Tag Archives: Hinduism

More beautiful Diwali images

14 Nov

I love the way fireworks are rendered in Indian painting.

Date or provenance unknown
Rajasthan 18th c.
Date or provenance unknown

************************************************************************

Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

Diwali photos from the Guardian (re-post)

13 Nov

Many are gorgeous; these two were real knockouts though.  See all of them in full size:

A woman places earthen lamps, or diyas, on the threshold of her home on the eve of Diwali in Hyderabad, India  Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

A devotee lights oil lamps at a religious ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Image

Shubh Diwali folks

13 Nov

Abul Kalam Azad: “Our languages, our poetry, our literature, our culture, our art, our dress, our manners and customs, the innumerable happenings of our daily life…”

5 Feb

A more extended piece off the beautiful Abul Kalam Azad speech that Mahua Moitra uses in previous post in “Seven Signs of Fascism.” (watch her; she’s amazing) — a passage all of us in the Balkans should memorize too.

It was India’s historic destiny that many human races and cultures and religious faiths should flow to her, that many beliefs take root in her fertile soil, and that many a caravan should find rest here.  One of the last of these caravans was that of the followers of Islam.  We brought our treasures with us, and India too was full of the riches of her own precious heritage.  Full eleven centuries have passed by since then.  Islam has now as great a claim on the soil of India as Hinduism.  If Hinduism has been the religion of the people here for several thousand years, Islam has also been their religion for a thousand years.  Just as a Hindu can say with pride that he is an Indian and follows Hinduism, so also we can say that we are Indians and follow Islam.  I shall enlarge this orbit still further.  The Indian Christian is equally entitled to say with pride that he is an Indian and is following a religion of India, namely Christianity.

Eleven hundred years of common history have enriched India with our common achievement.  Our languages, our poetry, our literature, our culture, our art, our dress, our manners and customs, the innumerable happenings of our daily life, everything bears the stamp of our joint endeavor.  There is indeed no aspect of our life which has escaped this stamp.

The joint wealth is the heritage of common nationality and we do not want to leave it and go to the times when this joint life had not begun.

* From Abul Kalam Azad’s speech, as the president of the Indian National Congress, in 1940

India’s first Prime Minister of Education of India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

NYTimes: This is foul: Gandhi’s Killer Evokes Admiration as Never Before

5 Feb

Gandhi’s Killer Evokes Admiration as Never Before

A statue for Nathuram Vinayak Godse, who assassinated Mohandas K. Gandhi, at the office of Hindu Mahasabha, a group that espouses militant Hindu nationalism, in Meerut, India, last week on the anniversary of Gandhi’s death. Credit…Smita Sharma for The New York Times

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“As an Orthodox Christian…” & us and the West and Romans and Otto, the Habsburgs and a Balkan Afghanistan

19 Jan
Screen Shot 2020-01-19 at 2.26.28 PM

This is kind of a silly question, but if I think about it, parts of me belong to all of these, and part of Orthodoxy’s beauty comes from being able to be all of these at once.  “Roman/Byzantine” takes precedence by far; it’s pretty much one of the most important theses of this blog, and if people understood what I meant if I said “Roman” or didn’t just think I was crazy, I would call myself a Roman for sure, just as my ancestors did down to my grandparents, or the tiny remnant Greek minority of Istanbul still does.

“National Church?”  Clearly I’m more attached to the rites, imagery and music of the Greek Church through the sheer fact of being brought up in that space, even though Russians are far more professional in their production values than we are and that does affect my mood (just how much textual illiteracy, vocal feedback and mediocrity can one bear at key moments in an office?)  Otherwise, though I may feel some honorary precedence for the Patriarch of Constantinople — and yes, even the Pope — no one Church takes priority over another for me.  And I think it’s of utmost, urgent importance that the national Churches stay out of political life everywhere.  The first cool thing Tsipras did when he was sworn in as Prime Minister (when I was still super-hopeful about him and Syriza) was to have no clergy present at the ceremony.  The Church needs to know its place: in church.

Hands6047626-3x2-940x627

At one with the “Eschaton” (ἔσχατον) bre koumbare?! the Infinite, the Ultimate, that Beyond beyond which there is no Beyond?!  Aren’t you asking a bit much of us with that one?  :)  To keep things short and in keeping with Orthodoxy’s traditional apophatic theology, I have to say that I wouldn’t know if I were at one with the Eschaton, even if I were.

I may have written this before — can’t remember — but if I could have somehow been a conscient embryo who could choose what religious tradition to be born into, it would be Hinduism, because it functions on the most sophisticated dialectic spectrum between unity and plurality than any other religious tradition, though we can see these days in Modi’s India how questionable it is to romanticize polytheism — as I have in the past — as inherently tolerant and open-ended. You can have one God that’s an insufferable prick like that of the Abrahamic trio and a thousand gods that are just as much insufferable pricks, though there’s a tiny bit more wiggle-room with the latter.

