The Faithful Hound

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tam Brahm, Thank You Ma'am

"The Iyer you go, the Iyengar you get" a Tamil Brahmin friend used to remind me in school. There was no species of Brahmin as pure and orthodox as the Tamil Brahmin, and no Tamil Brahmin as chaste and uncontaminated as the Iyengar. Or so I once believed... A recent conversation inspired me to do some research and here's what I found; Iyengar Brahmins are, of course, Vaishnavites. The core of their belief system is the worship of Vishnu. A large part of this worship is Bhakti, or unrestrained devotion to Krishna, who is an aspect of Vishnu. Krishna is worshipped in a number of formats including his lover boy format where he seduces the married cowgirl Radha and her (similarly married) friends.
Apparently a cornerstone of the Iyengar Bhakti belief was the concept of oneness with the Lord through passion, especially sexual passion and especially sex outside of marriage in the format of Radha and Krishna. It was believed that sex outside marriage provided one with the purest form of love or passion that was possible, and that this was the only way to experience God.
It was this set of beliefs that made many olden day traditional Iyengar marriages open relationships, where the wife often became the mistress of a local nobleman and the husband took up with some young pupil. And it was all perfectly acceptable. And this was the most orthodox of all the Indian sub-castes. A few centuries of Islamic and Victorian British rule later and look where India is today.
Isn't it amazing how social mores vary back and forth across the ages? I read somewhere that every generation believes that it invented sex.

In other news...
I'm back from India. Trying to work off the seven pounds I gained from the daily aunty-hopping feasts ("How skinny you children get in that country, come now, have five more puris") and giving my liver some time to recover from the nightly sessions on the Bangalore Club lawns. (The only place our Nazi city allows you to drink past midnight).
Also, someone whacked my camera while I was there, so the pictures I planned to post here are all gone - the sign that says "whoever urines here is a scondrel!" on the Cash Pharmacy walls and the long line of enthusiastic young hopefuls trying to sign up at the air-force office will have to be photographed again on my next trip.