Huge controversy has broken out over film maker Leena Manimekalai’s documentary film promotional poster depicting Goddess Kali smoking a cigarette. Right wing forces have filed FIRs alleging hurt religious sentiments because of the sexualization of the Goddess. The director remains defiant and says it is her creative freedom and she is willing to pay with her life to protect it. TMC leader Mahua Moitra stood up for Manimekalai and said the Goddess Kali she worships is open to meat eating, drinking and so on. Devdutta Pattanakaik pointed out the gender difference in that Lord Shiva smoking a chillum is accepted but Goddess Kali smoking cigarette is offensive. On Twitter many are now sharing information about what the true image of Goddess Kali is as per the Shakti peeth Kamakhya where animal sacrifices are done including buffalo sacrifice and alcohol and meat is considered Kali’s prasad.

I see value in both side arguments but on this issue I slightly side with the right wing. I understand why they outrage and why it is time we keep Hindu religion away from jokes, films etc. the way Islam has always been kept away. Times are changing, values are changing, and majoritarian forces are imposing their values on us, but it is important to understand which ones of their impositions to resist and fight, and which ones we can just accept. Chose your battle wisely. Religion is not a worthy battle.

Ma Kaali is everything Ma Durga is not. There’s Nagna Kaali / Rudra Kaali who drinks demon’s blood, wears no clothes except garland, armor made of demon’s body parts. Kaali is not a tamed woman. These are ways to represent women’s diverse identity.

Hindu religion and other ancient religions before Abrahamic religions were nothing but way to represent humanity and nature through divine stories. Ancient humans imagined God in their own light and made idols with humanly traits. Each Hindu idol is a representation of something humane. From smoking and drinking to love and romance to anger jealousy, violence, there’s a Hindu God for every human aspect. We started worshipping everything in an organic process because there was no one book to dictate things like in the Abrahamic religion. There was no one book because in these parts of the Indian sub-continent there was no “other” from whom we had to protect our ways of life. Now they are.

Modern self-proclaimed custodians of Hindu religion like the 18-19th century Hindu revivalists and the present day RSS and affiliates have imagined Hindu religion entirely in contrast to Islam because they Muslims are here for 1000 years. The need to react and defend is based on imaginary fear and hate.

Now, if you wish to prevent your religion or culture from evolving or diversifying to something new you need ONE HOLY BOOK and one guy to sit at top like The Pope. That’s why some religions made blasphemy law or ‘sar tan se juda’ so that nobody can change how they imagine their religion. Hindus didn’t have it because they weren’t insecure. Now they are.

Hindus were not insecure that’s why a lot of jokes, poetry, films depicting Gods were allowed. But with RSS-BJP making religion as a political agenda making India’s elections forever about 80:20 they are inventing the fear and insecurity.

It’s all very unfortunate but not difficult to understand. Once you understand, you’ll learn that time has come to leave Hindu religion away from everyday activities like movies, jokes, ad films and not give constant reason to Right Wing to outrage. Because that’s what they want. Constant debate over religion does not serve any purpose. Everyday somebody does a ‘ungli’ and there is outrage and FIRs and more outrage from all sides. Just pause, regroup, prioritize and focus on what is our key political issues? Leave religion aside. All religion.

If you refrain from making a movie with a provocative sexualized poster of Goddess Kali your creative freedom is restricted. Of course. But it is also restricted when you cannot make a film about The Prophet. So just leave both alone and pick other creative script.

Accept that times are changing and with time Hindu religion, its form, motifs, tolerance level also changing. Avoid deliberate provocative religious controversies and focus on real issues. Avoid poking fun at religion. The jokes on Shiv Linga was wrong, the jokes on Ram Sita were wrong. These are not creative, just easy.

The jokes about #shivling were wrong, jokes on Ram Sita were wrong. Maybe you have a right to make them, but avoid because it doesn’t help anybody.

If you liked this article please subscribe to this blog.

Click here to read more about what I write and how to browse 17 years of my writing.