No Sin Was Committed While Taking This Photo #Guhyeshwari

guheshwari temple no photo notice
Are you sure you are not sinning by photographing the temple? Why do you commit a sin? Photography (still, mobile, video) is strictly prohibited in the Goddess Guhyeshwari's temple complex. Strong action will be taken if you photograph temple after reading this notice. Let us all abide by the temple rule. Thank you. -Shree Guhyeshwari Temple Management Committee.

I got very angry when I saw this notice pasted on the walls of Guhyeshwari temple complex today afternoon. My blood is still boiling- six hours after I first saw this. I felt like giving a tight slap- saale ko galai ma- on the cheek of this guy who ordered for this to be pasted here. The kind of slap that leaves imprints of all five fingers clearly visible on the cheek and the person receiving this falls instantly on ground. And then a few kicks on.. you name the body parts. And throw him on the nearby Bagmati river.

Photography could be barred at certain places. Fine, though I don’t see any reason to do that at temples complexes. What harm will be caused to the God if someone photographs Him? Still, I have no problems if some temples restrict photography. BUT I have problem with the tone and language of this particular notice. It associates SIN with photography. A classic example of playing the “paap lagchha” card (babu, teso garnu hunna, paap lagchha), playing with the religious sentiment of people, exploiting the ‘superstitious instincts’ of many illiterate people of Nepali society. Instead of giving convincing reasons, scientific argument for barring photography in the temple the notice associates the act of photographing in the temple complex an act of SIN. Who the hell is this person or the committee to decide that photographing the temple or the deity is a sin?

Another insane thing one can see at Hindu temples is a notice that says: “Entry for Hindus only.” Why do we restrict people from other faith from entering temples? Will they eat our deities? Utter nonsense. A Shillong-based Nepali-speaking writer and an ex-Indian army officer once told me: “How do we tell people of other faiths about Hinduism when we bar them from entering our temples? Who wants to learn about Hinduism when they can’t even see the Hindu God and Goddesses?”

P.S.: I am not concerned about spreading Hinduism or interested in converting people of other faiths into Hinduism.I am against Hindu fundamentalism. And I also strongly protest any efforts of converting poor Hindus of Nepal into other religions. BUT I don’t agree with such foolish notice that associate photography in temple premises with sin.

Links:
1. Burning Effigies [in the Name of Lord Shiva]
2. Politics of Religion and Conversion

11 thoughts on “No Sin Was Committed While Taking This Photo #Guhyeshwari

  1. Dinesh Wagle-ji
    Extremely ignorant outburst, indeed. Guheshwari is a tantrik temple and tantrik rituals are meant to be conducted away from prying eyes. Try understanding a little bit more of the particular parampara before publicizing your voyeurism and cute post-modernist political correctness, i.e. “I am against Hindu fundamentalism”. Since when is a traditional temple and its practices “Hindu fundamentalism”? If you ask me, we should ban all photography not only here in Guheshwari but also in the cremations grounds of Pashupati Aryaghaat. Who gives voyeurs the right to pry into family death rituals?

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    1. Oh Party Peedit ji,

      Thank you for your preaching early in the morning. But, oh preacher, how conveniently you chose to ignore the core point of my entry which is- the notice equates photography with an act of sin. Sin? It could be an act of ‘indiscipline’ or the ‘violation’ of temple management committee’s ‘rules and regulations’. But a sin? Please enlighten.

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  2. Dear Dinesh Sir,

    I would have given the kind of slap that you describe in the article….. I believe in humanity. I am against such notices like “Hindus Only Allowed”. Such rules like banning photography and restricting entry are all man made rules and regulations that discriminate people.

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  3. I totally agree with you Dinesh. So why are tantrik rituals meant to be so secretive? No one asks these questions.
    Speaking of sanctity. Gyanendra and the middle brother (I forgot his name) were infamous for taking temple statues and selling them to private collectors, and pocketing whatever they made.

