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Abrahamisation Of Hinduism: Why Prasar Bharati Is Wrong To Censor ‘Vishnu Puran‘ For Hurting Sentiments Of A Community

Author: Arihant Pawariya
Publication: Swarajyamag.com
Date:  July 4, 2020
URL:      https://swarajyamag.com/culture/abrahamisation-of-hinduism-why-prasar-bharati-is-wrong-to-censor-vishnu-puran-for-hurting-sentiments-of-a-community


* At a time when many writers and producers are eager to create content based on our ancient texts and scriptures, behaving like Abrahamics will hurt the cause of Hindu cultural renaissance.

Prasar Bharati, India’s biggest public broadcasting agency, started airing many of its most successful TV serials from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to draw the captive audience quarantined at home and entertain them on nostalgia. These included broadcast of TV serials like Ramayana, Mahabharat et al which set new viewership records in the history of television.

But now, the agency has decided to censor 16 episodes of popular serial Vishnu Puran which originally aired from 2000 to 2002 on Doordarshan and Zee Tv and was being broadcast on DD Bharati since 14 May.

The decision to pull off episodes 47 to 62 was taken after some communities protested against the portrayal of character of Kartavirya Arjun (also known as Sahasrarjun), who is portrayed in Hindu scriptures as one of the great warriors to ever tread on the Earth and who had defeated even Ravana with ease.

As the story goes, he slowly became arrogant and drunk on power and started harassing men and gods alike.

Lord Vishnu then decided to take avatara as son of Sage Jamadagni who was being tormented by the legendary king and whose divine cow, Kamadhenu, was also stolen by him.

Lord Vishnu was thus born as Parashurama to the sage and his wife Renuka.

Parashurama went on to kill Sahasrarjun and restore Dharma in his kingdom of Mahishmati situated on the banks of Narmada river in present day Madhya Pradesh.

Even today, Sahasrarjun is worshipped in the State and by some communities as a god for the king had many great qualities.

TV serial Vishnu Puran’s episodes 47 to 62 which have been axed by Prasar Bharati deal with the story of Sahasrarjun and Parashuram slaying him.

But some communities which worship Sahasrarjun were protesting against the depiction of his character, which they claimed was misleading and wrong.

Akhil Bhartiya Jaiswal Sarvargiya Mahasabha in Indore was leading a campaign for the past few days to force the government to censor the 16 ‘objectionable’ episodes of the serial.

Before Prasar Bharati caved under pressure, one petitioner Santosh Kumar Jaiswal had approached the Allahabad High Court to stop the telecast of few episodes.

Jaiswal, through his lawyers, filed strong objection to the representation of certain characters in the serial, because he said that Lord Vishnu and other deities in whom he has belief have been misrepresented.

However, the court rejected the petition saying that “ancient work such as the 'Vishnu Puran' and other texts are always open to debate and discussion resulting in multiple views arising and being discussed even at the level of religious teachers and people spiritually inclined. That in part is the beauty of plurality that our society practices.”

“Without allowing for any debate to arise, as is being sought by the petitioner, it is undisputed that the objectionable work is basically a work of art for entertainment. It may be based on certain scriptures or ancient works and therefore it may suffer from inaccuracy and mistakes either deliberate or otherwise,” the order authored by Justices Sunita Aggarwal and Saumitra Dayal Singh said.

While India’s judiciary can be called out for applying the “beauty of plurality test” only when it comes to Hinduism while chickening out while dealing with Abrahamic faiths, Hindus should try avoiding the slippery slope that leads straight to Abrahamisation of the faith and any discussion, debate, or differences of opinion over our ancient texts become impossible.

Vishnu Puran was made by the same B.R. Chopra who dramatised Mahabharata for TV with great success.

Of course, Chopra and his team didn’t stick strictly to original scriptures while depicting the characters of the serials and many quotes and stories were invented by the show’s writers. While they took creative liberties, they didn’t violate the sensibilities of the Hindu faith.

That’s why the Hindu masses not only gave them a pass but in fact celebrated them.

Vishnu Puran was no different. But the fact that when it was first telecast in 2000, there was no controversy even though many more people tuned in to watch the serial, but now there is, shows that we may be slowly moving in the wrong direction.

At a time when many writers and producers are eager to create content based on our ancient texts and scriptures, behaving like Abrahamics will hurt the cause of Hindu cultural renaissance greatly.

If this continues, we may not see a Rajamouli make a Baahubali in future or Amish Tripathi taking liberties with our ancient stories and rebrand them as pop fiction which reach to millions of readers, mostly youth, which we complain of not being connected to their roots.

It is one thing to object to content made by hostile elements which abound in the creative industry but totally different to raise heckles on production by those whose heart is in the right place.

Hindus need to learn to pick their battles. Adopting Abrahamic intolerance is good insofar as it is applied to fighting the intolerant Abrahamic faiths. It should be wielded like a chisel removing the unnecessary and carving out the beautiful rather than a hammer seeing nail everywhere.

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