Eco-Disaster, or God's Wrath?
(Top Posts - Social/Legal - 010105)

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For those who are unfamiliar with the perceptions
of God (and Gods) in India, the way in which some
perceive their God/Gods might sound familiar even
though the views are from a different perspective
than those which predominate in the west.

Details on some views on the disaster from India,
varying from Hindu views to views of a secular

Dec. 28, 2004

Eco-Disaster, or God's Wrath?
Indians React to Tsunami




KOLKATA, India--Perhaps the only image that can
do justice to the awful, awe-inspiring Asian tsunami
comes not from the photographers now combing
the beaches of Phuket and Chennai, but from the
ancient Hindu text "The Bhagavad Gita."

To intimidate a warrior prince, Vishnu, preserver
of life, morphs into a gigantic multi-armed writhing
figure, immense beyond the scale of human con-
ception. "Now I am become Death, the destroyer
of worlds," he thunders.

One can almost hear the Hindu gods in one editorial
from the Times of India. "Such stupendous forces
beyond conception can inspire only awe," the paper
wrote. "And ultimate humility in the face of a myster-
ious creation which, to make itself complete, must
inevitably contain the seeds of its own eventual

From god-fearing rural folk to educated, urban soft-
ware engineers, reaction to what has already been
dubbed "the Christmas quake" reflects India's spiri-
tual past, its explosive modernization and the ten-
sion between the two.


Religious figures speculate that the tsunami may have
been divine punishment for modern ills. The destruc-
tion was "God's fury unleashed, because of the ridicule
he is subjected to by the so-called educated Indians,"
says Sri Dulal Chandra Naskar, a soothsayer and Kali-
worshipper of the famous Kamakshya Temple.

"When you ridicule the sages and in turn the God, it
hurts Him and the sigh He heaves unleashes destruc-
tion like this."

A baffled villager from Birbhum district in the eastern
Indian state of West Bengal agrees. "If you have seen
the swirling, swelling and churning waters of the ponds
on that fateful day you would have understood that it
was nothing but the workings of the supernatural forces.
We rushed to the local soothsayer and he said it was
all because of our sins of this age of indiscipline and

Some saw in the tsunamis retribution for more specific,
contemporary struggles. In the state of Tamil Nadu, a
venerable Hindu seer, the Kanchi Acharya had been
recently arrested, leading to an uproar among his sup-
porters. "The devastation by the tsunami in Tamil Nadu,
could it be a caveat from 'Up There' about the atrocities
being visited on the Kanchi Acharya?" writes columnist
Rajeev Srinivasan on the online news site


"This is a natural disaster and we should accept it that
way," says software personnel Santanu Das. "All this
talk of god punishing us is nothing but crap."


One religious figure attempted to bridge the sacred and
profane. Shantipada Chattopadhayay (Bhattacharya)
Tirtharitwick, head priest of the famous Kali Temple in
Kolkata, devoted to the four-armed, bloody-tongued
Hindu goddess of strength Kali, sees the phenomenon
as nature's way of striking back at those who would
destroy it.

"If today I talk about God's fury, I would be ridiculed,"
the priest says. "But in our Hindu religion there is 'karm-
aphal,' the result of our actions, good or bad. There is
a constant human effort to tame nature in the sky, land
and water. We are cutting trees, we are destroying the
mangroves.... Our actions unleash an imbalance in the
ecology and then such things perhaps happen."


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