The tale of O.S. Arun’s cancelled concert

This morning, a friend shared with me a conversation that supposedly took place between someone named Ramanathan, supposedly President of the Rashtriya Sanatan Seva Sangam, with Carnatic Music Singer Shri. O.S. Arun. The conversation sounded authentic enough. Therefore, I guess Mr. Ramanathan had recorded it.  I could be wrong. The recording was clear. I could figure out that the voice at the other end was that of Shri. O.S. Arun (OSA).

I do not know if he informed Shri. OSA that he was recording the conversation and took his permission to do so.  Also, I am not sure if it is correct to release a private conversation for public circulation.

The issue was that there was a flyer announcing that had Mr. Arun would be singing a concert of Christian songs set to Carnatic Ragas sometime later this month in Chennai. It set off a furore. Some of us were pained enough to see that. Then, a little bit of sleuthing on the internet showed that several other musicians had sung Christian songs mostly under the ‘Tamil Maiyyam’ banner in 2009. Tamil Maiyyam was promoted by Ms. Kanimozhi, the daughter of Mr. Karunanidhi, who passed away recently. Some of the singers do not appear to have sung Christian songs after that. Videos or pictures of Mr. Arun singing Christian songs with the Cross on a chain dangling from his neck were also discovered and circulated in recent days. For some, anguish turned into anger and they misplaced their marbles. That is unfortunate.

In general, artists should be free to pursue their art and craft in the manner they deem fit. In the past, Kannadasan and Vaali had written lyrics for the movie, ‘Annai Velankanni’ and T.M. Soundararajan had sung a very nice song when Jesus was being crucified, in the final scenes of the film. My grandmother took her grandchildren to the movie, if my memory serves me well.

But, I do realise that these are different days. Evangelism is very active and conversion of Hindus to Christianity is a big international agenda. This is indeed a ‘Clash of Civilisations’ as Samuel Huntington wrote. In fact, in that book, Prof. Huntington wrote, “Christianity spreads primarily by conversion, Islam by conversion and reproduction” (Chapter 3, page 65, 1996 Edition). Many Hindus are rather frustrated by this and some are angry. Justifiably so. There is something inherently unfair about coercive conversion achieved through material inducement, etc.

His Holiness Swami Dayananda Saraswati called conversion an ‘act of violence’. He also said something that should be of interest to the artists who had accepted invitation to sing Christian songs set to Carnatic ragas:

Religion and culture are not often separable. This is especially true with the Hindu religious tradition. The greeting word, namaste, is an expression of culture as well as religion. Even though a religious mark on the forehead is purely religious, it is looked upon as a part of Hindu culture. Rangoli [patterns drawn on the ground with rice flour] at the entrance of a Hindu house is not just cultural; it is also religious.

Indian music and dance cannot separate themselves from the Hindu religious tradition. There is no classical dance, bharata natyam, without Siva Nataraja being there. The classical, lyrical compositions of Meera, Tyagaraja, Purandara, Dikshitar and many others are intimately connected to the Hindu religious traditions.

 …. The living religious traditions, intimately woven into the fabric of their respective cultures, have to be allowed to live and thrive. Religious conversion should stop–the aggressive religions should realize that they are perpetrating violence when they convert. We want them to live and let others live. [Link]

Further, Swamiji’s speech in 1999 in Chennai on this topic, delivered with his trademark humour, can be found here. I had done a blog post nearly six years ago on the ‘Declaration of the Second Hindu-Jewish Leadership Summit’ that Swamiji had signed.

This is the context for the bewilderment, shock and dismay that many felt upon seeing the flyer of the proposed concert by OSA. The concert has since been cancelled.

It is one thing to express anguish at some of the artists failing to see the context and the evangelical designs behind the acculturation exercise that is being attempted in many forms. It is another thing to express anger, aggression, use vulgar language and threaten violence. It may be against the law. But, it most certainly is morally wrong and is both strategically and tactically stupid. It passes no test.

Indeed, imagine the following conversation:


Sir, please tell me how do I alienate artists, make them feel angry, powerless and frustrated and deliver them into the arms of Christian organisations and make them appear like the artists’ true benefactors?


Oh, that is easy. Take to Facebook and Twitter. Use foul language to abuse their mothers and sisters; threaten them with violence and aggression. Job done.

It sounds ridiculous. But, that is how things have unfolded, from what I gather.

One is justified in threatening a violent response if they encounter violence or perceive unwanted and needless aggression from the other side or a real threat to their physical safety. Anything else is boorish, uncultured and unbecoming of those who associate Carnatic Music with divinity. Losing the Ends for the Means?

With artists, one does not flex muscles. Most of them can be persuaded and made to see one’s point of view, with information and persuasion. If they still don’t, it is their prerogative and as fans and followers, one has the right to boycott them.

Chanakya spoke of Sama, Daana, Bedha and then only Dhandam.

Sama: conciliation or negotiation.

Daana: material inducement.

That is why ‘Samadhanam’ involves both of the above.

Bhedam: ‘Divide and Rule’.

Dandam: aggression.

Remember the Kriti, ‘Sarasa Sama Daana Bheda Danda Chathra’ by Saint Thyagaraja?

The meaning is this:

Oh Rama! You are the One who knows how to use the saama, daana, bEdha and danDa methods at the appropriate time…. [Link]

Lord Krishna offered Sisupala 100 chances to abuse him before he vanquished him. In Mahabharata, he goes to Duryodhana seeking peace including the request for just five villages. Only when all else fails, does the war begin.

The situations are not similar and the analogy is far from perfect but the simple point is that, even in such extreme situations, violence was the last resort. The current situation is far from that.

