Artistic freedom yes, but not with Aurangzeb : Kanchan Gupta (Pioneer daily)

9 03 2008


Artistic freedom yes, but not with Aurangzeb
DAILY PIONEER

Artistic freedom in increasingly ‘secular’ India has come to mean the right to denigrate Jesus Christ and Goddess Shakti, as was done by a callow student of the fine arts faculty of Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda last year. But permission to exhibit exquisite miniatures and firmans related to Aurangzeb has been denied, because 15 Muslims and a bogus nawab have demanded so.

French journalist Francois Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) has painstakingly — and at great expense — put together a collection of 40 miniatures and firmans that tell the story of Aurangzeb’s rule. The exhibition is called Aurangzeb as he was according to Mughal records. “We have taken care to present all facets of Aurangzeb, including his piety,” says Gautier.

The collection was first exhibited to critical acclaim at the Habitat Centre in New Delhi. It next travelled to Pune where one lakh people visited the show. It was equally well received in Bangalore where the popular Gallery G hosted the exhibition. FACT then decided to take the collection to Chennai where it was supposed to be exhibited at the Lalit Kala Akademi from March 3 to 9.

The exhibition was inaugurated by N Vittal, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, and B Raman, security expert and former R&AW official, March 3 at 5 pm. Some 100 people attended the inauguration. Since March 4, a continuous stream of people came to see the exhibits.

On March 5, a group of 15 Muslims (Gautier says “they were no more than six”) affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, Manitha Neethi Paasarai and other Muslim organisations, entered the exhibition hall and confronted FACT volunteers who were present there. Raising their voice, they rubbished the show and alleged that it did not portray the right image of ‘their’ Aurangzeb.

“They threatened they wouldn’t allow the show to go on, that they would send hundreds of protesters after Friday prayers from a nearby mosque,” says Gautier. The organisers lodged a complaint with the local police station and the next day policemen were posted at Lalit Kala Akademi.

Meanwhile, RM Palaniappan, manager of Lalit Kala Akademi, rattled by the protest by 15 men, asked FACT to pack up and leave. He panicked after Assistant Commissioner of Police KN Murali visited the exhibition hall, had a cursory look at the miniatures and firmans (written in Persian and hence unintelligible to him), worked himself into a rage and shouted at the organisers, lacing his diatribe with expletives, before stomping off, threatening to return.

On March 6, Prince of Arcot Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali made a surprise visit to the exhibition at 3 pm. After spending some time looking at the miniatures and the firmans, he lashed out at FACT volunteers and accused them of “misrepresenting facts”. He was particularly enraged by two miniatures — the first depicted Aurangzeb’s army destroying the Somnath temple and the second showed the destruction of the Kesava Rai temple in Mathura.

He insisted that the paintings amounted to “fabrication and distortion of history” and that Aurangzeb had never done anything to harm the Hindus. He demanded that the exhibition be immediately shut down and said he would take up the issue with “higher authorities” in the State Government. Later, the ‘Prince of Arcot’ issued a Press statement, claiming, “the exhibition seemed to dwell only on Aurangazeb’s alleged misdeeds and not a word about his munificent contribution. The exhibition would only promote enmity between various groups.”

By Thursday, March 7, “higher authorities” in Tamil Nadu Government had issued instructions to the police to shut down the exhibition. Murali, along with his men, stormed into the exhibition hall on Thursday evening and began taking down the paintings. “He was looking for the paintings showing the destruction of Somnath and Kesava Rai temples. He threw them to the floor,” said a FACT volunteer.

The police say they acted after receiving “three complaints that the show would disturb communal harmony”. They wanted the exhibition to be shut down immediately as the next day was Friday. The police also forcibly took into custody three FACT volunteers — Saraswathi (65), D Vijayalakshmi (62) and Malathi (47) — although women cannot be detained after sunset in police stations. They were not allowed to contact their families.

The hall has been sealed and FACT has no idea about the fate of the paintings and other exhibits, including the priceless firmans. “I am told some of the paintings have been damaged beyond repair. This is shocking, especially because what we have witnessed is vandalism by the police,” says Gautier.

