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Response to New York Times Denigrating Ganesha

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Response to the article in New York Times denigrating Ganesha:

Original Article “Uncertain Times in India, but Not for a Deity” by Ellen Barry of New York Times,

Gaudy Ganesha?


Jayakumar S. Ammangudi, Ph.D.

Two weeks ago, it was Gardiner Harris, South Asia Correspondent of the New York Times (NYT) bemoaning the rise of Narendra Modi in India (link).  A week later, it was Ellen Barry, again of NYT, troubled by the immense display of faith to the most popular deity, Ganesha, of the oldest living non-aggressive tradition of this world (link).

Ganesha Procession Mumbai

(Picture of Ganesha procession in Mumbai that appeared in the NYT)

It is interesting that in his biography, Gardiner readily admits (link) that ‘the complexity of India is paralyzing’.  Having written about science, medicine and food, he begins to write about not just Politics, but Indian Politics.  By parroting stereotypes offered by the incumbent ruling party of India, he has proved beyond doubt that the leap from food to Indian politics isn’t for him.  (For more, see here)

I re-read Ms. Barry’s article (link) on the Ganesha celebration to identify the crimes committed by Mumbaiites that attracted her ire.  I did not find anything obvious.

Is she worried that corporations seem to be sponsoring this festival?  Does Barry know that Hinduism is unlike any Abrahamic religion, and that its vision of the Almighty so all encompassing that it stands apart from the exclusivist religions such as Christianity and Islam.  This makes companies in India associate with this tradition without being “branded” as having religious affiliation. Does Ellen Barry know that the word Hinduism is itself a western projection on a tradition that is not quite a religion in the Abrahamic sense?

Perhaps Barry is worried that with the price of vegetables like onions shooting through the roof, Hindus have their priorities misplaced – spending money on clay images of Ganesha, only to immerse all of these in the ocean!  How can a population be so sadistic as to drown their own revered Deity?  To understand this ritual, Barry will have to do some homework on Trantra Shaastra and Yoga Shaastra.

Or is Barry deeply concerned about the “gaudiness” of “this year’s crop of Ganeshas”?  Perhaps she doesn’t know that a common ritual during this season involves adults and children making forms of Ganesha in clay at home, and then performing a puja (i.e. invoking the almighty in the new form).  Never does a Hindu judge a form of the Almighty by its appearance, except to appreciate a beautifully formed solid form. Even otherwise, how does it matter to Barry if these clay forms are beautiful or not?   And then the dancing men appear to her like “red ghosts”?  By categorizing devotees with such mean words, she is demonizing and denigrating a culture and its people.  Would she dare to write about Id-ul-Fitr in a demeaning way?

I challenge Ellen Barry to instead engage in a more constructive study of the seeming contradictions, symbology and metaphysics of Hinduism.

Perhaps Barry is allergic to rituals?  Is she conditioned by a religion that has branded deities and worship of figurines of the divine (“Thou shalt not make … an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” Exodus 20:4, or ‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord,…’ Deuteronomy 27:15) and therefore has been taught to view Hindus as ‘pagans’ or ‘devil worshipers’?

Barry quotes a Mr. Sundakar “Ganesh doesn’t sort anything out for you, in my personal experience, … Last year, I didn’t bring an idol, and I had a good job. This year, I brought an idol and I am unemployed.” “I don’t like Ganesh,” he said. “Maybe it’s random chance. But I think he is bad luck for me.”

This shows how low Ellen Barry will stoop to denigrate Hinduism.  How hard is it to get somebody to say “Jesus doesn’t sort anything out for me.  Last year I was a Hindu, I was doing well.  They forced me to convert to Christianity under the pretext of Jesus Saves and now I am in the streets left holding a cross.  Missionaries are ruining the country.” In fact, there is ample evidence that Missionaries are systematically fragmenting India under the guise of charity and human rights, with covert and overt assistance from the West.  I recommend a reading of the book “Breaking India” to get a glimpse of the demographic and cultural violence perpetuated by the Western nexuses.

