Contemporary “humanist” approaches to violence take (post-Enlightenment) Man to be essentially reasonable and pacific. Its aetiology is sought in the perpetrator’s succumbing to animal nature and/or in the victim’s defiance of (internalized former) oppression. Religious fanaticism underpins millennial conflicts because the underlying world views and consequent claims are intractable to reason. Reinterpreted through the universal scapegoat mechanism invested in the marriage of Lat Bhairon, martyrdom of Ghazi Miyan and ritualization of Shia-Sunni conflict in Muharram, the 1809 Hindu-Muslim riots of Banaras demonstrate instead that religious traditions aim to contain an innate primordial violence channelized to better serve their divergent founding projects. Recovering their shared sacrificial core is the urgent prerequisite to eventual reconciliation and for deconstructing the now “secularized” modes of scapegoating the Other.
- Religious conflict
- Ghazi miyan
- Lat Bhairon riots
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“Aggression and human violence have marked the progress of the human race and appear, indeed, to have grown so during its course that they have become a central problem of the present. Analyses that attempt to locate the roots of the evil often set out with short-sighted assumptions, as though the failure of our upbringing or the faulty development of a particular national tradition or economic system were to blame. More can be said for the thesis that all orders and forms of authority in human society are founded on institutionalized violence. This at least corresponds to the fundamental role played in biology by intraspecific aggression, as described by Konrad Lorenz. Those, however, who turn to religion for salvation from this ‘so-called evil’ are confronted with murder at the very core of Christianity—the death of God’s innocent son; still earlier, the Old Testament covenant could come about only after Abraham had decided to sacrifice his child. Thus, blood and violence lurk fascinatingly at the very heart of religion” (Burkert 1986). Homo Necans, which begins with a dramatic description of sacrificial killing and consumption in the Greek polis, appeared in English the same year as René Girard’s Violence and the Sacred (1986). For Burkert, the constant menace of intraspecific violence among early humans was projected outwards onto the productive hunt for food resulting in the equation of the animal quarry to its pursuing killer. The prolonged survival of the associated guilt into subsequent agricultural and urban societies was expressed through collective sacrificial murder. In Hindu mythology, the ritualized hunt was seen through the optic of the initiatic death of the sacrificer expressed through his fatally wounded prey. An epic example would be the diksha scenario of the golden deer (Maricha) in its final throes mimicking the pleading voice of its royal hunter Rama. Conversely, the exposed foot of the meditating Krishna is pierced by a fatal arrow discharged by an unwitting hunter, who had mistaken it for a camouflaged deer. Indeed, this would have been karmic retribution for having unjustly slain from behind, in his previous Rama incarnation, the monkey chieftain Valin during the latter's fratricidal confrontation with Sugriva, a 'dualistic' duel charged with sacrificial notations.
Mimetic rivalry has been intuitively exploited in the cinematic theme of the identical but “evil” twin—unable to achieve a meaningful existence except through identification with the alter ego—who returns to compete, often deceitfully under a protective stance, for the envied object of desire. Whereas such mechanisms are normally and unrecognizably projected onto the world at large, they become obsessively apparent within the dysfunctional family. I know firsthand of a case, who kept falling for the successive object choices of his brother, a compulsive pattern that makes sense only in terms of infantile rivalry for the (unrequited) love of the mother.
Just as the development of the cerebral function and the relative autonomy of the emotions has also resulted among humans in sexual preferences and even perversions no longer being determined entirely by the imperative of species reproduction, so too violence has taken on an “aesthetic” life of its own as sadism, masochism, and suicidal killing sprees that are becoming increasingly frequent and no longer serve the needs of self-survival.
This is the ultimate significance of the interminable warfare between Big and Little Endians over at which end to crack hardboiled eggs in Jonathan Swift’s satire, Gulliver’s Travels. Perhaps if we learned to recognize that all conflicts—even and especially those over “life-and-death” issues—were being fought, in the final analysis, between such arbitrarily opposed factions, the focus would shift instead to our inner propensity to violence.
René Girard has shown, through “anthropological” analysis of world literary masterpieces, the underlying mimetism of desire: objects become desirable because they are prized by admired others and we are willing to harm the latter for their possession. The scheming villain of the Mricchakatika (Visuvalingam 2014) desires the heroine less for her own beauty than her reciprocated love for his unwitting rival, the hero, and succeeds in (almost) destroying both when thwarted. Not only does the semiotics of the play identify villain and hero within a sacrificial logic, it suggests that this murderous rivalry began in the libidinous (temple-) womb of the Mother.