So, if you ask me about my religious affiliation, I guess I’ll tell you I’m Greek Orthodox — which I guess I am.  If you ask me what I really “believe” — though I’m not sure what that word means precisely — I’ll have to tell you I’m a Jungian (I know, it’s the cop out of every Jungian: I don’t know what ‘believe’ means really).  And that’s as close to a religious identity and the Eschaton I think I’ll ever consciously get to.

Finally, “anti-Hellene.”  If I’m 99% Roman, I’m 150% anti-Hellene.  The term “Hellene” is…essentially…a lie, a resuscitated neologism, an oxymoron that gives away its own falseness, and the impulse behind its creation since the Greek Enlightenment is childish and embarrassing.  I understand: if you’re an impoverished Albanian statelet and you’re told you’re the heirs to Pericles and Alexander, with a 17-year-old scion of the looney Wittelsbach royal family of Bavaria as king, you’ll dress up as Alexander the Great at Apokries (Carnival) and take that myth as better than nothing.*  With “Hellene” today more than unquestionably established as an endonym — though all Greeks still know what they’re talking about when they say Roman or “Romioi” or “Ρωμιοί” — themselves — there’s not much one can do.  It’s the campaign now to abolish “Greek”, which has served the West as an exonym for us for more than two millenia, and make foreigners say “Hellas” and “Hellene” that makes me start to grind my teeth whenever I see it.  Like, starting at the airport…

Answer your questions Byz?

I’ve promised a “Why I’m a Roman” post for years now but haven’t gotten around to it because the issue is so convoluted, but I promise soon.

**************************************************************************************

* I never knew that Otto was so handsome.  Look up the Wittelsbach; they’re a fascinating cast of characters that would make The Sopranos or Breaking Bad seem like The Brady Bunch; the family that produced Elizabeth of Wittelsbach, consort to Kaiser-und-König Franz Josef, their son Crown Prince Rudolph Habsburg, who committed suicide with his lover at Mayerling, and that produced Ludwig II of Bavaria, the nephew of our Otto and the great patron of Wagner throughout his career, who were cousins with Elizabeth through the Wittlesbach line and most intimate best friends till his assassination; they adored each other. He probably gay; she on planet Wittelsbach, but with an intense fascination for Hungarians, who she romanticized as wild and sexy (chuckle to myself because that kinda sounds like me and Serbs), and as a foil against the stuffy court at Vienna.  The only Habsburg who ever bothered to learn Magyar, she made herself queen of Hungary and even the most anti-Habsburg Hungarians loved her back and it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that she was a major factor in keeping German-Hungarian animosity from tearing the empire apart for as long as it did.

Sorry for the mangled and probably confusing historic summary there.

Plus, the Bavarians gave us an Athens that’s still beautiful despite all the destruction inflicted on it.

Prinz_Otto_von_Bayern_Koenig_von_Griechenland_1833I always had a genuine affection for Otto and his consort Amalia.  They were crazy German Romantic Philhellenes of their time in the purist sense so you can imagine how he felt upon being crowned King of Greece.  They adored their new kingdom and its people and didn’t treat it as their personal çiftlik, expending instead much effort in creating a new Euro-Greek social and political culture that would match their times.  But in what was essentially a Balkan Afghanistan, run by Albanian warlords, that proved too much of an obstruction.  They were ousted and shipped back to Bavaria in 1862.

Isabel_da_Áustria_1867See Elizabeth von Habsburg of Austria née Wittlesbach, for an account of Elizabeth’s tragic life and assassination.

Probably the most famous image we have of Elizabeth (below), a great beauty, most famous for her long wavy chestnut hair, though you can imagine that she rarely got to wear it this way at the Hofburg.

Rudolf_Crown_Prince_of_Austria_LOCRudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, the son of Franz Josef and Elizabeth, who committed suicide with his lover Baroness Mary Vetsera, below:

Mary Vetsera

De_20_jarige_Ludwig_II_in_kroningsmantel_door_Ferdinand_von_Piloty_1865Ludwig II of Bavaria, major patron of Wagner

Glamorous, elegant and crazy as a loon every one of them.  You can see in late 19c. Vienna, the slow growth of the Teutonic dementia that would eventually wreck Europe twice, though a united pan-German constitutional monarchy under the Habsburgs or Wittlesbachs and not the Prussian Hohenzollerns might have kept the forces of nationalism and militarism that led to later fascism at bay. But Vienna was just too psychologically tired to try for that too hard at that point. See Arthur Schnitzler’s haunting short novel, Traumnovelle, (Dream Novel) made into an unfortunate film by Stanley Kubrick in 1999, (Eyes Wide Shut), with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise of all actors — he overlooked Ben Stiller. Or read any of the poetry or the librettos Hugo von Hoffmanstahl wrote for Richard Strauss‘ operas — Elektra, Salomé, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos

Or remember von Hoffmanstahl’s perhaps most famous — and Piscean — quote: Reality lies in the greatest enchantment you have ever experienced.’ This was not a culture with the spirit or force to hold a disintegrating Europe together. A curious foil to the the Serbs.