It is also possible that Barry is troubled by the “lavish spending on temple, rituals …”  A bit of history might help her. Indian civilization was a center of learning of arts, architecture, technology, mathematics, and philosophies for many centuries in the first millennium.  Then, waves of Islamic incursions started in the 700 CE and lasted 1000 years.  One of their favorite pass times is the destruction of temples and idols.  For example, in 1024 CE, Mahmud of Ghazni took pride in personally destroying the idol of Shiva in the Somnath temple in Gujarat, while his henchmen plucked jewels and rubies from the walls and idols of the temples, and then began breaking all idols.  The temple was rebuilt several decades later, only to be destroyed again by Allauddin Khilji in 1296.  (He also boasted that “fifty thousand infidels were dispatched to hell by the sword” and “more than twenty thousand slaves, and cattle beyond all calculation fell into the hands of the victors”, but that is secondary).  The temple was rebuilt again 15 years later, only to meet destruction 3 more times.  All told, more that 2000 temples were destroyed throughout India.  Is it possible that the trauma that Indians suffered makes them even more attracted to spending on temples and rituals?  Barry should read the book “Hindu Temples – What Happened to Them”.

Here are more ideas that I have for Barry if she wants to improve her writeups from meaningless rambling to authoritative scholarship.  In 2004, an Aryan burial was found in the city of Omsk (Link).  Then in 2007, a statue of Vishnu was discovered in the Volga region dated more than 1000 years ago (Link).  Do these represent artifacts of trade alone or thriving Hindu communities?  Are there any similarities between the customs of Russian orthodox church and Hinduism?  Is it true that the Russian ceremony Vizhnyir Ekoratsya Vikhunh is the equivalent of Vaikhunta Ekadasi of Hinduism?

Being a American journalist serving as a Moscow Bureau Chief, perhaps Barry would be interested in language.  It appears that hundreds of Russian words show stark similarity with Sanskrit.  Here is a small sample:





Sutra Thread, yarn, string Sutra
Viraama To stop Viraama
Boya Fear Bhaya
Pi To drink Pi
Tapot To make warm, melt Tapati
Vid To know Vid
Seedit Sits Seedati
Bog God Bhaga
Vakora crooked Vakra
Sushka Dry Shushka
Usṭha Lip Oshṭha
Dver Door Dvaara

Is this similarity coincidental, and if not, what was the nature of cultural exchange between the two civilizations?

How is Hinduism different from Abrahamic religions?  Is Hinduism based on dogma?  What is the significance of the doctrine of Karma and how does it help those who believe in it?  What are the important metaphysical contributions of Hinduism to humanity?

Vishnu Idol Volga(Picture of Vishnu in that appeared in the NYT)

This article by Ellen Barry shows not only her immaturity, but also the irresponsibility of The New York Times (NYT) for approving articles that denigrate Hinduism.  Hindus will seriously consider unsubscribing to the NYT unless the article is retracted and corrected.

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Written by

Jayakumar Ammangudi is committed to a deeper understanding Hindu Dharma through the formal study of texts. In addition, he is deeply interested in studying the impacts of colonization on the Indian psyche. Symptoms displayed by educated Hindus such as lack of healthy pride about one"s traditions, passivity and other-religion appeasement are subjects he likes to explore, understand and find effective antidotes for.

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20 Responses to "Response to New York Times Denigrating Ganesha"

  1. M.Srinivasan says:

    The rejoinder is excellent. It is cogently argued and will be ;appreciatead by any objective observer. Don.t expect the subhuman, beastly creatures like the
    those of Abrahamic religions, who thrive onmly, repeat only, on the loot and plunder of the those belonging to other faith. Their brain adulterated by venom and hence they are incpable of absorbing any thing other thatn than their faith created by dogmas and omcessamt dpctpromg ny those Saviors, who are otherwise accused of so many crimes

  2. Suresh Srinivasan says:

    A Christian friend of mine was so disappointed with the Hindu bashing in the sermons (about Ganesha)that she told the preachers – ” Speak about your religion in this Church, do not belittle others. ” She added , ” Jesus Christ being born out a virgin is as stupid as a god having elephant’s head. Your belief is respected. Respect others as well”. Thought of sharing this. A well written article, Jay.