The potlatch celebrated by opposing moieties of North American tribes, especially along the northwest coast (Haida, Tlingit, etc.), consisted of agonistic self-destruction of wealth to humiliate the rival other. Solidarity was maintained above all through obligatory exchange of women as conjugal partners between the moieties. The fratricidal Mahabharata war, a gigantic self-consuming “potlatch” between cousins, corresponds to the founding dualism of the mythical “Churning of the Ocean” (samudra-manthana). This cooperative tug-of-war rivalry between gods and demons, which delivers the goods of life including the nectar of immortality, is also the model and justification for the Kumbha Mela, the world’s largest festival, which was likewise the scene of bloody clashes.
The extreme “senseless” cases of the depressive running amok, compulsive serial killer, shooting sprees in crowded places that seem completely “out-of-character” to those closest to the perpetrator, etc., confirm that the propensity to violence preexists the contingent conflicts that serve to channelize and rationalize its outward expression, the counterproof being concerted nonviolent resistance to oppression even under extreme provocation. Freud likewise relied on the abnormal to psychoanalyse the hidden dynamics of “normal” sexuality.
For Girard there are two opposed understandings of the Crucifixion: the preceding sacrificial one that still holds sway in other traditions and, vehicled by this misreading while gradually subverting it, the denunciation of the foundational scapegoat mechanism through its now deconstructive re-enactment: “get thee behind me, Satan!” That the orthodox brahmins, who scrupulously conserved their sacrificial practices, otherwise abhorred the shedding of blood shows that they clearly recognized its criminal if yet necessary character. Conversely pacific Buddhism began by denouncing the brahmanical sacrifice only to end up formulating esoteric rituals whereby the Tibetan tantric adept identifies himself with a Bhairava-like divinity to achieve individual enlightenment through such (visualizations of) (Chalier-Visuvalingam and Visuvalingam 2004, p. 155). Each religious tradition has approached dreaded yet foundational violence in its own unique manner. This essay is dedicated to our longtime benefactors Félix and Aurora Ilarraz, who embody the ideal marriage of the Hindu-Christian ethos.
The Devil in the Western imaginary has been typically depicted with the head and hoofs of a goat, perhaps the most prevalent—affordable yet substantive—sacrificial beast that now appropriately demands those very human victims, for whom the helpless animal had originally served as the domesticated substitute. The annual pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca comprises an obligatory ritual where the Devil himself is stoned as a scapegoat, pelted at least 49 times over the course of three days. Because he attempted to dissuade patriarch Abraham and wife Hagar from sacrificing their beloved son Ishmael and the latter from acquiescing voluntarily to Allah’s command. Hundreds of unwary pilgrims have died over the years during uncontrollable stampedes at this ritual, most recently in September 2015.
For Abhinavagupta (10–11th C.), religious tradition (agama) is constituted at its transcendental core of a seminal idea—embodied by the founder (e.g. impermanence by the Buddha) and conditioned by when, where, why, how, and other contingent factors—that takes on a perennial life of its own. This would translate for us, now able to retrospect on its millennial evolution through diverse adaptations, into a tentacular collective project.
The Life of Pi allegorizes the confrontation with our innate constitutive violence by leaving us, especially “enlightened” (Pi) Indian viewers, stranded in mid-ocean with a ferocious Bengal tiger aptly named Richard Parker after a European hunter. The book highlights in turn the unique virtues of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. The narrative is also a prolonged meditation on the food chain that reduces even idyllic vegetarianism to disguised (Eucharistic?) cannibalism. For author Yann Martel, who graphically depicts imaginative tortures that otherwise “decent” human visitors inflict as amusing pastimes on the caged animals, “freedom” from the well-managed zoo of Indian (caste-) society readily translates into the predator’s license to prey unrestrained on lesser creatures. The cornered tiger jumps out of the 3D-screen at us, and it is symbolically significant that “Nirbhaya” was brutally raped to death by three men stalking the streets of Delhi while returning home after enjoying it at the cinema.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj “the Libyan” was kidnapped from Malaysia in March 2004 by MI6 and delivered to Colonel Gadhafi’s torturers. Even while pursuing reparations from Britain, this warlord who helped topple the regime has been at the forefront in delivering jihadist “freedom-fighters” to swell the rebel ranks in the Syrian “civil war” that is mostly foreign funded and equipped, with large contingents from marginalized European Sunnis. Now accused of (massive) “human rights violations,” Bashar al-Assad was likewise entrusted with illegally kidnapped Canadian dual citizen Maher Arar. Why else are such innocent Muslims still detained at Guantánamo?
