Earlier this week I was reading through some academic articles of a few decades ago speaking about particular forms of Devi – and Tantrik ritual elements.
Now, here’s the thing … these articles, one in particular, were rather … heavily negative. Saying the most choler-raising things about how these spheres were barbaric and savage, and how it was a great shame that Muslim efforts had not managed to more fulsomely suppress or even wipe out the traditions in question.
You would be forgiven for thinking that these objectionable remarks were the fruit of some British or other Euro-American post-Macaulayist figure … obnoxiously ‘tut-tutting’ about the state of religious practices upon the SubContinent and setting up quite the colonial strawman for the purposes of thence demanding the immediate ‘Christianization’ and ‘Civilization’ of same.
Except they weren’t.
They were written by men with Hindu names and Hindu backgrounds. Indeed, the most outrageous (and outrage-inducing) of these was penned by a Bhattacharya !
Why do I mention this? Because while there is a strong synergy and mutual regard between the Vaidika and Tantrika spheres (indeed … they are not really separate at all – contrary to what certain people seem to wish to keep insisting) and many masterful practitioners thereof : there also exists a counterpoint of antagonism, hostility, and threat. Self-perceived, at any rate.
Some people from the self-promoted ‘conventional’ side of things attack the Tantrika sphere in terms along the lines of those immediately aforementioned. Some people who claim to represent the Tantric sphere (and you can find them all over Reddit and Youtube comments-sections) insist upon attacking and seeking to castigate the “Brahminical Religion”, and so forth.
In many cases, curiously enough, they’re “telling the same story” from “different sides”. Claims about brutal “Brahmin invasion” that’s suppressed and appropriated from “non-Aryan” or “Tribal” or “Dravidian” spheres, from the latter voices; disdainful commentary about “Tribal goddesses” and uncivilized ‘foreign’ elements that ought be suppressed and excised, from the former.
Neither is, of course, substantively correct – either in terms of attempting to explain how things have come to be; nor in terms of attempting to suggest ‘where do we go from here’.
But we shall, perhaps, get into that at some other point in time. Since there’s a whole academic sub-discipline here that’s insistently getting things wrong in this area to this day.
Why I mention all of this, is because it’s still playing out today.
And I don’t mean on Reddit.
Recently, controversy was stirred up by a certain Canadian-domiciled ‘performance artist’ and film director attempting to deploy the symbolism of Kali in a … rather non-religious manner, to speak euphemistically.
This lead to opposition from Hindus. However what really got things going was this director’s claim that we could not object to anything she might do – as Kali was somehow not a Hindu Goddess, but rather a non-Hindu figure of non-Hindu origination and saliency.
Which is clearly incorrect, as we have covered at some length elsewhere.
Following on from that, a certain figure, Bibek Debroy, wrote a piece in a newsmagazine, ‘The Week’, discussing Kali … which has triggered another storm of criticism – this time, because the editors of the magazine chose to illustrate the piece with art [reproduced below] showing Kali in a fashion that some people declared to be “indecent”.
Except here’s the thing.
The depiction at issue … is a traditional one. It’s accurate. It concords with scriptural characterization. There is nothing to object to here.
Unless, of course, one is still subconsciously running on this kind of mentality that sees so very many elements to the Shakta and Tantrika spheres as being ‘uncivilized’, ‘uncouth’, ‘foreign’, and ‘unwelcome’ within the modern Hindu understanding.
This is something that worries me somewhat about a certain tendency within the current crop of purportedly “Hindu” political activism.
Namely – just how frequently it doesn’t seem to be very Hindu at all. And, indeed, actively opposed to various very much authentic Hindu elements, simply because they’re inconvenient or don’t ‘look right’ to the often very much ill-educated and misinformed sorts who’re looking for something to get outraged about.
We are reminded, for example, of that rather … bemusing incident a few weeks back wherein somebody tried threatening myself and one of my artists with arrest for allegedly producing ‘anti-Hindu’ art … with the features of said artwork that were purportedly “anti-Hindu”, in fact being very much attested and even mandated ones for proper deific depiction in reality.
In this current era we already have so much to eminently legitimately be appalled at and work to correct.
There is absolutely no need to add to it by attacking other Hindus (or those who are in some way serving the cause) for … what is, in reality, no sin at all.
And I do think that we are in a very precarious position when some of the loudest shouters of how they are “Defending Dharma”, defending the religion – can often turn out to be some of the least informed as to what it is that they are supposed to actually be defending.
Sometimes it is ignorance – yet to return to those occurrences aforementioned in them academic articles from some decades afore … it is absolutely impossible that a Bhattacharya by surname would, in good faith, make such luridly ridiculous claims as Saraswati being a goddess incorporated from the Buddhists and therefore ‘foreign’ to the ancient Hindu faith.
Which therefore leads me to presume that some of what is going on is being done rather deliberately – certainly deliberately encouraged – by some forces which are looking to ‘clean house’, and perhaps ‘take over’ through producing a ‘sanitized’ Hinduism that conforms more to their own personal preferences and expectations.
Now lest I be misinterpreted upon this score – I absolutely do not mean to imply this is some sort of “Brahminical conspiracy”, as some do. In fact – the exact opposite. We have frequently seen the sorts being talked about who push these sorts of things being very pointedly anti-Brahmin as a fairly direct and turgid manifestation of how their agenda is to be brought towards its fruition.
However, whomever and whyever they are propelling these kinds of things – they should know that they shall be most vigorously opposed.
We have them well outnumbered, you see – the Facts (and Devi) are upon our Side.
We just need to get better at actually challenging incorrect narratives and helping to support through education people who have a strong desire to ‘help’, yet not the full understandings to ‘guide’ their efforts.
That is, of course, a large part of why we do what we do here at Arya Akasha.
Jai Mata Di