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The Splendid Shrine By Mr. J. M. Nallasami Pillai.


The following note was sent to "The Indian Patriot" and the "Hindu" for publication by Mr. J. M. Nallasami Pillai.

You have been good enough to extract a contribution of one Rev. Mr. Horton to the Daily Chronicle in your issue of last evening. I do not know what there is excellent in it which induced you to reproduce it. The glories of the ancient Temple are so well-known that it does not require the praise of this globe-trotter. The worries of a cart journey have been experienced by most of us and this does not require several paragraphs for itself. But it is in the veiled strictures on Hinduism and in proclaiming the shame of India that the article embodies, lies the venom. Hitherto we were familiar with the crude notions of a certain class of orientalists that the conception of Rudra-Siva was derived from the South Indian Aborigines. But this Mr. Horton has a new theory. It is the conception of the goddess Minakshi that is South Indian and which is united to the Aryan conception of Siva. Then he exhibits also what Professor H. H. Wilson calls his impure fancy,' in stigmatizing the Siva worship as "the worship of the reproduction of the species; and the representation of the unseen God in forms sometimes grotesque, and sometimes indecent, never beautiful" I cannot offer anything better than one or two passages from Professor Wilson's works in repudiation of this vile calumny.

"There is nothing like the phallic orgies of antiquity; it is all mystical and spiritual. The Linga is two-fold, external and internal. The ignorant who needs a visible sign, worship Siva as a "Mark" or "type" – which is the proper meaning of the word "Linga", - of wood or stone; but the wise look upon this outward emblem as nothing, and contemplate, in their minds, the invisible, inscrutable type, (Alinga) which is Siva himself. Whatever may have been the origin of this form of worship in India, the notion upon which it was founded, according to the impure fancies of European writers, are not to be traced in even the Saiva Puranas." (H. H. Wilson on the Puranas, p. 72.)

"The worship of Siva, under the type of the Linga, it has been observed, is almost the only form in which that Deity is reverenced. It is also perhaps the most ancient object of reverenced. It is also perhaps the most ancient object of homage adopted in India subsequently to the ritual of the Vedas which was chiefly, if not wholly, addressed to the elements and particularly to Fire. How far the worship of the Linga is authorized by the Vedas, is doubtful, but it is the main purport of several of the Puranas. There can be no doubt of its universality at the period of the Mahommedan invasion of India." (H. H. Wilson, M.A., F.R.S. in "Hindu Religions" p.139)

As regards the grotesqueness of the Hindu deities, I would leave Dr. A.K. Kumaraswami to answer. After quoting the following text from Sukracharya.

"It is always commendable for the artist to draw the images of gods. To make human figures is wrong, or even unholy. Even a misshapen image of God is always better than an image of man, however beautiful," he proceeds:-

"The doctrine here so sternly sated means in other words, that imitation and portraiture are lesser aims than the representation of ideal and symbolic forms: the aim of the highest art must always be the imitation of the Divinity behind all form, rather than the imitation of the form itself. One may for instance, depict the sport of Krishna with the Gopis, but it must be in a spirit of religious idealism, not for the mere sake of the sensuous imagery itself. In terms of European art, it would have been wrong for Giotto or Botticelli who could give to the world an ideal conception of the Madonna, to have been content to portray obviously earthly persons posing as the Madonna, as was done in later times, when art had passed downwards from spiritual idealism to naturalism. So also Millai's later work has a lower aim than his earlier. In India also, the work of Ravi Varma whose gods and heroes are but men cast in a very common mould is "unholy" compared with the ideal pictures of Tagore." (Aims of Indian Art).

If missionaries in India are respected and loved it is because of their own goodness and self-less work and not on account of their religion. And if anybody brings discredit on the religion, they are missionaries of the type of Mr. Horton.

- J. M. Nallasami Pillai. B.A., B.L.

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