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The Controversial Differences of Opinion between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

Described as a “world poet,” Rabindranath Tagore is considered a mystifying ecumenical figure and an archetype of human creative possibility. Rabindranath Tagore bestowed the title of ‘Mahatma’ (“Great Soul”) on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1915. Mahatma Gandhi called Tagore Gurudev (“Revered Master”) and he attained a certain classicality. Tagore’s literary works have universal appeal and that illuminates his complexity and “myriad-mindedness.”

Nevertheless, experts have said that although Tagore admired Gandhi, he differed with him on specific issues.

The Controversial Differences of Opinion between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

“Tagore admired Mahatma Gandhi immensely and expressed his admiration for his leadership time and again, but sharply differed with him when Gandhi was departing from adequate reasoning,” Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen once said.

After the Nepal-Bihar earthquake of 1934, Gandhi credited the disaster to the custom of untouchability among Biharis. Gandhi had said the earthquake was “a divine chastisement for the great sin we have committed against those whom we describe as Harijans”.

Although Tagore was against untouchability, he found this line of reasoning on Gandhi’s part unfounded and irrational.

Apparantly, Tagore shot off a refutation on rationalist lines, with a appeal for it to be published in Gandhi’s periodical, Harijan. The correspondence expressed “painful surprise” at “this kind of unscientific view of things”. It was plainly erroneous, Gurudev argued, to “associate ethical principles with cosmic phenomena”:

In the Harijan issue of 16 February, 1934, Tagore wrote his article The Bihar Earthquake to which Gandhi wrote his rejoinder Superstitions vs. Faith (pp. 115-121). Tagore considered Gandhi’s view that untouchability had brought down God’s vengeance upon certain parts of Bihar in the form of an earthquake as ‘unfortunate’, ‘unscientific’ and “too readily accepted by a large section of countrymen” (pp. 115): “If we associate ethical principles with cosmic phenomena, we shall have to admit that human nature is superior to Providence that preaches its lessons in good in orgies of the worst behaviour possible” (p.116). This amounts to “making indiscriminate examples of casual victims…in order to impress other at a safe distance who possibly deserve severer condemnation” (p 116). He felt the kind of argument that Gandhi used by exploiting an event of cosmic disturbance far better suited the psychology of his opponents than his own; and, “We, who are immensely grateful to Mahatmaji for inducing, by his wonderworking inspiration, freedom from fear and feebleness in the minds of his countrymen, feel profoundly hurt when any words from his mouth may emphasize the elements of unreason in those very minds — unreason which is a source of all blind powers that drive us against freedom and self-respect”. (p117).

Differences of Opinion between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

To this, Gandhi had replied that he felt phenomena like droughts, floods, earthquakes et cetera, though they seem to have only physical origins, are somehow connected with man’s morality.

Gandhi replied by saying that he long believed phenomena produce results both physical and spiritual; and, “The converse I hold to be equally true … We do not know all the laws of God nor their working… I believe literally that not a leaf moves but by His will. Every breath I take depends upon His sufferance …. what appears to us as catastrophes are so only because we do not know the universal laws sufficiently … (catastrophic) visitations… though they seem to have only physical origins are, for me, somehow connected with man’s morals … My belief is a call to repentence and self-purification … even as I cannot help believing in God though I am unable to prove His existence to the sceptics, in like manner, I cannot prove the connection of the sin of untouchability with the Bihar visitation even though the connection is instinctively felt by me” (pp.118-l20). And the utilitarian then spoke and bared himself thus, “If my belief turns out to be ill-founded, it will still have done good to me and those who believe with me. For we shall have been spurred to more vigorous efforts towards self-purification…” (p.120). And answering Tagore’s stinging comment that “our own sins and errors, however enormous, have not got enough force to drag down the structure of creation to ruins” (p. 117), he said, “On the contrary I have the faith that our own sins have more force to ruin that structure than any mere physical phenomenon” (p, 120), And he concluded, ” …the connection between cosmic phenomena and human behaviour is a living faith that draws me nearer to my God, humbles me and makes me readier for facing Him”. Gandhi, in arguing thus, is proved one who must maximise utility and make use of every circumstance to forward ends he considers desirable. And his conviction about his belief obliterates from consciousness any apparent factual inconsistencies that his system of faith has with a physical phenomena as ordinarily understood. Both, in their own way, are relevant and unimpeachable.

Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Ever Heard of Professional Mourners and Weepers: “Rudaali” Culture of Moirologists in Rajasthan

Professional Mourners - Rudaali from Rajasthan

Inequalities and Diversities Define Indian Society

Moirologists in Rajasthan, India Caste-like classifications exist in many cultures, although without the fine grades of taxonomy observed in India. India, the land of numerous customs and precepts defined along the lines of gender, religion, caste, class, ethnicity and language, sequentially brings about a relation of disparity through them. These distorted relationships collectively shape the identity of every person, through his or her associations with others and the social atmosphere. Individuality interplays with the gender of the individuals (masculine or feminine), declaring the dogma functioning in the societal milieu. A mainstream Hindu group who were against any change in traditions.

In a socially segregated society, the rank and the status enjoyed by women mirror the social order. Indian culture is a ‘caste society.’ Caste, a qualified status, is a rigid system of imbalanced associations specified by birth, endogamy and associations through ceremonial sacraments. Caste divides society along the lines of jati (a birth-status cluster), hierarchy (order and rank) and interdependence (division of labor linked to hierarchy). Indigenous groups are politicized religious communities that mark social and cultural variances between groups of people. These communities identify their caste status through division by birth, endogamy and interdependence through ritual services. Public policy in modern India showcases affirmative action systems intended to diminish inequality that stems from a centuries-old caste constitution and history of incongruent treatment by gender.

Feminism in India

The Indian society is divided up into groups that are hierarchically interrelated, with some rendered higher status than others. Classical texts talk about four castes—priests, warriors, merchants, and servants—but administration censuses and anthropological surveys have identified hundreds in South Asia. Membership in one of these groups is dependent upon birth.

'Rudaali' women are hired as professional mourners Dalits are a group of people conventionally regarded as untouchable within the Hindu caste pecking order. Contemporary India is witnessing an unparalleled rise and spread of the Dalit development.

According to a custom, in certain areas of Rajasthan, women are hired as professional mourners after the death of a male relative. These women are referred to as a ‘rudaali’ (roo-dah-lee), literally translated as a female weeper. What differ are the details that make the substance of human action and human conceptualization. The framework, within which concepts materialize and the contexts where they travel to, needs expression.

Class and Caste and Praxis: An analysis of the Rudaali Culture

An analysis of the Rudaali Culture Rudaalis in turn publicly express the grief of family members who are not permitted to display emotion due to social status. The ‘rudaalis’ make a scene crying out loud. The impact of their mourning also compels other people at the funeral to cry.

Always dressed in black, they have to sit and cry, crying out loud, beating the ground beating their chests screaming and crying. They are professional tear shedders. They get the details of the dead person, his or her near and dear ones.

Rudaali is one of those disreputable orthodox practices where bereavement was required expressions of unrestrained sentiments by rolling on ground along with songs in praise of the dead. Mostly, women who live in grave poverty and belong to the lower castes are forced to turn out to be Rudaalis.

The socio-cultural custom of hiring a rudaali throws light on the dialectical association between the upper caste and the lower caste in Rudaali. Hiring a rudaali is a status symbol and augments family pride. That the rudaali provides a funeral service in the face of upper caste women being incapable to declare their sorrow hits hard on the gender ideologies scheming obsequies among the caste. Caste defines the social status of women as pure or impure in the community.

Through the gendering of death rituals, women mourners or rudaalis verge as complicated modes of amusement for the upper classes. Rudaali throws light on the agonizing experiences of Shanichari, a widow whose life has been disturbed by hardships. Through heartrending vignettes, Lajmi deplores the appalling life of Shanichari who ultimately becomes a rudaali, giving vent to her sorrows. Meaningfully, while most feminists were disparaging of the state downgrading its commitment to the poor and vulnerable, there were conflicting views.

Kalpana Lajmi’s Movie Rudaali

Feminism endeavors to consider and solve the numerous gender-based problems. It interrogates the pre-conceived expectations about the roles that men and women should have in life. In literary text, feminism brings to scrutiny the representations of gender roles, which tend to enforce social norms, customs, conventions, laws and expectations on the grounds of gender bias.

Shanichari has always resisted the unfairness meted out to her. Toughened by the harsh realities, she can hardly shed a tear, let alone cry. Females are not required to be educated by the guideline which is adopted for men. Women have but one resource, home. The end and aim of her life is to nurture the domestic affections, to care for, to comfort, and exercise her little supervision over household economies. These insights of women’s liberation and autonomy are deeply ingrained in the Indian women’s circumstances within the socio-cultural and economic spaces and archetypes of the country.

These rituals thus uncover the cockeyed gender equations with the women of the lower caste and class consented to serve as rudaalis. On the other hand, aristocratic women, who are kept sheltered, cannot express their sorrow in public, inhibited by their social ranking. That women and not men are chosen to be mourners also exposes the gender inequalities operating within a casteist and class society. Lamentation is gendered and women become the role bearers.

