Monday, January 05, 2009

Nepal's Pashupatinath and de-culturing

Nepal priests to conduct worship at Pashupatinath-South Asia-World-The Times of India

Nepal was the only country in the world that proclaimed Hindu Dharma as its state religion. Soon after Prachanda and his cohorts took up power in Nepal, one of the first things they did was to remove the word "Hindu" from the country's constitution. Hindus the world over felt a twinge of discomfort when they read about it (this blogger included).

Karl Marx had this to say about religion, amongst other things - "It is the opium of the people." Whether his view was more nuanced than what this quote implies is a different topic. But as far as his followers are concerned, this statement pretty much sums it up. Religion and pre-communist tradition are something that have to be shunned. Atheism, nay, a form of nihilism and communism go together, that way.

Back to Nepal, the Pashupatinath temple is a very old and sacred centre of religion. Legend has it that Sri Shankaracharya instituted worship in this temple and appointed a lineage of priests (called ravals) from Karnataka. This tradition has gone on for centuries. When monarchy reigned in Nepal, Hindus and Hindu institutions flourished. That the pontiffs of the Kanchi Matha were held in high esteem by the king of Nepal is well known.

Communists, completely supported by the Chinese, started their activities within Nepal long ago. With bloodshed and rivalry within the royal family, their ascent to power accelerated. And finally, Prachanda got democratically elected as the prime minister. He belongs to the Communist Party (Maoist) of Nepal. The fact that he owes much to China can be seen from the name of his party as well as by his act of traveling first to China instead of India, as was the norm. The cold shoulder to India is quite evident here. It may not be long before Indian citizens need a passport and visa to visit Nepal, just like everybody else. India might need to worry about open borders with Nepal - but that is a separate issue.

The ascension to power by Prachanda was marked by the abolition of monarchy. Beginning with that, a systematic change of traditions instituted by the royal family has started. The change of the rawals is but a marker in the process of this "deculturing".

Monolithic religion-ideologies such as Islam, Communism and Christianity have one thing common amongst them. Wherever one of these has risen to power, the clock on history and culture is reset - as if there was no history and culture in these lands before the advent of these ideologies. Pakistan is an example in point. Textbooks are full of glorification of everything Islamic and condemnation of all else. Two generations of readers of such text books are all it takes to obliterate a country's indigenous traditions. Harappa is still in Pakistan, but from those textbooks, its achievements pale in front of those of a Ghauri or a Ghaznavi as Mohenjodaro et al were pre-Islamic sites and therefore jAhil. Mao's cultural revolution is similar.

A similar effort seems to be afoot in Nepal. Textbooks will, in all likelihood, be the next target if not already targeted. And it will be decreed in them that Nepal was under continued oppression till they were "liberated" by Chairman Mao's ideology, whose able representative is Chairman Prachanda. Whatever good remains will be credited to the new ideology and all things bad will be cast as the relics of a forgettable past.

The following quote by an American author sums it up quite well -
“Only when the war propaganda of the victors is entered into the history books of the vanquished, (and this is also believed by succeeding generations), only then will our reeducation have succeeded”

No comments: