september 06 programmes

tuesday 5th september
6.30 pm IIC Auditorium ‘Reflections on the Past and Present of Sufi Shrines in Delhi’
by Sunil Kumar

Delhi is dotted with innumerable sufi shrines, from the better known dargah of Nizam al-Din Awliya, to the lesser known shrines of Bakhtiyar Kaki and Nasir al-Din Chiragh. The individuals buried in these shrines were all great teachers in the past, famous not just because they discoursed on religion and mysticism, but because they taught moral values of a more universal nature.

People in search of ‘truth’ congregated in their daily assemblies. They listened with rapt attention to their master and were impressed by his understanding of the religion of Islam. It was often quite distant from the legal formulations of jurists and was guided instead by an introspective appreciation of the religion’s larger meaning. The audience could grasp how this interpretation came from a deeply personal appreciation of God’s proximity, His love, clemency, justice and majesty. As a result, to his followers, the sufi master was not just a teacher, he was one of the friends of God, awliya, whose intercession was vital at the Day of Judgement. As the modern resident wanders around Delhi he can see the grave shrines of these sufis: some that are carefully tended, whitewashed and lovingly covered by a ‘chadar’, others that are forgotten and in ruins.

Sunil Kumar’s talk narrates the modern history of two virtually unknown sufi shrines, both located in Saket. Both are flourishing sites and yet very different in character. In the older one, the mystical charisma of the medieval saint has virtually disappeared; in the other, and the less historical of the two, the spiritual prowess of the saint led to its ‘discovery’ and prosperity. The contrasting history of these shrines informs us about the ways in which the mystique of sufi saints was created or declined. What are the contingent factors that shape the sacred in our societies and how is the present history of Islam and mysticism touched by local politics?

Sunil Kumar was a graduate student at the University of Chicago and has a doctorate from Duke University. He is a Reader at the History Department, University of Delhi and has written “The Present in Delhi’s Past” and two forthcoming books: “The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate” (Permanent Black) and ed. “Demolishing Myths or Mosques and Temples” (Three Essays Collective).

monday 11th september

7.00 pm ‘9/11 What really happened’ a talk illustrated by US made video “Loose Change"

by Come Carpentier de Gourdon

Five years, to the day have elapsed since the terrorist attacks took place in New York and Washington D.C. Every action or speech in any area of public life refers in some way to the 9/11 events and their consequences. Yet, despite the immense amount of publicity the real facts remain mostly shrouded in obscurity. The FBI has officially stated that there is no evidence of any link between Osama Bin Laden and the September 11th attack, yet the U.S Government has consistently refused to explain a very large number of suspicious and troubling circumstances which invalidate its own theory of "what really happened" on 9/11.
Independent investigation of the exact circumstances is no longer confined to marginal "concerned citizens" and dissident fringe-groups. It has been taken up by high ranking civilian and military officials , including Robert Bowman, the "father" of the Star Wars Program, former Treasury Under-Secretary Paul Craig Roberts and General Albert Stubblebine, former Director of the US Army Intelligence and Security Command. These officials and a host of profusely documented allegations in dozens of investigative articles, books and video presentations show a different and shocking kind of truth. That 911 was an “inside job”.

Come Carpentier will show the video “Loose Change” and present some of the evidence gathered from many sources and demonstrate that 9/11 may have been an elaborate para-military operation to transform the US into a militaristic "national security" state run by an Imperial executive.

Come Carpentier de Gourdon is currently the Convener of the Editorial Board of the World Affairs Journal, a quarterly publication dedicated to international issues. In 1999 he co founded the Telesis Academy in Switzerland dedicated to the study of the ancient wisdom of East and West in the contemporary scientific context. He has been associated with the Nuclear Disarmament Forum and the Foundation for Global Dialog in Switzerland, the Global Commission to Finance the United Nations, the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Paris amongst many others.

thursday 14th september

Morning session: 10 am to 12 noon
Lunch: 12 to 2 pm (Tibetan cuisine for all Dharma Friends)
Afternoon session: 2 to 4 pm
‘Teaching the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha’

by Chamtrul Rinpoche

The Four Noble Truths is the central and pivotal Buddhist teaching. In his Discourses, the Buddha formulates The Four Noble Truths in medical terms.

The brilliance of this medical model is that the Buddha offers a complete spiritual path that does not depend on metaphysical speculation or belief. No leap of faith is required. The Buddha would never enter into a metaphysical discussion. He stated, "I teach one thing and one thing only. “Suffering and the end of suffering."

At an early age, Rinpoche has been recognized as the reincarnation of the 3rd Chamtrul Rinpoche, Pema Nangsal Dorje, one of the heads of the Tashi Choling monastery in Eastern Tibet. He acquired his education in Tibetan Buddhism in Serta Larhong one of the major monastic universities. After receiving the title of “Khenpo” (Doctor in Buddhist Philosophy) from his root Teacher Kyabje Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, he returned to his monastery, where he assumed the function of Abbot and created a “Shedra” – Institute of Buddhist Higher Studies.

For seven years, Rinpoche taught Buddhist Philosophy in Tibet. During the last eight years, he has been teaching Dharma in India to thousands of students from all over the world; he is currently residing in Dharamsala.