Back to Greece. What’s really curious to me is the intensity of Greek anti-monarchical sentiment towards the Danish Glücksburgs, who were installed as kings by the European powers after the outing of Otto and the WittlesbachsThey seem, from my perspective, at least, like a bunch of innocuous nebeches — certainly without the nutty flair of the Habsburgs — more passive than anything else as kings of Greece, and making everything worse when they did take an active political role — or try to — in things.  I probably don’t know enough.

Achilleion_in_KerkyraElizabeth’s Corfu palace, the Achilleion, a getaway from court and her insufferably cruel mother-in-law Sophie

In the intro to the blog, I look back and see that I wrote, in: Jadde — Starting off — the Mission“: 

“What I hope this blog accomplishes, then, is to create even the tiniest amount of common consciousness among readers from the parts of the world in question.  A very tall order, I understand, maybe even grandiose.  Time will tell if it all ends up an unfocussed mess and I end up talking to myself; it’s very likely.”

I’ve gone in this one post from whether I’m Orthodox or not and Orthodox Church rankings to Rudolph II of the Habsburgs and the double suicides at Mayerling.  I hope I’ve succeeded in the kind of tall order I’ve set for myself in making connections for people that they didn’t know existed.  Maybe for others it’s just another weird NikoBako Piscean stream of consciousness türlü.  But maybe even for them there’s an unconscious level on which things hook up with one another on some other road through the universe.

But I bet you didn’t know that the connection between “Στου Όθωνα τα χρόνια” — “In the time of Otto” — by Stavros Xarhakos and Richard Wagner ran through Munich, did you?

An odd poem/document to the struggle to establish order and form a new Greek state.  I don’t know why the English translation given here says “cruel guards” when in Greek it’s “Bavarian guards”.

In the Time of Otto

One afternoon
around the Acropolis,
The heartless thieves
made toy hot rocks
their hangout.
At Monastiraki,
the cruel guards,
In front of the king
are dancing
sirtaki
(REF:)
To Crete and Mani,
We will send a decree,
In cities and in villages.
We will send a decree,
For the policemen to come,
To kick out the brutes.
(INTERLUDE)
Down at the port,
The policemen are dancing.
They came but
their hearts are still
in Mani.
On Tuesday the guys
came in from Psiloriti.
They drink tsikoudia,
But their hearts are still
in Crete.
To Crete and Mani,
We will send a decree,
In cities and in villages.
We will send a decree,
For the policemen to come,
To kick out the brutes.
***************************************************************************************

Στου Όθωνα τα χρόνια

Ένα μεσημέρι
στης Ακρόπολης τα μέρη
άπονοι ληστές
κάναν τις πέτρες τις ζεστές
λημέρι
Στο Μοναστηράκι
Βαυαροί χωροφυλάκοι
μες στην αντηλιά,
χορεύουν μπρος στον βασιλιά
συρτάκι
(REF:)
Στην Κρήτη και στη Μάνη
θα στείλουμε φιρμάνι
σε πολιτείες και χωριά
θα στείλουμε φιρμάνι
να `ρθούν οι πολιτσμάνοι
να κυνηγήσουν τα θεριά.
(INTERLUDE)
Κάτω στο λιμάνι
τραγουδούν οι πολιτσμάνοι
ήρθαν τα παιδιά
μα έχουν ακόμα την καρδιά
στην Μάνη
Ήρθανε την Τρίτη
τα παιδιά του Ψηλορείτη
πίνουν τσικουδιά,
μα έχουν ακόμα την καρδιά
στην Κρήτη
Στην Κρήτη και στη Μάνη
εστείλαμε φιρμάνι
σε πολιτείες και χωριά
εστείλαμε φιρμάνι
κι ήρθαν οι πολιτσμάνοι
και διώξαν όλα τα θεριά.

https://lyricstranslate.com

nikobakos@gmail.com

The “comforting illusion” of India

11 Nov

Screen Shot 2019-11-11 at 3.37.33 PM.png

I have a serious philosophical issue with all monotheisms; the concept just doesn’t hold water for me and I never understood why in junior high history it was presented as such a leap forward in the development of human consciousness.  Like, what’s so smart about this totally reductive idea?

