From the comments, on reverence for asceticism

…[the] US for instance…worships sex, and…celibates are viewed as “losers”. A Hollywood film that describes this social mindset is “40 year old virgin” that came out a decade or so ago.

India makes an interesting contrast. Though the life of the “married householder” is an ideal in India, celibates are viewed with respect and admired for their self-restraint. This is actually one important contributor to the charm and charisma of Narendra Modi – a celibate man, a teetotaller among other things. He is viewed as someone who has “conquered his senses” and is incorruptible.

This streak of anti-sensuality, very much a part of Indian culture, is not to be found in US.

More westernized Indians on the cultural Left, back in India, mock at the public’s fascination with Modi’s celibacy and his puritanism. There are jokes in this group that Modi is probably gay or asexual. No wonder he can stay single.

Again this highlights the large chasm between the attitudes of the modern western mind which does not choose to view sensual restraint as a virtue, versus more traditional societies where self denial and austerity command a certain awe.

That is from Shrikanthk.


'and is incorruptible'

That view just might be suffering a bit - 'Shortly after a $2 billion bank fraud was uncovered last month at India’s state-owned Punjab National Bank, a picture emerged of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the alleged fraudster.

The photo showed Modi posing at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 23 with a large business delegation that included billionaire jeweler Nirav Modi, who is at the center of the unfolding scandal. That was enough for opponents and even one of Modi’s coalition partners to question the prime minister’s commitment to rooting out corruption -- a key part of his pitch to voters.

Government officials said the jeweler was just part of a separate, non-official business delegation, and that the prime minister had only stopped by for a photo. Still, the scandal may already be having an impact: On March 14, Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party lost three by-elections in the populous and politically crucial states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.'

'is not to be found in US'

The Mormons beg to differ, as do the sort of people who voted for Roy Moore (though those voters might just posses the sort of distinction between image and reality that Modi illustrates).

'of the modern western mind which does not choose to view sensual restraint as a virtue'

Well, the qualifier 'modern' may allow the advocates of abstinence education in the U.S. to be put to the side when talking about this subject. Nonetheless, they are not a trivial segment of the American population, and they most certainly view sensual restraint as a virtue. Along with a desire to use tax money to spread their view of virtue as widely as possible.

I'm not sure if I agree with Clockwork Prior's point regarding Mormons and fundamentalist Protestants. Neither group seems to place any great value on celibacy; they only insist that one's only sexual partner be one's lawfully wedded opposite-sex spouse. Indeed, both groups seem to push their members in the direction of marriage, and to regard the celibate adult as a second-class citizen.

'Neither group seems to place any great value on celibacy'

True, but both groups do place a value on 'sensual restraint as a virtue.' Which fits in well with St. Paul's observation in this regard - 'I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.' 1 Corinthians 7:8-9

My comment was about the "modern" western mind. Not traditional Christians or Mormons - who are a small minority in US.

The religion of US is not Christianity. But Hobbesian materialism.

The religion of US is not Christianity. But Hobbesian materialism.

Hobbes was notable for his political theory. Manifestation of Hobbes' insights in American institutional practice sum to zero.

That's not what I meant.

Ofcourse Hobbes advocated a strong monarchy, which is not what US has. By Hobbesian materialism, I mean the theories of "state of nature" which in turn developed into the social contract philosophies of Locke, which were put into practice in US.

The theories of Hobbes and Locke totally discount the soul. And focus on the material world. There is no room in these theories for words like "good" and "evil" but merely expediency.

The culture of atheism and materalism that we see in the modern world owes its origins to Hobbes (and maybe Machaivelli a century before him). They are the godfathers of Modernity.

I mean the theories of "state of nature" which in turn developed into the social contract philosophies of Locke, which were put into practice in US.

There were no 'theories' put into practice, just farmers, merchants, and artisans trying to scratch out a living (in the north), along with gentry planters and their slaves (in the South). The political institutions were derived from early modern corporation law. The closest thing to a 'theory' put into practice would be found in the intentional religious colonies of the 17th century. They didn't owe a debt to Hobbes.

You are nitpicking and missing my larger point.

The very idea of having a public discourse bereft of any mention of the Soul starts with Hobbes (and Machiavelli). THey are the godfathers of modernity.

There is no modernity without Hobbes/Machiavelli and the intellectual tradition they kickstarted.

You are nitpicking and missing my larger point.

No, you're just bloody wrong.

'Not traditional Christians or Mormons - who are a small minority in US.'

Mormons? Sure, not a large group outside of a certain region. Traditional Christians? Not to get too precise on definitions, but there is this not entirely small part of the U.S. called the Bible Belt, and many of the people living there most certainly consider themselves traditional Christians.

Americans, and American society, are not accurately reflected by watching the output of Hollywood. (Whether you wish to say that those who consider themselves traditional Christians are not really traditional Christians is covered above in reference to definitions.)

"Americans, and American society, are not accurately reflected by watching the output of Hymiewood."

That view just might be suffering a bit

What shrikanthk pointed out was about Modi's image among non-westernized Indians, so your quoting bloomberg isn't going to help one bit.

There are things non-westernized Indians have been pissed off about the Government (e.g., many who didn't like demonetization, traders who didn't like GST), but by and large non-westernized non-liberal Indians do consider him incorruptible. I have heard non-westernized Indian traders hold him in awe and regard even while *simultaneously* telling me that demonetization and GST weren't good for their business.

