Sunday, July 29, 2007

Shashi Tharoor on MF Husain

I made my stand on MF Husain in a previous article. Shashi Tharoor wrote a column on in Times of India titled ‘Why is India's Picasso staying away?’, and now has gone back to give his explanations on the same topic again- It's time to stop harassing M F Husain. [All emphasis is mine].

In the first one, he writes:

These so-called Hindus have clearly never seen the inside of any of our ancient temples, have never marvelled at Khajuraho or seen a sunset at Konarak.

What about the Kama Sutra, the tradition of the devadasis , the eros of the Krishna Leela — are they all un-Indian now, or even un-Hindu?

Then he implores Indians, especially Hindus to standup against the bigotry:

To reduce the soaring majesty of an inclusive, free-ranging, eclectic and humane faith to the petit-bourgeois morality of narrow-minded bigots is a far greater betrayal of our culture than anything an artist can paint.

In the second article, he writes:

The question of why Husain doesn't paint Muslim figures in the nude is a red herring. The Islamic tradition is a different one from either the Hindu or the Western; what causes offence in one is different from what causes offence in another. Islam, after all, prohibits any visual depiction of the Prophet, whereas visualising our gods and goddesses is central to the practice of Hinduism.

About Husain’s paintings, he writes:

His paintings of goddesses are consistent with 50 years of his paintings of other iconic Hindu images, clad and unclad. I saw the paintings in that context; his critics saw them out of context.

He later adds:

Husain himself accepts that if you hurt people unintentionally, the right thing to do is to apologise. And he has done so, more than once. Since when have Hindus become so ungracious that we refuse to accept apologies?

On Husain, he writes:

On his current visit to the United States, Husain was asked by a radio interviewer how he felt about the controversy "as a Muslim". The 92-year-old Master bridled. "I'm an Indian and a painter, that's all.

On the persecution, he writes:

The persecution of Husain does not show Hindus acting in robust self-defence; it shows us as petty and small-minded."


  1. There is just a simple point to be understood here. It's not about nudity. It's about whom he painted. If some one just says something bad about someone towards whom you hold a deep respect and devotion, you certainly feel offended and depending on the person's emotional balance, he will react in a certain way. The same thing has happened with M.F.Hussain also. He did hurt the sentiments of so many Hindus who hold a deep devotion and worship everyday - the Goddesses - who were painted by M.F.Hussain naked. Also, he has shown a clear demarcation in his paintings between Hindu characters and Muslim characters, like painting a Brahmin naked while a Muslim king is fully clothed, a painting of some Muslim poet and some other Muslim characters fully clothed and also another painting where Gandhiji's head was not there and Hitler painted naked while Karl Marx and Einstein(inferring from how the characters are looking, could be someone else!) are painted well. He also painted Lord Krishna decapitated. He painted Ma Sita sitting naked on Ravana's thighs, who is also painted naked, where Lord Hanuman is jumping on to him. Also, in another painting, he painted Lord Hanuman being naked and a couple doing sex ,painted on one corner and His genitals pointing towards the couple. So did he in a series his paintings titled Hanuman.(This particular painting was named Hanuman 13).What does it all say about his motives or intension's? Whatever he has done, could it not be thought of as being deliberately done? Again, I insist, nudity is not the problem. It's about whom he painted. Also, I strongly condemn the acts of vandalism that happened. They should have expresses their condemnation through proper channels. I think that has only generated some sympathy towards that old man. There is one more point I want to make it here. They keep saying that in India, gods and goddesses are painted or sculptured naked, etc..., I don't understand how far they have made a proper observation, because, it was always the apsaras, gandharvas, yakshinis and other similar characters who are painted or sculptured nude. You never find Ma Saraswati or Goddess Parvathi or Goddess Lakshmi, etc.. nor Bharata Mata depicted nude in any form of artistic expression in any of earlier artistic works. They(referring to apsaras, gandarvas,etc...that i mentioned earlier) are like angels(for the sake of comparision) in Christianity or other western religions, who are also painted naked and they didn't have any objection in those societies. So are painted Fairies, Cupid(angel of romance/love), etc...I completely support the point that nudity is also a subjet of an artist and sure is an area of artistic expression. But, an artist should not use his artistic freedom , which would be absurd to say so, if he is using his freedom to do such deliberate offense to so may people's feeling and sentiments. India is a democratic country and everybody has the right to express . Agreed!But, unlike American democracy which entails absolute freedom of speech and expression to its citizens, ours rights(individual citizens rights) are restricted and can be compromised by law pertaining to offense to other communities or if they are effecting relations with other nations, etc...So he, Hussain, having broken that code of conduct will has to punished lawfully. We don't need to be sympathetic as he being an old man, as everyone is equal before law, whether the culprit is 6 year old or 60 year old and has to be punished accordingly nomatter what his position in the society is. Why to go that far, even before being an artist or a painter or a poet, he is a human, because of which he has to respect his fellow human's feelings. If he doesn't like it, he can just stay indifferent. Obviously , he is not trying to give us some profound revelations. If he is still doing something like that means, either he is perverted or sadistic who entertains himself by humiliating or hurting others feeling or he is having real hatred towards those whom he hurted.
    I gladly welcome any comments on my arguments, if I was wrong in any of those views. Because, I don't want to believe in something unjust even if i hold it so strong or if i am just being too conserved about that.

  2. Islam, after all, prohibits any visual depiction of the Prophet, whereas visualising our gods and goddesses is central to the practice of Hinduism.

    What crap and double-standards!!
    Does Shashi Tharoor really think that when an average Hindu visualizes gods/goddesses, s/he is thinking of them naked and/or in sexual positions? And Islam's prohibition of Mohammed is for Muslims, not non-Muslims. Typical pseudo-secular mindset and double-standards. And what happened to freedom-of-expression? Different standards for Hindus and Muslims? What rubbish.

  3. [Anonymous:
    I would like to see people writing comments and leaving their name. It serves two purposes- one, since there are so many anonymous, it will be clear who is who when I am replying to. Two, it also shows that you take accountability for your statements and actions- which I greatly appreciate.]

    I read this in one of the comments of an earlier post. I am 'Pavan' who wrote that looong comment.
    The topics you choose are too diverse, nice!


  4. Completely agree with Anonymous I. I am hurt though I hate religion in general. It hurts when something you consider sacred is desecrated and even worse; it is condoned by hypocrites.

  5. In relation to whoever said that our gods and goddesses are never depicted naked or in sexual position.. Here is an exercise: Go to any temple (and I do mean any), over there, at one of the sections will be shivaling (am i ryt?)..
    Do u noe wht we are worshiping?
    We are worshippin lord shiva's genitals..! Pls ask ur grandmother fr confirmation..
    My point is dt we were not inherently dis puritanical and prude.. Its a recent development.. Cm on.. sexuality and nakedness (digambaras) are a part of our culture.. And its also natural.. accept it!!


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