Advertisements




Indian Army Training (IMA)

14 02 2008




The Indian Airforce: Kargil heroes

12 02 2008

The Indian Air force in the kargil war





Hindu Collective Initiative of North America and FACT

5 01 2008

Courtesy : India Post News Service

December 14, 15, 16 at the University of Central Florida

ORLANDO: A conference of Hindu leaders was held recently at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando by the Hindu Collective Initiative of North America, a collaborative body of Hindu organizations and temples across North America. The conference brought together more than one hundred eminent religious scholars, academicians, authors, intellectual thought leaders and activists from across the US and a number of delegates from the UK, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago.

The conference was hosted by the Hindu University of America The conference opened with a thought provoking discussion on the current situation in India where the central government, and state governments, while loudly proclaiming themselves as secular, exercises total control on Hindu temples, as though they are government properties.

This is even more egregious where the heads of the states and majority of legislators are Christians, communists, atheists, and/or avowed anti-Hindus. While almost universally unknown to the rest of the world, the Government of India ruthlessly tramples on the fundamental principles of separation of church and state, which is the corner stone of the secular form of government in every democratic nation in the world.

Even in non-democratic nations, for example, in Pakistan and Bangladesh, no government controls the religious organizations or the places of worship the way Government of India controls Hindu temples.It was decided that a group of religious leaders, retired Supreme Court judges, as well as academic and legal experts, will hold a conference on the correct relationship between government and religion, in New Delhi next year, following which a petition will be filed against the Indian government for their illegal and immoral control over the management of Hindu temples and the illegal appropriation of their funds.

Alternative models of management were discussed including the option of a Hindu Devalaya Prabandhak Committee in every state that would manage the temples, just as Sikh Gurudwaras are managed by the Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committees in Punjab. The HCINA general secretary, Dr Ved Prakash Chaudhary, asked, “What kind of secularism is this? Why are they taking control of only Hindu temples and siphoning off the money to the treasury?

Why they do not take over the management of a gurudwara, a mosque or a church? What kind of separation of church and state is that? We are unanimous that this is a most egregious situation that must be changed as soon as possible,” Chaudhary said. The Hindu community in the US has been protesting against the takeover of several temples in Andhra Pradesh. During the recent visit to the US, of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Reddy, protests were held at several major cities he visited.

It is well known that corrupt government officials and politicians abuse the funds collected in temples for their own personal use and that this is the main reason why government controls the management of wealthy Hindu temples.There was also extensive discussion and grave concern expressed about human rights abuses of Hindus all over the world, including in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Malaysia. A graphic exhibition on Hindu human rights violations in Bangladesh and Kashmir, prepared by FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism) and organized by Utsav Chakrabarti, was inaugurated by well-known Hindu philanthropist, Braham Aggarwal.

It was decided that Hindu watch dog organizations will monitor the situation very closely, disseminate information rapidly, seek alliances with human rights groups to keep pressure on the governments of these countries and keep this issue in the contemporary media spotlight.The Summit leaders expressed a sense of urgency that the Government of India should pay more attention to the human rights issues in Kashmir, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Malaysia – where the lives of hundreds of thousands of Hindus are involved.

“We will soon be approaching the Government of India with a proposal to protect these endangered Hindus,” Chaudhary said.The Summit also discussed issues affecting Hindus living in North America. A committee of academic experts will be formed to prepare supplementary materials for schools in the United States. The supplementary materials will be distributed to teachers, libraries and schools all over the US so that correct information is presented to students about Hinduism and Indian culture.

An important session on ‘Community Building and Infrastructure Development within Hindu organizations’ highlighted the need to develop sustainable social services connected with the temples, in a culturally and religiously sensitive manner. The temple support is essential as it is a sacred sanctuary and most secure place for a minority group.

The additional social services will bring completeness and affirm that God is with them.The need for a degree program integrating Vedic/holistic healthcare paradigm with the modern healthcare systems and setting standards for Hindu Chaplaincy was also discussed. A Masters program is needed on par with the Board Certified Chaplains of other religions already operative in schools, prisons, military, hospice and modern hospital facilities.

This would take the Vedic traditions beyond temples to reach out to the individuals and families who need support for their physical, mental and spiritual health.A session relating to youth issues such as inter-faith marriages, effects on family, progeny and culture and accepting western (non-born Hindus) as Hindus drew much interest. Another session focused on the USCIS proposed changes to the religious worker visas (the so called R1 visa) and the need for Hindu community maintaining liaison with government and elected officials.

