Posted by: Singh Is King | Thursday, September 13, 2007

Of Gods and Gurus

Globalisation of Idols and Portraits

ats off to the Chinese. They are some of the cleverest peoples ever devised by the Creator. When it comes to trade wars, they can beat any tribe, nation or race. ‘Neo-colonialism’ can put on any garb. The targeted community in today’s world can be completely trounced by burgers, chocolates, beverages of various hues or whatever is carried by the Wal-Mart shelves. But the Chinese ingenuity in this field is simply unrivalled. They can even create gods of any pantheon out of pulp. Since recently, reports have been appearing in the media that now the Sikhs; a small community of a few million souls has been targeted by the Chinese ‘trade lords’. This new colony discovered by them has simply expanded their ‘trade empire’ in the unimaginable regions of the planet. This clever move has sent the jitters to the Sikh masses in general and to the Sikh clergy in particular. Idols of Hindu gods and goddesses and Sikh Gurus have been dumped in the ‘free Indian market’ by the ‘faithless’ Chinese traders.

One thing goes to the credit of the Hindus, that they don’t mind such gimmicks since they are concerned only with the images and the idols for incensing and worshipping them. The origin of the idols hardly matters. But the Sikhs claim that they are against idol worshipping. Many of them think that to sculpt images of Sikh Gurus is blasphemous, though in their innocence they often worship the portraits of the Sikh Gurus. In fact, almost every Sikh household has one or two portraits of the Sikh Gurus which are revered and often incensed like Hindus treating the stone idols.

The figurines, which have been in the market for some time, are available for Rs 100-150. They are popular gift items, with the smaller ones finding a perch on car dashboards “since it reassures the driver of divine protection”.

Now the problem is if the images of the Sikh Gurus cannot be sculpted, how can they be sketched and painted into beautiful pictures? In idol-making the material can be stone, pulp, mud, mettle or even ivory. In portrait-making it is paper and paint. Whether image hangs on the wall or is set on a pedestal hardly matters, so long as it is incensed and worshipped.

In fact, Muslims are the most consistent practitioners of their faith. They are against idol or portrait worship in any form since the ‘Holy Spirit’ according to them is formless and it cannot be confined to human imagination or perception. The problem with the Sikhs is that they do not know whether they are idol or portrait worshippers or not. The true believers of course are not idol worshippers though they can be portrait worshippers, also a form of idolatry. The Sikh high priests are seized with the problem but they seem to be in a dilemma – to stop or not to stop this practice. The Sikh clergy has rarely faced such a tricky theological issue. They may ask the Sikhs to demolish the idols but they can never ask them to pull down the portraits, pictures and calendars. Such a situation can expose them to the charge of duplicity and hypocrisy.

The Chinese audacity has perpetrated another sacrilegious act. They have bestowed the Gurus with Mongoloid features. This is a kind of ‘racial invasion’ even on the Gurus who are supposed to be Aryans or Caucasian. Some of the idols look funny and they create more mirth than veneration. The Sikhs traditionally have certain specific images of the Gurus engraved on their mental screen. But the Chinese ‘infidels’ are manufacturing these idols as commodity to be exported for the blind consumers. The Hindus can be happy since their priceless gods are available at such a cheap rate. Even otherwise, it does not matter whether you carve Lord Hanuman or Lord Ganesha or God Daksha with Mongoloid or Aryan features.  Hindu pantheon is being globalised more by the Chinese ‘infidels’ than by the devout Hindus. Even money wise the gods are going cheap so that everybody can afford them. The Indian importers and traders are also reaping hefty profits out of this Chinese concoction.

Indian manufacturers and merchants can also take a cue from the Chinese. They can manufacture the images and idols of Lao Tzu, Confucius and even of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping and dump them into the Chinese market. The Indian producers can take a ‘racial revenge’ as well by ‘Aryanising’ all these figures of the Chinese “pantheon”. This is market economy after all. Globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation have thrown up new challenges to the manufacturers, traders, religious followers and the reigning high priests. In such an ironical situation the Sikhs, as the last resort, can pray to the Akal Purkh to save their sense and honour (matt, patt) as high priests in such situations often remain ambivalent and vacillating. The Sikhs have to tend for themselves.


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