And this is all apart from the fact that the supposed scam took place when Congress was in power, it got revealed when Modi was in power, and there have been fingers pointed at Raghuram Rajan as well, as he was the reserve bank governor at the time.

This was meant to be a response to clockwork_prior above.

blah says: "What shrikanthk pointed out was about Modi's image among non-westernized Indians, so your quoting bloomberg isn't going to help one bit." - this is rich. Are you suggesting that before clockwork_prior can comment on Modi, he must put himself behind a "veil of ignorance", John Rawls style (Google this), and put himself in the shoes of a peasant Indian farmer?

Are you suggesting that before clockwork_prior can comment on Modi

No sir, I don't get how you can possibly interpret my comment to mean this.

He can comment as much on Modi as he wants, how much ever critically or even abusively. Just don't expect his or Bloomberg's opinion to be shared by the Indian peasant (the Bloomberg piece doesn't quote any non-elite Indian).

'What shrikanthk pointed out was about Modi's image among non-westernized Indians .... but by and large non-westernized non-liberal Indians do consider him incorruptible.'

I did include recent election results - of course, if a majority of Indian voters are now westernized and liberal, fair enough. Because if one uses a recent vote in Alabama as a measuring stick, it seems like a majority of voters there have also decided that a man proclaiming his religiously virtuous qualifications is not fit to represent them.

Just in case you missed that part, here it is again - 'On March 14, Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party lost three by-elections in the populous and politically crucial states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.'

Again, I am certain you have more insight than I, but it takes a particular sort of lens to take such a fact and then completely dismiss it.

BJP has anyway lost most by-elections since 2014 (remember, I'm talking of by-elections, not main state elections), including when Modi was at the height of his popularity:

General principle to keep in mind: if you make one observation and propose one plausible mechanism out of a thousand possible reasons, don't expect that there is burden of proof on the other person to disprove your proposed mechanism.

I could give you myriad other reasons for why BJP could have failed, including demonetization and GST and various aspects of Adityanath's rule in UP, yet I don't go around claiming that my reasons are why election results turned out to be the way they are.

'yet I don't go around claiming that my reasons are why election results turned out to be the way they are'

As you wish - who really knows why anyone actually loses an election, right? And to be honest, that was simply an example of how Modi's image of being incorruptible seems to be taking a hit - a picture has that thousand word effect, after all, not that anyone can prove that expression to be true, of course.

To suggest that Modi's supporters would like to avoid any discussion of this topic would be uncharitable, right?

The village in Gujarat where my families patron Goddess is, votes Congress. I remember one time we went there for an observance and I talked to the mayor about how things were going. He had nothing but praise for Modi for arranging for a water pipeline from the Narmada dam, a bugaboo for gentry environmentalists but life or death in this traditionally drought-stricken area.

The village still votes Congress.

a picture has that thousand word effect

If you honestly believe that is what you have given, I have nothing more to say. Go ahead and make random accusations like calling me a Modi supporter. I am done with this.

Clockwork prior - India is a parliamentary system. Not a Presidential one.

Elections are won and lost for umpteen local reasons. Not every random election in a godforsaken part of India is a referendum on Modi.

Blah - By the way I thought you are a Modi supporter (for the most part :) ) Why be apologetic about it ;)

Why do you think I am a Modi supporter? I am mostly agnostic about Modi's economic performance, though perhaps I lean towards cautious optimism, even while being open to stinging criticism. Culturally/socially I am so far right as to be strongly anti-Modi, as you know, but of course I don't want to get into debates with the seculars here on that.

I am not convinced myself that he is incorruptible or anything. If anything he is a highly skilled politician, suggesting that he may have turned a blind eye to a large number of unconscionable actions.

Sure. But support for a candidate does not imply alignment with him on all issues under the sun.

Choices in a democratic polity are always relative. We don't have a conservative alternative to Narendra Modi in India today.

I know support doesn't imply alignment, but I still don't support him. It is hard to say more on this comment thread.

"I have heard non-westernized Indian traders hold him in awe and regard even while *simultaneously* telling me that demonetization and GST weren't good for their business"


That Indian dude IS gay and asexual. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I dug Mr. Rogers, too!

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Not that there's anything which makes the least bit of sense in that sentence. (BTW, Rogers was married for 50 years and left behind grandchildren).

There was a documentary done of his life and work shortly after he died. The accumulation of his remarks to interviewers made plain that as he aged he got to be a caricature of himself (to the extent that he wasn't already; see the George Carlin 1978 send up). I don't think that happened to Bob Keeshan.

I'm packing my bags and heading to India. Anything to get away from the sensual singing and dancing that goes on around here.

We have contraception now in the West, so no social need to praise celibates for keeping the population sustainable.

Sex is addictive so some parties end up forming households before they learn the commercial acquisition of toilet paper. Toilet training before genital sex is the normal view, at least since tribal taboos of a thousand years.

Based on incontrovertible scientific evidence the use of toilet paper after defecation is a joke. If you picked up dog feces with your fingers would you assume that no e-coli could possibly be present on your hands after wiping them with a bit of paper? Even the ancient Romans, who had no concept of bacteria, washed their rear after taking a dump. Basically, every American is walking around with more feces on their nether sphincter than there is lead in the Flint, MI water supply.

Good point ; ironically an example where some of the "backward" countries that use water are ahead of the curve.

BTW I am quite impressed that Tyler noticed the nontriviality of shrikanthk's comment. These are ideas that many Indians themselves gloss over while reading.

external repression is being confused for internal self-control. the indian right is hopelessly confused about where it comes from and where it's going. (which is nowhere).

Tyler - Thanks for sharing!

By the way, the reverence for asceticism has a long history in India. The rise of Gandhi to a position of pre-eminence too had a lot to do with his renunciation of external marks of worldliness, his public announcement of his celibate life (despite remaining married), among other things.

Sure, Gandhi was a great leader. But would he have been great had he been a well dressed man about town? No.

Actual practice of austerity and the visibility of a certain work ethic matters a lot in India. Another interesting example is my own experience with how work gets perceived in Corporate America and Corporate India, having worked in both places.

In the US, results are paramount, and you get valued based on the "quality of the result" of your project. It doesn't matter what kind of effort went into the project.

In India, results are less important. And people judge you also for the number of hours you put in, the difficulty of your work, the "means" taken to reach the end.

Results are nice. But the journey to the end matters just as much.

It's a very different mindset. And I see this reflected in the way performance appraisals are sometimes done.

Just to add to my comment -

One of the things frequently mentioned in social media among Modi's admirers is the fact that he puts in "18 hours a day". It is mentioned repeatedly. It is emphasized.

It tells you something about the Indian mind. There is a strong value attached to work (karma). This is not to say all Indians work very hard. The ground realities may be very different. But the ideal remains a strong work ethic. And it transcends "results".

People don't judge you by results alone. The means matters. The way you lead your life matters. Short cuts are not appreciated.

Gandhi might not have been so famous if he was more of a family man. But on the other hand Nathuram Godse, and pretty much all of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's core members, also renounced sex and marriage in favor of politics.

Perhaps if there was not so much reverence for celibacy Gandhi might not have been killed. And he would have gone on to failed massively as a normal politician.

Many admired David Souter for his asceticism. It seems this is more of a universal value.

I wasn't all that impressed, I just figured he was gay. You know, like Modi.

I wasn't all that impressed, I just figured he was gay.

What personal interests does Souter have which correlate with homosexuality?

Many early Christians practiced asceticism (not only celibacy, but austerity generally). The reasons varied, but for many young women, asceticism (celibacy) was a matter of life or death: so many young women died in childbirth, that life was described as one of sex, birth, death, and decay. I think I'd rather be a Nun. What our culture has developed is the expectation, no, the demand, for more. More, more, more. Nobody exemplifies this more than Donald Trump. This being an economics blog, I must point out that economics measures progress in terms of more: the more an economy produces, the better. Of course, the more approach to economics will eventually result in less, a whole lot less, as the world's capacity for more has limits. Asceticism: it's in our past and, alas, it's in in our future.

I am told that Trump is a teetotaler. This implies a degree of restraint that I have a hard time reconciling

Actually, it makes perfect sense: alcohol, like childbirth in the ancient world, is a certain path to an early death, and less not more.

Yet apparently he lives on McDonald's burgers?

Trump is a teetotaler because he watched his older brother Fred drink himself to death.

Deaths from childbirth were less common than we think now, because our perception more heavily weights the (relatively wealthy) women who had doctors deliver their children after they handled corpses and transmitted puerperal fever. Greg Cochran reports for one German midwife there was one death out of 350 births.

Shrikanthk over exaggerates; or maybe he emphasizes one aspect of Indian culture: the asceticism of one aspect of Hinduism, which resonates with some Western readers. For example, how does he set Modi's asceticism against the Kamasutra? Take a look at the sensual dancing girl figurine from Harrapa. Indian sculpturists have always had an eye for the sensual. For example, the female figurines found in Hindu temples have shapely breasts, narrow waists and sensual hips. Even the Mughal paintings show the women as very sensual:very fair;slender with breasts peeking from under the blouses; then there are many of those which show Mughal princes in all sorts of sexual deportments with their concubines. Further: Indian movies once overplayed the woman as a repository of virtue and chasteness. Today's Indian movies show Indian actresses sensually prancing around. India's youth has also embraced pre-marital sex. This trend started with my generation and remains so. There is no inkling that the youth are willing to abandon sexual desires for the cause of asceticism. Sexual advice is doled out in the daily newspaper, at least the English ones. Not coincidentally, Noah Smith has argued or shown that countries experience a rise in pre-marital sex when there is a rise in GDP. India has arguably followed this trend. Put simply, if there is an ascetic tradition in India it is not broadly embraced. While I was growing up, I remember hearing jokes that ridiculed Gandhi's asceticism. In other words, Shrikanthk oversells India's ascetic streak.

Hedonism is consistent with admiration for asceticism. You can see the same books in Sanskrit literature celebrating female anatomy in a way that would be considered too gross in a university, and also expressing great respect for those who controlled their senses.

So there is no need to introduce a false dichotomy: one can admire asceticism while being steeped in hedonism.

I was actually responding to Shrikanthk's false dichotomy. As I wrote: "Put simply, if there is an ascetic tradition in India it is not broadly embraced."

If your point is simply "Put simply, if there is an ascetic tradition in India it is not broadly embraced." I agree. But did shrikanthk say anything inconsistent with that?

In my reading of his responses, he has.

Putting Smith’s idea another way, a rise in consumerism correlates with a decline in self restraint?

