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By Ananda Majumdar
It is impossible to delink a political motive from the revival of Subhas Chandra Bose under the NDA. The result, however, goes beyond politics. The discourse around him, even though pushed by the ruling party, has led to the mainstreaming of Netaji and given him a far bigger stage than the one he has generally had as one of the icons of the freedom movement from Bengal.
What had started with the declassification of a part of the Netaji papers has now reached full momentum with the opening of the Netaji Museum in the Kranti Mandir complex at the Red Fort. For his followers, this is a sort of rehabilitation. He is back on centre-stage in the national discourse, and that includes on the social media, the pre-eminent medium of communication in the digital age. Even Congressmen suggesting that there were no major differences between him on the one side and Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi on the other only succeed in keeping him on the national stage.
Bose is a good vehicle to use in the effort to reinstall icons from the Congress party and outside overshadowed by the Nehru-Gandhis and the Mahatma. His views led to the formation of the Leftist Forward Bloc but that does not make him an untouchable for India’s Rightwing. His obvious nationalism, and a militaristic approach to it, make him a ready-favourite. One of his most-quoted lines, “Give me blood and I shall give you freedom,” from his speech to the Indian National Army in Burma in 1944 is the kind of stuff that drives the Rightwing. His life story gives a dimension that is more substantive than merely placing him in the space opposite Gandhi and Nehru and other Gandhian acolytes. In that sense he gets a heads-up when compared to say, Bhagat Singh, the other Leftist icon of the freedom movement.
More than politics and ideology, the key words while referring to Bose are nationalism and patriotism. Taking up his cause helps the ruling party to score high on the patriotism index. This is one of the legs on which the BJP’s push for new constituencies stands – the others being a wave of welfare populism signified in the budget, talking Bharat ahead of India, and finding ways to ensure its upper caste vote which is illustrated in the move for quota in the general category.
Whether the pursuit of Bose and his legacy by the BJP will polarise the vote bank is an open question. In West Bengal where it is hoping to win at least 20 seats, and the Prime Minister has campaigned aggressively, the party has been moving in stages. There was an elaborate, almost ritualistic celebration of Swami Vivekananda, and Modi has made no secret of the fact that he has been an avid reader of Vivekananda’s teachings. Once again, social media has highlighted this. That apart, there has been an attempt to introduce ‘shastra pujan’, or a worship of weapons, a practice that did not originate in the state. The common thread running through these is nationalism/patriotism.
Taking up Bose and Vivekananda in Bengal is a bit like selling coal to Newcastle. So it is doubtful whether they alone will bring in new voters for the BJP. But it is part of an overall package as mentioned earlier. The state is certainly providing the setting for a definitive electoral battle. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has positioned herself at the vanguard of the anti-Modi alliance. The recent all-party meet in Kolkata has shown that. The BJP has matched that with a campaign strategy to up its presence in the state, and that is going to increase in the lead-up to the Lok Sabha elections. If the vote count in Uttar Pradesh will have a bearing on the constitution of the next Lok Sabha, the polls in Bengal will provide the setting for the ideological battle between the two sides.
Politics is about legacy. It is a constant. But political choices are like the swing of a pendulum. They move from one extreme to the other. A liberal discourse ruled for a long time. There is now a course correction towards the Right. It has come more than 90 years since the formation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh by K.B. Hedgewar in 1925 and over 60 years since the Bharatiya Jana Sangh was founded by Syama Prasad Mookerjee in 1951. The mainstreaming of Netaji becomes relevant in this context. Whether or not the Rightwing discourse is the dominant one will not be determined by the Lok Sabha polls because of the number of factors involved in the world’s largest democracy. But it will be a key determining factor. (IANS)
Tenali Ramakrishna, or Tenali Raman as he is more popularly known is Birbal's equivalent in South India. A court jester and a scholar exuding great wisdom, Tenali Raman was known as one of the greatest courtiers in King Krishnadevaraya's court.
The Vijayanagar Empire ruled a large part of South India between 1336 and 1646. In the 16th century, the kingdom rose to prominence under the eminent leadership of King Krishnadevaraya. His continuous victories against his enemies ensured a successful and peaceful reign for his subjects. As a patron of art and literature, many crafts and cultural assets thrived in the empire.
Krishnadevaraya's beloved courtier, Tenali Raman is the finest example of the splendour of the Vijayanagar empire. He was born in Tenali, a town in Andhra Pradesh. He lived here until he lost his father, after which his mother brought him to Vijayanagar. He was discovered for his excellent wit and wisdom, and appointed in the court. He was one of the king's ashtadiggajas (collective name for the eight poets and scholars).
A statue of Tenali Ramakrishna near a Municipal Office in Andhra Pradesh Image source: wikimedia commons
Tenali Raman as a scholar, published great texts of wisdom, which have now become artefacts of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara. But his fame does not lie in these achievements. He is known for the mischievous jester that mythical folklore portrays him to be. Through stories, many writers have used jokes to impart wisdom and morals to many generations of people. The stories of Tenali Raman are almost legendary in the Southern peninsula.
Textbooks have been written with his moral stories in mind, and these days, many self-help book are also incorporating his wisdom. His most popular stories are, 'Mother Tongue', 'Cursed Face', 'Saluting the Donkeys' and many more. Through these stories, Tenali Raman, in some way, brought about social justice. Perhaps this is why he is most beloved by many people even today.
Keywords: Tenali Raman, Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadevaraya, Jester, Wisdom
It must be noted that different religions and societies in Southeast Asia have alternative narratives of Ramayana, one of the greatest epic.