  3. Pradeep Rajagopalan says:

    An excellent article which very aptly counters each and every mistakes/blunders/venomous mispropanganda about
    If NYT is really “Secular” they should publish this superb rejoinder.
    May we be blessed with more real intellectuals like Jayakumar Srinivasan.

  4. Narasimhan says:

    Well articulated…

  5. Plato says:

    What else do we expect from people who get nightmares after looking at people rejoicing in their devotion, at the sight of a toddler taking baby steps & being watched amusedly by his parents (Ram Chandra’s childhood) & find gross sin in a 7 year old lying to his mother about eating the butter (Krishn & the Makhan story) or find “promiscuity” in the village cowherd teenagers dancing & celebrating life in the “Ras Leela” but find “such peace & enlightem=nment” in a coprpse nailed to a cross & with a crown of thorns hammered into his skull? They are really wierd: they cll the Ras leela promiscuous but promote the most disgusting “live in” relationships in India under the guise of promoting freedom for women & even promote women abuse & crimes against women, when they fight for the women’s right to go half naked into the bars all by themselves to “relax & destress” When has a bar been the place of people wh=ith all their senses & faculties intact & functional? & That is what they call freedom? I am not surprised that this is all they have to say…they are incapable of grasping any thing with deeper meaning…they belong to a culture wher robbuing is “success” & a sign of “status” This is something that was explained very patiently to me just today by one of the oh so knowlegable christian american or is it american christian?

  6. Plato says:

    It is really wonsderful to see this rebuttal & to see the intelligentia slowly but surely waking up & looking the attackers straght in the eye & telling them they are lying are stupid. Thanks Mr. Jaykumar.

  7. Suman says:

    What is the point of your rebuttal? Are you just another thin skinned sadistic columnist who is not connected to his country when typing this blog post?
    Well here is my view and it is my view ever since I went out of high school. Most hindus are cruelest racists I have ever seen and it is coming from me, a hindu brahmin. We have class/subclass/caste/subcaste and each category still hates others like nobodies business. Most hindus does not believe in whatever “hinduism” seem to think, ask any one from Bajrang Dal. Huge expenditure in the name of religion is a waste for a poor country like us where we can not feed half the population and a visit to a public hospital cause near death experience.
    No one in my close relatives circle ever spent a dime on public education/relief operations etc yet they donated lakhs of rupess in stupid mandir projects/expensive pujas.
    Helping the poor with good education, better healthcare- well that is government’s problem.

  8. Raghavendra .S says:

    Mr.Suman should get his facts right. Firstly, class/subclass is a communist creation not Hindu. Secondly, he craves for an egalitarian society on one hand, while on the other he expects everybody to invest great faith in his claims because it is “coming from me, a hindu brahmin”. Pray who is casteist & racist now?

    Coming to Ellen Barry, we all know that NYT is the American equivalent of our own TOI, a bunch of holier-than-thou rootless wonders. It would be in the fitness of things if she & her ilk invest their efforts to expose the dark underbelly of Christianity as practiced by overzealous missionaries in India. It would surprise her to know the money spent on celebrating our festivals is but a fraction of the money spent on conversions through fraudulent means.

    Her dripping concern (“It has been a period of belt tightening in India’s financial capital, a slow but sure blunting of hopes”) for our nation would have been better served by exposing the series of unending scams under the present government. But, “intellectual honesty” is a phrase missing from the lexicon of secular liberals”. All they can do is to take cheap pot shots at easy targets.