I would say this whole "Kamasutra - Temple sculpture" angle is overblown by the liberal types in India. The reality is that austerity has been an ideal in Indian life for atleast 2800 years (from the days of the Upanisad compositions) if not longer.

All our great saints were celibates. Including the foundational figures of Vedanta. Be it Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhwa. Ramanuja was married, but gave up family life, when he became a saint / philosopher.

There is a very strong anti-sensual streak in every text in the Hindu tradition. Including Bhagavad Gita. Which explicitly looks upon lust as "Tamasik".

One reason orthodox Hindus do not eat onion is because it is regarded as a "Tamasik" food - a food item that has aphrodisiac properties.

Marauding Catalan - Some of your points are valid, but they reflect your social set. You represent a westernized sliver of India - which is sizeable, I admit. In a country of 1 Bn people, even 1% amounts to 10 million!

But that is not India. I am talking of traditional India. The India of small temple towns. The India of Ujjain. The India of Srirangam. The India of Gaya. The India of Kanchipuram. That's where India lives. That's where Indian spirit resides.

But here’s an interesting fact. Shvetaketu the Upanishadic sage is also one of the founding acharyas of kamashastra.

Sure. And Upanisads also have passages that discuss how to beget a male child (Brihadaranyaka I think).

But that doesn't take away the fact that an anti-sensual streak exists at one level. Which to be honest, exists in Christianity as well (perhaps more so). But the West has ceased to be Christian. So it doesn't matter.

Greetings ShrikanthK: You may be surprised: I am not liberal. Also, your India's starting and ending point is traditional Hindu India. Weren
there other iterations, later iterations of India? There was Muslim India with its kings, princes, and their concubines; even a lot of Mughlai cooking accentuates the sensual: milk, saffron, cardamom, cloves, almonds, pistachios, and various meats. What I am arguing is that India is multi-faceted. Yes, there is a material part of India, that was ascetically Hindu. I suppose the issues of asceticism in India comes to this question: which part of India does asceticism accurately represent? What people groups? Muslims? South Indian Muslims or Allahabad Muslims? Kashmiri Brahmins? Nagas? Manipuris? Goan Christians? Jacobite Keralites? Or Hindus that see the Baghavad Gita as sacrosant? Which of these subsets accurately represent India? Or put another way, whose storied past accurately represents India? You are appealing to tradition of sorts to make your argument.

Marauding Catalan - I never said you are liberal!

I said you represent a westernized sliver (which we all do, atleast all the Indians writing on this blog). Including me.

Ofcourse India is multifaceted. But austerity is an ideal across wide swathes of India. It is not merely a brahminical ideal. You have mentioned many many minority groups in your comment. I respect them. But let's not lose sight of the fact that India is 80% Hindu.

Thank you for the discussion, Srikanthk.

So Shrikanth would be at home in the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. They were famously against sensuality, you know? The Indian spirit he seems to like is very close to the Taliban spirit.

Marauding Catalan,

I definitely think there is a householder/this worldly/karma tradition in Indian thought which is as ancient and orthodox as the sanyasi/other worldly/moksha tradition. At various times and places one has dominated the other but both have existed and still do.

Your historical examples are not good though. The Indus Valley has no clear connection to later Indian civilization. The Kamasutra was the Gupta equivalent of a lads magazine. Imagine if in the far future, archaeologists dug up a copy of Maxim magazine in the ruins of Iowa. What would that say about the sexual habits of the average Midwesterner? Among the Mughals, Shah Jehan, was a sensualist, his son Aurangzeb...was not. One could go on.

In the present day working with Bangalore IT types I still see a respect for ascetic ideals even if only honored in the breach. And it extends beyond Hindus. For instance I have read India is one of only three countries in the world which are producing enough Catholic priests to meet demand. Given Catholics are a minority and undergoing their own internal turmoil over the issue of priestly celibacy that’s quite remarkable don’t you think?

1. "The Kamasutra was the Gupta equivalent of a lads magazine. Imagine if in the far future, archaeologists dug up a copy of Maxim magazine in the ruins of Iowa. What then would that say about the sexual habits of the average Midwesterner?" REALLY? So if all the Maxim lads created a GoFundMe account they too would then likely build temples of sensuality like the : The Sun Temple; the Ellora temple; the Ajanta Temple and the one in Khajuraho? So are these temples the ancient lads' equivalent of the Playboy Mansion?

2."The Indus Valley has no clear connection to later Indian civilization. " Do recent genetic tests affirm or undermine your claim? What is one to make of this article?

3. Perhaps I grew up with a bunch of randy bastards twenty odd years ago. Perhaps all of today's "come to the pool parties in your bikinis" ad in the local English newspapers are hogwash. My well connected friend must be lying to me too. He informs me of his wealthy friends who often go to Thailand and Cambodia to immerse themselves in the fleshpots there; we also joke about many of his his friends who are having extra-marital affairs. None of this must be remotely true, because Indians are consciously traipsing the earth, like King Vikram, performing acts of bravery and valor.

4. There then is evidence that demands a verdict. If the ascetic spirit is so febrile in India, what accounts for the daily reports of the rape of baby girls; young girls; girls who are youth; young women and old in Indian cities? Are The Times of India, The Hindu, The Deccan Herald, Mathraboomi all spewing Pakistani/Western propaganda about the rape reports of old and young women; youth who are girls; young girls; and baby girls? What the hell is one to make of the recent phenomena of bar girls and the proliferation of escort services in major cities, usually fronted by girls and women from the North Eastern frontier states?

