In Brindavan, there is a park where Lord Krishna is believed to come every night to perform Raas Lila. “Nobody stays back at Nidhi Van at night as it is said that anyone who does so, goes mad. People say Krishna’s flute and the sound of the Gopis’ anklets are heard there,” said Uma Shankar Mishra, a local resident.
Popular Hinduism does not consider the “erotic” as polluting: the god who gave the message of the Gita is also revered as a lover-god. But this pluralistic tradition is under threat from fringe right wing groups such as the Sri Ram Sene, which attacked women at a pub in Mangalore on the absurd ground that this was against “our culture”.
“The Sri Ram Sene has nothing to do with Hinduism. They are goondas posing a law and order problem,” said Hinduism scholar Jyotirmaya Sharma.
Historian Ramchandra Guha said these attackers have nothing to do with Indian culture or Hinduism. “We have a vast reservoir of young men in India who haven't had quality education and can be mobilised in any sectarian way — Sri Ram Sena, MNS or even Maoism,” he told HT.
Both ‘ascetic’ and ‘erotic’ ideals are part of Hinduism. Hindu beliefs exist in multiples. Rather than “right” and "wrong" ways, there are various alternative paths in Hinduism.
If there is a celibate Hanuman, there is the lover-god, Krishna. On 12th century poet Jaydev’s celebration of Krishna as a lover-god in Gita Govind, historian A.L. Basham wrote, “Its inspiration to the Western mind seems erotic rather than religious.”
The Hindu Right, however, wants asceticism to be hailed and eroticism banished. This is an imitation of the 19th century Victorian repression of anything amorous and is thus colonial in inspiration. Ironically, this imitation of Victorian values is being paraded as “pure” Indian culture.
Popular images of Ram show him as a smiling god. However, the Sangh Parivar depicts him as a warrior, seeking to reduce a benevolent god to a warrior. In the process, they have damaged the idea of Ram – which inspired many including Mahatma Gandhi. “Neither Valmiki nor Tulsidas ever saw Ram as a violent god. Valmiki depicted him as a pretty boy,” Sharma pointed out.