Indian History Carnival – 40: Gandhi, Disaster Management, Buddha in Tanjore, Suicide Bombers

Tanjavur Big Temple
(Image via Melanie-m)

  1. What do our ancient texts say about disaster management? Sriram writes about a talk he attended which quotes Kautilya and Kalhana.
  2. In Tamil, the speaker gave details of how in Tiruvizhimizhalai the saints Sambandar and Appar sang songs during a famine for which the Lord gave them one gold coin for every verse and they used this to feed the people. Was this not similar to the conducting of rock concerts today for collecting funds for natural disasters in Ethiopia and other places asked Prabha.She gave an enthralling account of the Pittukku Mann Sumanda Kathai from the Tiruvilaiyadal wherein a flood is contained by the building of a bund. There are references in Tamil classics of when a flood occurred at a particular town or village as well. Some examples of this were given.

  3. Why are there depictions of Buddha in the Tanjore Big Temple? Vijay has the answer
  4. Its interesting to note that there was a conscious effort even during the Pallava period to show Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu. However, is this Buddha the same as the Sakyamuni is a difficult question to comprehend. But the point to dwell on is the portrayal in both stone and paint – the size and the dignified manner in which he is portrayed. The reverence is very visible.

  5. According to William P. Harman, a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Tennessee, LTTE suicide bombers were motivated by Hindu devotionalism. Aravindan Neelakantan takes this argument apart.
  6. The female suicide bombers of LTTE is part of this legacy of Western Indology. But Prof.Harmann wants to throw the blame at the doorsteps of Hindu folk tradition of women worship. Coming to the specifics we may ask: Is Hindu worship of folk women deities a honoring of martyrs? The answer is ‘No’. Hinduism has always been a life-affirming religion.

  7. A book that has generated controversy in India is Joseph Lelyveld’s Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India. At Center Right India, Dilip Rao has a review
  8. Coming to the most controversial aspect of the book dealing with Gandhi’s sexuality, a lot has already been written about it. With regard to his relationship to Hermann Kallenbach, columnists such as Tridip Suhrud and Lelyveld himself have made much of the fact that the word ‘bisexual’ has not been used. Quite so. He concludes only that it can reasonably be said that it was “the most intimate, also ambiguous, relationship of his lifetime”. He quotes Tridip Suhrud saying they were a couple and a “respected Gandhi scholar” characterizing it as homoerotic rather than homosexual “intending through that choice of words a strong attraction, nothing more”.

  9. On the same book, Anne has a post after listening to three podcasts.
  10. As Lelyveld points out in all three interviews, (the other two are at Roundtable (feed) and the NYT Book Review (feed) to this background, the relationship with Hermann Kallenbach is not very likely to be sexual and much more a case of two close friends being engaged in a spiritual search. And he goes on to emphasize the complexity of the political relationship between Gandhi and the untouchable activist Ambedkar. They politically find each other on the issue of social justice for untouchables but fall out on the finer details of this politics.

If you find interesting blog posts on India history, please send it to @gmail or as a tweet to @varnam_blog. The next carnival will be up on May 15th.