and is referred to as Gajanan and Gajeshwar is neither ignorant nor disrespectful.

Gajanan translates to elephant head, not elephant god. Gajeshwar does not translate to elephant god either because Ishvara is not God, as I already explained to Aditi (to which she naturally had no response!).

In fact by repeatedly claiming that the title of an "elephant god" is something offensive some of you are inadvertently insulting a lot of Ganesh devotees. YOU owe them an apology. So be brave enough and apologize. Go on. And please don't give more excuses.

I said that the term elephant god misrepresented Ganesha. Not sure where you conjured up offensive. As to the last point, you continue to display more ignorance about Indians and Hindus the more you write.

#50
Jay
September 30, 2007
10:09 PM

Sanjay Garg:

See Mr.Garg, we are all reasonable human beings who are all Hindu if you've noticed, some of us even celebrate Ganpati festival in our own homes in India.

But there is something else called being "conscientious". While you are being knitpicky and pointing out petty flaws in terminology, symbolism, Hindu concepts etc, you still have failed to address one important issue: violation of public peace by interference of religion with state law that should ideally protect citizens from statutory nuisance. That is the essence of secularism and not allowing all religions to do what they please. In case of the latter there would be no governance.

Here is what I propose you do (you could reject it, of course). Stop cutting out excerpts from each of our comments (because it leads to things being taken out of context) and responding to small sections, thus trivializing the bigger points we attempt to make. Just address the following question and try to answer them briefly if possible, because this article is not about Hinduism and Ganesh and Buddhi. It is about a far greater issue that you seem to be tap-dancing around. I will appreciate it if you could answer this:

What justifies violation of public peace? Ultimately, does Hindu symbolism justify why Muslim, Christian and families of other religions be subjected to loud noise and amplified aartis pouring into their windows during a Hindu festival? Should the state just wash its hands off of religious rituals and let religion take over without governance? When do people call in and complain about a public nuisance that won't allow their children to study, doesn't let them hear even their own voices in their own homes?

#51
Deepti Lamba
URL
September 30, 2007
10:25 PM

When do people call in and complain about a public nuisance that won't allow their children to study, doesn't let them hear even their own voices in their own homes?

I remember the neighbourhood 'Jagrans' that reduced us to tears during our exams A friend of sister's once complained to the cops about the Jagaran going on beyond 12 in the night. The cops came over,they spoke to the business family, money was given and within half an hour the Jagaran restarted and continued till 5 in the morning.

That poor girl had an exam the next the day. It seems being 'deeply religious' and being socially responsible are entirely divorced in the Indian mind which is far more offensive than calling a God by its animalistic appearance.

#52
Chandra
October 1, 2007
12:25 AM

Jay

Offering prayers or sweets to the elephant donot make an elephant Ganesh. Among the various modes of transport, Ganesh uses the elephant as well. Surely, you are not suggesting that an elephant was travelling on another one? Again to reinforce a comparsion

Nandi- The Bull
Ganesh- NOT the Elephant

Overall, your interpretation is silly. More like your reluctance to accept you are wrong and move on. . I find it bewlidering that you justify ignorance with such 'fantastic' analysis about people praying elephants in Mumbai and therefore Ganesha becoming an elephant.

I wrongly accused Reuters of such ignorance. My apologies. It seems they are more accurate than both Ms. Uma and Jay......

REUTERS

"attended a prayer ceremony during the
"Ganesh Chaturti" festival dedicated to Hindu ELEPHANT HEADED LORD GANESHA"


#53
Jay
October 1, 2007
01:01 AM

I may be guilty of ignorance Mr.Chandra but you are guilty of far worse...of taking attention away from an important issue to focus on a petty one. That more than bewilders me. It outrages me.

I am a Hindu. I too have read Hindu scriptures. I have a right to my faith and I say Ganesha is an elephant. If that offends you, suck it up. If you guys find it inaccurate, well you'll just have to rant for a while on DC about it and then get over it.

Deepti in #51 summed it up well:

"It seems being 'deeply religious' and being socially responsible are entirely divorced in the Indian mind which is far more offensive than calling a God by its animalistic appearance."

#54
SeemaD
October 1, 2007
01:10 AM

Some Hindus are haughty enough to expect that people of other religions will always by virtue of having been born in India know the exact Hindu terminology :) Everybody has to get their terminology right. If they don't then chastize their "ignorance" and get sermons about Hinduism.

Its the same kind of haughty indifference that leads people to be inconsiderate towards others when celebrating their own religious festivities.

#55
Ledzius
October 1, 2007
01:14 AM

What about religious processions that offend the sight? A few months ago, there was a procession of completely nude Jain men near my apartment complex in the late afternoon.

Many women and children who came across them were highly embarrassed by this.

If secularism means offending other peoples' senses and disrespecting their right to not be disturbed in the night, screw that secularism.

#56
Uma
URL
October 1, 2007
01:24 AM

Hey Chandra, quit nit picking wont you. I don't mind apologizing when I'm wrong, and I am often wrong. I often put my foot in my mouth (sometimes my hand and feet as well - and for a small mouth like mine it is quite a feat, believe me). But I am learning that not knowing it all doesn't mean one should quit talking/spend one's entire life apologizing. In any case how else would I have learned all that I have about Ganesh, if not by calling him mistakenly or otherwise "an elephant god"!

However I am not sure if I should be apologizing for calling Ganesha the elephant god just because you demand it. Beyond all the comments and info provided by Jay and others on the matter which support my view, (Small Squirre #17, Sirius, #21, Aditi #22, Seema #28, Jay #38,#44,) there is such a thing as colloquial usage and Ganesh just is referred to quite often in that way. I have heard it myself in India, and am sorry I haven't tape recorded the conversations as proof.

But then again, I have said it often enough and am willing to say it a thousand times more, I am NOT an expert in Hindu culture. Not that I want to flaunt my ignorance - but because it is a fact and I wont get into a long winded explanation here about why it is so. I don't have the time and inclination to pore over books on Hindu culture at this stage but am always interested in learning and the best way I find to do it today, is through an exchange with others. So while the info you provide is basically interesting your tone is such that any faint hearted person would cringe from expressing a view for fear that people like you would shoot him/her down with your remarks. What the hell. Let's learn from each other. And by the way, Sanjay and Chandra, it really is easier to learn from someone who provides information in a neutral tone rather than a tone which is aggressive and superior.