  9. Suman says:

    You are completely clueless. After reading NYT=TOI, I lost all my hope on your judgment. I encourage you to search for intellectual honesty across our borders as they are definitely not secular and liberal.
    By the way, class subclass is not a creation of communists. You need to travel biy more around India. And how conveniently you ignore caste/subcaste.

  10. Indianhinduwoman says:

    Very good rebuttal. Hinduism has few faults definitely and they must be corrected but the alternate narratives of Christianity, Islam, Communism also show a lot of indifference (to state it mildly) to non-believers. This is the same as gender-based, caste based discrimination. Everybody takes a free right to criticize Hinduism and Hindus only, this is never done with anyone else. No one even mentions the plight of Hindus in Pakistan or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. Or why go so far, our own Kashmiri Pandits have been systematically wiped out of Kashmir and became homeless refugees in their own country. Nowadays a Hindu is more willing to change and become a better person, he is willing to accept the good practices of Hinduism and leave behind the bad ones. Can this be said of any one else practicing any other religion? They will only defend everything in the name of God. There is no context of Dharma and Adharma which guides a person. The problem with Hindus in India is that we don’t know our history and traditions properly. The communists and pseudo-secularists have made a living out of degrading and criticizing Hinduism but not ever thinking of reforming it. The Arya Samaj is one example where Hindus have tried to reform the many practices, while keeping the good ones and weeding out the bad ones. The NYT article on Ganesha immersion does not look like a neutral article which journalists are supposed to report. It has a specific agenda in mind, starting with the title upto the last word. Hindus have to first be educated and then we can stand up to the world. Otherwise our inferiority complex (sometimes false superiority complex also, with only half-baked knowledge) will lead to downfall of the most peaceful and tolerant religion in the world which never teaches to attack non-believers first, only to self-defend after getting attacked, which is reasonable.

  11. Dota says:

    India was never the center of learning of arts, architecture, technology, mathematics, and philosophies for many centuries in the first millennium.

    Western civilization is superior to Indian civilization in every possible way. The British realized this when they observed that:

    1) Indian values lacked any conception of equality between men

    2) Indian art lacked geometric perspective

    3) Indian music lacked harmony

    4) Indian sculptures lacked that detailed knowledge of human anatomy that one observes in Michelangelo

    4) Indian ethics lacked rational autonomy

    5) Indian culture lacked individualism

    6) Indian epics were comprised of bland protagonists like Ram and Sita who were perfect in every way and lacked personality and will

    7) Indian religions lacked a sense of ethics and subordinated ethics to duty and superstition.

    Hindu Philosophy is clearly inferior to Greek philosophy, especially in epistemology and ethics.

  12. Raghavendra .S says:

    There are a couple of observations I would like to add from my side. Firstly, we have a legion of intellectual morons on our own side & soil who have subverted the debate as pointed out in the book “Breaking India”. It is impossible to engage with these chaps as they are adept at “labeling” the alternative so much so that the fundamentalism of the Taliban pales in comparison. The solution lies in exposing the duplicity of the “Nehruvian Historians”.

    The other point is, much of the local flavor, cultural or social, of any country finds favorable expression these days in developed countries that is in direct proportion to the financial, political, military, diplomatic and infrastructural might of the nation under consideration. On this score, we as a nation fail miserably on all counts. Just see how the juvenile “Tomatino festival” of Spain is marketed as a tourist attraction!! While we need not be in the thrall or seek the condescending approval of the western nations, the present state of the country cannot but invite ridicule from all and sundry (referred sometimes in tamil as “DHARMA AADI” – any passerby can take a shot at us).

  13. sriram says:

    Nicely written rebuttal JK.

  14. Nags says:

    Great rebuttal to the stupid article.
    We can only pity her. Such closetted minds are hired by papers like NYT to gain popularity in their
    own communities by running down other communities and socities. These zeolots are mentally challenged.
    Their upbringing is the problem. They are slaves of reason/rationalism.
    Unfortunately our own fall for such stupidity to gain some instant gratification in the form of western validation and recoginition.
    Please take a look at this article
    It is from the 1980s but still relevant now.


