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Writer: Dr David Fraley (Vamdeva Shastri) | Source: Daily O | Republished: Sept 18, 2015:: The Foreign Affairs journal in the United States recently published an article describing the Amarnath Shiva Linga rather boldly, if not crudely, as “a phallic block of ice.” The statement suggests that the worship of Shiva is little more than a phallic cult and that Hindu dharma may be a phenomenon of the same order.
The title of the article, “A Political Pilgrimage in Kashmir,” further suggests that Hindu pilgrimage to Amarnath is motivated by politics, not by devotion – and that the popularity of the Hindu pilgrimage to Amarnath in recent years is part of planned Hindu efforts to take over the region.
That Shaivism is noted for profound philosophies and beautiful art is not part of the discussion. The history of Hindu sacred sites throughout Kashmir going back many centuries is ignored, as if such pilgrimages were a new phenomenon made up by Hindu political activists in India. And the fate of the Kashmiri Pandits is not given any importance.
The problem here is not about articles making political points, which authors are free to do so, but insinuations about Hindu deities and practices. Members of all religions, including Hindus as well as Muslims and Christians, which all have their political views, find it offensive for their sacred practices and sacred sites to be maligned.
Publications like the Foreign Affairs journal, we should note, feature a variety of opinions by a diversity of authors from several countries. The journal has published positive articles about India and the current prime minister. We cannot simply call the journal anti-India or anti-Hindu. But we seldom find statements against a particular religion done in such an insensitive manner in these publications.
Long-standing media and academic distortions
More importantly, such articles reflect long-standing biases. Denigrating statements about Hindu deities are not uncommon in the Western media, extending to academia, which usually ignore the spiritual or yogic basis of the teachings.
And the basis for these negative stereotypes often comes from groups in India who have their own axe to grind, using the misinformed Western media as their platform.
Overall there is little representation of Hindu or Buddhist points of view in political and diplomatic circles in the West – though Christian, Islamic and Jewish perspectives are easy to find and well-funded. The fault is not always with the Americans. Hindu and Buddhist groups have not made the best effort to get their views across, and have little government support in doing so, unlike their counterparts from other religions.
It is not Hindutva propaganda that we will likely see in world media portrayals of Hindu dharma, but the continuation of old colonial, missionary and Marxist anti-Hindu stereotypes that often denigrate India as well.
Such remarks show an insensitivity that can easily be called Hinduphobia. Yet until these views are questioned, they can be unthinkingly repeated even by those who may have no vested interest in perpetuating them.
Pilgrimage in India
Besides Amarnath, pilgrimage to sacred sites in India has dramatically increased in recent years, notably the massive kumbh melas, the largest religious gatherings in the world. In the case of the famous Kedarnath Himalayan Shiva temple, the devastating earthquake destruction of 2013 has not put an end to pilgrimage there, which continues to flourish.
Pilgrimage to Shiva sites cannot be regarded as merely political just because it also happens in Kashmir. Such pilgrimage to remote areas reflects a devotion so deep that it is performed by young and old, men and women, even at risk to their lives, as is highlighted in the now popular pilgrimage to remote Mount Kailash in Tibet.
Hindus have every right to take pilgrimages to Amarnath, without questioning their motives. Kashmir as a land of Shiva is well known in ancient texts and Shaivism has been an integral part of the history of Kashmir that used to be called the “land of Shiva.”
Courtesy: Daily O.