Among the many atrocities committed were the 1978 kidnapping and murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro and the 1980 Bologna railway station massacre, all typically blamed on the Red Brigades or other radical left factions. They were often timed when electoral politics and/or foreign policy in the nation were shifting significantly towards socialism. Despite various inquiries and condemnations at national levels and by the European Parliament there is no conclusive evidence that these clandestine structures were ever completely dismantled. All indications are that the lethal use of sarin gas recently in Syria that was to serve as the humanitarian pretext for a “shock and awe” US attack was actually perpetrated by the rebels provisioned by Saudi and Turkish proxies.
Whereas the perpetrators of 9/11 were allegedly Saudi nationals motivated by religious fanaticism, blame was quickly laid—with all the fanfare provided by the unrepentant corporate media—on the secular Iraqi state accused of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Though long since shown to have been fabricated, similar charges have been pressed against the Syrian regime, drawing the ire of both Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches against the West. So fundamental is scapegoating to mass psychology that similar tactics have been effectively employed against a recalcitrant Iran that has been reprieved, for now, to focus instead on the Yellow Peril that threatens American dominance in the Far East. For Girard, the scapegoat (e.g. Oedipus) is typically branded as a (e.g. parricide and incestuous) transgressor to legitimize the recourse to violence. Though the converse is equally if not more true—the brahmanicide Bhairava and the vidushaka as laughing stock are primarily figures of transgression—the geopolitical applications of the preceding insight have been amply demonstrated, as by the international media campaign demonizing President Vladimir Putin as the resurrected Russian Bear.
By installing and propping up an otherwise marginal Wahhabi dispensation in dynastic Saudi Arabia, the United States has created a reservoir of mercenaries to serve its “secular” geostrategic aims, starting with bringing down the Soviet Union using the Afghan mujahideen as eager proxies. If 9/11 was mere blowback from this global “database” (al-qaeda) of (potential) conscripts, why have these unseemly bedfellows been used to topple the Libyan and now the Syrian regimes? Just how bogus Western Enlightenment’s “War by Terror” has become—and has been from the very beginning—is amply demonstrated by its cynical cooption of the most bloodthirsty (liver-eating) jihadists in pursuance of its (now largely de-Christianized) “human rights” project of global emancipation.
Whereas President Obama, hailed still in living memory as the “Black” American Messiah, has been overheard bragging to administration aides that “I’m really good at killing people,” several drone operators at the “(killing) field” level have nevertheless quit, confessing to the media their growing unease at playing executioners.
This article is indebted to my wife and lifelong collaborator Elizabeth Chalier-Visuvalingam’s field work on Bhairava in Benares and Kathmandu between 1984 and 1989, and related (often joint-) publications. It was originally presented as a talk to the interdisciplinary forum “Issues and Ideas” of the Indiana State University at Terre Haute (26th March 1991) and to the Dept. of South Asian Languages and Civilization/ Committee on South Asia of the University of Chicago (2nd April 1991). Maria Green, Patrice Brodeur, Father Gregory Schissel, Profs. Houchang E. Chehabi, Ali Asani, and William A. Graham of Harvard University, Prof. C.M. Naim of the University of Chicago, Prof. Gyanendra Pandey of Delhi University, and Prof. Sir Christopher Bailey of Cambridge University contributed comments and/or indicated valuable source materials on the Islamic side of the equation. The original version of this paper, submitted under the title “Sex and Death in Hinduism and Islam,” was published in Islam and the Modern Age instead as “Between Mecca and Banaras: Towards an Acculturation Model of Hindu-Muslim Relations” (1993). Subsequent spinoff publications elaborating other aspects simply summarized here are referenced at the appropriate text locations.
This origin myth is systematically analysed and reinterpreted in Chalier-Visuvalingam (1989), p. 160ff; the “punishment of Bhairava” in Chalier-Visuvalingam (1986); and the marriage of Lat Bhairon in Chalier-Visuvalingam (2006); all from the Hindu perspective of transgressive sacrality first formulated by Visuvalingam (1985).