Aditi, you make an excellent point in your article about the need to use environmentally friendly materials in the making of idols. I think we need to get a consensus on issues that are really important whether it is noise levels or environmental pollution, rather than to invest so much energy squabbling about petty issues like whether Ganesh is or is not an elephant god.

#57
Vishnu
October 1, 2007
02:36 AM

During Ganesh Chathurthi, I have seen people playing obscene songs loud and staging item dance numbers in front of the Ganesha idol. Is this the way to celebrate the festival?

#58
Chandra
October 1, 2007
06:35 AM

Jay

You make another ignorant comment. I have already touched upon the issue of noise. (Comment 32).....

How you Describe Ganesha is not a religious issue, it is a factual error. You can keep repeating a factual error as much as you wish. It is like calling a horse a dog, a horse is not a dog irrespective of how often you repeat it. As they say 'ignorance is bliss'. Be happy.


Uma

It does not matter anymore as to what you think. If you are really what you claim you are, you would have closed this debate when somebody first raised this issue. (Comment 12)....we are now in comment 57....thank you

rgds


#59
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
09:22 AM

@Seema: As I said in an earlier response to Jay, this is perhaps not the place for a detailed discussion on secularism. Why don't you write a separate column on this topic and we can discuss it there. Personally, I do not believe in a universal, "one-size-fits-all" secularism that can be elevated to a gold standard against which all other forms of secularism can be theoretically measured.

Indian secularism is practised very differently from the American version and I'm not impressed by your attempt to unversalize the latter as the implicit gold standard.

By the way, who told you that the US cannot stand the sight of Sikh turbans? :) Plenty of friends, relatives and colleagues wear turbans to work without issue here so I have no idea why you are putting up this reff? I wear bindis to lab and my boss wears her sarees. So taking one stray piece of news out of context for dramatic effect, are we?

Being raised in the US is not enough, you actually need to make an effort to keep up with current events.

Homeland Security just approved far reaching measures that allow pat-downs and outright removal of turbans even after the turban has gone through metal detectors. It is feared that the moment an exception is made for turbans, would-be terrorists will use the turban to hide a bomb (or something to that effect).

Needless to say, despite having a far worse experience with terrorism, India has never felt the need to pass such measures. Another example where Indian secularism is miles ahead of the western variety.

#60
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
October 1, 2007
09:38 AM

Chandra:

I would've expected this from Sanjay Garg (thats why I don't respond to him any more) but to see you "demanding" an apology for someone referring to Ganesh as an elephant god is just preposterous. Who are you? Hindu police? Bring Man Singh along too, will ya?

When Ganesh can be described as Ekadanta, which if literally translated means "one tusk" a similar descriptive "elephant god" can be used for the god in colloquial English. To take it literally and find some inaccuracy in the term is your ignorance and your narrow-mindedness, not the other way round. That is like saying calling Ganesh "One Tusk" is a factual error cause there is more than a tusk to him. Of course there is but people use descriptives all the time.

And yeah, it DOES matter what Uma and some of us think. We are Hindus too and there's just 2 of you dimwits here demanding an apology while deviating from the key issue.

Here's the thing: YOU and Garg DO NOT get to decide "FACTS" about a Hindu deity. You have never seen Ganpati and neither has anybody else. You cannot claim "factual error" here based on a few scriptures. There is NO dictated Hindu scripture that claims to be the one reference for Hinduism. So claiming "factual" error is funny.

For your and Garg's reference, here is an excerpt that describes how linguists have investigated the different use of languages can result in certain descriptives for Ganapati.

"""A prominent name for Ganesha in the Tamil language is Pille or Pillaiyar, which translates as "Little Child."A. K. Narain differentiates these terms by saying that pille means a "child" while pillaiyar means a "noble child." He adds that the words pallu, pella, and pell in the Dravidian family of languages signify "tooth or tusk of an elephant" but more generally "elephant."In discussing the name Pillaiyar, Anita Raina Thapan notes that since the Pali word pillaka means "a young elephant" it is possible that the word pille originally meant "the young of the elephant.""""""

So in Tamil, Ganesh can be called a young child or elephant but in English he cannot be reffered to as Elephant God? Now you guys may claim that Ms.Thapan is not as well-versed in Hinduism as you etc. but you forget something....not everybody knows every scripture based detail about Hindu deities who have been so widely refered to. They will find descriptive, colloquial terminology to refer to our Gods not because they are ignorant but because they are not Hindu or are not well-versed with the puranas like Swami Chandra and Swami Garg. I am sure there are Hindu scriptures that you haven't read either.

If someone calls Ganesh Elephant God then I don't see any "inacurracy" in it. I have never seen Ganesh and only prayed to an idol which has the face of an elephant and a body of a man that was carved by some other man...in our aartis we refer to him as "Ekadanta", "One Tusk". Should we take offense to that description because it is "incomplete" and "inaccurate".

#61
SeemaD
URL
October 1, 2007
09:50 AM

#59 Mr.Garg: I didn't expect you to be able to address my question adequately at all. I gathered from your comment that you seem to think religious allowances are "secularism" :) That is not the case.

You said the following:

"Needless to say, despite having a far worse experience with terrorism, India has never felt the need to pass such measures. Another example where Indian secularism is miles ahead of the western variety."

I don't think this is a secularism issue. It is a homeland security issue and India needs to make the search mandatory. I don't know why and how secularism would justify a lapse in security protocol based on religion. In fact it is the exact opposite of secularism :)

This is why I said: "From your above comment I got the impression that you somehow think secularism means allowing religious practices no matter how they interfere with state regulations" in my earlier comment.

You also said: "Being raised in the US is not enough, you actually need to make an effort to keep up with current events"

I didn't say it did at all! So no clue why this comment :) And what makes you think I don't keep up with current events?!

Being aware of current events is not enough if you ideas about the concepts involved in political decisions are flawed to begin with. If you think secularism is religious license to by-pass law and regulations, you are grossly mistaken.

And surely you gest when you expect me to write an entire article to abolish your ignorance.

#62
smallsquirrel
October 1, 2007
09:51 AM

sanjay... you said "Homeland Security just approved far reaching measures that allow pat-downs and outright removal of turbans even after the turban has gone through metal detectors. It is feared that the moment an exception is made for turbans, would-be terrorists will use the turban to hide a bomb (or something to that effect).

Needless to say, despite having a far worse experience with terrorism, India has never felt the need to pass such measures. Another example where Indian secularism is miles ahead of the western variety."

