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Clash of cultures and the formation of Indian Taboos

 article about Clash of cultures and the formation of Indian Taboos

This article belongs to Life's Like This column.


This article is in connection with the 31st Night Molestation Case of Female Tourists at two prominent places in India. I got a chance to catch the debate live on CNN-IBN as I reached home the other night. No! I am not going to start discussing how bad the molestation was on India's reputation or whether Indian Women are safe outside or whether it was a sorry sight. "Is India Sex Starved?" was the title of the debate that was on. And one of the participants, when asked about whether it was Indian Culture that lead us to be sex starved, took on a different view. A view that I agree upon. And this article delivers that view to you.

If you need to know about women's safety in India, here's the link that gives the ranking of countries with the most number of rapes. India ranks 56th - see here.

Nudity was never intolerant in ancient India. Scientifically, because of the Tropical Climate, Indians(men and women alike) dressed only the bottom half of their body, unlike Europeans who used to be fully dressed given the cold climatic conditions.

India was sexually tolerant in ages as early as 500 BC. Kamasutra, the best know Sex Education book, was a work on the science of love and was intended as both an exploration of human desire and a technical guide to pleasing a sexual partner within a marriage. Sex was considered to be a duty between partners after marriage which can be depicted in Khajuraho Temples (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khajuraho) and Ajanta caves(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajanta_caves#The_paintings).

Osho or Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osho), was one, who was quite controversial for his OPEN stance on Sex in Modern India. He said, no one should suppress his/her desires. His admirers include Dr. Manmohan Singh(Prime Minister of India), Vinod Khanna(Bollywood Actor) and Khushwant Singh(a prominent Indian Novelist and Journalist). 'Osho International Meditation Resort' at Pune has more than 2,00,000 visitors annually and is one of the largest spiritual growth centres in the world.

The current thinking that 'sex is a taboo' is the cause of two Eras viz. the Mughal, and the Colonial Eras. In the 16th Century, the liberal way of life first got a shot in the arm as the Mughal Era (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mughal_Empire) came in with the "purdah" system, which is not only prevalent amongst Muslims in India today but also amongst Hindus. However, the biggest effect on India's look towards sex was caused by the British Raj. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Raj)

The current colonization of Indian minds with European conservative values was caused by British education, administration and literature that was mostly biased. Indians thus converted their religious practices and moral values to Victorian kinds. Consider current issues. Unlike western cultures considering Homosexuality as being anti-social or psychopathological requiring correction or cure, Ancient India already knew about 'tritiya-prakriti'(WIKI#Indic_culture) or Third Nature(transgenders, homosexuals, transsexuals, bisexuals etc). God is Ardhanarisvara(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardhanarisvara) for Hindus, which means half male and half female, and hence they have a semi-divine status with the power to bless as well as curse.

Taking example of Gods, Lord Ayyappa was born of Lord Shiva and Mohini. Mohini was a female incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Aravan Festivals is just one of the many festivals of the third sex celebrated in India. Priests performed(and still perform in some parts of India) same-sex marriages as they believed, "Love is the result of attachments from previous births and that marriage, as a union of spirit, is existing outside gender".

Dr. Alfred Kinsey(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Kinsey) concluded how sick the Victorian kind of values were after conducting a survey of thousands.

Though Britishers were kicked out of India, their laws(read Jokes) still rule us. E.g. Section 377(Indian Penal Code) in the Indian Judiciary.

It is ironic when Indian Politicians talk of Indian Culture and Western Culture, and how the Western Culture is ruining our minds. Paradoxically, we are actually folllowing the age-old Conservative Victorian culture(western culture), that has long been scrapped in the country it was discovered.

Note: This article was initially published back in...well, couple of years ago.


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