August 11, 2017

QotD: The plight of Hindu widows

Filed under: India, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Some of the most conservative Hindus in India believe that a woman whose husband has died should no longer live because she failed to retain his soul. Rejected by their communities and abandoned by their loved ones, thousands of destitute women make their way to Vrindavan, a pilgrimage city about 100km south of Delhi that is home to more than 20,000 widows.

These women have no choice but to live in a vidhwa ashram (ashrams for widows) run by the government, private enterprises and NGOs. Clad in white, they know they will never return home and that this is where they’ll end their days.

Pascal Mannaerts, “Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide”, BBC Travel, 2016-09-13.

February 26, 2017

British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley Episode 3: The Jewel in the Crown

Filed under: Britain, History, India — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 10 Feb 2017

In the final episode, Lucy debunks the fibs that surround the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the British Empire – India. Travelling to Kolkata, she investigates how the Raj was created following a British government coup in 1858. After snatching control from the discredited East India Company, the new regime presented itself as a new kind of caring, sharing imperialism with Queen Victoria as its maternal Empress.

Tyranny, greed and exploitation were to be things of the past. From the ‘black hole of Calcutta’ to the Indian ‘mutiny’, from East India Company governance to crown rule, and from Queen Victoria to Empress of India, Lucy reveals how this chapter of British history is another carefully edited narrative that’s full of fibs.

December 27, 2016

“Lingayat is an independent religion based on its own world view”

Filed under: India, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I’m not well-versed in the various religious groups in India, so I’m afraid I’d never even heard of Lingayat until today:

Two Lingayat community outfits, Basava Samithi and Vishwa Lingayat Mahasabha, have urged the Union government to grant their community the status of independent religion. Addressing a press conference here on Monday, Sanjay Makal, Vlasavathi Khuba, Asha Khuba Manjunath Kale, Chandrashekhar Tallali and other leaders associated with the outfits argued that their community had never been part of Hinduism.

“Lingayat is an independent religion based on its own world view. After Independence, Sikh, Jain, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism faiths were declared as religions. But, Lingayat was perceived as a caste within Hinduism. The efforts, both legal and social, to get an independent religion for Lingayat have been on since 1940,” Mr. Makal said.


To a question, Mr. Makal said his outfit had taken special drive among community members for recording their religion as Lingayat in Socio-educational Economic Survey conducted by Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission last year.

“Many community people did not mention their religion name as Lingayat as they were afraid of losing reservation allocated for their sub-caste. Mentioning their religion as Lingayat would in no way affect the reservation benefits. We have taken up a prolonged campaign to educate the members so that they would correctly mention their religion in 2021 census,” he said.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

July 20, 2016

QotD: Translating the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Filed under: Humour, India, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Flashman […] describes a scene where an English vicar preached to the sepoys (native Indian soldiers) on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, through a native (Muslim) NCO interpreter, who made fun of the story:

    “There was a zamindar, with two sons. He was a mad zamindar, for while he yet a lived he gave to the younger his portion of the inheritance. Doubtless he raised it from moneylender. And the younger spent it all whoring in the bazaar, and drinking sherab. And when his money was gone he returned home, and his father ran to meet him, for he was pleased — God alone knows why. And in his foolishness, the father slew his only cow — he was evidently not a Hindoo — and they feasted on it. And the older son, who had been dutiful and stayed at home, was jealous, I cannot tell for what reason, unless the cow was to have been part of his inheritance. But his father, who did not like him, rebuked the older son. This story was told by Jesus the Jew, and if you believe it you will not go to Paradise, but instead will sit on the right-hand side of the English Lord God Sahib who lives in Calcutta. And there you will play musical instruments, by order of the Sirkar. Parade — dismiss!”

Flashman said he had never felt so embarrassed for his church and country in his life.

John Derbyshire, “A Reader Proposes An Anti-Cuckservative Reading List–Starting With FLASHMAN”, VDARE, 2016-07-05.

July 17, 2015

India’s wavering devotion to tolerance

Filed under: India, Liberty, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Shikha Dalmia looks at India’s changing views on other religions:

If there were ever a religion readymade for liberal democracy — and its commitment to religious freedom — Hinduism would be it. Unlike Christianity (and other monotheistic faiths), Hinduism has no one true doctrine handed down by the one true God to be spread and enforced through the one true Church. It’s a loose, amorphous, and ecumenical faith that accepts that all religions are valid and it doesn’t matter which one you follow, as long as you are going to the same place. Hence, it made sense when Hindu-dominated India, after gaining independence from the British in 1947, enshrined secularism and religious pluralism in its constitution ­— rather than going through a three-century-long process from the Reformation through the Enlightenment that the West did to pry open space for religious tolerance in Christianity.

However, India’s commitment to religious freedom and toleration has been under serious challenge for a couple of decades with the rise of Hindutva or Hindu nationalism. This ideology, that boasts Prime Minister Narendra Modi among its adherents, has always resented the special space that India’s constitution extends its minority religions — like letting Muslims use sharia in their civil matters. But now it has started openly attacking even their right to exist in India because, it maintains, India belongs only to those that can claim it as their fatherland and holy land — a rather hypocritical requirement given that the rapidly spreading Hindu diaspora enjoys strong religious protections in countries such as America and England that aren’t its “holy land and fatherland.”

That a historically tolerant faith could take such an intolerant turn suggests that a religion’s relationship to liberal values might have less to do with its own inner character and more to do with the existential insecurities of its adherents in a given time.

