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For Shiva’s sake

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A petition against the portrayal of Shiva by Amish Tripathi in his three books was rejected by the court for being frivolous

By Kaushik Joshi


Lord Shiva, with his matted hair, a snake around his neck and a third eye on his forehead, was the subject of contention in a public interest litigation recently before the Gujarat High Court. The petitioner, claiming knowledge about Vedic literature, challenged the portrayal of Shiva by author Amish Tripathi in his Shiva trilogy—The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas and The Oath of the Vayuputras. However, the high court refused to entertain the petition.

The petitioner, Norat Mal Khandelwal, contended that Amish’s portrayal of Shiva and everything else about him was at odds with what is contained in the scriptures, namely Shiv Puran and Shrimad Bhagwat Puran. He contended that the author’s version hurt the sentiments of those having faith in Shiva, the God, and led them to think that Shiva was just a sexually lusty mortal and that Goddess Sati was only a sexy lady gone mad after her beau.

In the triology, Amish has also taken a historical license to bend historicity, showing the growth of Indus valley cities as contemporaneous with the civilization in the Indo-Gangetic basin.

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Khandelwal also contended that Amish employed mythological geography, names of regions, places and characters with a liberal dose of fiction. In essence, the petitioner raised serious objections against the unthoughtful and vulgar remarks made by the author against Lord Shiva’s family, as also Lord Vishnu’s incarnations in the books.

The advocate for the petitioner, Niyati Juthani, pleaded that the readers of the trilogy, especially adolescents, would be influenced by the convoluted versions of the Puranic (scriptural) stories about Shiva.

Having learnt that the author, with the help of a movie producer, was in the process of adapting the novels for television and films, the petitioner prayed before the court to direct Respondent No 4, ie, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, not to permit broadcasting of the television shows or movie based on the fictional account in the books.

The division bench of acting Chief Justice VM Sahai and Justice RP Dholaria, however, did not entertain the petition, saying that “the books are a work of fiction and the court does not want to entertain such frivolous petitions”. The court also pointed out that religion was a matter of faith and people were free not to buy a book.

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And herein lies the importance of critics. Suman Shah, a critic of Gujarati literature, says: “Where matters of faith and sentiment are central to the works, they should be reviewed critically so that readers know what it is what.”

 

Pundits, however feel that an author can take that liberty in a work of fiction. Vijay Pandya, former professor of Sanskrit in School of Languages, Gujarat University, says: “If it is a work of fiction and the author claims it so, everything can be forgiven.”

However, Dhirendra Vinchhi, a Vaish-navite, does not agree. “Usually authors do not touch Puranic stories for their works. In this case, the author must have thought that Puranic fare would sell like hot cakes.”

However, Vijay Joshi, another devout Hindu, says a hue and cry should not be raised if the literary work does not affect the greater good of society.

Religion is definitely a hot potato in this country.

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