9.5.09

The saint and the seductress

Mallika Sherawat used her bare hands. She dug out clumps of mud as she lay the foundation for the largest Hanuman monument.

She didn't just happen to be there. This was a special invitation sent not by some film producer or industrialist. It was from the very holy Shankaracharya of the Shree Ramachandrapura Mutt in Karnataka.

High priests from Kerala and Mangalore were invited and pujas performed for her. 600 lotus flowers decorated the venue perhaps to symbolise her "pure soul" (no, no, I did not say it was a plug for the BJP), an honour she was bestowed with by the Shankaracharya himself.

She had flown down from LA, where she is shooting, to get this purity certificate. The swamiji obviously knows his onions and it does not matter how they are peeled. The lady was glad she made the trip because she feels "reconnected to my Hindu roots" now.

Some rabid Hindus are obviously feeling extremely connected to her.

What does this say about religious heads? Do they need such marketing tactics? Is it prudent? Will it bring them more devotees, more money in their coffers?

This isn't merely about Mallika; I'd say the same thing if they invited Madhur Dikshit or even Mayawati. In fact, this anointing of someone as pure is really patronising and presumptuous.

How pure are these saints when they indulge in such frivolities?

6 comments:

  1. How pure are these saints when they indulge in such frivolities?Motive (saint or seductress') counts for something, I think, and some might suggest motive is informed by whatever it is/was that shapes the will -- kinda like Ms. Sherawat and her clumps of mud.

    According to Wikipedia, Anjana gave birth to Hanuman consequent to an errant clump of "sacred pudding" delivered to her by Vayu, god of the wind. Perhaps the purification rite is meant to express Anjana's innocence in the affair?

    As to the purity of saints, I guess that would depend on whether devotees like Ms. Sherawat are entirely witting as to the significance of the rituals they are asked to perform. :D

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  2. mstaab:

    I must confess that the phrase clump of mud was mine and not used in the report, which said she "used her bare hands to dig up the land".

    Perhaps, it was a Freudian motive on my part, unwitting of course.

    True, Ms. Sherawat or any devotee may not be aware of the significance of the rituals.

    However, if we use the 'purification' as metaphor, then one might boldly venture to say that the 'purity' of the lady is sought to be reclaimed due to the 'winds' of gossip and slander.

    Interestingly, Hanuman was a celibate...perhaps retribution on behalf of mother or not wanting to be his father's son and make him into a role model?

    I do see his tail as a potent phallic symbol, though :)

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  3. Hi Ms. Versey,

    Freud, as you may have had occasion to note, appears to be passe for some time now in psychologic circles. His theories relative to the impressionability of the psyche/mind has been supplanted (some might suggest "improved upon") by Jung's ideas concerning a limited number of archetypal roles folk sort of unconsciously choose to settle into -- some, it has been suggested, settle into and are conflicted by more than one. :)

    The latter was, I think, dramatised in the movie, "A Beautiful Mind." Perhaps you've seen it? The suggestion of genetic determinism is, in my view, but a short hop from some of Jung's ideas.

    You mentioned Hanuman is held to have been a celibate. That is interesting -- though, of course, this might mean anything from being a mule (i.e. the functional yet non-reproducing offspring of horse and donkey) to its literal definition, to "live alone," in addition to celibacy's more conventional usage, i.e. to eschew vows of marriage and/or to participate in conjugal relations. Any one of these may very well have arisen from the circumstance of his conception, whether as described by his mom (a description perhaps not un-influenced, as you note, by the cruel 'winds' of gossip and slander) or by others held in some authority among his putative father's people (Kesari, suggested by some to be the son of Brihaspati, "chief offerer of prayers and sacrifice," or, essentially, high priest). Equally interesting, in my view, are the parallels that abound between the various accounts of Hanuman's conception and the conception of Jesus according to Christian tradition . . .

    Smiley-face notwithstanding, lol, I too can see Hanuman's tail as a potent phallic symbol. I can see it also in the serpent of Garden of Eden fame. I find certain military (or perhaps simply "martial") headgear quite evocative at times. Here is a fairly common image seen all over the world in locations some might consider not insignificant:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obelisk

    To me, having spent some time in both agrarian and more natural environments, it most closely resembles (on scale) what's referred to a bull-pizzle, which, considering the suggested origins of the obelisk, is perhaps to be expected. The ancient Egyptians were, as I understand it, "keepers of cattle."

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  4. Hi mstaab:

    Once again, something to chew on...

    Freud may well become passé but his theories relating to infantile desires are still relevant. The Jungian idea of role conflict within is an extension of childhood confusions, wherein it is propounded that the child male is looking for his mother’s lost penis.

    With regards to ‘A Beautiful Mind’, may I refer you to the fact that John Nash ‘lost it’ because of his constant harking back to the past as delusion; his actions being manipulated by the outside rather than the inside world, in as much as the outside was not a part of his creation. The consequences were that he could not manage any social and sexual contract/contact.

    I do think Jacques Lacan’s usage of “one hand clapping” to define impotence is less damning than many others for it implies a lack of any meeting, either between the person and another or the person and his other selves. You will find it interesting that Lacan suggests that the elevation of true love in a way determines that it is we who act as barriers to our sexuality.

