Art is not for art’s sake; neither is scholarship

via Radha Rajan - published on July 8, 2009

No creative expression is de-linked from its creator; and the creator is not de-linked from the milieu into which she or he was born and raised. Art is for art’s sake only when it is Turner’s seascapes, or Gainsborough’s landscapes or Rembrandt’s portraits playing with light and shadow. However when Savonarola consigned art to the bonfire, when Stalin dictated the content of art and art forms, when Hussein offended the Hindus, when the victims of untouchability gave vent to their anger through art, when black feminist literature shook the very foundations of race and gender, then art moved beyond the boundaries of Ravi Varma and Shakespeare.


These masters and their genius did not trigger the intellectual debate on whether art is only for art’s sake; the debate was triggered when creative expressions began to rattle the status quo, broke established shibboleths and offended sensibilities; when the themes of creative expressions reflected not nature, but the state of society and nation, when creativity challenged despotic power, when art gave expression to the devils of torment within the individual mind. When creativity met politics, and when creativity scaled the walls of ‘normal’, the debate about art for art’s sake was begun. The age of innocence had ended.


A similar debate on scholarship is long overdue. The era of the genial absent-minded professor or the young, indigent and frenzied genius of Ramanujan who typified pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake has ended too. Today, academia is polity’s most potent combative weapon in war-by-other-means. Academic institutions as they are funded and backed today, fulfill the ultimate objectives of their own or foreign governments; they can and have promoted worldviews that continue to serve White Christianity’s global intent and have manipulated and coerced history writing and research in pseudo sciences to destroy national identities and character. In extreme cases, they have also manipulated the breaking up, fragmentation and vivisection of nations and nation-states. Academia today is only geo-politics.  


The tools of academia are both enticing and coercive; before they know it, academicians and scholars are trapped in the mesh of addictive pelf, privilege and perks that accompany life in the universities. Scholars and academicians are then coerced into churning out research papers and research findings which serve short and long-term geo-political or strategic intents of the governments which are overtly or covertly controlling the universities, research institutes and think-tanks. Fellowships, grants, tenures, Chairs and the prospect of heading departments in prestigious universities with enough power to give the illusion of being God have all redefined academia, scholars, scholarship, research and the ultimate objective of all knowledge. Money-powered academia effortlessly made the transition from knowledge is liberating to knowledge is power.


Anthropology, linguistics, archaeology and epigraphy, the new ‘sciences’ (this appellation gives these disciplines and their peddlers the veneer of infallibility) have lent themselves to be manipulated by geo-political intentions of the Abrahamic religions and their super-power governments; first, to exonerate them of the guilt of invasion and occupation of nations inhabited by peoples practicing non-Abrahamic faiths and with different worldviews, their genocide, the destruction of their religions and cultures, which several times have led to their complete extermination; and second, to enable the fragmentation of existing nations and nation-states so that the smaller parts are easily chewed up and assimilated within the monstrous belly of the Abrahamic religions and their governments. These new ‘sciences’ covering themselves with the supreme virtue of ‘enabling an inter-disciplinary approach’ to knowledge and truth, partner the humanities – history writing and the pseudo sciences called political ‘science’ and social ‘science’ to achieve their geo-political intentions.


What has just such an ignoble academia peddling history, social science, political science, epigraphy, archeology, linguistics and anthropology achieved in India?


-         Hidden the religion of the different strains of jihadi invaders and marauders in our history books for children


-         Hidden the religion of the victims of these invaders


-         Hidden the religion of the colonialists from Europe who took over the Hindu nation


-         Intentionally failed to link the Church with colonialism and slavery


-         Did not question the morals or methods by which large parts of the Hindu nation turned into Muslim or Christian majority regions


-         Fragmented Hindu society to cast some sections of Hindus out of national borders while casting other sections outside the fold of Hindu society


-         Encouraged and promoted academic research which pitted caste against caste


-         Promoted the concept of subaltern history which sharpened sub-national identities with a view to leading them towards social separatism leading to political secession


-         Never to use the words Hindus, Hinduism, Hindu society, but instead to use words like majoritarian, brahminism, brahminical, sankritised, and aryan


Some of the more important objectives of such academic discourse were –


-         To create the mythical aryan and dravidian races


-         To transform the geographic concept of ‘dravida’ into a racial concept


-         To promote the pernicious idea that the word ‘Hindu’ is etymologically not Indian and so Hindus are not Indians