Not that I agree with the searching of Sikh turbans... but I do not disagree that the US has the right to ask someone to remove one if there is probable cause to think there might be an issue. The TSA agents are not going to ask every Sikh to remove the turban and you know it. This is not about religion, no matter how much you want to make it so. And I fail to understand how you've proven that India's "secularism" is superior in this regard. You're still getting terrorist attacks, which you admit. Maybe it is time for you to beef up security!

#63
SeemaD
URL
October 1, 2007
09:51 AM

Above comment shouls've spelled "jest" instead of "gest"

#64
Shyam
URL
October 1, 2007
09:52 AM

hehe this mountain (from a mole hill) could only be carried by the ahemmm 'dark complexioned God' ;)

#65
Jay
October 1, 2007
09:56 AM

Sanjay Garg:

"Homeland Security just approved far reaching measures that allow pat-downs and outright removal of turbans even after the turban has gone through metal detectors. It is feared that the moment an exception is made for turbans, would-be terrorists will use the turban to hide a bomb (or something to that effect).
Needless to say, despite having a far worse experience with terrorism, India has never felt the need to pass such measures. Another example where Indian secularism is miles ahead of the western variety."

So you would be ok with a man passing through security not having his turban checked, patted down or removed in case of suspicion because you are secular?

You think THAT is secularism???

Hehehehe.

For me this was the funniest part:

"despite having a far worse experience with terrorism, India has never felt the need..."

Hahaha.

Well, they should feel the need then....

Another example where your idea of secularism is miles away from the true definition :D

#66
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
10:01 AM

@Jay:See Mr.Garg, we are all reasonable human beings who are all Hindu if you've noticed, some of us even celebrate Ganpati festival in our own homes in India. But there is something else called being "conscientious". While you are being knitpicky and pointing out petty flaws in terminology, symbolism, Hindu concepts etc, you still have failed to address one important issue: violation of public peace by interference of religion with state law that should ideally protect citizens from statutory nuisance. That is the essence of secularism and not allowing all religions to do what they please. In case of the latter there would be no governance.

I'm afraid this is where you lose me. Having Hindu names and doing aarthi at home does not make one Hindu; more important is a default acceptance of, and not trivializing, demeaning or misrepresenting, other forms of worship & expression. Whether you choose express your prejudice through open, unmitigated biased actions or via the back door i.e. by passing laws (as colonials do) under the pretext of human rights - prejudice it still prejudice.

The state has no business passing laws that prevent people from freely practicing their respective religions, except perhaps in very rare cases. This is not China or Cuba, we do not an all-powerful, intrusive state that tells how to live our lives.

#67
Jay
October 1, 2007
10:18 AM

"Having Hindu names and doing aarthi at home does not make one Hindu"

You really think Hindus care what YOU think? You don't get to decide what makes us Hindus and what doesn't :D

I have seen people on a high horse before but you are something else man!

You crack me up.

Hehehe.

And this inspite of me having said this:

"Here is what I propose you do (you could reject it, of course). Stop cutting out excerpts from each of our comments (because it leads to things being taken out of context) and responding to small sections, thus trivializing the bigger points we attempt to make"

Hehehe.

#68
smallsquirrel
October 1, 2007
10:42 AM

sanjay... you are ridiculous. I see now what your issue is. you have a god complex! how dare you question anyone else's religion or their devotion to it... that is the absolute height of absurdity!

#69
Seema
October 1, 2007
10:49 AM

Garg:

"The state has no business passing laws that prevent people from freely practicing their respective religions, except perhaps in very rare cases."

Tha state should be passing laws that prevent people from stepping on other citizen's rights and freedom in the name of or in the guise of religion.

Most developed nations have laws that protect the environment and protect all its citizens equally. In fact they also have laws against "public nuisance".

You cannot have a complete absence of governance when a religious ritual is being practiced in public places and is affecting those not involved in the festivities. By comparing such laws to China and Cuba you are exposing your own politically challenged views.

#70
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
10:53 AM

@Seema: Mr.Garg: I didn't expect you to be able to address my question adequately at all. I gathered from your comment that you seem to think religious allowances are "secularism" :) That is not the case.

I already answered your question but you are unable or unwilling to accept it. Let me repeat and spell out the implication of what I said: a secularism that has the ability/ maturity to allow multiple forms of religious expression is more preferable to one that does not, all else equal. Why? because the former is freer, more inclusive, more pluralistic, more welcoming of diversity.

I don't think this is a secularism issue. It is a homeland security issue and India needs to make the search mandatory. I don't know why and how secularism would justify a lapse in security protocol based on religion. In fact it is the exact opposite of secularism :)

Anything that curbs the ability of a religious group to freely practice its own religion impacts the quality of secularism. In this case, homeland security becomes merely the latest excuse.

And surely you gest when you expect me to write an entire article to abolish your ignorance.

Your job is to write the article if you're interested in the topic. The readers will decide whether you're abolishing or perpetuating ignorance.

#71
Seema
October 1, 2007
11:09 AM

Garg:

Your views about secularism are laughable at best.

I think the readers can make their decision from the above exchange itself.

You seem to think secularism is an allowance whereas it is a very simply "state separate from religion" concept. The government does not and should not allow religious practices that VIOLATE other people's rights just to foster a "more free, more pluralistic" environment. Secularism means NOT mixing religion with state law.

No wonder you use terminology like "western secularism".

You think that the Indian government does not put stays on loudspeakers and public nuisance to promote a freedom of religion ambience :D Come on now, lets be honest here. I think we all know what certain political parties would do to the city if that was done. What kind of riots would break out.

Pray tell us Garg, if India has such an idyllic sense of pluralistic secularism in play then why does your country have all those religious riots at the drop of a hat?

Are all these people not happy with all the "free" religion they can practice without state interference?

#72
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
11:09 AM

@smallsquirrel: Not that I agree with the searching of Sikh turbans... but I do not disagree that the US has the right to ask someone to remove one if there is probable cause to think there might be an issue. The TSA agents are not going to ask every Sikh to remove the turban and you know it. This is not about religion, no matter how much you want to make it so. And I fail to understand how you've proven that India's "secularism" is superior in this regard. You're still getting terrorist attacks, which you admit. Maybe it is time for you to beef up security!

You started out on the right track but regrettably fell off by the end of the comment.

I agree with you that the U.S. has the right to ask sikhs to remove turbans for probable cause however, the fact remains that this is still deeply offensive to, and resented by, most Sikhs. It is an intrusion into the Sikh way of life, only partially mitigated by the security aspect.