    One could look at Hanuman’s celibacy in this context of supra-love for his master, Lord Rama. The monkey tail, the bull-pizzle and the serpent of Eden denoting the phallic symbolism may be taken to the next level. To conquer Lanka, Hanuman has to fly over the ocean; the sensual metaphor of water may not be ignored. The targeted enemy is Ravana, often in his ten-head avatar. The emphasis on Hanuman’s valour is that it does not come easy. The conflict between his sexual celibacy and warrior potency underscores the triumph of the latter.

    Incidentally, the cry of ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’ (another anme of Hanuman) is used by Indian wrestlers, who worship him, as well as rightwing Hindutva parties!

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  5. Freud may well become passé but his theories relating to infantile desires are still relevant. Perhaps. Even though I can't -- personally -- relate to the suggested "oedipal" urges and/or desire to overthrow dear old dad, I won't reject out-of-hand the prospect that such phenomena exists. Certainly there is the mytho-religio-historical record (the Genesis account of the fall of man; Noah and the curse he places on Ham; Absalom's rebellion against his father, David; Reuben, Jacob's first born having defiled his father's bed; and, of course, Sophocles' "Oedipus, the King") that suggests as much.

    The Jungian idea . . . wherein it is propounded that the child male is looking for his mother’s lost penis. Lost, or simply obscured in a riotous undergrowth? As noted above, I can envision an occasion whereby a male child might be sort of "enlisted" to search for it; however, I don't know that this is necessarily Jung's idea as it is a variation on a much older theme. From here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_of_Osiris_and_Isis

    " . . . Once again Isis set out to look for the pieces and she was able to find and put together 13 of the 14 parts, but was unable to find the 14th, his penis, which was eaten by the oxyrhynchus fish (a fish with an unusual curved snout resembling depictions of Set). Instead, she fashioned a phallus out of gold and sang a song around Osiris until he came back to life."

    Interestingly, in the Old Testament Book of Esther (which I have, in part, treated elsewhere), the young Hebrew maiden, Esther, in what might be read as a supreme sacrifice for her people, is compelled to "touch" the head of Ahasuerus' golden sceptre, which thereby signified her and (by proxy, it seems) her people's favor with the king. Which, in turn, might likewise be seen as precursor to a more contemporary expression, "The hand that rocks the cradle . . ."

    With regards to ‘A Beautiful Mind’, may I refer you to the fact that John Nash ‘lost it’ because of his constant harking back to the past as delusion . . . You may. Certainly Nash, like the germ, perhaps, of a nascent pearl in a clam-shell, appeared beset from all sides.

    I do think Jacques Lacan’s usage of “one hand clapping” to define impotence is less damning . . . As do I. As I recall, the whole of the question the master posited to his disciple was, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Much as I might ask, "If a tree falls in the forest, and no-one is around to hear it fall, does it make a sound?", context, it seems to me, is likely relevant to the correct answer (and the successful avoidance of the rise and fall of the master's rod of correction, lol).

    Incidentally, the cry of ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’ (another name of Hanuman) is used by Indian wrestlers, who worship him, as well as rightwing Hindutva parties! I've done a bit of that -- erm, wrestling, that is. A lot of twisting and turnings, bridging and reversings, lock and pinnings. Here in the 'States, as has come to my attention, there is a no-holds barred version that's not quite what I recall from junior high school -- a more telegenic offshoot, I'm guessing, from the fight clubs that were all the rage a few years back. :)

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  6. {The Jungian idea . . . wherein it is propounded that the child male is looking for his mother’s lost penis}. Lost, or simply obscured in a riotous undergrowth? As noted above, I can envision an occasion whereby a male child might be sort of "enlisted" to search for it; however, I don't know that this is necessarily Jung's idea as it is a variation on a much older theme.I was not suggesting it is Jung’s idea but that it is an extension of childhood confusions. (You might want to aver that it is an improvement; that is a Freud vs. Jung battle, which I why I brought in Lacan as referee!) The obscuring “in a riotous undergrowth” could be a strategy to make a man of the male child and force him to accept the ‘other’.

    The examples of Isis and Esther that you provided have interesting dimensions, although I admit to not having adequate enough knowledge of the latter.

    I’d see them as metaphors of creation…the phallus being the progenitor…the touching of the sceptre. I always thought of “the hand that rocks the cradle” as matriarchal construct.

    Much as I might ask, "If a tree falls in the forest, and no-one is around to hear it fall, does it make a sound?", context, it seems to me, is likely relevant to the correct answer (and the successful avoidance of the rise and fall of the master's rod of correction, lol).:) …what if the tree does not fall and there is a sound in the forest and it is assumed that a tree has fallen?

    I've done a bit of that -- erm, wrestling, that is.Well, Jai Bajrang Bali to that! It sounds like such a varied portfolio you have. I reckon your version is the one that is strictly not below the belt?

    I find the WWF pantomime fascinating form the sociological perspective. It is about men being boys even as they flaunt their manhood. Interestingly, it is boys who are addicted to this stuff which makes one wonder whether the downplaying is deliberate.
    - - -
    There appears to be some glitch…your comment went into the ‘Bin’ folder, so I got to see it only a while ago; my response went off the radar, therefore I have possibly missed some points, since I had not saved it…and then when I do check this exchange on my Gmail a/c, the panel shows ‘Tips for new moms’ and ‘father of new grooms speeches’!

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