Twenty odd years ago, I remember MTV's The Grind twenty, Playboy, ganga, and all sorts of sexual monkeying in and outside my circle of friends. I must have been dreaming! I better get out of my self-imposed bubble, because a more pure India awaits me!

1. What is a "temple of sensuality"? A temple with erotic carvings on the facade is used exactly the same as one without erotic carvings on the facade. You do realize a lot is known about the ideology and beliefs of the people who built those temples. Perhaps you should find out? Hint: it involves asceticism.

2. The article you link to says there appears to be no genetic link between the Indus valley people and contemporary Indians outside of the Andamans. So it would seem unlikely they had any effect on later Indian civilization though it does not rule it out.

3. The contention was not that there are no hedonists in India now or ever but that asceticism is a social ideal. Which it is. Even among many (but if you insist not all) hedonists.

4. Non sequitur. There are rapists in India and there ascetics. They may even overlap because human beings can be hypocrites.

But yes you live in a bubble so at least you got one thing right.

@Jaldhar: Marauding Catalan is right on the lack of asceticism in the general population traditionally. Not just the temples, Sanskrit literature too has a considerable degree of eroticism including a lot of Kalidasa's work (that said, the guy always seemed to be a lad mag guy to me, but clearly the ancients didn't think of Kalidasa that way).

I think what you said in #3 is basically correct: a lot of hedonism, but combined with a reverence for asceticism, perhaps including an awareness of potential pitfalls.

As for #2, the article doesn't say that - it says that the one Indus valley sample they found has Iranian and ancient Indian hunter-gatherer ancestries, which is found among all Indian populations today (that said, they have only one sample, and it is stupid to consider just one sample as having much implication).

Recently there was a comment thread at Brown Pundits in which some suggested that caste system was probably an Indus valley phenomenon and the Steppe guys got sucked in to the top of it (and Razib Khan seemed to consider it likely).

blah - My point is we just don't get to see the real India.

I repeat - ALL of us here are among the top 1% of the Indian population in terms of wealth, education, income or any metric you choose to name.

We spend all our social lives in the company of these people. Highly westernized people. Whose favorite author is JK Rowling, favorite TV show is "How I met your mother", favorite sportstar is Roger Federer, favorite thinker is Ayn Rand, favorite music band is Pink Floyd, favorite "old" writer is PG Wodehouse. I can go on....

Sure some of these people may support Modi. But they don't represent the "Right" nor do they represent the average Indian. The average Indian is segregated from us. He goes to the temple everyday at 7AM. He wears a large tilak. He has an arranged marriage after maybe 1 date with his prospective bride. He lives with his parents all his life, along with his wife and kids.

That is the REAL India. We are not Indians. We are poor excuses for Indians.

The real India I am talking about is still deeply austere. Deeply traditional. Deeply virtuous in the best sense of the word.

How many Indians do you see in the office or on the street wearing Tilak? A minority. You might have been right 20 years back. A bit less so 10 years back. Now, not at all.

Again. What you say is true for the large metro cities. But India isn't Bombay. Or Bangalore.

Pune? Hyderabad? Kochi? I don't see as many Tilaks in the rural areas either. Everywhere I see Hindu Indians struggling to become richer, in the process having fewer children: see this article on Kerala, which says: "As per the vital statistics report 2015, out of the total 5,16,013 live births in the state, 42.87% belong to Hindu community , 41.45% to Muslim community and 15.42% to Christian community ."

In other words, Muslims are closer to what you describe, while Hindus are hopelessly westernized with TFR far below replacement level.

Well. Tilak was just an example I gave.

In general I still do think Indians are more traditional than you give them credit for. Again I am making a relative remark, keeping in mind cultures in other parts of the world.

Blah - I just did some googling.

As per the 2011 census, there are 53 urban centers in India with over 1 MM people. This includes the cities you mention. And these 53 urban agglomerations account for barely 12% of India's population.

So 88% of India resides in towns and villages that are NOT a part of these 53 urban agglomerations.

What about that Kerala stats? Supposedly H = 2M.

Sure. Kerala is more urbanized. Has some 5-6 urban agglomerations above 1MM.

But then India isn't Kerala! It is an exceptional state in more ways than one.

"No genetic link" is much too strong a claim on my part but the Rakhalgadh findings suggest that the Indus population was distinct from both what are labelled ANI and ASI right? Or did I misunderstand? In any case the link if any between IV and later Indian civilization remains unclear.

Are the Rakhigarhi findings out? Could you share a link if you have one?

@Jaldhar and @shrikantk: According to that caravan article linked by Marauding Catalan, the Rakhigarhi sample is probably ASI: ASI itself is a combination of Iranian farmer and Indian hunter-gatherer.

@Jaldhar correction: sorry it is not ASI, but probably some other convex combination of Iranian farmer and Indian hunter-gatherer where the proportion of Iranian farmer is far greater than that in ASI. But this still gives you a very strong genetic link between that sample and nearly every Indian alive today.

Regarding Kalidasa's works -

I have a question. What was Kalidasa's stature in India in say 17th century before the birth of indology? People like Kalidasa and Vatsyana are 19th century discoveries, who represented a "type" of ancient Indian that indologists loved. That explains the boom in his stature. Indians too started glorifying Kalidasa after they heard the white man glorifying him. Oh...after all Goethe liked he must be good :)

But true traditionalists don't care for Kalidasa. They care for the Puranas, the Dharma sastras, the epics, Gita, Vedantin literature, Bhakti literature. That's what Indians cared for the most. Not Abhijnana Sakuntalam.

