Monday, April 04, 2011

Fat or thin? Devadutt Pattanaik lets me down!

I like Devadutt Pattanaik. I love his interpretations. I love his broad overview that is shorn of jingoism. Yet, today he walked himself (only a little off:)  off the pedestal I'd place under him.

He wrote this column in Mid-day about Yaksha's Potbelly and the general trend of the column was how in Hindu  mythology representations of gods were always plump and prosperous.The two names he brings up is of Ganesha and Kubera...Now everybody knows these gods denoted prosperity and their representation as plump underscored that.. Hence u could say their representation was the the exception, rather than the rule..

 So, it is disappointing for me to see this sort of writing from him. Why? Because it  now places Pattanaik amongs the league of scholars who decide on a point of focus and place `evidence' in favor of that, however scanty the link may be between what is real and what is actual. I can only presume that Pattanaik is plump and feels justified to whip up a meandering column about preserving the status quo:) He also seems to love love handles!!! (Even a skinny woman gets love handles if she tilted to one side, as some figurines are represented, to underscore their grace. Why to read into that an advertisement for love handles!!)

In most of the bronze statue of mythological figures, some  interesting and famous ones whose dates will contradict Pattanaik's observation(that their  thinness or the muscled look is an entirely western import), the general body line is thin.  The body is super-lean and decidedly not fat.

 Barring his general diatribe against the `recent' muscled look which he insists is a western import,  he does not give actual images or stronger evidence to justify his claim. Also, the reason for that column itself becomes suspect if Pattanaik is overweight or is prone to plumpness. (He does not do yoga, are we to presume?) . It is just like Wendy Doniger suddenly deciding to write about how yogasanas have no Indian root and is largely based on Christian gymnastic health sciences ... Since she is not Indian and is Christian... U wonder, don't u?  So also, when columns get written, u must wonder  (before u accept them unquestioningly) Why at all? Why now?  !!! 

In southern temples again most gods are represented as slender...The asuras or demons were the ones shown as fat or plump ...  And if you read Alain Danielou's translations of some south Indian historical classics like Shilapadikaram or Manimekkalai, you hear of women described as  having  `wasp' waists:)  (No love handles there, definitely).
Also, the lean slender supple look is not entirely a gym-toned thing, as he puts it. In yoga, there is a supple slenderness --  that is what I believe is evident in most images you can see from our past.

He does not agree with the Hatha Yoga Pradipika's saying that the first sign of a successful sadhana is a lean look: "When the nadis are purified there are external symptoms. Success is definite when the body becomes thin and glows." (Chapter  2, Verse 19).

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