Experience the teachings of one of Tibet’s great Rinpoches.

saturday 16th september

7.00 pm ‘A Jewelled Splendour, The Tradition of Indian Jewellery’
by AshaRani Mathur

The tradition of Indian jewellery goes down from the Mohenjodaro dancing girl bronze 2500 B.C with her arm covered with bangles through an almost unbroken 5000 year history to the prize winning gold jewellery designs of Sangeeta Dewan. It is not only a story of ornamentation but of meaning. Each stone is imbued with mysterious powers to ward off evil or create auspicious auras. It is not only a story of personal wealth but of poetry.

“With the moonstone beauty of her face,
her sapphire – black tresses,
her hands the ruby of red lotuses, 
she glowed with the magic of gems.”    

Sanskrit poem of Bhartrihari.

This talk recounts the tradition of Indian goldsmiths and lapidaries worked in an astonishing variety of materials and techniques creating gemstones for ritual and sacramental purposes and an overview of the historical context in which royal, folk and tribal jewellery were used. A discussion on the business of jewellery leads to aspects of contemporary design and the influences that are shaping modern choices.

AshaRani Mathur is a freelance writer and editor. She has worked with inflight magazines, edited and produced books on aspects of Indian life and culture as well as art catalogues, and written on subjects as far apart as food, travel and ancient India. At different times, she has been music producer for the label Music Today and also scripted documentaries for television. Her book on jewellery was one of a series done for publishers Rupa and Co in Delhi. Other books include those on carpets, shawls, textiles and diamonds.

friday 22nd september

7.00 pm ‘The Sexuality Discussion’ a conversation with Rana Dasgupta, Shohini Ghosh, Ruth Vanita and Gautam Bhan co sponsored
by Nigah

A woman's sexual revolution of sorts started in the West with Kate Millet's "Sexual Politics" (1969) and Germaine Greer's "The Female Eunuch" (1970) Millet's stated "sex is a status category with political implications" and Greer said "women have somehow been separated from their libido, from their faculty of desire, from their sexuality". ….. Like beasts who are castrated in farming…….. – to be fattened or made docile - women have been cut off from their capacity for action. It's a process that sacrifices vigor for delicacy and succulence, and one that's got to be changed."

This change and the dialogue on sexuality is just beginning to emerge in India and in Indian writing , with the publication of many titles on sexuality, sexual politics, queer and alternative sexualities, amongst them Narrain and Bhan's “Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India”, Ruth Vanita's “Same-sex Marriage in India and the West”, and Brinda Bose's (ed) “Translating Desire”, amongst many others.

Join us as we attempt to map the intersections of sexuality and the written word. Many questions lie before us: how have Indian writers written about, understood, and grappled with sexuality? How does one write about desire, sexuality, and sexual identity? What are the differences among them? How is writing on sexuality received in India and by publishers, booksellers and the public itself? Why does the non-fiction narrative genre dominate so much of writing on sexuality? How do fiction and non-fiction writers see sexuality? Where is the space for writing on sexuality outside English, and what does this space look like? What should it look like? These questions and many more with a panel comprising people from publishing, academia, fiction writing, and activism.

Rana Dasgupta, writer and author of the best-selling novel, Tokyo Cancelled. Shohini Ghosh, film maker, film scholar, and Lecturer, MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia Ruth Vanita, Historian and co-editor of Same-Sex Love in India and author of Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West Gautam Bhan, Series Editor, Sexualities, at Yoda Press, and co-editor, Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India.

tuesday 26th september
6.30 pm Lecture Room IIC Annexe ‘Nehru's Delhi - post Independence architecture in Delhi’
a talk
by K.T. Ravindran

The walled city of Shahjahanabad was built for a few hundred thousand people as was Lutyens Imperial Delhi to reflect British political power. Independent India’s capital , Delhi suffered an influx of refugees from West Pakistan that almost tripled its population within 10 years. The problems faced for housing this influx was the problem faced by the new government. As an emergency measure some settlements came up at the site of refugee camps - Lajpat Nagar and others clustered around existing villages , notably Hauz Khas and were gradually absorbed in their midst. Institutional architecture also faced challenges requiring a vocabulary that would be sufficiently indigenous and yet dovetail with New Delhi’s British buildings. The Supreme Court (1952), Krishi and Udyog Bhawans (1957), Vigyan Bhawan (1962).

Through Nehru's project of modernity and his vision grew Delhi's new symbols of democratized power and an architecture that spoke a modernized yet Indian language. The multiple cross-border affiliations and moralized political stances of the new democracy drove the production of the city in many layers. In the Fifties and the Sixties, an entirely new Nehruvian Delhi was added to the pre independence Delhi that simultaneously echoed the romanticized vision of a socialist India and prevalent international trends in contemporary urbanism.

K.T Ravindran outlines this evening the finer nuances of Nehru's urban vision and how it affected the cultural landscape of Delhi.

K.T. Ravindran is Professor of Urban Design and the Dean of The School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. He is active in many public forums, has written numerous articles and books and is a regular contributor to the media on urban issues in Delhi.