Saturday, February 02, 2013

Macaulay vs the Hindus

Perhaps no aspect of Macaulay's character is more surprising to the modern mind or more obnoxious to his enemies in India than his overt hostility to Indian religion and culture. It's also hard to imagine why this frank admirer of pagan Rome and Greece found superficially similar practices in India so offensive. Masani provides a clue:

Though far from puritanical by Victorian standards, Macaulay was particularly outraged by what he considered the sexual immorality of Hindu iconography. His revulsion may well have been exaggerated by his own long suppressed sexuality. ‘Emblems of vice,’ he railed, ‘are objects of public worship. Acts of vice are acts of public worship. The courtesans are as much a part of the establishment of the temple, as much ministers of the god, as the priests.’ His greatest rage was reserved for the worship of Shiva, whose temple at Somnath Ellenborough was proposing to honour. Referring to the phallic cult of shivalingams, Macaulay declared: ‘I am ashamed to name those things to which he [Ellenborough] is not ashamed to pay public reverence. This god of destruction, whose images and whose worship it would be a violation of decency to describe, is selected as the object of homage.’

Masani, Zareer (2012-11-16). Macaulay: Pioneer of India’s Modernization (Kindle Locations 2737-2742). Random House India. Kindle Edition.