If a secular society feels the need, for any reason whatsoever - legit or otherwise - to curb freedom of religious expression, it necessarily becomes less free as a result. All other things being equal in a rapidly globalised world, people will always prefer to go where they have the greatest freedom. In this sense, Indian secularism is better.

#73
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
11:33 AM

@Jay:You really think Hindus care what YOU think? You don't get to decide what makes us Hindus and what doesn't :D

It is not important that Hindus care about what I think, rather that Hindus believe in the right of every individual to free expression of his/ her beliefs.

To me, this freedom is the essence of Hinduism. Anybody and their auntie can light a few agarbattis and wave the arthi around.

#74
SeemaD
October 1, 2007
11:37 AM

Garg:

Freedom of religious expression is wearing a turban coz you are Sikh. Adhering to state law is to remove your turban or allow it to be searched when there is probably cause and is a threat to security.

If the government were to start changing its laws because a few people resent being frisked at the airport then god help us. And how does one know if a guy is truly offended in terms of religion or just doesn't wanna remove his turban? In the US, Garg, we don't just twist our laws daily to please the general public or a few nasty politicians who call for city bandhs when they are in a bad mood. You cannot pay off a police officer here when you get booked for causing public nuisance.

You sound like you were somehow the judge of all of us here: "You started out on the right track but regrettably fell off by the end of the comment"

HAHA. You fell off the argument a while ago and are still continuing, latched onto the blind obsession of getting the last word.

You have no clue what you are talking about and it is time to get off that high-horse and accept that this is a bunch of educated, well-informed people you are talking to and not some high-school students. You cannot equate secularism with religious tolerance and speak nonsense.

Go back to the textbooks Garg. Some reading's on the charts.

#75
Jay
October 1, 2007
11:39 AM

Sanjay Garg:

"Anybody and their auntie can light a few agarbattis and wave the arthi around"

True. And I bet you are one of those. My regards to your "Auntie" :)

#76
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
11:42 AM

@smallsquirrel: sanjay... you are ridiculous. I see now what your issue is. you have a god complex! how dare you question anyone else's religion or their devotion to it... that is the absolute height of absurdity!

Thanks for the free analysis. I will surely file it where it belongs. Speaking of god complex, why on earth would you want to misrepresent (or even question) someone's else's beliefs?

#77
Jay
October 1, 2007
11:49 AM

#77 Probably for the same reasons as you want to dismiss and criticize other people's beliefs as "inaccurate", Garg. And WHO questioned your beliefs? You seem to think that expecting people to be considerate of the rights of others is "questioning of beliefs"!!

No wonder you had no response to Deepti's comment #51

#78
Kamlesh
October 1, 2007
11:59 AM

# 46

Did I ever say that? Why are you making something that is not?

It is very evident from the above comments that you come across as an illogical person. Thats why you beat round the loop and make things what they are not.

#79
Chandra
October 1, 2007
12:14 PM

Aditi

I donot respond to posts filled with abuse, anger and incomprehensible rant. Please find some other outlet for your frustration.

rgds

#80
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
October 1, 2007
12:29 PM

#79 Chandra:

Good god! Abuse, anger and incomprehensible rant you say?!! Did my use of the word "dimwits" offend you so? For someone who throws around words like "silly", "ignorant" upon Ganesh being described as an elephant you sure are easily offended! :)

For the refence of other readers, Chandra is refering to my comment #60. I truly hope people will take the time to go read my comment and comprehend the (incomprehensible) abuse that has occured. In fact I urge the other editors to scan the comment and delete whatever they find "abusive".

:D

Some people never cease to amaze me.

#81
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
12:35 PM

@Seema: Your views about secularism are laughable at best. I think the readers can make their decision from the above exchange itself. You seem to think secularism is an allowance whereas it is a very simply "state separate from religion" concept. The government does not and should not allow religious practices that VIOLATE other people's rights just to foster a "more free, more pluralistic" environment. Secularism means NOT mixing religion with state law.

What is laughable is your bookish naivete about secularism. No state in the world meets your theory of secularism, nor will any state of the future. In the real world, the test of secularism will be based on degree of freedom available to citizens. If a government feels compelled to ban "religious practices that VIOLATE other people's rights", then that nation has just become less free as a result and the members of that religious group will seek to move to a nation that is more welcoming of their religious expression.

No wonder you use terminology like "western secularism".

I'm puzzled. Everyone knows that western secularism is different - narrower, more reductionist - than the Indian version. Perhaps, this is another example to indicate that you don't have a clue about current events & developments?

You think that the Indian government does not put stays on loudspeakers and public nuisance to promote a freedom of religion ambience :D Come on now, lets be honest here. I think we all know what certain political parties would do to the city if that was done. What kind of riots would break out. Pray tell us Garg, if India has such an idyllic sense of pluralistic secularism in play then why does your country have all those religious riots at the drop of a hat? Are all these people not happy with all the "free" religion they can practice without state interference?

If the western countries had anywhere even close to the percent of religious minorities in India, they would have balkanized or become dictatorships a long time ago. Even a developed country like Canada is ready to split up based merely on linguistic differences. There was more than a month long orgy of minority rioting in France not too long ago. In the US, thousands of blacks gathered last week to protest continual discrimination in the justice system.

You really do need to get up to speed.

#82
SeemaD
October 1, 2007
12:46 PM

Garg:

By attacking my knowledge of current events you are far from offending me. So give up that strategy will ya :)

The kind of religious riots that have occurred in Bombay, Gujrat and other cities in India are incomparable to any kind of protest held in the US. There have been racial riots, gang wars even in LA and other cities in the US but you are confusing race with religion dear man. While racial discrimination is a whole other issue, secularism is what our argument was about.

I don't know if you are acting like your tails' on fire cause having the last word's that important to you but your definition of secularism is like a hippie version...all freedom and flexibility.

You said: "In the real world, the test of secularism will be based on degree of freedom available to citizens"

Says who? You? In the real world the test of secularism is NOT based on degree of freedom BUT based on the degree of SEPARATION between religion and state affairs.

You have somehow assumed that secularism means religious freedom and I urge you to re-evaluate your flawed concepts...yet again.

Secularism is not just a term that comes up in conversation so that people who google up stuff and read about "current affairs" can vote on what's secular or what's not. When a nation is deemed secular, its law has to, to a certain extent separate itself and not pledge allegiance to any kind of religious biase. That is secularism...not freedom of citizens to do as they please based on religion :)

#83
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
12:51 PM

@Aditi: I really had not read your #60 and having done so now at your special pleading, I must agree with Chandra's assessment.

