NDTV ran a program ‘From Kashmir to Bangalore. . . music, art under attack’ (Feb.5, 2013) and it featured the young upcoming artist Anirudh SainathKrishnamani. The case was about his three nude paintings of Kali,Shiva, and Parvathi being removed from an exhibition of his paintings at an art gallery in Bangalore by the art gallery itself on complaint from an ordinary Hindu.
The young man looked dejected enough. He spoke about the freedom of the artist. His father MN Krishnamani, a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court and now President of the Supreme Court Bar Association was outraged at what he considered the violation of the Indian Constitution’s guarantee of the individual’s right to freedom of expression. Anjali Ela Menon was also present at the discussion and she held forth as expected on how MF Husain was driven out of India (in reality he chose self exile in Dubai where he was feted, wined and dined and given huge sums of money for forthcoming paintings !) for painting nude Hindu goddesses. Then there was another individual, a non descript person, an art gallery owner from New Delhi, who upheld the Delhi art gallery’s right to hold paintings depicting the human body. Fair enough.
It had nothing to do with Hindu gods and goddesses.
It is surprising for a lawyer of Mr. Krishnamani’s stature to say what he did about the Indian Constitution. Nowhere in the Constitution is there permission for an individual to violate the sentiments of a community. And legally speaking this is about the sentiments of the Hindu community which does not want to see its gods and goddesses shown in the nude. Even if it be true that the divine entities were shown in the nude in ancient Indian art (which ofcourse is not true) in contemporary and modern India gods and goddesses are always shown clothed. Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings whose calendar copies hang in every Hindu home depict the gods and goddesses as fully clothed.
In the Puranas the goddess Sarasvati is hailed as she who wears radiant white robes etc.
A religious Hindu today does not want to go to an exhibition and see what is an insulting portrayal of his/her deities. End of story. A religious Hindu does not have to explain why he/she is a Hindu.
Why is it hard for the beautiful people to understand this basic reality ? Anjali Ela Menon spoke some nonsense about there being naked sadhus at the Kumbh Mela, a silly argument since these are humans exposing themselves freely.
One has to conclude that the participants in the program are not devout Hindus. MF Husain can be pardoned for not being a devout Hindu, but why these others ? Ofcourse they have a RIGHT not to be devout Hindus, but should they peddle their defiance so blatantly and mix it up with sundry other issues such as artistic freedom ?And should devout Hindus roll over and play dead when these vicious individuals call devout Hindus ‘illiterates’ as one journalist did at another high brow event ?
As for the sad looking artist himself being so misled and misguided by his own parent and by the so called advocates of freedom of expression, let us hope that he will evolve into a mature artist. He has said that he has been reading Hindu scriptures and is currently reading the Mahabharata. No doubt he was looking for material for further ‘artistic expression’ ! Hopefully his ignoble enterprise has been dampened by the protest at Bangalore.
Let us hope that he will see more in Hindu scriptures than inspiration for painting nude gods and goddesses of his tradition rather than be preoccupied with finding his way up in the artistic world blessed by Anjali Ela Menon and the likes. As for the father, let us hope that he will not continue to mislead his young son with chicanery.
(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).