Saturday, June 29, 2013

Prof. Hari Sharma


By Promod Puri

It was tense, divisive and provocative violent period in the mid ‘80s when the communal and religious hatred almost divided the otherwise peaceful and amicable Indo-Canadian community in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

Tension between Hindus and Sikhs was swiftly escalating as a result of separatists’ fierce Khalistan movement in Punjab, India, and which was having emotional and enraged repercussions in B.C., especially after the Golden Temple attack by the Indian armed forces.

More than that, the entire Punjabi community was severely divided within itself as it was fearfully inflicted with religious fanaticism from extremists dominating the scene with boycotts, threats and violence. 

Our inter-caste and inter-religious harmony as a community was falling apart. Our years of united struggles, fighting prejudice, hatred and discrimination and seeking equality in the overall Canadian society was seriously obstructed. We were facing very serious situation whereby as a major ethnic community we were in deep crisis.

Alarmed by the deteriorating situation and accepting the immediate and unexpected challenge, a few of us as community activists openly started holding meetings in an atmosphere of threats and violence to access and tackle the damage being done.

At this critical moment our friend and guide was none other than Hari-bhai. He was bold, forthright and tough personality with meeting-protocol skills that we were able to form a small but effective force which was named Forum For Communal Harmony.

Although we elected not to have any designated titles among us from our membership, but Hari-bhai was certainly a mobilizing force to direct our earnest efforts to combat hatred and violence, and stressing on the need to restore harmony within the community.

It was during participations in the Forum’s meetings and working with Hari-bhai that I as publisher and editor of The Link, the South Asian newspaper, started admiring and recognizing the selfless and passionate for freedom of expression qualities in him. And out of respect for his mature and unbiased thinking, concerned and caring nature, and being fanatically secular personality that I started calling him Hari-bhai.

Although being a newspaperman, I did not join or participate in many of his other diverse campaigns over the years, but I always acknowledged and supported his causes and ardent struggles.

Hari-bhai had been a motivational force to bring out people to fight for causes for our betterment as a society. He challenged the silence and apathy of people toward injustice and violence against minorities whether in India or in Canada. In this regard he seemed to share the views of famous Indian film producer Mahesh Bhatt who once said “I always maintained that society is not devastated by the misdeeds of badman, but by the silence of the so-called good people”.

As a relentless campaigner on numerous issues like anti war and nuclear weapons, human rights and social justice, oppression of landless workers and Scheduled Casts in India, Hindu fundamentalism and minority rights Hari-bhai was certainly a “voice of “consciousness. He reached the “pinnacle of success” as he had always been uninterested in money, compliments or publicity.

Hari Sharma made a very significant contribution in drawing and shaping the political,social and to some extent economic landscape of our community particularly in this part of Canada.

(Prof. Hari Sharma, a distinguished academic at the Simon Fraser University in the department of sociology, died three years ago after fighting a long battle with cancer at the age of seventy-five).

Shri Ganesh


By Promod Puri

As there are no matter-of -fact inspired utterances attributed to the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses, except Lord Krishan thru his Gita sermons, the symbolic representation of each of them thru their statued or graphic images convey a lot of interpretations.

And all these perceptions cover their collective or individual roles which appeal to varied and reverent prayers and adorations of devotees.

It is in this iconography that Lord Ganesh occupies popular place among the major deities in the Hindu religion as his clearly recognizable elephant tusk-hooded form portrays an array of virtues.

According to some Hindu scriptures "The broken tusk that Ganesha holds like a pen in his lower right hand is a symbol of sacrifice, which he broke for writing the Mahabharata. 

The rosary in his other hand suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous. 

The laddoo (sweet) he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the Atman.

 His fan-like ears convey that he is all ears to our petition. The snake that runs round his waist represents energy in all forms. And he is humble enough to ride the lowest of creatures, a mouse."

Ganesha's head symbolizes the Atman or the soul, which is the ultimate supreme reality of human existence, and his human body signifies Maya or the earthly existence of human beings.

The elephant head denotes wisdom and its trunk represents Om, the sound symbol of cosmic reality. 

In his upper right hand Ganesha holds a goad, which helps him propel mankind forward on the eternal path and remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesha's left hand is a gentle implement to capture all difficulties".

Ganesh is popularly worshipped as the god of Beginnings. "Sri-Ganesh" is the common expression for any new event, purchase or startup enterprise and at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies.

The humble Ganesh's picture or moorti beside being inside a Hindu temple, is often seen at the entrance of homes as "doorkeeper" to keep out adversary, analogous to the legend that his mother, Parvati, conceived him in clay and placed him at her door for protection. 

And the anecdote continues that Lord Shiva beheaded him out of anger, and later restored Ganesh' head with that of an elephant baby. 

These days the "doorkeeper" is mostly placed as decorative adoration at entrance.

He is the Lord of Obstacles, Vighaneshvara or Viganharta to remove obstacles. One belief is that he even puts "obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked", and "his task in the divine scheme of things, his dharma, is to place and remove obstacles. It is his particular territory, the reason for his creation".

Beside being bestowed upon with mythical powers or symbolic interpretations over his unique figure, Ganesh is a popular deity in the contemporary spiritual world as lord of knowledge, intellect and wisdom. 

It is in this portfolio that Ganesh captures the most imaginative and creative art for his portrayal.

Versatile Ganesh is drawn in a multitude of actions from sitting, dancing, playing and in contemporary visionary situations like working on a computer with mouse in his hand, while his lifelong mouse companion jealously looking on.

In the world of modern Indian art, Ganesh is one of the most favored and trendy subject matters taken up by artists to create their artwork, be it is in metal or stone statue, traditional drawings or ingenious material like pipal leaves or even fruits and vegetables.

The handling of this multi-facet divinity by artists in their own imaginative ways and thru their own selected tools creates an innovative and popular Ganesh art. 

And over the years innumerable art work has been produced just on the figure of Ganesh that a big exhibition can be organized to recognize artists' talent and works.

The visionary and artistic study of Ganesh makes him the most interesting, lively and art-inspiring deity who is emerging in the art world as a playful secular god beyond the Hindu religion.