Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Origin of Gods


In the beginning was a chimpanzee. She gave birth to two daughters.  One daughter followed the rules of the tribe’s game and gave birth to more chimpanzees.  The other one rebelled and gave birth to a creature whom the traditional conservative devout chimpanzees called a monster.  The monster grew up and called himself man.

Man. Man was a narcissist as all rebels turned out to be eventually.  Man loved to be worshipped.  So he conquered everything.  Whatever he could.  But he called it everything.  When he killed the creeping reptiles and ate it he thought he was the lord of the universe.  So he created a god in his image and made the creeping serpent the devil.  The devil came in his scriptures to offer an apple to the woman.  The woman had to be subjugated.  She was demanding too much.  Especially with the protruding belly all the time.

Man hunted. Woman cooked and delivered.  Delivered real babies.  Man killed, woman produced life.  Life is pain.  Pain is reality.

Man is inventive.  He created the painkiller called god.   The best painkiller.  A painkiller that continues to be effective even to this day.  Some five million years after its birth.

God took millions of avatars.  My avatar is the cow.

I worship thee holy cow I fall at thy udder I suck your blood and call you god it’s not your milk that I want I want your blood I am a blood sucker I worship thee I suck your blood I don’t want your milk I want blood I am a bhakt I am a bhakt I am a bhakt

PS. Repeat I am a bhakt three times everyday in front of a cow that's eating plastic at the garbage dump nearest to you, for attaining moksha. 

Temple Bulls


Velu was stunned.  He had never felt so helpless before.  “Bhagawan!” His misty eyes went up to the sky.  “What will I do now?”

The cattle dealer bluntly refused to buy the bull.  That was Velu’s problem.  Velu earned his livelihood by selling the milk from his cows. Like every herder, Velu too prayed for a female calf whenever a cow became pregnant.  Male calves are useless.  They are usually sold away as soon as they can be weaned from the mother. Male calves are a burden.  But Velu had kept this male calf, fed it well and let it grow into a fleshy bull. Now he had to sell it.  He needed the money to get his daughter admitted to college. In fact, he had kept the calf precisely for this: to ensure higher studies for his daughter.

Courtesy: iconsdb
“The laws have changed,” said Raghav, the cattle dealer.  “The buyer has to keep the bull for at least six months.”  Bulls were meant to be slaughtered, not pampered.  There was a time when bulls were pampered.  Ambala Kala, Temple Bull, that’s what they were.  Those who didn’t want to kill the male calf left it in the temple grounds.  It was considered a property of the temple.  It could go and graze anywhere.  Velu remembered the last Temple Bull that his neighbouring town had.  It was an enormous beast which looked as big as a young elephant and as majestic too.  It would walk all over the town like a king.  If someone stood in its way, it would just butt him off with its muzzle.  It knocked down quite many people from their bikes and scooters.  It loved to lie down right in the middle of the municipal bus stand which was already crowded with buses and people.  Temple Bull loved to show off wherever it was.  It loved itself.  Like a god.

Eventually Temple Bull became a menace.  People were fed up.  They complained to all the authorities available.  One day Temple Bull disappeared.  The rumours were that it was killed by one authority or the other.  Whatever that be, people were relieved.  An oppressive burden was removed from their life.

“What will I do with this bull now?” Velu lamented.

Raghav was helpless.  “I’m wondering what I’ll do for my livelihood now.” 

Velu was enlightened suddenly.  He led the bull to the temple ground.  When he reached the ground, he was rather dismayed to see a few bulls there already. 

“Temple bulls,” he muttered to himself.  “A country of temple bulls.”

Monday, May 29, 2017

Dalits and Religion

Book Review

 Can we really separate the spiritual from the temporal?  Can religion make sense as an entity independent of the believer’s socio-political and economic status?  Jose Maliekal’s book, Standstill Utopias? Dalits Encountering Christianity is an academic exploration into that question with particular reference to the Madiga people in Andhra Pradesh.  The book is an adaptation of the author’s doctrinal thesis and hence is academic in style – which means it contains a lot of academic jargon.

If the reader is ready to endure words like hermeneutics, essentialization and epistemological, the book can throw a very rewarding light on what religion really means to the downtrodden and how religions need to adapt themselves in order to become really meaningful for such people.

The author carried out a protracted research among the Catholic Madigas of Konaseema in the Godavari Delta of Andhra Pradesh.  The result is a transdisciplinary study which combines anthropology, sociology, political economy, philosophy and religious studies.  The Madigas are traditionally leather workers.  Now most of them are migrant labourers uprooted from their soil, caste profession, and social identity.

The first two chapters build up the theoretical framework of the research.  The next two chapters trace the traditional Madiga religion, moving gradually towards the social and economic links which the Madiga rituals essentially have.  The last two chapters look at the role played by the Catholic Church in the lives of the Madigas.

The author, in spite of being a Catholic priest, is academically objective in his study and presentation of the findings.  He does not hesitate to point a finger at certain missionaries who maintain a high-handed approach in their dealings with the Madiga people.  There are Catholic missionaries, for example, who consider themselves superior to the untouchable Madigas because of their claimed Brahminical lineage.  More often than not, “The missionary views the help extended in its instrumental nature, by way of either a reward for the progress shown (by the converted Dalits) in faith, or as an entry point for speaking about the spiritual matters like the gospel message, Jesus Christ and salvation.” [Page 203] The author continues to point out that even when the Dalits are taken into the organizational structure of the Church, there is discrimination.  The people opt for religious conversion in the hope “that it would be a means of identity assertion and autonomy.”  But this aspiration is not often fulfilled.

The last chapter is particularly striking given that it is coming from a Catholic priest. The author seeks to combine spirit and matter and redefines salvation as well-being. “The major religions should realize,” suggests the author, “that if they are to be credible to the marginalized, their discourse of salvation should have a concrete historical content … (and) turn their attention to the cause of the emancipation of the marginalized, in promoting life in all its richness and dimensions. [281-282, emphasis added]  The author asserts that religion, to be meaningful, should be “a flesh and blood affair, involved in the concrete lives of the people.” [288] Moreover, he also suggests that the people should not be divorced from their traditional religious symbols while being converted into a new religion.

In spite of its heavily academic nature, the book is worth reading especially if you are interested in the role that religion should play in the real, practical lives of people.

Pessimism of the gods

There is a romantic at sleep in my heart who likes to believe that people were better in the good old days. The people I saw as a child we...