Here are some of the versions of Ramayana!
Dasaratha Jakarta: The Buddhist Version
Interestingly, this version of Ramayana does not mention Ravana at all and in fact, there’s no mention of Sita’s abduction, too. In this version, Dasaratha is the king of Benaras and not Ayodhya. Also, Rama and Sita leaves kingdom and go to the Himalayas and not forests. Then, after twelve years, Rama and Sita return back to Benaras and get married.
Paumachariya: The Jaina Version
In this version, Lakshamana is the killer of Ravana and not Rama. Here, Rama is an ardent follower of Jainism, and so he cannot be the killer of Ravana. Also, this version states an army of warrior and not monkeys, as stated in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Another interesting feature of this version is that Ramayana is not shown as a villain, rather a magnanimous king and follower of Jainism.
Gond Ramayani: The Gond Version
Gond is an adivasi clan belonging from Madhya Pradesh in India. Interestingly, in this version, the story begins from where Valmiki’s Ramayana ended; when Sita is rescued from captivity. Also, Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata, is mentioned in this version. Unlike Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is not the protagonist in this version.
Ramakien: The Thai Version
This is considered as Thailand's national epic, and is still taught in some schools in the country. In this version, Ravana is shown as a learned scholar and a noble king in this version. Also, Ravana’s pursuit for Sita is depicted as true love. There are a lot of similarities between this version of Ramayana and Valmiki’s version, but this version lays a lot of emphasis on Hanuman.
When a baby is born in an Indian household-they invite hijra to shower the newborn with their blessings for their blessings confer fertility, prosperity, and long life on the child. But when that child grows up we teach them to avert their eyes when a group of hijras passes by, we pass on the behaviour of treating hijras as lesser humans to our children. Whenever a child raises a question related to gender identity or sexuality they are shushed down. We're taught to believe that anything "deviant" and outside of traditional cis-heteronormativity is something to be ashamed of. This mentality raises anxious, scared queer adults who're ashamed of their own identity, and adults who bully people for "queer behaviour".
Hijras are a community of people who include eunuchs, intersex, and transgender people. They worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata. Most hijras, but not all, choose to undergo a castration ceremony known as "nirvana" in which they remove their male genitalia as an offering to their goddess. The whole community is vibrant with hundreds of people with hundreds of ways of expression, the true identity of a hijra is complex and unique to each individual. In India, hijras prefer to refer to themselves as Kinner/Kinnar as it means the mythological beings who excel at singing and dancing.
Hijras worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata.homegrown.co.in
The hijra community works systematically, the community separates itself from the outside world and teaches lessons to the young ones in secret. Each community has a guru and the other hijras are their disciples or chela. The "hijra ways of life" are taught to the disciples in a secluded environment where they leave their families and live with other hijras in the community. More often than not hijras are thought of as nothing different from transgender and often referred to as transgender; however, scientifically these two terms denote a different class of people. Hijras are a part of the whole community of people with various identities and of spiritual and cultural values meanwhile, transgender merely refers to those people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, they are a part of the community and do not represent the whole community.
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Historically and culturally the community has existed in the Indian subcontinent as long as the civilization has existed. There are mentions of hijra in The Mahabharata, a holy book of Hindus. Shikhandi who was neither male nor female is a mythological legend. In another version of Mahabharata Arjuna, one of the Pandavas was cursed to be the third gender by Urvashi, when he refused to be sexually involved with her. In a story by Padma Purana, it is seen that Arjuna transforms into a woman to take part in Krishna's mystical dance which only women can take part in. The Hijra figures are prominent in Indian Mughal History as well, referred to as Khwaja Siras and known for their loyalty to the ruler, they worked as the sexless watchdogs of the Mughal harems. They held important positions in court and various facets of administration during Mughal-era India, from the 16th to 19th century. The Hijra community is a testament to the sexual diversity that is integral yet often forgotten in Indian culture.
If the whole hijra community was looked upon with enamour and respect in our history, what happened that when we come across the community we look at them with contempt and are filled with a mixture of negative, fear, laughter, and odd emotions. It's owing to the fact that under British Raj, the Criminal tribes Act 1871 hijras were criminalized and the law was made to eradicate the whole community. However, these acts were abolished by the Indian government after independence, and by 2014, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh all had officially recognized third gender people as citizens deserving of equal rights where the third gender means individuals categorizing themselves as neither male nor female. Even though the progress is slow but in 2015 Madhu Kinnar became the first hijra mayor in India was elected in the city of Raigarh.
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Although the hijra community was revered by society and is invited to births and weddings for religious and spiritual ceremonies, they still become victims of abuse and discrimination. Violence and hate crimes against the community have become common. They are deprived of education, job opportunities, seating in restaurants, etc. leading them to live in poor conditions barely surviving. They often have to resort to begging and prostitution to earn a daily living. The government has tried to address this issue by introducing bills for the protection of the hijra community, with prison terms and other punishments for those offending them, but there is little to no less effect on the social stigma against the community.
In India, the hijra community comes under the umbrella term LGBTQ+ and we notice that they lack voice and representation when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. We need to understand that when we fight for LGBTQ+ rights we fight for the whole community, we fight for hijras who have been victims of violence, hate crimes, and disrespect from none other than the people of our society. And although hijras are a part of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, they have an independent subculture of their own. It is worth every effort to know about them, to study about them, to befriend them, and to smile at them for they are every bit of human as we are and they have nothing but blessings in their heart.