Sunday, June 18, 2006

Kavi: Poetics of Sacred Sex

Da Vinci bandwagon chugs along its final lap. Having begun on a high-speed journey with publication of the novel and refueling at the "illustrated edition" stop it is finally breaking the celluloid speed barrier. Now after this people can't get much out of it; materially speaking that is. However, there are some who still want their joy ride: The thrill of a new ideational capital. And they want it quite seriously.

Ashok Row Kavi is the latest groupie on board.

This morning's HT edit page had his scholarly sounding article (Da Vinci is Da Truth?) which completely endorses Dan Brown's thesis. With such elan he discusses issues surrounding biblical scholarship that for once you think that he's a goldmedalist from a foremost German seminary specialising in higher criticism of New Testament documents and an uncontested authority on Church history.

But just one look at the history of how some Indian intellectuals tackle the biblical scholarship and one can see a deep prejudice and an agenda to tear down biblical faith. That's not what one objects to. In a highly contested arena of textual criticism and historical research one expects heated debates and bruised convictions. Scriptures can be and must be subject to scrutiny. It is the manner in which some Indian scholars exclusively deploy second hand scholarship of clealrly anti-Christian writers of the west, which puts one off. The debate that should be academic in nature turns mere ideological propaganda.

In July 1913, the monthly journal of the Arya Samaj Vedic Magazine made an attack on the Bible based on John Stuart Mill's criticisms. C F Andrews who was a close friend to Samaj's Mahatama Munshi Ram wrote to him that his publication which is a mouth piece of a religious reform movement must refrain from using the "accusations of atheists and agnostics." (Builders of Modern India: Charles Freer Andrew. Benarsidas Chaturvedi and Marjorie Sykes. Govt. of India: New Delhi. 1971. 99.)

In more recent times these kinds of accusations have been made by Indian godmen to woo western converts. Rajnish (or OSHO as he is now called) did that magnificently. Even now one may hear the discourses where covert statements are made deriding biblical narratives.

Arun Shourie uses Thomas Paine to buttress his arguments against the Christian Scriptures, and believes (needless to say mistakenly) that he has found supporters in Hans Kung and Schillebeeckx. (Missionaries in India, Harper Collins: New Delhi. 1997. 211)

Ashok Row Kavi is another in the list of these critics who rely on the outdated (at least 50 years old) and second hand scholarship.

Arya Samaji's continued faithfully the work started by Swami Dayanand Saraswati namely protecting the Arya Dharma, Arun Shourie did his bit to give intellectual credence to BJP's anti-minority stance and Rajnish wished to swell his ranks with white skinned converts, Kavi too has a particular goal to achieve.

As a man on the forefront of sexual revolution in India he needed a partner to knock out "Christian morality." He's gone on record saying that anti-sodomy law in IPC is a legacy of Victorian bias against sexual freedom. West only recognises two genders: man and woman, whereas Indian sacred texts have sanctioned at least ten kinds of sexualities. He admires The Da Vinci Code for its emphasis on female worship, but one must recognize this female worship is not what one finds in a nationalistic text like Bankimchandra's Ananthmath but a validation of religious prostitution, glorifying sexual orgies.

(to be contd.)


charles said...

ashish u r doing a great job. thankx for giving me all this information. i did not find it in the Newspaper here. well, i hope i find it soon.

Truly, the more i hear about all these controversies related to the person of Jesus,I am reminded of the fact that Jesus is coming soon. So when I see the whole modern scenarion with that perspective I am glad about it. Well, not to ignore the importance of gigantic apologetic task that lies before us.

Well, Keep it up!

Tarik said...

Hi Ashish,
This is thought provoking and has triggered certain questions in my mind...
I would want to know how “Indian” intellectuals handle (or have handled in the past) Biblical Scholarship?
If, at all, intellect (that too scholarly) works within geographical limits, how do Western and the Indian scholars perceive/read/interpret the Scripture differently?
Or (give me benefit of doubt here) are you equating Indian intellectuals to Hindus “who have deep prejudice and an agenda to tear down biblical faith”?
Who are the anti-Christian writers of the West? Other than Dan Brown, of course! And how are they different from anti-pagan writers in principle? Or for that matter, different from any writer, who follows an ideology?
What lies in the lure to woo “Western” converts? Is it “subverted satisfaction” for “Indian Godmen”, financial aid, white skin-deep love, political agenda, personal propaganda or spiritual extension? Or all!
If Ashok Row Kavi relies on 50-year-old second hand scholarship, what’s the latest?
Is there an uncontested authority on Church history?

mayuri said...

Hi Aashish,

After I read your posting, I looked for the article in HT and read it myself and then re-read your views. For me, your statement, “It is the manner in which Indian scholars exclusively deploy second hand scholarship of clealrly anti-Christian writers of the west, which puts one off. The debate that should be academic in nature turns mere ideological propaganda” summarizes the whole issue. I think you are very right.

For those of us who know Jesus, and may I make the distinction very clear ( against those for whom Jesus is merely a legend), we know that Jesus is beyond intricate words, theology, religion, sect, or organization. - Millions of people have known Jesus personally, have seen the scriptures come to pass, have been set free, people other than those born in Christian families myself included.

I also agree on the OUTRIGHT hyprocrisy of Indian society in its attempt to project itself as a defendant of female rights and honour.

Ashok’s Kavi’s one statement (projected as main statement in bold), did hit me and I must assume responsibility for it, "rapidly disintegrating Christian World”. Somewhere because we have failed to “speak one language”, others have got an opportunity to speculate….

ashish said...

Dear Tarik,

I am honoured to have your comment on my post. And I am going to respond with my guards down. You got me when you asked if I equated Indian intellectuals to Hindus. I purposely avoided saying so because all my life I have experienced great love, kindness and generosity from my Hindu friends, collegues and neighbours. To say "Hindu intellectuals" seemed like a betrayal. But then the examples I gave say it all. If you re-read my post I have made it "some Indian" intellectuals. Now, if I can be given benefit of doubt I had in my mind people like Ram Mohan Roy and more recently Chaturvedi Badrinath too when I talk about Indian intellectuals who critically looked at the Bible and Christian faith and yet are not propagandists.
You also have an array of questions to ask me. But I think you already have answers to all of them and that I need to learn from you :-)


ashish said...

Hey Mayuri,

Great to see you here! Talking about women rights I must give you an article which deals with this issue in DVC more directly. The title of the article is The Da Vinci Code: A Tsunami of Sacred Sex by Vishal Mangalwadi. It is available at I have a copy and will pass it on to you. I would like to see your views on this topic.

And obviously Kavi makes factual errors in his articles saying things like Bethleham is a city that came up in 330 AD!

Appreciate your input :-)

ashish said...

Hey Charles ... sitting in SAIACS are you only going to flatter other people and not write anything yourself? (Just kidding:-))
And the link to Kavi's story is in the posting itself.

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