  15. Subroto Gangopadhyay says:

    Excellent attempt by Jaykumar Ji to provide a cogent rebuttal and provide clues to further learning to an author, whose chief strength is, that she functions within a milieu that validates ignorance and sanctions religious and cultural imperialism through one simple construct : What we do no know is not worth knowing, what is not worth knowing must be inferior to what is worth knowing, what is worth knowing is only what is taught to us.Every Knowledge, Every Culture, Every Ritual, Every Form of Worship, Every Philosophy, Every appearance that dares to be different,must therefore be denied the right to co-exist peacefully – either through the power of the sword or that of the pen. Ms. Barry’s violence is pernicious and deliberate. It is only that there is no Hindu God that consigns a non believer to hell or denies salvation – Ganesha is far Kinder to Barry than Barry’s God, to the rest of us.

  16. C pande says:

    Sat yam shivam sun dram !
    A scholarly and fitting response. But we Hindus must find the cause, why we are treated in such a mean way.


  17. Ram says:

    Brilliant rebuttal. “Suman” has perhaps not heard about many NGOs (“AIM for Seva” or Ramakrishna mission or Chinmaya mission are good examples) rooted in Hindu faith doing phenomenal work for educating poor children. Probably he is paid by the missionaries to spread canards about Hinduism.

  18. tein ds says:

    This statement of the Golden Rule is a timeless classic.


    This is the sum of true righteousness ….
    Treat others as you would like to be treated.
    Do nothing to your neighbor that hereafter
    You would not have your neighbor do to you.

    In causing pleasure, or in giving pain,
    In doing good or injury to others,
    In granting or refusing a request,
    A man obtains a proper rule of action
    By looking on his neighbor as himself.

  19. “Hindu”,a name given to our religion by an outsider and exist no where in any of our ancient texts. I won’t say religious text for a simple reason that we have been evolving and transforming from several thousands of years,until we were under rule from rigid, non-evolving Islamic rulers for over 700 yrs. For us a religion is “dharma”(righteousness)and non-religion is simply “adharma”(falsehood). I shall give an extract of what we Hindus understand as “Adharma” from a text from “Sanatan society”, sanatan means from times immemorial.

    Anything which is working contrary to the laws of existence is adharma. For example, at sunrise the whole existence changes, becomes vibrant, the atmospheric pressures and temperatures change. The tempo of life increases. Sleeping at this time is acting contrary to the laws of the planet, thus it is adharma.
    Looting the Mother Earth for natural resources, which are then employed without concern for their negative effects on the environment and the future needs of the planet, is adharma against the earth. Similarily, there are adharmas related to one’s own physiology. Denying one’s own self is adharma. Self-rejection and self-praise are both adharmas. Self-destruction is the greatest adharma.
    As I made it known to you earlier that we were called as Hindus by outsiders,the Islamic rulers in medieval period,nevertheless I thank them for doing so as they and then the British united us from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.Hundreds of battles have been fought and millions of lives taken but GOD at all cost wanted the so called Hindus to unite and so it was destined to happen. The first such “Indionification”(India’s unification) was done thousands of years ago by Jagadguru(literally meaning universally accepted teacher) Shree “Adi Shankharacharya” without felling a drop of blood.
    It will be so difficult for non -Hindus to understand that how can there be no-religion Nomenclature to billions of people in this subcontinent and yet they follow the same texts like Geeta and Vedas, which they believe to have originated from GOD himself. So I again thank that Islamic ruler or whosoever to give us a name “Hindu”.

    To understand more about India and Hindu Dharma You may simply type “Sanatan” on any search engine and you should have better insight.As we keep evolving from generation to generation we stand to gain.Lord shri Harikrishna quotes “Parivartan(change/evolution)is life”. And even those amongst us who fail to understand this cannot be true Hindus.

  20. abhishek says:

    i think Mr. Suman is a die hard fan of USA. he just turns a blind eye to all the atrocities committed by America and Christianity

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