Since Bhairava functioned as sin-eater at both the Mahashmashana-Stambha where, as Kotwal, he executed the ultimate punishment, and also at Kapalamochana where, as Kapalin, he was freed of the ultimate crime of brahmanicide, it is perfectly logical that, in the wake of the Muslim occupation of Omkareshvar, the heart of Hindu Kashi, Kapalamochana had come to be (re-)identified with Lat Bhairo. These representations are components of the symbolic web (Ganga, cremation, Vishwanath temple, etc.) central to the meaning and status of Varanasi as the sacred centre of Hinduism. Pilgrimage, death, and cremation in this “City of Light” are modelled on and transpose the (principles underlying the) Vedic sacrifice.
See John Irwin (1983). The cosmogonic significance of the cult of pillars and poles in South Asia and elsewhere first came to our attention with Irwin’s visit to Banaras in 1979 to complete his research on the Lat. We are grateful for his constant encouragement of our work and for his comments on the present paper. A clear résumé [partly by the editor] of the contents of his various papers may be found in Irwin (1990). Limitations of space have prevented the detailed treatment of not only the successive post-Islamic relocations of Hindu sites in the sacred geography of Banaras but also the properly Buddhist aspects of the pillar.
This alternative name of “Bharata’s well” (bharat kup) is in accordance with the phenomenon of local sites becoming known for the particular function for which they are used in the local Ramlila. The waters consecrating the Hindu king—whether the epic Bharata or the royal Bhairava—are always drawn by regressing to the womb.
Adopting a radically “Marxist” and materialist approach, Laura Makarius, in her seminal work on The Sacred and the Violation of Interdictions (1974), reduces all primitive prohibitions to (ramifications of) the blood taboo, because archaic societies were ever susceptible to and in constant dread of contagious violence. Though ignorant of Indian parallels (brahmin, vidushaka, etc.), she also examines the indispensable role of inviolable figures, in whose presence blood must not be spilt, as institutionalized mediators in resolving violent disputes.
As Girard now acknowledges, mimesis operates just as well in a deliberate, increasingly self-conscious, manner that distances us from the automatism of the survival instinct. Desires are not mimetic to the same degree, and cultivating their renunciation ensures that what remains is relatively authentic and self-willed. In India, such emulation has been aptly described as the (benevolent) “tyranny of the sages” (Vivekananda). The caste dispensation that had preserved India’s live-and-let-live diversity has long since become counterproductive.
Contrary to prevalent propaganda by his Dalit followers against immemorial “brahmanical oppression,” Dr. Ambedkar astutely attributed the consolidation of the caste hierarchy to such emulation by other groups. The exclusion of “untouchables” was the logical corollary to the brahmin’s repression of his own natural urges and disgust towards his (lower) bodily functions. For Girard, a hierarchical dispensation embracing diverse values and orientations is less prone to violence than an egalitarian society where everyone competes for the same goods.
Lat Bhairon was originally crowned by a discus (chakra) probably representing the sun, as attested in “world pillars” (axis mundi), uniting heaven and earth, still standing elsewhere across the Indian subcontinent.
For Sandria Freitag (1989b), such syncretism and reciprocal “civic” participation in city-wide festivities (like the Ramlila) demonstrates that the Hindu-Muslim distinction did not exist in the early 19th century and that the Lat Bhairo riots could not therefore have been caused by religious differences. The original version of this paper, focused exclusively on the 1809 riots, was rejected from inclusion in Living Banaras (Hertel and Humes 1993) because of her scathing peer review regarding its “inflammatory” content. Our rebuttal (already in Visuvalingam and Chalier-Visuvalingam 2006, to which Freitag also contributed) is that such revisionist history betrays a woefully inadequate understanding of the dynamics of religious identity.
See Visuvalingam and Chalier-Visuvalingam (1993:41–44), where a greater wealth of ethnographic detail is analysed to demonstrate how the syncretic Indo-Muslim Ghazi Miyan is a meaningful fusion of the cults of (Lat) Bhairon and Muharram that already shared common themes deriving from an esoteric equation of sex and death (Chalier-Visuvalingam 1994).
Among Hindus during the “Shudra festival” of Holi, pent up aggressivity by the marginalized against those in authority and power, including by women who ganged up against their menfolk, was endured by tradition. Generalizing the (mock) violence of all-against-all served to diffuse its hold and impact and to minimize group conflict along inherited dichotomies. This is the atmosphere in which ritualized Shia-Sunni conflict took place.
