Film on Holi
gthursby at religion.ufl.edu
Sat Feb 3 14:32:02 EST 1996
With appreciation for the lively exchange to which M. Rajagopalan
and B. Narahari Rao have contributed, may I add that I am helped to learn
what I need to know (and, at times, what I know already) when I read the
requests and responses of others on this wide-ranging list?
I write from the standpoint of an outsider who suffers cultural
and linguistic limitations, but nevertheless deeply appreciates Holi, and
was given opportunities to participate from time to time in northern India
over the last 26 years. After joining in, I looked (and felt) less pale
than before -- which was to the general benefit of everyone. Even so,
there is a good deal that I do not know about the significance of this set
of festivals, nor about others throughout the yearly cycle. So I am
grateful to M. Rajagopalan for giving strong emphasis to the fact that
participants in any festival-cycle, even one so lively and equalizing as
Holi, may be sensitive about how these traditional activities may be
understood and described by outsiders -- whether or not they have
On the other hand, what M. Rajagopalan may not yet know and might
find interesting, is that there is a tradition of academic study and
discussion of Holi that has gone on for some years outside as well as
inside India. Within the context of this discussion of Holi, the word
'chaos' is used as a neutral-descriptive term (as B. Narahari Rao noted).
To some extent the term also takes on a quite positive connotation
as a complement to 'order' or 'hierarchy' or 'authority' in the
discussion. The word 'chaos' lately has taken on a positive connotation
from another area of study, too. In the philosophy of science, "chaos
theory" has attracted a lot of interest.
In short, there may have been some misunderstanding about the
intent of the request -- growing from the technical use of the term
'chaos' in discussion of festivals such as Holi. No disrespect is
intended by such usage, as sociologists and anthropologists of Indian
descent who are at work in India right now can attest.
B. Narahari Rao no doubt is correct when he encourages all of us
to be respectful, patient, and courteous in these exchanges. One also
should be brief, which I was not, and so I thank you for your patience.
Thanks to both M. Rajagopalan and B. Narahari Rao who exemplify
the very spirit of Holi in action in this forum!
Gene Thursby, University of Florida
On Sat, 3 Feb 1996, Narahari Rao wrote:
> Rajagopalan wrote
> >Dear Dan White ,
> >In your request for films on Holi festival you say " She wishes to do a
> >comparative - ritual study of festivals that both have a sacred theme
> >and involve the character of social chaos ( at least temporarily)"
> > Your choice of describing festivals like Holy as a social chaos in
> part is very stupid.
> >As you are white as your name is you are bread and brought up on vulgar
> >racist ideas saying that non- white social functions are chaos . You should
> >watch your words which you use in public to describe others . Holy and
> other fuctions of India are not chaotic. Yours sincerely M.Rajagopalan
> I think this reaction is uncalled for. One may use the word, 'chaos' without
> normative implications. What is meant is merely that the usual norms
> followed in a milieu are suspended during the Holy festival. One may have an
> alternative perception of what Holy festival is, and may want to contest a
> particular description. But this can be done without calling names.
> Dr. B. Narahari Rao
> F.R. 5.1. Philosophie
> Unversitaet des Saarlandes,
> Postfach 15 11 50,
> D-66041 Saarbrücken
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