Tuesday, August 24, 2010



Nataraja Siva from Srimukhalingam temple,AP,India. Siva has Nandi on his right and Devi on his left. His ithyphallic image beautifully poised,exudes cosmic joy and power.

Siva is a major deity of Hindu religion. Through centuries, millions of followers  have worshipped him. His imagery's , as we find in Sanskrit and vernacular texts, in temples and caves ( Elephanta, Ellora et all),paintings vary widely. He can be Shankar the Benevolent,  Bhairava the Ferocious, Nataraj the Cosmic dancer,Lakulisha the Ithyphallic yogi.  Sects of Saivites , through centuries of practices, built up Siva's imageries with conflicts among them.Not all the sects believed in being celibate ascetics.Nor  the Vaishnavites among Hindus always been kind to Saivites while penning puranas and other religious scriptures.Tale of Siva and the wives of sages in the 'pine forest' is well-known ( refer to Part I ) . Here, Siva was under attack for cuckolding sages.

Besides the above ,scriptures tell us : Siva was married  to Sati whose  dead body he carried across the world on his shoulder till Vishnu cut the body in pieces by his Wheel  and relieved Siva. He  stayed an ascetic for centuries thereafter,burnt KamaDev, god of Love, to death.Then he married Parvati and enjoyed divine conjugal life again for centuries till Kartikeya , also called Skanda , was born, but not from the womb of Parvati.

Siva and Parvati in an intimate posture in Mount Kailash as Ravana attempts to disturb them.Ravana will be severely punished by Siva for interruption and creating discomfiture of Parvati.
Ellora Cave 29.

Yet he is the super Yogi - Yogeswar.

Lakulisha - one of the greatest Yogi incarnation of Siva. Ithyphallic.
British Museum, London.

Wendy O'Flabberty  has brought out all the tales connected with Siva in her book : Asceticism and eroticism in the mythology of Siva'.This book was published in 1981 and as far as I know , created no ripple among Hindus in India - probably was overlooked . I have found this conflict has been  brought out in an extensive article  titled 'Shiva The Sensuous Yogi',published in the internet during April 2002 ) - refer to http://shiva.exoticindiaart.com/. Very likely, this article will not be accessible from India, because Siva is not portrayed as a celibate ascetic here and this theme is offensive and unpalatable to many Saivite Hindus .

Not only in India, but even among the more liberal society of Christians in the Western hemisphere,celibacy  is considered very important to religious order.But, unfortunately,the burden of life-time celibacy is not easy to  carry.There has been many scandals and power struggles in Vatican's history, at the root of  which are instances of  failure of people in religious order.

It becomes very much apparent when  I was reading internet sources  about  possible relationship between  Jesus and Mary Magdalene. My impression is that a large section of  followers of Jesus believes it would have been improper for Jesus to have a normal conjugal life .Without going into deep discussions about what were written and what were implied in the religious writings by his disciples, disseminated over centuries,let us read:
  • http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070227040110AAfvdD5, including comments
  • http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081217130718AAmugoz, and
  • http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1282/were-jesus-and-mary-magdalene-lovers, a 1998 article, published  much before the hype 'Da Vinci Code' generated.
to understand how segmented the view point is about this  relationship .

To-day, what we have about the life of Jesus is partly from the ancient writings ,their interpretations for centuries and troves of work of art.Enthusiasts have taken time to publish  collections of the best on Mary Magdalene in the internet I  was floored by the collection of 'Bible Art Gallery'.

Let us take a look at  the few that struck my heart :

'Noli me tangere'  ( John - 20.17) - Touch me not - by Titian. See how tender is Jesus in his refusal . He  is not walking away harshly, but, he has bent towards Mary Magdalene.When Buddha and ChaitanyaDev left the beds of their conjugal partners, did they bid  goodbye as tenderly?

Let us have a closer look at Titian's interpretation of the scene of parting :

Titian  added a sensuous dimension into this painting through nearly nude image of  Jesus.His naked body , clad by just a loin cloth, tells a story to the viewers, to those who are willing to listen. In direct contrast to the robed figure of Jesus in Frescos by Fra Angelico  and  Giotto .

Two of the best work on Jesus and Mary Magdalene are where one of the two characters is not present. First one is a sculpture ....clay to be turned to bronze , capturing the moment when, amid tears, she utters ; Rabbouni !!' ( which means Teacher). Jesus is not present in the composition, yet the viewer does feel his presence.

The 2nd one is a masterpiece by Mangegna -'The Lamentation over Dead Christ' . The viewer will feel s/he is standing at the position of Mary Magdalene, where the bruised feet of Jesus protrudes beyond the marble slab of the tomb chamber. This is a subdued  and highly acclaimed tempera work of this great artist.

The Lamentation over the dead Christ.
Pinacoteca di Berra, Milan.

My own  Comment :

Though many people  continue to debate about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene,  I feel, it is not very important to mankind if Jesus was celibate or not. He was a great preacher. If he found solace in a relationship  during the turbulent days of his life in company of the 2nd Mary of his life, so be it.Unfortunately for the mankind, his teachings on tolerance and love have been violated by his followers through centuries.

To me , it is important that he dies on the cross every time justice suffers  and hate prevails.In continents and in Institutions and at homes.

His teachings and Siva's present-day imagery - 'Shantam-Sivam ( Tranquil and Good) ' are the essences we can carry in our heart.

1 A. FRESCO BY FRA ANGELICO - http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.lib-art.com/imgpainting/7/0/18907-noli-me-tangere-fra-angelico.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.lib-art.com/paints/nolimetangere.html&h=1087&w=900&sz=173&tbnid=c7Z8QfpR8I8EKM:&tbnh=150&tbnw=124&prev=/images%3Fq%3DNoli%2Bme%2Btangere.&zoom=1&usg=__TosqnRUSmwZ5ZrhSv8yJnL3UK3Q=&sa=X&ei=FfJyTOCZIJTNjAfh0rT7CA&ved=0CDgQ9QEwCQ.
Museo di San Marco, Cell 1, Florence.
B. FRESCO BY DIOTTO - http://www.shafe.co.uk/crystal/images/lshafe/Giotto_Arena_Chapel_Noli_me_tangere.jpg
Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua

2. BIBLE ART GALLERY - http://www.bible-art.info/MaryMagdalene.htm

1 comment:


An interesting and relevant news clipping from TOI,20/09/2012 :
Ancient papyrus reveals 'Jesus Christ's wife', set to renew fierce debate