The conference was attended by Paramacharya Palaniswami, editor-in-chief of Hinduism Today, Stephen Knapp, author of more than a dozen books on Hindus and Hinduism, Satnarayan Maharaj, secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of Trinidad and Tobago, Chandresh Sharma, Member of Parliament, Trinidad and Tobago, Abhinav Dwivedi, Vice President of Hindu University of America, Janeshwari Devi, Director Public Relations, Barsana Dham, Frank Morales, a scholar in Hindu philosophy and Hindu Temple Acharya, and Jeffrey Armstrong, a Hindu Spiritual teacher, Vedic Astrologer and award-winning author from Canada.Prominent among others who attended the three-day meet were Bawa Jain, secretary general, World Council of Religious Leaders, Mihir Meghani, President of the Hindu American Foundation, Anju Bhargava, President of Asian Indian Women of America and a Community Builder Fellow (President Clinton’s White House initiative), Anuja Prashar, founder of “Transnational Indian Identity” from UK, Dr Piyush Agrawal, national co-coordinator USA of GOPIO; Hindu Students Council president Harsh Vellanki, and executive director Varun Mehta and professors Dr Balram Singh, Dr TS Rukmani, and Dr Siva Bajpai.

The mission of HCINA is to serve as a collective body of Hindu organizations in North America; to facilitate networking and collaboration to address issues of common concern and benefits and to coordinate collective initiatives to promote the understanding, practice and propagation of Hindu Dharma and culture through proper education and public policy. HCINA was formed more than two years ago in August 2005 at the first Dharma Summit held at Rutgers University in New Jersey.





Sikhs, the defenders of Indian Dharma

12 12 2007
Sikhs, the defenders of Indian Dharma…

The Sikh Exhibition

FACT

Throughout the ages, Sikhs have protected India from numerous onslaughts by foreign invaders – whether the Mughals or the British… This has not been recognized by society today…

FACT has in association with the SGPC Delhi commissioned the contribution of Sikhs to Indian Dharma titled Sikhs, the defenders of Indian Dharma. The exhibition would travel the time and present to the world all those facts that we have forgotten about the wonderful things the Sikhs have given to India their Motherland.

Sri Guru Arjun Dev Ji:

The first Sikh Guru to be martyred by Mughal Emperor Shahjehan for not converting to Islam.

Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji

Aurangzeb wanted to implement Sharia or the Islamic religious law. He executed Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji (the 9th Sikh Guru), who refused to convert to Islam.

The Battle of Saragarhi

The Battle of Saragarhi was fought on 12th September, 1897 between 21 Sikhs of the Sikh Regiment and 14,000 Afghans. This battle is listed as one of the 8 top battles of collective bravery by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Sikh Regiment Formed in 1846, The Sikh Regiment is the most highly decorated regiment of the Indian Army. In the 1999 Kargil Conflict, the Sikh regiment went into action once again, this time against Pakistan. 8 Sikh took Tiger Hill, whereas 14 Sikh fought at Chorbat La.

30th May, 1606 – Sri Guru Arjun Dev Ji – Jahangir

1634 – Sri Guru Har Gobind Sahib Ji – Battle of Kartarpur

9th November, 1675 – Bhai Dyala – Red Fort -Boiled

9th November, 1675 – Bhai Mati Das – Red Fort – Cut

9th November, 1675 – Bhai Sati Das – Red Fort – Burnt

11th November, 1675 – Bhai Jaita Singh -Rangretta Guru ka Beta – Head of Sri…

11th November, 1675 – Lakhi Shah Vanjara – Body of Sri…

1687 April – Battle of Bhangani – Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji

1687 – 1705 – Sahibzada Ajit Singh son of Sri…

1691-1705 – Sahibzada Jujhar Singh son of Sri… Buried alive in walls – Zorawar Singh and Fateh
Singh – sons of Sri…

1701 – Bhai Udai Singh and Bhai Bachitar Singh

1706 – Mai Bhago

1723 – 1803 – Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia

1745 – Faith before family – atrocities of Mir Mannu

1761 – Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia – Lahore Fort

1762 – Battles against Nadir Shah – Loot, Jewellery, confiscating Indian Women

1763 – Martyrdom at Lahore – atrocities of Mir Mannu

11th March, 1781 – Flag on Red Fort – Sardar Bhagel Singh

1791 – 1831 – Ssrdar Hari Singh Nalwa – got Kashmir and Kabul

1818 – Victory of Multan Fort from Mughals

13th January, 1849 – War at Chillianwala

17th January, 1872 – 66 Sikhs blown up by British

24th May, 1896 – 16th Nov., 1915 – Sardar Kartar Singh Sarabha

26th Dec., 1899 – 31st July, 1940 – Sardar Udham Singh killed the brain behind Jallianwalan Bagh Massacre, Gen. Dyer