Kalidasa is not a 19th century discovery at all, he was a celebrity at least right from the time of the Aihole Prashasti of sixth century AD all the way until now; every single Sanskrit poet aspired to be like him and imitated his ideas. Of course, by celebrity I mean among the elite, the 1%. I have no idea what the non-Sanskrit-speaking Indians thought.

True traditionalists do care for Kalidasa; in fact many Swamis quote from Kalidasa to make spiritual points, and it doesn't look stilted (e.g., vAgarthAviva has been used to pretty good effect).

BTW I don't like Kalidasa's work myself, mostly.

I am not totally convinced.

I think Raghuvamsa is one Kalidasa text that traditionalists care for, as it is an invaluable source of information on the clan of Raghu (something not dealt with too well in Valmiki).

Regarding Dushyantha and Shakuntala - Yes, it is a very popular tale but I think the Mahabharata version was more popular than Kalidasa's until 19th century.

I dont think Meghaduta was regarded as highly as Raghuvamsa. Glad to be shown wrong.

I didn't literally mean he was "discovered" in 19th century. But definitely his stock boomed in 19th century, like never before

Well before the 19th century, the literary curriculum amongst the Pandits was the laghu trayi: Raghuvamsha, Kumarasambhava, and Meghduta of Kalidasa followed by the brhattrayi: Kiratarjuniyam of Bharavi, Naishadiyacharita of Shriharsha, and Shishupalavadha of Magha.

thanks. How about Abhijnana Shakuntalam, which is today the most celebrated of his works?

I remember reading somewhere that the Mahabharata version of the story was more popular than Kalidasa's play.

Marauding catalan - Ofcourse there is a great deal of hedonism among Indian urban youth.

But it pales in contrast with youth in other cultures. India still remains a deeply conservative country. God fearing, duty-minded, sceptical of "rights", sceptical of "equality", respectful of sexual restraint, respectful of authority and elders.

The young 20 somethings even in urban India are remarkably austere compared to 20 somethings in any other part of the whole wide world.

“Take a look at the sensual dancing girl figurine from Harrapa.”

That’s real retarded, sir. “What’s this about the Bogomil elect’s austerity? Take a look at the gold penis sheath of the Chalcolithic chief at Varna!”

Nikola Tesla was admired by many women, but he stayed celibate due to his beliefs/ideology:

But this doesn't seem to be an isolated example, there seem to have been many regions in the west where celibacy was traditionally held in high esteem, so it seems ludicrous to me when many modern Americans assume that a male celibate is necessarily gay (this is not about Modi, I have seen this all too often). Is there a protestant vs catholic divide here?

Tesla not a great example though?

Clearly exceptional, probably quirky, likely obsessive, maybe on the aspbergers spectrum... the caricature if these people is they would skip eating if they could

Fair enough, perhaps Tesla is not representative. But I do see a lot of traditional admiration for asceticism in western catholic cultures. Or is it that Hajnal line thingie?

"traditional admiration for asceticism in western catholic cultures."


Seems to me to be a universal feature of all extant world religions. The Buddhist monk living in silence with his begging bowl. The Amish worldview. Jesuits. Fasting and self-denial in nearly all of them.

Not sure where the 72 virgins fit in, except maybe in the same way I bribe my kids with promises of ice cream later for good behavior now.

By the way I never said CHristianity is very sensual and doesn't value austerity, just to clarify.

I clearly mentioned "the modern western mind". Modern is the key word there. Ofcourse it goes without saying the culture was very different 200-300 years ago, both in Catholic and Protestant West.

Gandhi is not held in reverence as he once was. Among the Chitpavan Brahamins he was always despised. But the modern generation also see him as one who was the direct cause of the partition of India. Moreover, Gandhi's asceticism coupled with Nehru's socialist tendencies set back Indian progress by at least 50 years. While their policies had been an adverse reaction to British colonialism, they could have embraced functional aspects of capitalism; they did not and generations of Indian moved abroad to find the truth worth of their labor. Only in 1999 did Manmohan Singh set loose market policies and India is slowly, if unsteadily, moving towards prosperity for ALL, not just Brahmins, or other high caste groups. Visit a city like Bangalore and Chennai and see the salubrious effects of capitalism. The hope is that the Indian government allows ALL Indians to prosper, and many low caste people who have become educated are indeed doing well. Finally, one can criticize Modi, but one has to credit him for bringing electricity to all parts of India. My hope is that India will become like Israel: a nation that will eventually trade knowledge as if it were a blue chip stock, black gold. Long live Gandhi, but may he rest in peace!

"But the modern generation also see him as one who was the direct cause of the partition of India". Interesting, but does that "modern generation" considers the partition of india a bad thing? Does that mean they would be happy with a re-unification with Pakistan?

I think it is natural for anyone in the apparently dominant part of a split-up country to look to the good parts of union and think it sad if that they split; without wanting to reverse the split now that it's happened.

Martina Navratilova expressed such a sentiment about Czechoslovakia in her interview with Tyler; and a reasonable Britain could make such an argument about Ireland (though are reasonable counter-arguments too).