December 16, 2014

Affluence and the rise of major modern religions

Filed under: Economics, History, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:30

Colby Cosh linked to this article in Popular Archaeology, which discusses an interesting idea about what triggered the rise of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam:

It seems almost self-evident today that religion is on the side of spiritual and moral concerns, but that was not always so, Baumard explains. In hunter-gatherer societies and early chiefdoms, for instance, religious tradition focused on rituals, sacrificial offerings, and taboos designed to ward off misfortune and evil.

That changed between 500 BCE and 300 BCE — a time known as the “Axial Age” — when new doctrines appeared in three places in Eurasia. “These doctrines all emphasized the value of ‘personal transcendence,'” the researchers write, “the notion that human existence has a purpose, distinct from material success, that lies in a moral existence and the control of one’s own material desires, through moderation (in food, sex, ambition, etc.), asceticism (fasting, abstinence, detachment), and compassion (helping, suffering with others).”

While many scholars have argued that large-scale societies are possible and function better because of moralizing religion, Baumard and his colleagues weren’t so sure. After all, he says, some of “the most successful ancient empires all had strikingly non-moral high gods.” Think of Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Aztecs, the Incas, and the Mayans.

In the new study, the researchers tested various theories to explain the history in a new way by combining statistical modeling on very long-term quantitative series with psychological theories based on experimental approaches. They found that affluence — which they refer to as “energy capture” — best explains what is known of the religious history, not political complexity or population size. Their Energy Capture model shows a sharp transition toward moralizing religions when individuals were provided with 20,000 kcal/day, a level of affluence suggesting that people were generally safe, with roofs over their heads and plenty of food to eat, both in the present time and into the foreseeable future.

November 3, 2013

The problem of fake gurus

Filed under: India, Religion — Tags: — Nicholas @ 10:39

Shikha Dalmia on Hinduism’s thus-far unresolvable problem with fake gurus:

Hinduism, unlike Christianity, is not an organized faith with settled dogmas, an established church and a priestly hierarchy handing down truths worked out top-down as in Catholicism. Nor does it prescribe a strict and elaborate code of law as Judaism’s torah and Islam’s sharia.

Rather, it is an open-ended faith that has a core goal — experiencing the God within and releasing oneself from the cycle of birth and rebirth — but no set prescription for achieving it. It simply calls upon believers to overcome their inner demons and find their own unique path to enlightenment. But a good guru, who has overcome the vices of ordinary mortals and reached a higher state of consciousness, can greatly accelerate the journey.

The effect of such radical openness, on the one had, is that Hinduism has produced an “absolutely staggering” body of “scientific, faith-based and experience-based knowledge,” notes Josh Schrei, a religion writer. Diametrically opposed paths for achieving inner bliss have been explored: asceticism and materialism; intoxication and sobriety; sensuality and celibacy; solitude and communion.

On the other hand, Hinduism’s spiritual laissez faire means that it lacks the inner resources of other religions for quality control. Unlike monotheistic faiths, Hinduism is not preoccupied with policing superstition, idolatry, and heresy. Literally anyone with a formula for enlightenment—and the charisma to sell it — can hang a shingle saying “guru inside” and wait for the flock to arrive. (This was perfectly captured by the recent documentary Kumare in which an Indian American born and raised in New York, moves to Arizona feigns a guru accent, invents some mumbo jumbo, and quickly acquires a devoted following.)

July 19, 2012

Multiculturalism and suttee in the Raj

Filed under: Britain, History, India, Law, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:30

ESR on a famous incident in British India in the 1840s:

The first lesson is for the various sorts who call themselves “multiculturalists” and “moral relativists”. Napier showed us that these ostensibly liberating doctrines actually translate into “might makes right” — that, in the absence of a common normative ethical framework, disputes about “custom” will be won by the tribe with the most ability and will to use force.

The second lesson is for people who, having noticed than relativism and multiculturism are a road to ruination and blood, then argue that we must fall back on religion as the only possible source of truly universal ethical norms (If God is dead, is anything permissible?). Notice that the would-be widow-burners are priests? The “custom” they are arguing for is exactly their bid in the game of if-you-accept-my-religious-premises.

Napier, in promising those priests a hanging, says nothing of any religious counter-conviction of his own. And it would make no difference to the lesson if he had — except, perhaps, to underline the point that religion is just another form of tribal particularism and thus fundamentally unable to lift us away from the bloody muck of might-makes-right.

May 16, 2011

Christian holidays? Down the EU memory hole!

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:34

It could hardly be an oversight that the EU “forgot” to include any traditional Christian holidays in their run of 3 million school diaries produced for students:

A year ago the European Commission (EC) printed more than three million school diaries for distribution to students. They are lovely diaries which, true to the EU’s multicultural ethos, helpfully note all the Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Chinese festivals. The diary also highlights Europe Day, which falls on 9 May. But the diary is not without some very big gaps. For example, it makes no reference to Christmas — or Easter or indeed to any Christian holidays.

However, the importance of 25 December is not entirely ignored. At the bottom of the page for that day, schoolchildren are enlightened with the platitude: ‘A true friend is someone who shares your concern and doubles your joy.’

Not surprisingly, many Europeans are not exactly delighted by the conspicuous absence of Christian festivals from a diary produced for children. In January, an Irish priest complained to the ombudsman of the EC and demanded an apology for the omission of Christian holidays and the recall of the diaries. A month later, the commission apologised for its ‘regrettable’ blunder. However, the ombudsman dismissed the demand to recall the diaries, arguing that a one-page correction sent to schools had rectified the error.

I suspect, had the complaint been from a religious leader in a non-Christian faith, they’d not have let a month elapse before springing to address the error in that faith’s holy days . . .

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