It is, in fact, laced with cuss words, snide comments, ad hominems in between a half-hearted attempt to engage with what you think are the issues. However, this latter is clearly a distant second to (mis)using this as a release for your frustrations.

I laud Chandra for not dignifying your #60 with a response.

#84
Jay
October 1, 2007
12:57 PM

Secularism is not just freedom of religion but a balance between religious freedom and freedom of political decisions from religious influence. While it may be true that no nation achieves this 100%, reductionalism seen in the West ensures that no one religion causes an undue biase in political decisions.

It is a major misconception that secularism means only freedom of religion. Citizens of a secular nation practice several different religions and hence they should not have to live under a political setting where one religion or another is dictating laws.

Its pretty simple.

Examples would be:

Ban on abortion because it offends Christians
Ban on cow-slaughter because it offends Hindus
Ban on ham production because it offends Muslims etc
Allowing long processions to halt traffic and cause stampedes or public hazards.

All these are laws which could be detrimental towards society as a whole because the government chose to put religious license above legal and state affairs.

Freedom of religion means: The freedom to practice one's religion of choice. Not perform religious rituals that can violate other peope's rights :)

Nice try though.

#85
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
October 1, 2007
01:00 PM

83 Mr.Garg: Hehe. Gosh, what a surprise! :)

I wouldn't have expected you to disagree with Chandra at all. I hope other commentators also see the "cuss words" and "ad hominem" that only you two seem to see :)

#86
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
01:26 PM

@Jay#77: Probably for the same reasons as you want to dismiss and criticize other people's beliefs as "inaccurate", Garg. And WHO questioned your beliefs? You seem to think that expecting people to be considerate of the rights of others is "questioning of beliefs"!!

Not sure what you're refering to here. This whole thing started because I saw the author - knowingly or otherwise, irrelevant - misrepresenting Ganesha and I did not think she should get off scott free, unchallenged. The issue of inconsiderate behaviour is important but does not justify the author misrepresenting both Ganesha and the festival.

No wonder you had no response to Deepti's comment #51

Why are you cheerleading for Deepti?

I had scanned thru #51 and remember thinking that many people are disturbed by the wail of babies, traffic in the streets and airplanes overhead. Maybe we should systematically begin banning everything ;-)

The rest of her comment appeared to be mindless bashing and deserved no response.

#87
Jay
October 1, 2007
01:43 PM

Garg: Are you suggesting we put a ban on airlines, crying babies and traffic? :)

Your entire argument is this:

"Hindus are excused from violating public peace because Ganesha's symbolism justifies it. Sure its inconsiderate but who cares....the author called Ganesha an elephant god. He may have an elephant face but since he doesn't have a tail that is "misrepresentation"" and last but not the least amusing: "Secularism demands that everybody be allowed to ceberate their religious festivals as they want to even if it means serious violations of other people's rights"

I am cheerleading for Deepti because unlike you she has a point and isn't just commenting to win an argument.

You love for the "last word" has sent you down a strange spiral.

This strategy of "wing it until it hits something and something gives way" is the lowest of all forms of discussion.

Speaking of mindless bashing: you have "mindlessly" bashed other people's religion, their knowledge of current affairs, their faith, their means of practicing their own faith and above all their right to express their qualms over violation of public rights due to religion by calling it "bellyaching".

All you do is knitpick. You have NO point whatsoever and this is isn't the first time you have scrambled in this manner to get the last word in a debate.

People think it best to ignore you and YOU walk away from arguments believing yourself to be right. Keep cutting and pasting tiny, itsy bitsy sections from comments to respind to and pick on them waiting for the opposition to back down.

#88
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
02:11 PM

@SeemaD:By attacking my knowledge of current events you are far from offending me. So give up that strategy will ya :)

Not an attack, call it a small enough! against having to do your research for "ya" :-) I wouldn't be offended either if someone else did all the work for me!

The kind of religious riots that have occurred in Bombay, Gujrat and other cities in India are incomparable to any kind of protest held in the US. There have been racial riots, gang wars even in LA and other cities in the US but you are confusing race with religion dear man. While racial discrimination is a whole other issue, secularism is what our argument was about.

I beg to differ dear lady. Race riots are far, far worse than any religious riots because the former is between members of the same religion and is indicative of a secularism that cannot even prevent riots between members of the same religion. One shudders to think how such a system will ever face religious, linguistic differences etc. in a rapidly globalising world. Perhaps this is the real reason why all (economically) developed european countries are mono-cultural.

I don't know if you are acting like your tails' on fire cause having the last word's that important to you but your definition of secularism is like a hippie version...all freedom and flexibility.

Don't bash hippies, they are smarter than they look :-) my definition of secularism is actually relative - the secular system that provides more freedom than another is better, all else equal. The more laws a state is forced to pass because its citizens cannot get along with each, the more it is indicative of a troubled social condition.

Says who? You? In the real world the test of secularism is NOT based on degree of freedom BUT based on the degree of SEPARATION between religion and state affairs. You have somehow assumed that secularism means religious freedom and I urge you to re-evaluate your flawed concepts...yet again.

I just finished re-evaluating and came to the same conclusion. In any case, even if based on your definition of degree of separation, a careful analysis will show that India is way ahead of other western countries.

Secularism is not just a term that comes up in conversation so that people who google up stuff and read about "current affairs" can vote on what's secular or what's not. When a nation is deemed secular, its law has to, to a certain extent separate itself and not pledge allegiance to any kind of religious biase. That is secularism...not freedom of citizens to do as they please based on religion :)

I beg to differ. Indian secularism is, and should continue to be, different from the much narrower western version. It does allow freedom for citizens to practice their own religions as they please.

#89
SeemaD
October 1, 2007
02:36 PM

Garg: Yet again you fail to make a point. You have not done any "research" and have only adhered to your limited and narrow, uninformed outlook on secularism.

Even if racial riots are much worse, they are not the issue at hand here. You were discussing religion. Lets stick to religion. Or are you looking for more petty cop-outs?

Indian secularism WILL continue to to be different from the Western version. But not because it should be. Its because there are people like you making policy and legal decisions.

Shouldn't have to tell "ya"...ya? :)

#90
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
02:49 PM

@Jay: While it may be true that no nation achieves this 100%, reductionalism seen in the West ensures that no one religion causes an undue biase in political decisions.

This is patently false and dangerously naive. Christian bias is pervasive and institutionalized in political decision-making throughout the West. Even something deceptively simple and apparently secular as Sunday holiday has clear Christian origin. Therefore, western reductionalism tends towards the beliefs of Christianity.