I’ve always said that if I could be a sentient embryo and choose what religion I would be born into, it would be Hinduism, because it seems to me that it contains the most intelligent and sophisticated dialectic between unity and plurality.  Just the Gita — where a handsome, young, womanizing god is revealed to be the very principle of existence itself — has always been enough to seduce me both intellectually and emotionally — and sexually, frankly.  I think Kanha’s “I am the taste of water”, may be even more powerful than Yahweh’s «Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν» — “I am the Is”.

But it’s precisely that kind of Western romance with Hinduism and its infinite polymorphousness, to paraphrase Freud*, that has led to the “free pass” we’ve given to a criminal Modi from “Bible-belt” Gujarat and a criminal BJP for way too long.  It’s tempting and comforting to think that Hindu fundamentalism is an oxymoron, but fanaticism and hate can infect any ideology.

Modi is a criminal and the BJP and Shiv Sena — with its increasing stranglehold on one of the world’s great, open, cosmopolitan cities, which is why “Mumbai” infuriates me, though nobody seems to listen to me — are criminal, murderous organizations.

No amount of saffron and marigolds can change that.

**************************************************************************************

* Anthropologist Clifford Geertz used to tell an anecdote — whether real or not has never been verified — about an Englishman who asked a saddhu he came across one day where the universe was located.  And the holy man replied:

“On the back of an elephant that rests on the back of a turtle.”

“And the turtle?”

“On the back of another turtle.”

“And that turtle?”

“On the back of another turtle.”

“And that turtle?”

“Ah, sahib, after that it is turtles all the way down.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Times: This is heartbreaking and maddening — India and unending Partition

6 Oct

But the nation state, especially when allied with religion, will always make you choose.

“Mr. Bheel is wracked by doubt, the same doubt his grandfather had when he chose to keep the family in Pakistan during partition. Did he make the right choice?”  [My emphasis]

merlin_160701048_e0a56f3b-7bff-41e3-b6fb-2b0314f9da71-superJumboCreditSaumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

The Navratri “diet”

28 Sep

I don’t know who India’s equivalent of Oprah is, but I’m sure this has been featured: the healthful effects of Navratri fasting rules.

Few things are more irritating (“might make you grouchy” my friend E. says) than traditional dietary practices of depth, subtle abstraction, intelligent symbolism and transcendence being given new, healthy, “life-style” meaning.  Being retroactively rationalized, in short, into meaningless utilitarianism.

That Jews and Muslims don’t eat pig meat because “pigs are dirty” is probably the most ancient one.  Because they’re not.  Pigs actually have high self-hygeine practices compared to other domestic mammals and that’s generally attributed to their relatively high intelligence compared to other mammals.  (I’m always tempted to think it’s just that pig meat tastes so good — like shellfish and wine — and banning its voluptuousness was just one of those random rules that monotheism needs to build its puritan edifice and get its rocks off*).  The chicken whose steroid-bloated, skinless, grilled pec you’re eating lives in far filthier conditions and even in free range eats worms and its own feaces.  Then there are the vegans who think that their diet and a Hindu’s vegetarianism come from the same impulse and have the same objective.  If that were the case Indian vegetarian wouldn’t be so wildly delicious and vegan food so unswallowable.  Or the male soy-dieter, wreaking havoc on his endocrinal system and flooding his body with estrogen, because Zen must have something to teach us about health.  It does, just not that.

And then are those occasions when it’s spring and you explain to someone the guidelines for Orthodox, Lenten fasting (Because they’re guidelines, suggestions, not rules like in Catholicism.)  “Oh,” inevitably comes the response, “that must have started as a wise way to cleanse your system for spring — and you must lose so much weight.”  No.  You don’t.  You end up eating a ton of cheap carbs and sugars on the halva and lagana diet and on Easter you’re ten pounds fatter than you were at Carnival when you were gorging on fat and animal protein.

So Jai Ganesh Deva”!  Eat Navratri foods if you want and offer the right prasad.  Pray that Sri Ganesh, in his wisdom, prevents any anti-Muslim violence — something a little more important than your anti-oxidant consumption — and skip the diet part.

Ganesha--e1528735504544.jpg

* Don’t wear wool and cotton blends.  “Thou shalt not round the corners of thy head.”  “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.”

Huh?  Not just the randomness of the injunction, but the obscurity of the language… What are these rules even dictating exactly?  What are the corners of my head?  Last time I looked my head was round already.  Is it just the mother’s milk?  Then why is all milk prohibited?  And on that one weird line we construct a whole dietary culture and an entire constitution of domestic order that must be an insane expense of energy to maintain…

Off topic?  Yeah, well…

comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

Diwali photos from the Guardian

19 Oct

Many are gorgeous; these two were real knockouts though.  See all of them in full size:

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 7.24.22 PMA woman places earthen lamps, or diyas, on the threshold of her home on the eve of Diwali in Hyderabad, India  Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 7.30.13 PMA devotee lights oil lamps at a religious ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

%d bloggers like this: