Bombing religious site.
March 7, 2006 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Newsfilter: Indian temple city hit by blasts.
posted by semmi (17 comments total)
In Varanasi no less. I can see some serious rioting breaking out.
posted by chunking express at 12:21 PM on March 7, 2006

I've heard that Varanasi is a religiously important city, sort of like Mecca. Could someone explain why? I don't really know very much about Hinduism.
posted by unreason at 12:28 PM on March 7, 2006

Anyone have any idea why a Hindu temple would be attacked? My limited exposure suggests that it's a peaceful, harmless religion, a fairly positive force in the world. Is that accurate?

One thought that comes to mind... perhaps it's fringe elements in Pakistan, upset that the two countries have been warming toward one another?
posted by Malor at 12:49 PM on March 7, 2006 was packed with people too...

is it a muslim/hindu thing? have things flared up recently?
posted by amberglow at 12:55 PM on March 7, 2006

Times of India "Although no group was blamed officially, sources said the attacks bore hallmarks of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba." Varanasi is the City of Lord Shiva and one of the oldest living cities in the world; also known as Banares.
posted by adamvasco at 12:56 PM on March 7, 2006

It's on the banks of the Ganges, which is an important river in India. If you see painting of the Lord Shiva, he is usually drawn with the Ganges flowing from his hair.

It is home to some very important temples. (There is a Temple for Shiva which I think people think is particularly holy.) The city is full of temples infact, and some large and important Mosques as well.

I'm not 100% of the origins of the myths around the place, but a lot of Hindu's believe that simply dying and being cremated in Varanasi is enough for one to achieve Moksha (liberation).

I think it is where the movie Water takes place.

On preview: Malor, Every few years in India communal violence flares up. I am guessing this has something to do with that. And Hinduism is a peaceful religion (aren't they all?) but that doesn't stop groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Shiv Shena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharatiya Janata Party, etc, etc, etc from being violent.
posted by chunking express at 12:57 PM on March 7, 2006

According to this AP piece, things have flared up recently.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:58 PM on March 7, 2006

Now that's a wedding.

*pre-emptively slaps own head*
posted by Smedleyman at 1:00 PM on March 7, 2006

And there was another earthquake in Gujarat, although apparently in a sparsely populated area
posted by darsh at 1:36 PM on March 7, 2006

Malor: To expand on what chunking said, probably the most significant political trend of the last 20 years in India has been the rise of Hindu nationalism. The Shiv Sena organization chunking mentions is the regional, militia-like arm of this, based in Bombay and surrounding Maharashtra state, where it has formed and/or controlled local and state govts for years.

More recently, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) took the movement national, forming a coalition govt under BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee that ruled from '98 to '04.

Recent flashpoints of "communal" violence in India - the common, vaguely newspeaky term used by the Indian press to refer to Hindu-Muslim clashes - have included Ayodhya (where in '92 Shiv Sena and BJP supporters demolished a 16th C. mosque they claim stands on the site of the birthplace of Rama, one of the most important Hindu gods), and Gujurat (where a Muslim attack on a trainload of Hindu pilgrims escalated into the state-abetted slaughter of 2,000 Muslims by Hindu nationalist militants).

As for this bombing in Varanasi, that AP link rxrfrx provided seems to do as good a job as possible this early on at tying these bombings to more recent communal violence.
posted by gompa at 1:50 PM on March 7, 2006

Also: as chunking notes, Varanasi is among the holiest cities in the Hindu world, and it is in particular considered the most auspicious place to die and be cremated - those who die there escape the cycle of death and rebirth for good.

I've heard that some wealthy Hindus maintain apartments in Varanasi to use one they reach death's door, and the city itself teems with funeral goers, funeral pyres, and a robust and lucrative industry of Brahmin priests grossly overcharging poor Hindu mourners for funeral rites.

Furthermore: It is where the film Water was set, but Deepa Mehta filmed her movie in Sri Lanka after losing a battle to shoot in Varanasi over several years with Shiv Sena and other Hindu militants enraged by its less-than-rosy portrayal of contemporary Hinduism's treatment of widows.
posted by gompa at 2:01 PM on March 7, 2006

peaceful religion is just another oxymoron. Religion no matter how well meaning at the start always degenerates into evil due to a lust for power by the minority and a lust to belong at all costs by the majority. Faith on the other hand is a beautiful thing which should never be allow itself to be tainted by religion.
posted by any major dude at 2:03 PM on March 7, 2006

Varanasi, also known commonly as Benares, is the holiest city in the Saivite Hindu tradition. It is very similar to Ayodhya for Vaisnavites, for much the same reasons as it is the birthplace of one of Shiva's incarnations and the home to Shiva's primary temple. Others have mentioned the reasons for its importance to Hinduism as a whole, and yes, these attacks can be accurately compared to a bombing in Mecca.

I had hoped that with the recent ouster of the BJP from the ruling government, things like this would start to settle down a little bit. On the other hand, with the Bush administration funding Indian nuclear programs and the polarizing of Islam in the region, things will probably get worse before they get better.

(Personal self-indulgent aside: I'm a Saivite Hindu, and right now I am absolutely heartbroken.)
posted by Errant at 3:30 PM on March 7, 2006

[Saivite = worshipper of Shiva; Vaisnavites = worshipper of Vishnu]
posted by goethean at 4:27 PM on March 7, 2006

chunking and gompa, thank you for the excellent answers, they were very enlightening.

Wow, demolishing a 500 year old mosque... that's really evil. No wonder the Muslims were pissed.

One of the linked news reports here suggests that it might be Kashmiri separatists, which does sort of sync up with my original 'fringe elements' idea... the Kashmiris probably don't want peace between India and Pakistan.

I hope they catch the people responsible, I'm sorry for the loss of life, and I hope the repercussions are mild.
posted by Malor at 5:32 PM on March 7, 2006

the Kashmiris probably don't want peace between India and Pakistan

On the whole, the Kashmiris probably *do* want peace between India & Pakistan, but with Kashmir on the Pakistani side of the border.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:17 PM on March 7, 2006

Seconding the thanks to both chunking express and gompa for the concisely informative posts.

I also feel heartbroken about this terrorist bombing of a temple. In the decade I lived in India it always impressed me that the country embraced much diversity for so long with comparatively little violence.
posted by nickyskye at 8:01 PM on March 7, 2006

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