FF UK Univerzita Karlova v Praze Filozofická fakulta Filozofická fakulta

ÚJCAIndologie a indonésistikaAktualityVishnu Khare: Modern India – Politics and (Neo-)Religions (duben 2015)

Vishnu Khare: Modern India – Politics and (Neo-)Religions

Ústav jižní a centrální Asie vás zve na přednášku, kterou přednese hostující

Vishnu Khare

Na téma:

Modern India – Politics and (Neo-)Religions

V pondělí 20. dubna ve 14:10 hod., m. č., 427, Celetná ul.


Modern India – Politics and (Neo-)Religions

A. Politics in India Now

After the not-so-unexpected landslide victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under a comparatively young and charismatic leader, and its now superfluously-supporting allies in the National (General) Elections held in India in May 2014, the Indian National Congress (Congress) and its coalition parties in the outgoing 10-year old regime stand totally demoralised, if not decimated. There was always a North-South- or Aryan-Dravidian- or Hindi-Dravidian-divide in Indian politics but it was never so pronounced as today. While it is the BJP which dominates the political terrain north of the river Narmada, the regions in the South have strong, competing political personalities and parties, limited to their linguistic catchment areas or provinces. A new state of Telangana has emerged, dividing, for the first time, the Telugu-speaking monolith of Andhra Pradesh. Maharashtra, though south-west of the Narmada, is the land of the Indo-European Marathi, has opted for a BJP-Shiv Sena (SS)-Maharashtra Navanirmana Sena (MNS) and this coalition bodes well neither for itself, nor the state nor the Indian nation for it is (especially SS and MNS, which are led by rival siblings) seen as a parochial-chauvinistic reactionary combination. Though a little chaotic within themselves, the regional parties of Dravidian-speaking India keep on playing the role of king-makers of Federal India. But eleven months ago, the BJP has made inroads in the provinces as well.

The Communist Party Marxist (CPM), which boasted West Bengal as its impregnable bastion, has been trounced by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) of Ms Mamta Bannerjee, a rebel from the Congress, both in the State Assembly and the Federal Elections and finds itself on the same verge of extinction as the Congress. The Sikh Akali Dal, which supports the BJP and the Hindi-belt Uttar Pradesh Socialist Party (SP) are the two regional parties which pose any challenge or competition to the BJP and the Congress. But the BJP is already predicting a 50-year rule for itself. It has even formed a government in the state of Jammu & Kashmir with its sworn enemies. But what about the spectacular birth-rise-fall-rebirth of the Goliath Aam Admi Party (AAP, Party of the Common Man) in the State of Delhi itself?

It would appear that the political scene in India was never so intricate, cynical or foreboding before.

B. The (Neo-)Religions in (Hindu)India

It is a notorious given that Hinduism is an uncodified conglomeration of faiths, beliefs, rituals and superstitions – it allows no single deity, no prophet, holy book and place of pilgrimage, admits no human being as a divinely-authorised, “official” intercessor between Man and God. In fact it is the only ‘religion’ which is not even aware of atheism in the modern sense of the word and ignores and tolerates it. Millions of non-Buddhist Dalits pour open scorn on everything accepted as holy by the “Hindus” – in any case the words ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hindutva’ are to be found in no ancient text – even in the much-reviled and occasionally-burnt “Vedas”, “Bhagavadgita“ and “Manusmriti”. The term coming closest to ‘Religion’ is “Sanaatan Dharma” – the Eternal Dharma – and “Dharma” remains, at its simplest, a Protean, “Neti, neti”, concept. In “Hinduism”, there is no proselitisation, no ostracisation, no apostasy.

With ‘no rules’ being the rule, Hinduism is the only “public domain”, “free-for-all”, “do-almost-what-you-please” religion in existence. You require a licence from nobody to start a new faith, create a new religio-ritual mythology, invent or re-invent a new deity, or declare yourself an avatar of a previous holy man or woman or, best of all, declare yourself a “real-reincarnation” of Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Ganesha or Hanuman. No Brahmin, no Purohit, no Pandit, no Pandaa, no Shankaracharya, no Court of Law can stop you. But many of these “neo-(Hindu)religions” begin anonymously, even from villages and small towns. They have their own “Kathaas” – short, illustrative stories of not-very-serious error, sin, retribution, repentance and restoration.

Beginning, in living memory, with the ‘Satyanarayan Kathaa’ and cult, the 1960s and 70s saw the advent and growth of such neo-deities as ‘Santoshi Mata’ and ‘Vaishno Devi’ and rituals like “Bhagwati Jaagran”. There are scores of pan-Indian, local and regional saints like the “original” Saai Baba of Shirdee, Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, Asaram Bapoo, now unfortunately in jail, Morarjee Bapoo who have a prophet-like status and their “teachings” command a religion-like following and adulation. The evil planet Shani, though still greatly feared, has acquired a demi-god like place in the Hindu pantheon. Radha, Krishna’s adulterous milkmaid-love, who has no origin in any of the related epics and Puranas, has suddenly achieved a Mother-Goddess kind of place in popular imagination.

The story doesn’t end with her.

Vishnu Khare, Hindi Author-Translator-Journalist

Born 9 February 1940, Tribal Town of Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh, India.

Master of Arts in English Literature. Early writings published in 1956–57.

Married since 1968, with three grown-up children.

Taught in Colleges 1963–75. Programme-Publications-Awards

Secretary, Sahitya Akademi, the National Academy of Letters in India, 1976–84.

From Feature Writer to Editor-in-Chief, the foremost Hindi Daily Navabharat Times, 1984–93.

Nehru Fellow 1997–98.

Visiting Professor, Nehru Centre, Jamia Millia Muslim University 2008.

Now Free-lance Author, Poet, Journalist, Translator, Film-critic and Script-writer.

41 poetry and prose publications including original writings, translations, edited books. Hundreds of uncollected articles.

Many literary prizes, honours including Knight of the White Rose of Finland; the Cross of Terra Mariana, Estonia; Attila Jozsef and Endre Ady Medallions, Hungary. Stayed in Prague for 25 months 1971–73.