-         To state that the Rg Veda, which is the oldest of the four Vedas which constitute the roots of our civilization and nation, to be non-Hindu, non-Indian, with its origins in Central Asia


-         To ‘prove’ linguistically and epigraphically that the people of the Indus script were not Vedic people and therefore not Hindus


-         Rg Veda is not Hindu, and ‘Om’ is also not Hindu


-         Yoga, Ayurveda are also not Hindu


-         To state that Brahmins are Aryans of Central Asia who are invaders / migrants / occupiers / settlers of the non-Brahminical Dravidian peoples


-         Tamils are Dravidians and a different nation from the brahminical, sanskritised Aryan settlers of North India


-         Tamil Saivism is not Hindu


-         Kashmiri Saivism is also not Hindu, Kashmiri Hindus are not Indian but have more in common with the Kashmiri Muslims in the fairy-tale fiction called Kashmiriyat, which is also a separate nation


-         To promote research which finds that our tribal communities are only ‘animists’ (a Christian label), have no structured religion and so are not Hindus, and so can be brought into the benevolent embrace of the Church


-         To insist that this is not Hindu bhumi, Hindus cannot claim this bhumi to be their own, this nation has no intrinsic soul or character


-         To hold that this territory was never a nation, its civilization was always pluralist and so all religions can claim this land to be their own; the corollary is that this nation’s territory can be legitimately Islamised and Christianised


Iravatham Mahadevan and Michael Witzel


Iravatham Mahadevan was respected as an epigraphist. While he consistently refused to identify himself as a Hindu, always insisting self-righteously that his research had no communal (read ‘Hindu’) taint, he had no compunctions about working closely with historians and scholars with a distinct anti-Hindu bias.


Iravatham Mahadevan did not threaten Romila Thapar or other ‘eminent historians’ with a fast-unto-death for promoting the poisonous theory of Aryan Invasion or for the gross deception practiced by his friends and colleagues with chronology, facts and sequence in Indian history. Michael Witzel’s antecedents are now well and thoroughly exposed – a Prof. of the Sanskrit Department of Harvard University, he neither knows nor speaks Sanskrit, a distinction he shares with the famed historian of ancient India, Romila Thapar.


Yet Iravatham Mahadevan threatened to fast-unto-death if Witzel was not allowed to speak on the language of the Rg Veda in Sanskrit College, Chennai. Mahadevan did not even seem aware that he had, in the process, not merely levelled himself to the status of the undistinguished Witzel, but tarnished his own lifetime scholarship by sharing a platform with a man who, if of Indian origin, would not even be invited to such a function.


Anyway, Witzel, not surprisingly, made two unsurprising pronouncements – the Aryan Invasion theme was political and he therefore would not like to speak about it, and through a circuitous route, that the Rg Veda was not Hindu.


We are left with the following baffling questions –


-         Did the Sanskrit College not find any local Hindu to talk to their students about the Rg Veda?


-         Why was Witzel invited?


-         Why did Iravatham Mahadevan lend his name to this dubious character?


-         If the Sanskrit College is receiving Central Government funds as grant-in-aid, was there any pressure or arm-twisting from the Central Government on the Sanskrit College to invite this man?


-         If yes, was the Indian Government under pressure from some section of the American establishment to facilitate Witzel’s visit to the Sanskrit College?


-         Was the decision to bring this man to Chennai taken after the fiasco of the inter-faith dialogue in Mumbai?


-         Chennai is posing a very real intellectual challenge to some geo-political intentions. Is that why Chennai is being made the target of such intrusive and dubious visits?


Francis Clooney, the Jesuit


I have to come to this conclusion because we have news that Francis Clooney, the Jesuit, is again coming back to Chennai and on 8 August is scheduled to address students of a girl’s college widely perceived as a Hindu college.


Now, he is not going to Stella Maris College, Queen Mary’s College, Women’s Christian College, or Madras Christian College. Why this college then? No one can accuse me of imagining things. However, 8 August is still a long way away and as Vivien Leigh said, “tomorrow is another day.”


There are only two paths for Hindus after 70 years of age – Vanaprastha or Sannyasa. Iravatham Mahadevan must choose one of the two. Else people will not stop him from fulfilling his threat to fast-unto-death for ignoble causes. The days of Gandhian coercion of Hindus has also ended.


The author is Editor,

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