@Joël: The Indian textbooks very emphatically teach the children today that partition was a bad thing that awesome people like Gandhi and Nehru tried to prevent. And people by and large swallow it, perhaps because there is implicit blame on Pakistani establishment for having caused the partition, and partly also because it agrees with their tendency to blame the British for dividing Hindus and Muslims. Many Hindutvavadis believe in a notion called "Akhand Bharat" or "undivided India", wherein India, Pakistan and Bangladesh was a single canonical entity which intrinsically made sense, and should become eventually one country.

One shouldn't expect these people to have worked out the details of their arguments or resolved their internal contradictions; so they probably don't consider reunification from a practical standpoint as opposed to an abstract ideal to pay lip service to.

"Though the life of the 'married householder' is an ideal in India, celibates are viewed with respect and admired for their self-restraint. This is actually one important contributor to the charm and charisma of Narendra Modi – a celibate man, a teetotaller among other things. He is viewed as someone who has 'conquered his senses' and is incorruptible."

How does any of that (or the Pope being celibate) change the fact that INvoluntarily celibate people can not get the sex they totally want (and most people in most cultures want it one way or another even if with the intermediate step of marriage)? They are not enlightened people, they are not trying to master reality and conquer their senses.
As for people mocking them, it has nothing to do with it. Who is oppressing them? Mommy asking when her grandchildren will be born? Most normal people would not know involuntarily celibate people are celibate if they were not so eager to tell us that... and that hot women (the U.S. and Canada are not totalitarian Red China, there is no scarcity of women - they just can not sleep with Scarlett Johansson) are like the Nazis because they do not want to sleep with them. As much as we could know, they could be studs, Don Juans without permanent attachments (the same way, lots of supposedly faithful reverends and supposedly straight Republicans, not to mention supposedly celibate priests, were unmasked as hypocrites with secret sexual lives) or in low key relationships.

They just want to tell us how entitled they are. I am sick and tired of evil people blaming society for their character flaws. I am sick and tired of people making excuses for them for the sake of advancing political causes. North America has an domestic terrorism problem. It is no better or more justified than what the United Federated Forces of the Symbionese Liberation Army used to do just because the primary targets are women. It is high time to America prove it takes terrorism seriously even when the perpetrators are not Brown-skinned people from exotic places.

Lets face it, thinking about sex, pursuing sex, and having sex are a massive use of energy.

Henry II: I could have conquered Europe - all of it - but I had women in my life.


Henry II: I could have conquered Europe - all of it - but I had women in my life.

Not having women wasn't going to produce the tax revenue necessary to build and maintain armies.

But the kingdom would be able to cut expenses with cosmetics, clothes, Valentine's Day gifts.

The Catholic scandals had a big impact on Western belief in the practicality of spiritual celibacy. That probably ties in with comments above, that public celibacy might actually be private repression. And so we come to the modern conclusion that it is better to let your freak flag fly than harm anyone secretly.

Legal prostitution would seem to fit into that, but it is always been associated with coercion of the weak and vulnerable. I interpret prohibitions as utilitarian for that reason.

The Catholic scandals had a big impact on Western belief in the practicality of spiritual celibacy

In Ireland, perhaps. The impact here was a marginal lowering in the status of clergy and an notable increase in the willingness of the usual suspects to say rude and stupid things. They were already rude and stupid to begin with.

You had the Catholic scandals in the first instance because seminary rectors and vocations directors were hit-and-miss in their ability to screen out latent homosexuals if they were even looking for them. After a certain point (at varying dates), rectors and vocations directors decided to look the other way so long as seminarians hadn't committed particular infractions (and sometimes when they had). See Leon Podles account of his departure from the seminary in 1966 or accounts of the life and career of Rudy Kos. Those familiar with the scene in Chicago thought 1970 was a watershed year, though Podles experience suggests it was earlier elsewhere. The Holy See ordered a visitation of the seminaries in 1981. Critics of the episcopate have maintained it was a failure, but it does seem from the surveys done that seminaries stopped turning out gross bad actors around about 30 years ago. The data in Syracuse suggest the problem appeared in the 1920s some time but was pretty low-grade until the 1950s.

"You had the Catholic scandals in the first instance because seminary rectors and vocations directors were hit-and-miss in their ability to screen out latent homosexuals if they were even looking for them."
So are Republicans. There is nothing that can be done as long as someone's homosexuality is latent or simply secret.

I don’t know enough about Catholicism to do more than guess but weren’t priestly vocations in decline long before the scandals came to light? This would be at a time when many young people were running off to the mystic East to follow celibate Hindu or Buddhist Gurus often becoming monks themselves.

I would say religious celibacy was never popular in America, but it went from rare to extremely suspect.

It should be noted that Protestants allowed clergy to marry, and that did not really stop Scandal either.

We are mammals, sex is a natural drive.

I don’t know enough about Catholicism to do more than guess but weren’t priestly vocations in decline long before the scandals came to light?

The decline set in after the close of the 2d Vatican Council. It was much more pronounced with religious than with clergy and much more pronounced with regular clergy than with secular clergy.

In Western history there is perhaps less about asceticism and more about self-control? See for example- Why Ancient Greek Sculptures Have Small Penises - By Alexxa Gotthardt Jan 21, 2018. Basically, size was a measure of character. Satyrs, often in comedies, were portrayed with huge genitalia and were generally targets of derisive humor- half-beast and only half-human. Small genitalia indicated restraint and self-control. By the way, measures of self-control are currently an area of increasing interest in psychology research.