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  4. out of my habitual languor i didn’t go through the text albeit a short one…but did manage to go through the comments and the reason behind the word “sin,” in the notice, i thought was: if this was pasted in the precincts of guyeshwori it must be done by some purhet baje-or some purhet ba must have dictated to his computer-acquainted friend-instead of some expertise in semantics…and also due to the fact that the notice is concerned with the decorum of the temple “sin” might be the appropriate word to serve the purpose. actually, i have seen this trend all over kathmandu,people who are vexed by the heaps of garbage around their locality put up a notice implying gods and sins and again this serves the purpose.its all about serving the purpose.:)

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  5. After reading the write-up, and the comments specially, I couldn’t help myself posting a comment too (I’m kinda scared how many “Thumbs Down” will this comment get). Anyways, first things first, I really like Party Peedit’s comment here (Party Peedit, quite a name there).
    Now back to my comment. Well, I think keeping some things veiled is good. Those rituals and tantrism, for instance; I mean, we don’t know what goes around inside those Garbagrihas (‘Garbagriha’ is the dark sanctum where deity is kept). And this ‘not knowing’ actually makes it all the more mystical. Now as far as Mr.Wagle’s photographing the temple is concerned, it should be allowed and I guess it is, at least in some temples. No doubt, photography is a strong tool of documentation, something through which we can get a peek to what was and what is. Photographs are the strongest evidence to rebuild or renovate our architectural heritages should the need arise; it’s one tool that keeps us one step ahead of conjecture during reconstruction and renovation. So no, photographing monuments is not a sin. But trying to use this very tool to unearth something which our ancestors kept from the outside eyes, for whatever reasons, might be a little cynical.

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    1. So you are saying- photographing rituals should be banned but taking photos of a temple not? Okay. I don’t disagree. I mean temple management committees can impose ‘rules’ which we may disagree but they can’t associate that with paap.

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  6. Okey, here’s the enlightenment you asked for, Wagle-ji. In Hinduism, the concept of ‘sin’ does not exist (to appreciate this, you don’t have to be a Sanskrit pandit and read old texts: just read Vivekananda in English). The word ‘paap’ does not equate with the Judaeo-Christian ‘sin’ nor their idea of eternal hell and heaven (Hindu/Buddhist philosophies cannot accept their idea that a limited cause — even a hundred years of ‘paap’ if one lived that long to do them — could cause infinite effect of eternal damnation in hell). ‘Sin’ is more correctly translated (by many scholars of Hindu philosophy, including Vivekananda) as ‘error’. What could be a bigger error than voyeurism, poking your nose into other people’s private communion in sacred temples with their inner selves (if Tantriks and Vedantists) or their chosen ishta devtas (if Bhakti margis)? I think the temple authorities are perfectly right in telling you that you are committing a “maha paap” of masturbatory voyeurism and irreverence in poking your nose (and camera lens) into something that is none of your business. Theirs to warn: yours to use your good senses and not commit such a ‘paap’.
    Hope this helps!

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    1. What makes you think, oh my lord, that I am equating [t]he word ‘paap’… with the Judaeo-Christian ‘sin’”? I don’t even know what Judaeo-Christian ‘sin’ is! I was just translating the word to those who don’t understand Nepali. Tell me if there is more suitable word for paap in English. But save me from the ‘sin is error’ crap. Paap has far deeper meaning and psychological impact in Nepali society. पाप is not just गल्ती । I grew up in a society- Nepali society- where no one told me that photographing a temple could be considered “Paap”. Seems to me that you have problem in reading Nepali too. Read the notice once again. It doesn’t talk about all the rituals that you mention while listing things that are banned for camera. It says, “के तपाईहरुले मन्दिरको फोटो खिचेर महाँ पाप गर्नु भएको त छैन ?” Mandir! Temple. Structure. Building. It could also mean a temple where no activity is taking place like at the moment I was there. Photographing a temple could at most be a violation of temple ‘rule’ but not paap.

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