I was present at The Xavier Centre of Historical Research (Alto
Porvorim, to witness the opening of the exhibition of paintings by Dr.
Jose Pereira on 26 July.

As Dr. Delio Mendonca wrote:"Epiphanies of the Hindu Gods is a unique
suite of pastel paintings conceived by the artist as a tribute to his
Hindu ancestry, and to the Indian classical tradition to which he has
devoted a lifetime of prodigious scholarship. Each beautiful painting
in the exhibition is based directly on descriptive passages in the
original Sanskrit texts, and each figure is derived in minute detail
from existing temple carvings, sculptures and paintings. It is a
unique body of work, made even more impressive by the fact that the
artist has executed them at the summation of a magnificent scholarly
career, despite the setback of Parkinson´s disease."

"Alongside Epiphanies of the Hindu Gods, the XCHR is delighted to
present a retrospective exhibition of previous paintings by Dr.
Pereira, including a rare self-portrait from 1946, and a collection of
superb oil paintings based on the artist´s Catholic heritage. Among
these are three monumental Pietas, each of which lay damaged and
forgotten for decades before being restored by Dr. Pereira at the XCHR
just this week. Seen together with his luminous recent work, all these
paintings make an undeniable case for Dr. Pereira to be included among
our greatest artists."

Padmashree Dr. Maria Aurora Couto, gave the keynote address on this
occasion, recounting the selfless search for knowledge that Dr Pereira
had exhibited all his life and Dr. Nandkumar Kamat who presided over
the event, praised the octogenarian as being the greatest living
polymath of Goa.

Subsequently I was astonished to read reports such as

This report says that "Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), a Hindu
organisation, had objected to the paintings by Dr Jose Pereira, which
had shown Hindu deities in nude."

I was astonished because any sane person who had seen those paintings
would have said that this was an expression of great reverence for his
Hindu ancestry.

Dr Jose Pereira had another talk as well on 28 July at XCHR entitled
Folk Plays of Salcette.

The almost 90 year old Dr. Jose Pereira kept the small audience
spell-bound as, even as his hands shivered as a result of Parkinson's
disease, he re-enacted  a khell called "Konk Mauxi." which he had
noted down some six decades ago. This event was presided over by Dr.
Rafael Fernandes, a Professor of English at Goa University, who is an
expert on tiatrs.

However after the discussion where Dr. Jose Pereira took questions
from the audience, the Director of XCHR  Dr Delio Mendonca of the Alto
Porvorim- based Xavier Centre of Historical Research made the
following announcement  regarding the controversy over Dr. Jose
Pereira's exhibition of paintings there.


"The XCHR regrets to announce the temporary withdrawal of
three paintings from its latest art exhibition, 'Epiphanies
of the Hindu Gods' by the eminent Sanskrit scholar and
wide-ranging intellectual giant, Dr. Jose Pereira."

"For the last twenty-four hours, the Centre has come under sustained
pressure from the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and its members, who have
filed a police complaint against Dr. Pereira's paintings, and indulged
in a non-stop campaign of telephone threats and warnings to the point
of disrupting
normal communications for the XCHR. The anonymous telephone calls have
included many threats of violence, including a threat of decapitation
of the 80-yr-old artist, who incidentally suffers from Parkinson's

"Dr. Pereira's 'Epiphanies of the Hindu Gods' are based
entirely on original Sanskrit scriptures, and their imagery
is derived entirely from the most characteristic iconography
of ancient India."

"He has compiled a small encyclopedia of references to
classical Indian sculpture and painting that back up every
aspect of every painting in this exhibition, which have been
rendered in the same artistic spirit in which Dr. Pereira
paints nude images of Christ (also on display in the same
gallery). Contrary to the claim that these images are against
Indian culture, they actually embody the highest cultural
ideals of our great civilization."

"Though the XCHR is co-operating with the police request to
temporarily withdraw these paintings, it strongly condemns
the threats and disrespect shown to this great Goan scholar."

"We also regret the inconvenience caused to the art and
culture lovers of our state, and take the opportunity to
apologize to Dr. Pereira on behalf of the people and society
of Goa, which has again demonstrated a systemic failure in
its capacity to honour, appreciate and stand by its greatest
artists and intellectuals.s would have called them a tribute  to the
Indian tradition of the highest nature that anyone could have paid:
whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, agnostic or atheist."

But there was still more astonishment to come for this erudite
octogenarian. ( Dr José Pereira was born in Bombay in January 1931. He
studied painting at the Sir JJ School of Art, and Sanskrit at
Siddharth and St. Xavier's College, where he was awarded a Ph.D.
degree in Ancient Indian History and Culture. Dr Pereira then did
research and taught at the Instituto Superior de Estudos Ultramarinos
in Lisbon, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, the
Institute of Archaeology, also in London, The American Academy of
Benares in Varanasi, and Fordham University in New York – where he was
Professor of Theology, and lectured on History of Religions.)

A group of activists of the Hindu Janajagran Samiti, which seems to
have links to the Sanatan Saunstha, the terrorist organisation which
had planned the botched up Narkasur bombings last year (which had it
been successful would almost certainly have led to some bloodiy riots
in Goa) and which is one of the many front organisations of Sangh
Parivar came upon the scene. They first went to the exhibition of
paintings and then returned to have a 'dialogue' with Dr. Jose

Frederick Noronha filmed them:

The discussion, parts of which are available on the youtube clippings
above, was also astounding. The HJS spokeswoman a sweet but
tunnel-visioned person said bluntly: "Your paintings have hurt our

In reply Dr Pereira gently started reciting Sanskrit slokas from
Jaideva who wrote wrote Geeta Govinda, and began explaining them to
the Janajagranists, who apparently had no knowledge of Sanskrit, or at
any rate chose not to question Dr. Pereira's on those slokas. But one
woman went on insisting on her interpretation as being the correct

Dr Rafael Fernandes tried to explain to those who chose to disrupt
this function, that all literary texts have multiple interpretations,
and those texts that are most rich are the ones that lend themselves
to multiple interpretations.

After a while Dr Delio Mendonca, probably feeling that the aged Dr.
Jose Pereira needed some respite from the unsavoury goings-on then
officially wound up the meeting.

Floriano Lobo, and Adv. Antonio Lobo, then intervened saying that they
objected to the manner in which the HJS members had behaved. In the
meanwhile Frederick Noronha, who had been involved in organising the
event, being the publisher of Pereira's book, 'Song of Goa'  started
pointing out that the intruders belonged to an allied association
called the Sanatan Saunstha, which had been involved in attempts to
disrupt Goa's communal harmony, by for instance attempting explode
bombs on the day of the Narkasur celebrations last year. They were
also involved in trying to disrupt Subodh Kerkar's exhibiton of
paintings of Ganesha last year.

He said that they had in their newspaper, the Marathi, Sanatan
Prabhat, provocatively provided the phone numbers of the XCHR and
suggested that their readers should ring up this number and threaten

The intruders who could be seen to be becoming increasingly
uncomfortable by the gandhigiri displayed by the organisers,  as well
as the fact that they were being shown up to be an irrational trouble
fomenting group, then beat a hasty retreat.

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