It is a major misconception that secularism means only freedom of religion. Citizens of a secular nation practice several different religions and hence they should not have to live under a political setting where one religion or another is dictating laws.

Once again, this is naive and not factual. All secular, democratic nations are run by majority fiat and there is thus always a natural bias towards whatever the majority religion happens to be. This is unavoidable and a design flaw of modern nations.

Ban on abortion because it offends Christians
Ban on cow-slaughter because it offends Hindus
Ban on ham production because it offends Muslims etc
Allowing long processions to halt traffic and cause stampedes or public hazards.

All these are laws which could be detrimental towards society as a whole because the government chose to put religious license above legal and state affairs.


How are these laws detrimental to society? because the state is agnostic, how can it have an opinion for or against abortions? how does a state benefit by going one way or the other?

Freedom of religion means: The freedom to practice one's religion of choice. Not perform religious rituals that can violate other peope's rights :)

This is just semantics. If my religion of choice demands that I wear a turban or hijab and France outlaws both, then there is reduced freedom of religion in France.

#91
Jay
October 1, 2007
02:53 PM

"a careful analysis will show that India is way ahead of other western countries"

And who will perform this "careful" analysis? You? Any such analysis you can reference? Also, make sure than the "careful analysis" does not miss out on key factors such as application of law and not just corrupt paper versions that are modified with bribes and goondagiri.

Winning a debate online is another matter Garg, look at your nation...take a close look. Do the "careful analysis". Who follows rules? Who cares for others? If you oppose Hindu celebrations political party goons are at your door. People are forced by these goons to give "chanda" for the Ganesh Chaturthi functions. The police are almost as laughable as your faith in the nation's secularism. If you oppose Islam celebrations that hinder public activity, there are riots. People break into Christmas parties screaming Jai Bajranj Bali and beat up innocent civilians. They kill missionaries and claim that it was because they were guilty of conversions.

This lawless land has no place for secularism. Religion has taken over and there is no need for any freedom.

Don't make it a fight between the US and India. Just look at the state of affairs in the cosmopolitan cities of India. If there is a public nuisance and you call Mumbai police...can u guarantee that they will help you? On Holi, if someone throws balloons through your window and it hits a baby in the eye, will the police function as expected? If someone swings a lit firecracker into your house will you still be ok with no laws or licenses required for Diwali fireworks?

Religious fundamentalists dictate and govern the law in India and if you have money you can have your way. If these people don't have their way, they call a city bandh, they send out their ruffians to instigate riots. I hope you know that fundamentalism is directly opposed to secularism in principle.

The next time you are sitting in endless traffic because some Guru maharaj's palanquin is passing and there are firecrackers lining the pavements through Bombay's roads, think about this.

#92
SeemaD
October 1, 2007
03:11 PM

Garg, you could maybe add this to your "current affairs" portfolio:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071001/ap_on_go_su_co/scotus_religious_cases

#93
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
03:34 PM

@Jay: Garg: Are you suggesting we put a ban on airlines, crying babies and traffic? :)

No. Are you?

"Hindus are excused from violating public peace because Ganesha's symbolism justifies it. Sure its inconsiderate but who cares....the author called Ganesha an elephant god. He may have an elephant face but since he doesn't have a tail that is "misrepresentation"" and last but not the least amusing: "Secularism demands that everybody be allowed to ceberate their religious festivals as they want to even if it means serious violations of other people's rights"

None of this is an accurate depiction of my views. Kindly go back and try again. As for the rest of your diatribe, it does not merit the dignity of a response.

#94
Jay
October 1, 2007
03:46 PM

If this is not your view and at least 4 people think it is and from your words have concluded it is, then it is a failure in your expression. Go back, read your own comments and then offer corrections if you think people have misunderstood you.

What does not merit the dignity of a response is your constant need to have the last word.

#95
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
08:10 PM

@SeemaD: Garg: Yet again you fail to make a point. You have not done any "research" and have only adhered to your limited and narrow, uninformed outlook on secularism.

I can only take a horse to water... not my fault that you failed to get the point :-) My views on secularism are well thought out, broad based & far more equitable than the narrow western version you are championing. We have barely even scratched the surface of this topic.

Even if racial riots are much worse, they are not the issue at hand here. You were discussing religion. Lets stick to religion. Or are you looking for more petty cop-outs?

Yes, lets hastily change the subject to religion, speaking of cop-outs. Ironically, however, that doesn't help you much. A secular system that has failed to prevent people of the same religion from rioting against each other will be an absolute joke when religion is added to the mix. Add a pinch of poverty and balkanization will be complete in record time.

Indian secularism WILL continue to to be different from the Western version. But not because it should be. Its because there are people like you making policy and legal decisions.

Irrelevant who makes the decision when it is quite clear from the above that western secularism does not have the ability to handle diversity nor the long term legs to stand the test of time. Why would anyone want to regress to an inferior system?

#96
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
08:51 PM

@Jay: And who will perform this "careful" analysis? You? Any such analysis you can reference? Also, make sure than the "careful analysis" does not miss out on key factors such as application of law and not just corrupt paper versions that are modified with bribes and goondagiri.

Thanks for asking. The type of analysis I have in mind can only be done by those who are well versed and thoroughly grounded in Indian epistemology, culture, philosophy & literature.

Plus, they will have an understanding of Western institutions, power structures, history, culture, politics and religion as seen from an Indian lens, using Indian categories of thought. We can call this Westology and it is the reverse of Indology, which is a study of India through Western categories.

Winning a debate online is another matter Garg, look at your nation...take a close look. Do the "careful analysis". Who follows rules? Who cares for others? If you oppose Hindu celebrations political party goons are at your door. People are forced by these goons to give "chanda" for the Ganesh Chaturthi functions. The police are almost as laughable as your faith in the nation's secularism. If you oppose Islam celebrations that hinder public activity, there are riots. People break into Christmas parties screaming Jai Bajranj Bali and beat up innocent civilians. They kill missionaries and claim that it was because they were guilty of conversions.

Surely, you exaggerate - wildly, it appears - in an all out attempt to "win" an online debate ;-) We don't really want to get into a litany of complaints, do we? I could fill pages too!

This lawless land has no place for secularism. Religion has taken over and there is no need for any freedom.

Correction. There is no place for a narrow version of secularism that sees religion as the enemy. We have a mature secularism that can and does co-exist harmoniously with religion.

Religious fundamentalists dictate and govern the law in India and if you have money you can have your way. If these people don't have their way, they call a city bandh, they send out their ruffians to instigate riots. I hope you know that fundamentalism is directly opposed to secularism in principle.