As divinized policeman-judge for the Hindu king, Bhairava encapsulated a sacrificial understanding and application of law and order, transgressive violence, and human salvation, a sanctified role that his towering statue at Darbar Square continued to play in Nepal until quite recently. Even after his mundane functions were usurped, first by the Muslim kotwal and then by the British district magistrate, the underlying dynamics of the scapegoat seem to have determined not only these 1809 riots but the tragic history of communal violence in India.
All citations in this article from the conflicting Muslim and Hindu “memorials” and from Mr. Bird’s personal record of the riots are from Robinson (1877), a photocopy of which from the India Office archives was received from John Irwin upon our first meeting in 1979 in Banaras when he arrived to study the Lat.
Unlike Pandey (1990), intent on restoring agency primarily to the lowest “subaltern” castes, Freitag (1989a, b) insists on the constructive mediating role of the stripped down Maharajah between the legitimate needs of his subjects as a whole and the demands imposed from above by the colonial administration. This sometimes impossible royal dilemma is well portrayed in the grassroots cross-caste resistance against the “austerities” imposed by exorbitant colonial taxation in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s fictional movie Lagaan (2001). The ruling political dispensations across not only the Sunni world but also the Europe Union seem more responsive these days to the writ of the American superpower, beholden to global banking, than to the worsening plight of their own citizenry.
Whereas Pandey’s irony indicts colonial and nationalist historians for essentializing and thus perpetuating this repetitive narrative of Hindu-Muslim conflict, our account aims instead to reveal that the underlying violence that erupts so spectacularly and cumulatively—now between Sunnis and Shias across the Middle East or between Hindu castes and ethnicities—has a logic of its own that contemporary (Western-derived) “humanism” is incapable of recognizing, let alone resolving. In this regard, these 1809 Lat Bhairo riots are indeed paradigmatic.
The only objection posed by Gyan Pandey, who attended my original talk at University of Chicago on which this paper is based, was to doubt the numbers involved and killed during these riots that he suspected were British attempts to sensationalize the Hindu-Muslim conflict. It turned out subsequently that he was unaware of Robinson’s article at the India Office archives in London that John Irwin had passed on to us. I provided Pandey a photocopy of the same when he visited us shortly thereafter in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Pandey (1990, p. 32) underlines, here as elsewhere, the mutual contradictions of the British reports: whereas the earlier records put the number killed at 28–29 (or 20) Muslims with 70 wounded, the Gazetteer (1907) claims several hundred killed; only 2 or 3 (and not 80!) Julahas were killed at Gai Ghat (p. 34). Given the “law-and-order” situation, there could have been just as much reason for British authorities to minimize as to exaggerate the extent of destruction and casualties. The Hindu and Muslim memorials are even more emphatic regarding the gravity and unprecedented nature of the 1809 riots (Freitag 1989a, pp. 210–211) than the highly impartial reports of magistrate Bird. Likewise, subsequent confusions in the British reports as to the (immediate) cause of the dispute and the site of the original Muslim demonstration make much sense in the light of the Hindu-Muslim representations as revealed in the subsequent memorials.
The strongly caste-conscious weavers, who could venerate Lat Bhairon due to the shared symbolic paradigm that also encompassed Ghazi Miyan, were also emulating their still Hindu neighbours. They would rather destroy the sacred pillar, whose annual marriage they had been jointly celebrating, rather than allow the infidels to appropriate it completely (see note 5 on Girard’s mimetic rivalry).
Regardless of their ritualized dualism, the obligatory conflict during the Bhairava festivals in Nepal allowed for such violent settling of private intra-party grievances with no recourse to subsequent redress. We see here again that violence once unleashed, by whatever cause and between whichever parties, has a mind of its own.
See notes 23 and 22 on the brahmin as role model and mediator, the full significance of which becomes more apparent in the 1811 nonviolent city-wide anti-House Tax protest against the colonial administration.
Peters (1990c, p. 50ff). Such biblical passages are currently used to legitimize a narrow territorial understanding of “Greater Israel” and the forcible Zionist (re-) settling and (dis-) possession of Palestine.
