Tuesday, June 20, 2006

So many penis jokes, so little time

Again, a gem ripped from the headlines. The annual Amarnath yatra has commenced, and it wouldn't be India if there wasn't some bureaucratic bumbling around the corner.

Background (thank you, Wikipedia):

Amarnath: There are numerous explanations of how the journey to the cave came to be, but most people agree that some man (some say a Gujjar, some say a rishi) was bopping around the Himalayas and encountered a cave at Amarnath, wherein a lingam (widely considered a symbol of Shiva, a tantamount god in the Hindu pantheon) of ice had formed from water drizzling through the cave; Amarnath then became a symbol of Shiva’s abode and began attracting thousands of devotees seeking to bask in the shiv ling's presence.

Shiv ling: Various interpretations on the origin and symbolism of the Shiva lingam exist. While the Tantras and Puranas deem the Shiva lingam a phallic symbol representing the regenerative aspect of the material universe, the Agamas and Shastras do not elaborate on this interpretation, and the Vedas fail altogether to mention the Lingam.

Now that you're up to speed, let's see how this year's yatra is going. Actually, it's not so good. In "Amarnath shivling man made?", HT, June 17, Arun Joshi writes:

"Pilgrims to the Amarnath shrine this year would be disappointed to learn that the 'Shivlingam' at the cave shrine is man-made and not natural as it usually is. The extraordinary hot weather last month did not allow the Shivlingam to be formed. An official of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board told the Hindustan Times that snow had to be gathered and shaped like a lingam. .. however, fresh snowfall on June 12, a day after the yatra began, rescued the architects of the man-made Shivlingam. Fresh snow was sprinkled around to make it look natural."

I can't help but laugh when I imagine the organizers frantically packing snow, panicked that the sacred symbol did not develop because the winter was unusually warm. No one seems to be that outraged, which is good, but it does remind me of the good 'ole college years.

See, if you attended my alma mater, you not only sympathize with the organizers, but you've probably participated in a more ritualized form of this subterfuge. For many dorms, upon the first snowfall of the year, take it upon themselves to erect gigantic phalluses from the flakes. In "Year's first major snowfall gets mixed reactions from students," The Daily Northwestern, March 6, 2003, Samantha Nelson reports:

"With Winter Quarter drawing to a close, an unexpected onslaught of snow has made Northwestern students realize how far away spring still is. 'I'm glad we finally got a good amount of snow, but it would have been nicer a few months ago, when I wasn't looking forward to spring,' said Samantha Starrett, a Weinberg freshman. But as long as the snow continues, she expects the fun will too. 'I wouldn't be surprised if semi-offensive sculptures start appearing,' Starrett said. 'I've heard terrible, terrible things about what [dorm] people like to build in the snow.'"

I'm just glad the puerile occupations of college students are now enjoyed by all ages, races, and creeds. Pack it tightly, boys.


Mani said...

I saw a swami and an ex-Army man on some Indian new channel discuss this. Surprisingly the Swami (who was dress in Saffron) adopted a more anti-superstitious stance. While the ex-service man was going “I have seen many caves, but nothing like the Amarnath cave)... The Swami’s words were something like this (translated from Hindi).

“The objective of the pilgrims as well as the organizers has nothing to do with faith or religion. While we have Pilgrims who want to be dropped at the site in a chopper and appear to take risks going to Amarnath only because they believe if they die on way, they will go to heaven. The organizers on the other hand realized the business potential of organizing the Amarnath yatra. Many people come to visit the shrine in a harsh environment, so many (or a few) will be affected if the thousands (or lakhs) do not turn up this year as there is no Lingam. So they decide to create a man made lingam, not to appease the religious sentiments of the pilgrims but to save their money spinning machine.”

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