27th Sep., 1907 – 23rd Mar., 1931 – Amar Shaheed Sardar Bhagat Singh

November 1921 – Non-violent protest against British confiscating keys of Sri Harmandir
Sahib Ji

30th October, 1922 – Sri Pratap Singh and Sri Karam Singh trampled by Train – Guru ka
Bagh

21st Feb., 1924 – Bibi Balbir Kaur

1965 – Sikh Regiment got Raja Hills from
Pakistan

1971 – War against Pakistan Misc. without Dates
1. Baba Deep Singh
2. Bhai Kanhiya – Sewa Panth – Water and First
Aid to War-victims
3. Maharaja Ranjit Singh
4. Nihang Festival
5. Jathedar Lachhman Singh and Daleep Singh,
Nankana Sahib (Pakistan)
6. Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji warning Babar
7. Bhai Bidhi Chand – Jump on Horse
8. “Nishchay kar apni jeet karo.”
9. Banda Bahadur + 100 Sikhs martyred
10. Sardarni Sada Kaur – Victory over Shahi
Fort of Lahore
11. Ahmad Shah Abdali – Hindu Women
12. Tees Hazari
13. Mahant
14. Elder son Sikh
15. Conversion and Drugs
16. Battle of Kargil




World without terror: Video

3 12 2007

World Without Terror





FACT Presentation and Dara Shikoh

10 11 2007

FACT Presentation Video

Dara Shikoh
A Forgotten Hero of Indian Cultural Synthesis
Need of Dara’s Spirit in contemporary world against terrorism

Dara Shikoh was born on 20 March 1615A.D. at Sagartal near Ajmer. It is said that his father, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, visited the tomb of the great Chishti saint Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti and had prayed there with folded hands and down knees for a son since all his earlier children had been daughters.The prayer brought fruits and the child born had the influence of the teachings of the Sufi saint.

Dara’s was a unique and marvelous personality among the Mughal royal family. He was entirely distinct in all respects from other princes of the entire Mughal house since the establishment of the Mughal rule in 1526 till its ultimate extinction in 1764 or 1857. He had no likings for luxuries and sensual pleasures but had developed refined tastes in his life. In fact, he had combined in himself the qualities of his two great ancestors Humayun and Akbar. The habit of passing more and more time in the Library to acquire knowledge was inherites by him from Humayun who had lost his life while descending from the stairs of the royal Library, while the interest in comparative religions, universal brotherhood, humanism and peace came from the great emperor Akbar. These influences played a notable role in shaping his mind. His great mission in life was the promotion of peace and concord between the followers of Hinduism and Islam. It is true to say that at this moment when the unity of India, depends on the mutual comprehension of the two spiritual elements (Hinduism and Islam), attention can legitimately be paid to the figure of Dara Shikoh who attempted in the 17th century what Kabir and Akbar had done before him in the 15th and 16th century respectively, or what Raja Ram Mohan Roy did in the nineteenth (K.R. Qanungo).

Early Education: Formative Period of Dara:


Dara’s initiation into early education was not an exception and put like other Prices he was under the guidance of the royal teachers who taught him the Quran, Persian poetry and history. The credit goes to one tutor named Mulla Abdul Latif Saharanpuri who inculcated in him the habit of reading and unquenchable thirst for knowledge. The Sufi leanings of his tutor had great influence over young Dara. Besides this, the influence of contemporary Sufi saints had played a significant role in shaping young Dara’s mind.

Initiation in the Qadiri order and its Influence:

The prince witnessed change in his life after the initiation in the Qadiri order in 1640 A.D. and his close association with Mian Mir, Mulla Badakhashi and other saints. This was a remarkable phase of his life when he spent his major time in the royal Library busy in intensive studies in mysticism, the philosophy and the principles of the Qadiri order. This resulted in the publication of his major works on Sufism namely, the Safinat-ul-Auliya (1640 A.D.), the Sakinat-ul-Auliya ( 1643A.D.) the Risala’i Haq Numa (1647 A.D.), the Tariqat-ul-Haqiqat and the Hasanat-ul-Arifin (1653 A.D.). The first two books are biographical dictionaries of the Sufi saints and the last three contain his exposition of some of the Sufi fundamental doctrines. This was in fact a period of intellectual pursuits for Dara.