Mourning as Allegory in Kalpana Lajmi’s Rudaali

Mourning as Allegory in Kalpana Lajmi's Movie Rudaali Kalpana Lajmi‘s movie Rudaali is an adaptation of Mahasweta Devi‘s short story, Rudaali. Published in English in 1997, Devi’s short story explains the plight of Sanichari, a woman whose suffering and personal loss informs her work as a professional mourner. Devi offers a emotional account of how this job allows Sanichari to gain a degree of independence and control over her life. Rudaali, the sorrowful tale of womenfolk fated to be funeral-goers, outlines the picture of a habit practiced by the aristocratic families of landlords and noble men, of hiring rudaalis (female mourners) to grieve over the death of their family members.

Rudaalis belonging to the lower castes and classes are convened on these circumstances, for the upper classes never openly convey their grief. Agency and autonomy are always endorsed within specific structures of constraints. The relevant point is that organizations thereby do get redefined. Dressed in black with frazzled hair, the rudaalis shed tears copiously, bemoaning over the dead by dancing sporadically and raucously admiring the deceased. Rudaali is a modern woman who fulfills her individual dreams instead of matrimonial contentment. Rudaali is a determined woman who is over-ridden by individuality and her own well-being. The movie is undeniably a subtle satire on the brutal practices that find expression within the diverse life cycle rituals, be it even the obsequies. These outmoded traditions are the offshoots of a dismembered society, where rituals are cultural power resources.

The custom of employing fake mourners, known as moirologists, begins from the Middle East and China. Professional mourning or paid mourning is a regularly historical occupation practiced in Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures, and many other parts of the world. Professional mourners, also called moirologists are remunerated to grieve or provide an eulogy.

Notes: Rudaali (1992) was directed by Kalpana Lajmi and produced by the National Film Development Corporation of India & Doordarshan, the Indian public service broadcaster. Rudali is based on a story by the Bengali fiction writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi. Dimple Kapadia, Raakhee, Raj Babbar, Amjad Khan star in Rudaali.

Posted in Faith and Religion Music, Arts, and Culture Travels and Journeys

Caste System in India

Caste System in India - The division of society into four hereditary social classes

The caste system, also known as the varna system, is a hierarchical social structure prevalent in the Hindu nations of India and Nepal. Its origins trace back to the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE, and it is a central theme in the 700-verse Bhagavad Gita (c. 1000 CE).

The division of society into four hereditary social classes. The great Indian mystic poet Kabir said, “Now I have no caste, no creed, I am no more what I am!”

The caste system divides Hindu society into four hereditary social classes. Highest are the Brahmins, who are priests and teachers. Next come the Kshatriyas, who are political leaders and warriors. Third are the Vaishyas, who manage agriculture and commerce. The lowest are the Shudras, who work as servants for the other three castes. Those who are cast out of the varna system are known as “Untouchables” because contact with them was thought to defile the other castes.

Four factors contribute towards caste dominance: 1) land ownership 2) numerical strength 3) political power and 4) high ritual status in the social hierarchy. The dominant caste may not be ritually very high but enjoy high status because of wealth, political power and numerical strength. Caste pockets create locally dominant caste. People who belong to a particular caste prefer to settle in a particular area. Caste is often specific to a particular village or area or region. Local dominance can translate into regional dominance. Best example of the principle is the concentration and domination of Vokkaligas in south Karnataka in the old Mysore region and of Lingayaths in north Karnataka in the districts bordering Andhra Pradesh. These dominant castes are accorded high status and position and have control over all the fields of social life in that area.

Hindu texts justify this system based on karma and rebirth. A person’s actions in this life determine their gunas (qualities) in the next: Brahmins are characterized by sattva (intellect), Kshatriyas by rajas (action), Vaishyas by both rajas and tamas (devotion), and Shudras by tamas alone. These gunas predispose a person toward certain types of work, and society functions best when people do the jobs to which they are suited. Each varna has its own spiritual discipline: Brahmins follow jnana (knowledge), Kshatriyas pursue karma (action), Vaishyas practice both karma and bhakti (devotion), while Shudras undertake bhakti. In the twentieth century, Mahatma Gandhi criticized the social injustice of the caste system, and it was reformed as a result of his protests.