Graham (1983) focuses on the fundamental opposition between pervasive ritualism and “reformationist” iconoclasm in Islamic orthopraxy without attempting to resolve this apparent contradiction in terms of an inherent “project” presiding over the “final” revelation. I have outlined a dialectical understanding of the thin vacillating line separating (commemorative or decorative) symbolism from idolatry in the Abrahamic tradition rather in terms of the unifying egalitarian ideal encoded into the monotheistic iconoclasm.
The following observations are culled from John Irwin’s various papers on Islam and the Cosmic Pillar.
My keynote address on 19 July 2013, complemented by Chalier-Visuvalingam’s plenary talk on Rabelais and the Medieval carnival, at the “Bakhtin in India” international conference (Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar) was precisely on this topic, taking the (ritual) clown (vidushaka) of the classical Sanskrit theatre as mediator between the hidden ideology of transgressive sacrality and inversions of the popular carnival.
The Vedic Mitra (“friend”) was the beneficent face of the awe-inspiring Varuna, who ruled over the cosmic law and equilibrium (rta) punishing transgressors with his dreaded noose. Chalier-Visuvalingam and Visuvalingam (2004) has shown, through a sacrificial analysis of the Hindu pantheon, that the kotwal Bhairava has inherited his “underworld” role from Varuna. Likewise, the scapegoat aspect of the classical clown (vidushaka) is derived from the “evil-form” of Varuna as incarnated by a deformed brahmin standing mouth-deep in his native element of water.
Cf. Visuvalingam (1989), pp. 435–436, 452-453. See Shatapatha Brahmana (126.96.36.199-18) for details on the anubandhya cow (Eggeling 1978). My unpublished but systematic scene-by-scene sacrificial analysis of the Mricchakatika is available at http://www.svabhinava.org/abhinava/SuntharMrcchakatika/index.php.
Standing at the fountainhead of Hindu revival, Indian nationalism, and interfaith dialogue, Swami Vivekananda’s legacy has become the object of contestation between Hindu nationalists, Indian secularists, and globalizing Vedantists, as became so apparent during his 150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations in 2013 in Chicago. Whereas Vivekananda is here recommending the adoption by enlightened (Indian) Muslims of a non-dual (advaita) spiritual perspective (that is also found in Abhinavagupta and ibn Arabi), this section argues that the (scapegoat mechanisms underlying the) Vedic sacrifice could very well complement this by clarifying the problem of violence.
A photograph of handprints stained with blood at the al-Aqsa mosque appeared in Time Magazine (October 29, 1990), p. 51, in the aftermath of the Temple Mount incident between the Israeli police and the Palestinians. “The Supreme Muslim Council expressly forbids anyone other than Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount. When right-wing Knesset members tested this restriction by praying outside the Dome of the Rock in January 1987, Muslim riots rocked East Jerusalem. Arab nations have voted to wage a jihad against Israel if the mosques are destroyed. This actually pleases the craziest of Christian fundamentalists and ultra-Orthodox, since they believe an all-out war, the Armageddon, must come along with the Messiah. If such a conflagration breaks out in the Middle East, it may explode over this big, unattractive, and intensely disputed rock on top of Mount Moriah” (Tierney 1989, p. 370). For the messianic expectations and the wave of prophecy sweeping through America in the wake of successive Middle East crises, see among others Steven Stark, “Apocalyptic fervor” in the Boston Globe, Monday, November 19, 1990, p. 13 cols. 1–2.
The late Hyam Maccoby, Talmudic scholar, who published a work on human sacrifice in ancient Judaism and introduced me to Patrick Tierney’s work on the same in Andean religion, thought (our conversation of 28 July 1989) that its redness is particularly associated with menstrual blood. French Kabbalah scholar Charles Mopsik informed me of an esoteric Jewish tradition that would make the Red Cow the mother of the Golden Calf, whose idolatry prompted Moses to break (the original tables of) the Law.
Interestingly, one of the Shia prophecies also predicts that “death and fear will afflict the people of Baghdad and Iraq. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them” (Momen, loc. cit.).
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Dedicated to all who have undergone, willingly or unwillingly, in Banaras or elsewhere, the salvific punishment of Bhairava.
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Visuvalingam, S., Chalier-Visuvalingam, E. (2016). Violence and the Other in Hinduism and Islam: 1809 Lat Bhairon Riots of Banaras. In: Tripathi, R., Singh, P. (eds) Perspectives on Violence and Othering in India. Springer, New Delhi. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-81-322-2613-0_6
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