Another phase is marked by Dara’s quest for understanding of the Hindu religious systems. For this he spent many years in the study of Sanskrit and employed a large number of Pandits from Benaras. His patronage to the language brought applaud from the contemporary scholars. Prominent among them were Jaganath Mishra, Pandit Kavindracharya and Banwali Das. Jaganath Mishra even wrote a book named Jagatsimha in praise of Dara.

In his continuous search for the truth, his meeting with Baba Lal Das Bairagi proved quite enlightening. The diologues with this Hindu mendicant demonstrate his growing interest in comparative religion. Dara had compiled a summary of these teachings in Makalama Baba Lal Wa Dara Shikoh, which consists of seven long conversations between the Baba and the Prince held in 1653 A.D. This text focuses particularly on certain similarities in the teachings of Hindu and Muslim mystics.

Similarly, he found some common elements in the Qadiri ashghal and the yogic meditational exercises of the Hindus which made him translate the Yoga Vasistha into Persian in 1650 A.D. In the same vein to understand Indian philosophical thought he also translated the Bhagwatgita in the same year.

Dara’s sustained researches in comparative religions came out in the form of an extremely remarkable book known as Majma-ul Bahrain or the mingling of the two oceans. Here he employees the term ‘two oceans’ for Sufism and Hinduism. This book came to light in 1656, just three years prior to his execution. In fact it was a pioneering attempt to find out the commonalities between Sufism and Hindu monotheism. He describes this book as ‘a collection of truth and wisdom of two truth-knowing groups’. This book shows Dara Shikoh’s belief in the unity of all religions.

His spiritual quest for monotheistic strands in Hindu philosophy was a continuous process. This led him to study the Upnishads and with the help of some scholars of Benaras he translated 50 Upnishads from Sanskrit to Persian. The text he prepared, the Sirr-i-Akbar, ‘the Great Secret’ was completed in 1657. He was of the firm opinion that the ‘Great Secret’ of the Upnishads is the monotheistic message, which is identical to that on which the Quran is based.

The aim behind the translation of these Hindu religious works was to search common elements in Hinduism and Islam and he draws remarkable parallels between the concepts described in the holy Quran and the Upnishads with respect to tauhid or unity of God. The comparison led him to reach on the conclusion that the Quran and the Upnishads represented two different facts of God. In the introduction of this book he states with full boldness his speculatve hypothesis that the work referred to in the Quran as the “Kitab-al-Maknum” or the hidden book is none other than the ital. This annoyed the orthodox mullas who issued a fatwa (decree) against him. These statements were exploited by his political opponents also and provided them an execute to execute him with utmost cruelity in 1659. Though his search for the truth cost him his life, his was a pioneering effort at religious synthesis or syncretism.

The Diwan and the Quatraims of Dara:

The prince was a great poet in the eyes of his contemporary intellectuals. His Diwan known as the Iksir-i-Azam is extant which is described as “incomparable and heart-pleasing” by his spiritual guide Mulla Shah.The author of Khazinat-ul-Asfiyat remarks about his poetry that “his poetry is like the ocean of unitarianism, flowing out of his pearl scattering tongue; or like the sun of Monotheism, rising from the horizon in the manner of his luminous opening verse (matla’)”. He has expressed his Sufistic views in quatrains and ghazals. Besides his poetic accomplishments, he seems to have been very well-read in classical Persian literature.

Dara’s genius is also reflected in other fields such as fine arts, music and dancing. He patronized these artistic pursuits. His interest was also reflected in paintings. He demonstrated his genius by drawing many paintings which could be compared with those by a professional artists of his time. His album which he presented to his wife, Nadira Bano, was later deposited in the royal library.

The above description demonstrates that Dara was a gentle and pious Sufi intellectual and a true and perhaps the greatest representative of Indian cultural synthesis. It can be easily imagined as to how different India would have been had he emerged successful against his orthodox brother Aurangzeb. The defeat of Dara was in a sense, the defeat of liberal Indian ideas.