Caste Dominance and Caste System in India

It is the unity and cohesion of the caste as a group that makes the dominant caste more pronounced in village affairs. The dominant caste is dominant not because of any single factor but because of the combination of several factors. Land ownership is a crucial factor in establishing dominance. With the introduction of adult suffrage, numerical strength has become a crucial source at the disposal of a caste. A caste should have numerical strength if necessary to use physical force against the challenge of other power castes. But numerical superiority alone is not an important factor. In some of the surveyed villages the dependent castes have numerical strength.

The Supreme Court of India has ruled against preferential treatment for medical students belonging to schedule castes (SC), schedule tribes (ST), and other lower castes, who were aiming for specialist medical training. The ruling, which could have widespread implications in India, stated that such favouritism was “contrary to national interest”.

While India’s 1950 Constitution abolished the notion of untouchability, many peoples’ attitudes remain unchanged, although the 200-million-plus Dalits represent a powerful voting bloc.

Posted in Faith and Religion Music, Arts, and Culture

Plato Discusses Compulsory Education in “The Republic”

Compulsory education is a system of education that begins at birth and identifies society’s future leaders.

A second-century relief from a Roman burial monument, depicting a boy reading to his teacher. Schooling was provided for boys only during Roman times. The notion of compulsory education refers to a period of education mandated by law or by some comparable authority. One of the earliest efforts to codify requirements for education is set out in the Talmud, the compendium of Jewish law. The Talmud recommends a form of private education in the family home that emphasizes religious matters in addition to training in whatever the family vocation might be.

Plato (c. 424–c. 348 BCE) was one of the earliest thinkers to draw up the architecture of a full-blown system of public education. In The Republic (c. 360BCE), he describes an education system designed to effect the social stratification that, according to him, is prerequisite for justice to prevail in a state. Plato wrote, “I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”

Plato, Philosopher and Mathematician in Classical Greece The education system of his republic begins at birth, when infants are removed from the family and raised by a collective. Educators are tasked with monitoring children in order to identify leadership qualities so that those who have “gold in their souls” (Plato uses this precious metal as a metaphor for leadership potential) can be properly trained to assume elevated offices of state, the highest of which is the office of philosopher king.

In Laws (c. 360 BCE), a later work, Plato presents a more moderate education system, one that more closely resembles contemporary systems. Infants are not removed from their families and there are no philosopher kings. However, proper social stratification is still the objective. Formal schooling begins at the age of six, when the curriculum focuses on literacy and arithmetic. By age thirteen, music is introduced into the curriculum, and at age eighteen the youth begins his terms of military service. By the age of twentyone, those students demonstrating the necessary aptitudes are selected for advanced studies that lead to the highest offices of the state. Education systems surprisingly close in character to this ancient model are now the norm in every developed country.

Posted in Education and Career

Daylight Saving Time (DST)

Daylight Saving Time (DST)

A proposal to create more hours of daylight by altering clocks was first introduced by George Vernon Hudson.

English-born New Zealand entomologist and astronomer George Vernon Hudson (1867–1946) began collecting insects at the age of nine. In Wellington, New Zealand, he found employment as a shift worker, which left him just enough daylight hours to continue building his insect collection. There was, however, only one problem: in Hudson’s opinion, there were not quite enough daylight hours available for the proper and measured pursuit of his beloved insects. Something had to be done, so in October 1895 he presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society suggesting that it might be prudent to consider a seasonal adjustment in time.

William Willett wrote in The Waste of Daylight (1907,) “Everyone appreciates the long light evenings [and] laments their shrinkage.”

Hudson proposed changing clocks at the equinox, two hours forward in October, and two hours back in March. Although his idea had already been anticipated by the U.S. inventor Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), who proposed the concept in his essay “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” (1784).

Franklin’s paper was really more a lighthearted satire than any concrete proposal, and it is generally thought that Hudson’s idea represented the first real attempt to make Daylight Saving Time (DST) a reality. Hudson’s paper, unfortunately, was greeted with disdain. “Wholly unscientific and impractical,” said some; “completely out of the question,” said others, to be considering altering a system that had been working perfectly. DST was eventually adopted in Germany during World War I (1914–18) to save fuel expended in the powering of artificial lighting. It is now in use in more than seventy countries throughout the world.

Posted in Travels and Journeys

What are Free Riders

Free Riders and the Free Rider Problem Free riders are commonly inadvertent recipients of a socially-provided public good for which they have made no contribution.

A public good consists of resources, goods, or services that available for public consumption. Curiously, the use of public good by any individual or group does not shrink its availability nor inhibit its consumption or use by others, e.g. radio broadcasts and street lights.

The ‘free rider problem’ is a situation where the free riders who benefit from free riding do so unreasonably and the probability of forcing the free riders to make a contribution and thus consume the public good rightfully.

Posted in Global Business Investing and Finance