Which law? is it perhaps the one where Hindu temples are governed by the state and all the money from the hundis goes to the government? Yes indeed, the power of fundamentalists in India!

Meanwhile, over in the US, faith based initiatives get billions, the govt funds missionary activities overseas and every political leader openly brags about his/ her religious (christian) affiliations, making a mockery of all minority religions in that country. Reflect on about that next time you think about secularism.

#97
Sanjay Garg
October 1, 2007
09:17 PM

@Jay: If this is not your view and at least 4 people think it is and from your words have concluded it is, then it is a failure in your expression. Go back, read your own comments and then offer corrections if you think people have misunderstood you.

This is not the Indian way of samvad. The onus is on you to get it right until I tell you that you have re-stated my view exactly as I would have done it myself. Counting people is irrelevant.

What does not merit the dignity of a response is your constant need to have the last word.

In India, we call it satyagraha (truth-insistence) and it has nothing to do with word count.

#98
SeemaD
October 1, 2007
10:08 PM

Sanjay Garg: "My views on secularism are well thought out, broad based & far more equitable than the narrow western version you are championing. We have barely even scratched the surface of this topic"

Every person, until their views are sufficiently questioned and challenged holds on to the above view. I am not chapioning any view. I am refering to the broad definition of secularism that is neither "western" nor "oriental", it is a word that is defined by separation of law, state affairs and political decisions from religious biase. Plenty of examples in my comments and Hay's have demonstrated how intereference of religion with state affairs and policy making could results in a serious detriment towards society. If you don't have a point, please don't expose your lack of understanding of civic concepts.

If you don't get get it thats your inadequacy.

"Irrelevant who makes the decision when it is quite clear from the above that western secularism does not have the ability to handle diversity nor the long term legs to stand the test of time"

Inferiority of a secular system is not defined using YOUR standards but by how efficiently the system runs....this is directly incumbent upon who makes decisions with the system and based on what. So it is not "irrelevant" (simply because you don't get the implications).

"Why would anyone want to regress to an inferior system?"

Exactly, why would you? Jay's description in #91 sums up the inferior system pretty well. Why would anyone want to regress or even adhere (for egoistic reasons) to SUCH an inferior system?

Beats me.

#99
Sanjay Garg
October 2, 2007
09:41 AM

Every person, until their views are sufficiently questioned and challenged holds on to the above view. I am not chapioning any view. I am refering to the broad definition of secularism that is neither "western" nor "oriental", it is a word that is defined by separation of law, state affairs and political decisions from religious biase. Plenty of examples in my comments and Hay's have demonstrated how intereference of religion with state affairs and policy making could results in a serious detriment towards society. If you don't have a point, please don't expose your lack of understanding of civic concepts.

From an Indian persepctive, it is trivial that "views are sufficiently questioned and challenged". We have already been doing this for millenia, we are open to it and we welcome it. More important in 2007 and beyond is that this "questioning and challenging" be done based on Indian epistemology, not via western categories. Not that western epistemology does not have its uses, just that the western secular, political, economic, civic systems have been critiqued enough from within (capitalism vs marxism, liberal vs conservative, religious vs secular etc) but these are still self-critiques at the end of the day because they still use Western categories. Indians need to get beyond this Western straitjacket by using Indian categories in our analysis. Then, we will decide what constitutes secularism, what role religion or civics plays in it and whether we need a new label to describe the Indian version of "secularism".

I already shared this in my last response to your fellow traveler but you appear clueless about it. Seems to be pattern.

Exactly, why would you? Jay's description in #91 sums up the inferior system pretty well. Why would anyone want to regress or even adhere (for egoistic reasons) to SUCH an inferior system?

And I already responded to Jay by cataloging just a few of the systemic failures of the western system. In the final analysis, the free market will decide which is the better system.

#100
SeemaD
October 2, 2007
11:28 AM

#99 Garg

"Indians need to get beyond this Western straitjacket by using Indian categories in our analysis. Then, we will decide what constitutes secularism, what role religion or civics plays in it and whether we need a new label to describe the Indian version of "secularism""

Ok, sounds great! Until then don't refer to it as secularism. Call it Indianism or Gargism or something of the sort because the civic concept of secularism is not based on what nation it is. It's application may vary, yes, but the definition remains the same. It's effectivity depends on how close the system actually comes to being described by this definition.

"And I already responded to Jay by cataloging just a few of the systemic failures of the western system"

Nah, cataloging "western" failures does NOT merit India with being an effective secular system :)Nice try.

Your problem is that you think this is an East-West argument like everything else. It is not. It is about whether India is living upto its own adopted regulatory principles and whether the system is actually doing what it is supposed to do. There are nations that are much worse and have religious wars and tyrannical regimes. They just don't call themselves "secular" for the fun of it.

That is hypocritical.

Also, whatever does not argree with your limited conceptual knowledge is immediately tagged "western". Funny.

You are right on one count though:

You said: "Indians need to get beyond this Western straitjacket"

Yes, this is I agree with. I think the first step would be to stop being in denial then and instead of comparing itself to another nation (or the "West" as you like to call it:)) India should maybe acknowledge its flaws.

People who pull a blanket over the nation's obvious flaws and systemic drawbacks are preventing India from discarding the Western straitjacket. One cannot have a discussion without getting "western" thrown in their face.

Being a "world-citizen" and broadening your view of things may help instead of turning everything into a "West versus India" debate. Most importantly, it would definitely encourage discussions if people and their opinions were viewed for what they were instead of which region, country they belonged to.

There is a lot India can learn from the "West" AND vice versa. Acknowledging this would of course require that one shed their false ego and the rigid denial of current issues.

"I already shared this in my last response to your fellow traveler but you appear clueless about it. Seems to be pattern"

Here is your pattern: You cut, copy, paste small sections of comments which you feel you can pick on. You do not address any key issues and instead tap dance around key questions, suing petty knitpicking as your resort or a very haughty "You dunno shit" approach which doesn't work when you are among a class of equally educated and well-versed people. You reject people's ideas as "western" concepts when you sense that you are unfamiliar with something. And then you keep playing this game hoping to have the final word. All in all, this is not about educating yourself or having an actual debate. The sole purpose of your comments is to win the argument somehow. Even if it means spewing utter BS in very convincing and grammatically correct English. If people really read through some of the crap and cross-check it with facts, they will see that most of your theories are like Swiss cheese...very good with wine but has a lot of holes in it.

