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Guess Who’s Back

February 2, 2009

Guess who’s back
Back again
Shady’s back
Tell a friend

The lyrics from the (in)famous Eminem song has lately become my favorite. Like a starved dog salivating at the sight of a juicy bone, something in my sick agnostic brain suddenly seems to start playing this satanic tune every time I read about or hear a certain individual’s name.

And guess who this certain individual is?

You must have guessed it by now !! The person is none other than our friendly neighbourhood ‘Hindu Jedi Knight’ Mr. Rajan Zed himself  ( about whom I mentioned in two earlier posts here and here). However this time Mr. Zed’s assignment has nothing to do with Hollywood celebrities and their wayward ways but more to do with saving Hinduism itself from the imminent threat of disrespect from clueless foreigners. Recently, he was commanded by the Supreme Hindu Jedi Council to ensure that a 11th century sculpture of the elephant god Ganesha ,acquired by the Portland Art Museum, was treated with “due reverence” by the musuem.

Ganesha stele bought by Portland Art Museum

The 1000-year old, 500 pound stone stele of Ganesha, which according to the LA times has a “questionable origin”, is scheduled to be unveiled on the 14th of February at the museum. However, thanks to Mr. Zed’s enlightened efforts and who

“…just wanted the Museum officials to be more respectful while arranging its display as Lord Ganesha was worshipped as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking.

Dr. Maribeth Graybill, Curator of Asian Art of the Museum issued a statement saying that

“…. the Museum agreed to put it on a raised platform about three feet above the ground with a “do not touch” sign and a vigilance camera over it to make sure visitors did not disrespect Lord Ganesha in any way”.

Although Ms. Graybill in a separate interview did mention

“ South Asian faiths, an image ceases to be sacred “if it is not actively venerated,” so the Portland museum feels it isn’t violating religious sensibilities by owning the Ganesha”.

When was the last time you heard a renowned museum put a 1000-year old piece of historical artifact on the floor, without any vigilance cameras and with a “Please feel free to hug, kiss, poke or scratch” sign hanging on top of it? And if Ms. Graybill truly felt that the image of Ganesha had ceased to be sacred, why did she take the trouble of issuing statements that seemed more like a sop to a religious bully  ? Would the museum  venture out of it’s way to placate the religious sentiments of the African Bushmen if one of their religious artifacts were on display? Would the museum bend over backwards to feign divine respect to an idol of Harry Potter had the request come from a Harry potter fan club. I don’t think so. (Ganesha and Hindus fit the analogy perfectly. The only difference between Harry Potter fan club members and Ganesha fan club members a.k.a. Hindus is that the latter still hasn’t grown up enough to realize the difference between childish fantasies and mundane realities).

The shameless pandering to religious sentiments was even more evident when Ms. Graybill’s informed Mr. Zed that

“ mark the unveiling of Lord Ganesha statue, the Museum was planning to display huge pooja pictures from major Hindu temples of India; video displays of Hindu ceremonies; miniatures folk images of Lord Ganesha in ivory, silver, and copper; educational programs to learn Hindu and Indian culture; textiles; Hindu story telling; and music and dance performances displaying Hindu culture. Specially created pendants with Lord Ganesha image would be on sale in the Museum shop to mark the occasion.”

Wow. Other than that last bit of pristine American capitalism (which btw I support whole-heartedly) I was really impressed after reading the statement. I don’t know if that’s usual for any unveiling ceremony at the museum but if not then my kudos go out to the mighty warrior for his tireless efforts in evangelizing Hinduism and Hindu culture amongst the American heathen. Way to go, Sir !!

The Jedi knight seemed to have really convinced the clueless (or smart ?) curator about the veracity of Ganesha’s divine power otherwise few in their right minds could claim

..Lord Ganesha was very important for Portland (and she hoped that) it would bring good fortune to it. The Museum’s focus on Lord Ganesha was because of him (being) ‘very universal and accessible’ .

If Ganesha’s idol truly brings good fortune, why haven’t the hundreds of Ganesha idols already in Portland (in Hindu homes) failed to bring it by now? Why haven’t the hundreds of Ganesha idols all over the US, in almost all 50 states failed to prevent the budget shortfalls and economic downturn ? Such idiotic drivel and absurd claims where good fortunes are attributed to artistically carved pieces of stone or vermillion dots on the forehead have for centuries been the de-facto belief of generations of Hindus. It is often painful for me to see my fellow countrymen and women languishing in the pitiful darkness of 5000 year old blind beliefs unable to break out into the light. It is extremely disconcerting to see a society so given to blind beliefs and yet so stubbornly reluctant to move forward.

I don’t know if Ms. Graybill truly believes in the  Lord-Ganesha-brings-good-fortune junk marketed by the rationality-challenged Hindus or is just playing along and pretending to believe in something to encourage donations to the Museum ( notice how she mentioned Lord Ganesha as an “it” and not a “He” as Hindus always do, which may have given away her true feelings about “it” ), but such patronizing behaviour is deplorable to say the least. What is even more deplorable is the fact, that a leader of a religious community is found to be spending his worthy time in seeking out and criticizing trivialities, trying to make headlines, instead of working towards reforming the community and changing it’s image in the western world. I can only hope that this changes soon.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Elis permalink
    February 3, 2009 6:52 pm

    I love works of art, I wish it was in a nearby museum. Does looking at it with a scrutinizing eye amount to disrespect 🙂

    People fussing over things like this remind me of the objections on the depiction of Muhammad in the Supreme Court. One would except people to be honored that a bit of their culture is on display in another country.

    On the Eminem part… I told a friend that sick of Eminem (repetition on Radio) and Spongebob (which my daughter watches way too much,) so he sent me this video of both:

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      February 3, 2009 8:14 pm

      Well you never know what the hindu fundamentalists might take as disrespect :-). I remember my grandmother telling me a story of how her grandmother once severely rebuked a person from the lower caste and took a bath because this guy came so close to her that his shadow crossed my great-great grandmother’s shadow. Even though present day urban hindus follow a much more evolved hinduism (I cannot say that about people who live in rural India) there are still some hindus who feel that their religion is being disrepected even at the slightest hint.

      Btw, The Spongebob video was hilarious. LOL !! Thanks for sharing.

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