I just assumed the sculpter's studios were cold

Actually, according to Brazilian writer Fernando Sabino, Brazil's Education Ministry commissioned a 10-meter male statue representing the Brazil man's inner dynamism and fortitude in the 1930s. The sculpter planned to provide it a 1.5 meter penis, but the work was never concluded. A storm destroyed the unfinished sculpture.

Mr Hanson: “Redistribution” literally means “changing the distribution.”

That's not the common meaning. Rather it almost always means "using the coercive power of the state to rob Peter to pay Paul".

Sod it: wrong thread. Sorry.

The point by @shrikantk is well made. However, using Modi, who sent out rape squads into minority communities when he was CM of Gujarat and who is an expert in how to deploy sexual violence for political goals, as an example here is very inappropriate.

I suppose it's good for Indian women that the press have suddenly discovered sexual violence is a thing but spare me the hysterics. Attempting to pin it on Modi is (as in the US) a desperation move by political losers who can't compete at the ballot box.

No, you did not understand my comment. I was not talking about the current crisis, which I assume is just a surfacing of a longstanding issue rather than an escalation. He has been incompetent in dealing with it, but clearly he is not the one that caused it.

I am specifically pointing out his consistent use of violence to further political goals including sexual violence throughout his career. And, that has to be noted in any unbiased analysis of his legacy.

In any case, comment by @shrikantk is entirely valid, except for his blindspot towards Modi. But, that has also to be expanded to other religions as well. I went to a Catholic school. As an atheist myself, I was always confused why some of the best of lower/lower middle class Catholic families send their best kids to priesthood. Is this cultural due to interaction with Indian Hindu culture? Or, is this the case other historically Catholic communities (Europe?). May be some one knows why.

AustinCard : That's libel.

Modi has used sexual violence against nobody. Some goons who may count themselves among his supporters may have engaged in the odd riot or impropriety.

You can't pin everything on one man. Modi himself has been cleared by all investigating teams of any involvement in the unfortunate riots that followed the Godhra incident back in 2002.

Modi is certainly a blindspot for an intelligent man like yourself, and I have seen this happen to a lot of my friends. This is India. "Investigation Teams" clearing powerful people is the norm, whatever the crime is. Of course, you can't pin this on Modi completely. But, it is pretty clear that he was and is closely involved. You have to be truthful that a big part of Modi's appeal among his supporters is his capability to enable and cultivate such ruthless suppression of minorities in the country. No unbiased analysis of Modi can be complete without this admission.

In any case, let us agree to disagree on this one, and I am sorry I even brought it up as I should have expected the response. So, can we move on to a point more central to your comment.

Do you have any thoughts on other religions in India that have some aspects of such asceticism, e.g. Christianity and Priesthood? Is this stronger than other parts of the world where such religions exist, say European Christian institutions? Any thoughts on if the local customs influenced other religions during its growth in India?

Well. Just not true. Many powerful and famous people have been indicted/convicted in India. Lalu Yadav is a good example. Salman Khan is another.

I trust the judiciary system.

Anyway if you've made up your mind that he "suppresses" minorities, there is little to be said.

Let's move on.

Regarding other religions - I don't see Indian Islam and Indian Christianity having a peculiarly strong ascetic streak. As far as I know it is a Hindu thing. Ofcourse we have Christian priests who don't marry (Catholic priests). And there is a great deal of abuse among them.

But wilful, voluntary renunciation / celibacy appears to be a Hindu thing to me.

No one who has ever had to deal with the Indian investigative branches or the judiciary will say that they are effective in any way. Of course, we have to trust the state and believe in its ideals. But, we have to be realistic about the current state of the institutions. The judiciary has to improve an order of magnitude before it can be considered effective. It is great that Laloo got what he deserved, but we all know that he would have been a free man now if he had made a different political choice a couple of years ago. This political context cannot be ignored. Essentially, the victims of Modi did not get any justice since the system realized he was a rising star, PM in waiting, and they will not get any justice as long as he is the power center in the country. May be not even then, as even straight forward cases such as Tytler shows.

On the other topic, I interpreted your comment as being directed towards how the society feels towards asceticism rather than the rituals of the asceticism. This is the context of my question. In India, in Christian communities, I did feel a sense of responsibility to send a family member to do God's work as well as an admiration of those who went that way, i.e. in the same way you describe the admiration that they have to leave behind "normal" (used for the lack of a better term) life to a life of celibacy and anti-sensuality. Is this the same in other Christian cultures around the world, is my question. In terms of the process and the nature of the asceticism itself, you are completely correct.

"Is this the same in other Christian cultures around the world, is my question"

Austincard - I don't think I am knowledgable enough to answer that. I suspect it is an ideal in Catholic countries. But my point is - though the ideal may exist in Western Christianity, the countries themselves have ceased to be Christian, except in a very nominal way. Unlike in India where religion has a living, daily influence on the way people think and act. (across communities and religions).

Many supporters of Modi among my friends do not object to his celibacy as such ( that is after all a personal matter) but to the fact that having married he told his wife he wants to be a full time member of the Hindu organisation the RSS which required celibacy as a condition. Modi , my friends say, lived separately from his wife after that and even pretended he was single, not even mentioning his marital status in his application to the election commission until the last general election when all columns had or be filled. None of these supporters are left liberals and , to repeat, are Modi supporters

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