Once threat of physical violence is in the public domain, even spontaneous injuries or accidents can be spun as having been caused deliberately by an act of violence.

Imagine the near-eternal damage caused by headlines in international English language dailies:

‘Murderous acts of violence unleashed on artists by Hindu Right-Wing Extremists!’

Civilisational conflicts are not solved by threatening hapless artists with violence.

Withdrawal of following is a legitimate instrument for a fan. Before that, it is incumbent on the aggrieved fans to explain the rationale behind their pain and anguish instead of flexing muscles. The latter is inappropriate; counter-productive and self-defeating. It would amount to not even winning the battle; let alone the war.

Patience, persuasion, prudence, pragmatism and purse and not pugilism are needed to win this war in which the odds are loaded against Hindus.

(Postscript: I typed this blog post listening to the LIVE Streaming of a Carnatic Music Concert by Sid Sriram on the 10th August at the Arkay Convention Centre, accompanied by S. Varadarajan on the violin (delightful); K.V. Prasad on the Mrdangam and by Karthik on the Ghatam. Lovely concert.)

The learning sequence

Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Arsha Vidya Gurukulam) has a message for teachers and students of Hindu philosophy. He had given this message to the fourth long-term course students at  Anaikatti on how the students should live  their life and share the Vedanta knowledge in October 2013. You can find it here. He has a sequence in mind for teaching/learning Hindu texts:

Forming a study group for Gita Home  Study Programme could be otherwise a  starting point.  After second chapter one can start  Tattva Bodha. After that, Gita third chapter  can be continued. After completion of Gita,  Upanisad class can be commenced.

We can learn about the Gita ‘Home Study’ programme here.

Review of ‘Hindus under Siege – the way out’

This book was written by Dr. Subramanian Swamy. I think it is a good one. It is worth reading. He does display open mind in general. He is willing to call upon Hindus to denounce the divisions of caste by birth and untouchability. I am yet to lay my hands on a good treatment of the origins of this and the birth-based caste system. Cannot claim that I have searched well. Will be grateful for readings and clues on this.

Humorous anecdotes:

(1) Om Shakti vs. Rome Bhakti
(2) Nehru’s indifference to Hindi: naming only two Hindi books in Hindi literature: Tulsidas’ Ramayan and the Railway Guide

The stories on how Kashmir Pundits refused to convert a ruler from Buddhism to Hinduism and how he converted to Islam! [Is that Karma affecting the Kashmir Pundits even now?]

The story on the donation that Mother Teresa received from Charles Keating and how she did not return it – is an interesting eye-opener. His section on what defines a Hindu is a useful one.  His section on Economic reforms is a disappointing for it simply rehashes McKinsey report – nothing original there. McKinsey’s sequencing of reform priorities is debatable at best and plain wrong, at worst.

He does not make the case as to why India should be close to China. He is not acknowledging the role China played in arming Pakistan with nuclear bomb. Civilisationally, India might be closer to China but Communist China is a different kettle of fish.

Similarly, the US consulate official in Chennai warned Ms. Jayalalitha against the law banning conversion. That also tells us how, in the overall scheme of things, friendship and closer relations with the US has its limits.

His call to Dharmacharyas to form a conclave and enunciate guidelines for Hindu is a good one. The book’s quotes by Swami Dhayananda Saraswati reveal Swamiji’s awareness of  the political realities in the country and globally. He signed the ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ – covered in another post on this blog.

The book does not offer specific steps on some of the actions it exhorts readers to implement: (1) how to start learning Sanskrit – any institutions, contact details) and (2) how to learn the correct history of India (sources, references, etc.)

[At least, a partial remedy is available in this superb blog post by Dr. Koenraad Elst. His advice to Hindus (‘Hindu survival – what needs to be done’) as to what they should do to preserve their culture, heritage, etc., must be read by all Hindus]

The list of Hindu temples destroyed by Muslim invaders is useful. Even more interesting to see that the source of the list is ‘Frontline’ magazine of THE HINDU group from December 2000! The reference to a BBC news broadcast debunking the Aryan Invasion theory is interesting.

Overall, an easy and useful read with some limitations and gaps in analysis and research.

Jerusalem declaration

I love catching up with Prof. Koenraad Elst’ posts every once in a while. I am never disappointed. I always learn something new. The last such visit to his site was no exception. I read these two posts on Hinduism. People who are interested in Sanatana Dharma should read these two posts. It is one thing to strive for internal evolution through religious texts. But, some of the very seers who brought us those texts had also overcome resistance (to put it, rather mildly) publicly to leave those treasures for us.

We owe it to them and to ourselves to pass them on to the succeeding generations. Going by the shape of things that have happened in the last 30 years and hence is likely to come, each succeeding generation may need those wisdom more than the previous one. But, that is a different topic for a different occasion.

In the course of reading these two posts, I came across his reference to ‘Jerusalem Declaration’. I went and perused the document. It is an amazing document. I compliment Dr. Elst for defending and applauding Swami Dhayananda Saraswati for signing it. I would have done the same. It deserves to be publicised widely. I had not heard of it until I saw the document referred to by Prof. Elst.

The PDF copy of the declaration that resulted from the Second Hindu-Jewish Leadership Summit is to be found here. It is attached to this post. Click here: 2nd_Hindu-Jewish_Leadership_Summit_Declaration

[PS: As is usual, I stumbled upon two other useful sites in the process of locating the ‘Jerusalem Declaration 2008’. Here they are. One is the ‘Forum for Religious Freedom’ and the other is the site for the book, ‘Invading the Sacred’. Pl. do spend time to read the rebuttal of Ms. Aditi Banerjee, one of the authors of ‘Invading the Sacred’ to Ms. Wendy Doniger, Professor on the History of Religions in the University of Chicago]