#101
piyu
September 8, 2008
09:42 AM

your point to give such an article is very right
your article is very nice & to the point .no words to say any thing more.

#102
HAF
September 9, 2008
02:52 AM

Seema,

So if calling Lord Ganesha an elephant god is okay, then I guess calling a cute "moti girl" a fat ass, fat babe or fat girl or a hippo assed should not be offensive either.....I mean what if I call you a fat woman? I am only describing someone as is...so that should not be a problem either right? Of course this is only an example... no offense 

Sometime and many a times translations of Hindi or Sanskrit words into English such has "elephant god' does have an insulting connotation and it sounds discourteous as well.

Every language is great and unique in its own way. But not every word in every language can have a perfect translation into English that may sound respectful. In fact many times it is distasteful.

If Hindus think about Elephant Gods writing epics and Monkey Gods leaping over oceans, they are neither ignorant nor are merely celebrating their "stories." For devout Hindus, these are not characters from a fairy tale; these are the Gods (and "Gods" does not deny the fact that Hindus also think of "God" in the singular).

In the ...
Name of freedom of speech
Name of freedom of artistic expression, we cannot use words that are offensive or insult ones religious sentiments. For example: Danish cartoons.


#103
HAF
September 9, 2008
02:53 AM

And regarding that Ganesh Chaturthi is a noise pollution generating factor...well well all I can say that we are true animal lovers and nature lovers. At least during this festival a turkey is not killed and decorated on top of a table and hands are held to pray. At least in this festival bakris( goats) are not sacrificed or killed and thus begins a festival. So why so much ruckus about the noise.
I guess the noise of music is far more melodious than a dying scream of a turkey or a goat.

Think about it....

#104
HAF
September 9, 2008
02:54 AM

Aditi,

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care
for people will hear them and be influenced by them
for good or ill."
Gautama Siddharta, "The Buddha
-------------------------------------------------------
Otherwise, generations of Hindu youth will continue to face the common stereotype that their more than 5,000 year old culture and heritage is nothing but a history of cows,animals, elephants, monkeys, caste and curry, and that they are sinners destined for hell because they worship demonic gods.



#105
smallsquirrel
September 9, 2008
12:09 PM

hey HAF, you obviously don't care about the lesser heard screams of the fish and other marine life that are choked out by the toxic paint that comes off Ganesha after he is drowned and left in the sea or river or lake that kills everything in the water.

stop being so holier-than-thou.

#106
HAF
September 9, 2008
04:50 PM

Exactly....so whats the big deal about noise pollution or water pollution? Let people celebrate their own festivals their own way...

Any case the killing of the fish is not deliberate..is it now? By the way have you seen fishermen and fisherwomen collecting the dead fish to sell to animal lovers who savor it to the last bit? I'm sure its quite a treat!

Smallsqueak...do you even understand the discussion? Ha.

#107
smallsquirrel
September 9, 2008
05:07 PM

how about you read the rules and do not call names. also how about you SCROLL up and realize I was one of the original people on this thread a year ago.

and so yes, if we're leaving people to celebrate on their own, stop whinging about turkeys and sheep. you also seem not to care about the environment either. do you have a point or are you just busy carrying the BJP party line.

you seem unable to talk without being completely offensive.

#108
Ruvy
URL
September 10, 2008
04:10 AM

I've been reading Uma's article and the two or three comments that followed it and will make this singular observation.

This conversation would be better held in Hindi than in English, and more to the point, held in Hindi, punctuated with Sanskrit terms to give it precision. There still would be an argument over noise from processions. That is the meat of Uma's article. But there would be none of the unnecessary sniping over the seeming insensitivity to Hindu philosophic concepts that takes up so many comments here, and none of the sensitivity over how Indians appear to the world.

The truth is that much is lost in translation - Trying to render e=mc2 can be an arduous task in words. Better that the student understand that "e" means energy, "m" means mass, etc. AND that he knows and comprehends what "energy" and "mass" refer to in th context of the sentence.

That is what Sanjay-Garg's arguments and objections amount to here, when carried over to a different discipline.

Smallsquirrel is perhaps unfairly attacked here. But it would help her to remember this phrase - il traduttore è un traditore - the translator is a traitor.

Blessings from the mountains of Samaria

#109
commonsense
September 10, 2008
08:39 AM

Aditi:

""Who are you? Hindu police? Bring Man Singh along too, will ya?""

Yes!! Where is man singh? such a heated discussion and nary a sight of him? (me I'm back from an extended trip and looking forwarded to my inane contributions, but no fun without having to deal with man singh on issues such as secularism). BTW, a week makes such a difference on DC. Is Sanjay G. temping for Man Singh for a while? somebody with the time and inclination to humor me can fill me in.

And yes, more power to Seema!

#110
smallsquirrel
September 10, 2008
09:01 AM

Ruvy, thanks but I did not do the translation. someone else said it and I simply brought up the sanskrit. I think people are getting obnoxious and uppity for no reason. and half of them don't know a damned word of sansrkit. it's more about being an extremist than an issue of accurate translation (said while wearing my linguist hat).

#111
HAF
September 10, 2008
02:43 PM

[deleted - conjectures and hot air]

#112
HAF
September 10, 2008
02:47 PM

From that IP:

"Avinash" has posted 36 comments
"Anon" has posted 10 comments
"Insider" has posted 9 comments
"Reader" has posted 8 comments
"Preeti" has posted 7 comments
"Bystander" has posted 4 comments
"Paul" has posted 3 comments
"HAF" has posted 2 comments
"Hila" has posted 2 comments
"Kamlesh" has posted 2 comments
"Anjali" has posted 2 comments
"Amit" has posted 2 comments
"Jai" has posted 1 comments
"Cops" has posted 1 comments
"Senior Siffer" has posted 1 comments

#113
Chaitanya S
September 11, 2008
05:01 AM

The "noise" during Ganesh Chaturthi is only for a few hours in the morning on the first day and a few hours in the evening on the 5th or 13th day (most public idols are immersed only on these 2 days).

Those who have a problem with this "noise" should just stuff some cotton wool in their ears, shut their doors and windows and get on with life.

Surely there are better things for these "party poopers" to whine about.

And for those who want a perfect, nice, quiet Mumbai, all I can say is, "welcome to Fools' Paradise" :-)

#114
smallsquirrel
September 11, 2008
07:01 AM

chai... surely you just.. or you've never left the city you in habit... noise only for a few hours in the morning or evening of one or two days?

in bangalore that was not the case!

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