The word 'critical" has three meanings which are dangerous, important, and disapproving. The purpose of this blog is to examine important or over-looked cultural, political, artistic, or historical issues of our time. Also, this blog is intended to be educational.
is one of the oldest religions and most complex religions in the world. Unlike
Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, it has no known founder. Even the date of
its origin has been lost to history. The word "Hindu" comes from the
name "India," and in modern usage, it refers to a number of religious
Hinduism has a variety of expressions, some people think that all Hindu beliefs
and practices are customized to the individual, and therefore it is impossible
to speaks about "facts" of the faith. This is not true. Many facts
can be known about its adherents, size, location, and much more. This page is
intended to help people begin learning about the facts of the Hindu religion.
Ancient Hindu Temple in India
percent of India's population regard themselves as Hindus and 30 million more
Hindus live outside of India. There are a total of 900 million Hindus
worldwide, making Hinduism the third largest religion after Christianity and
"Hinduism" includes numerous traditions, which are closely related
and share common themes but do not constitute a unified set of beliefs or
is thought to have gotten its name from the Persian word hindu, meaning
"river," used by outsiders to describe the people of the Indus River
Valley. Hindus themselves refer to their religion as sanatama dharma,
"eternal religion," and varnasramadharma, a word emphasizing the
fulfillment of duties (dharma) appropriate to one's class (varna) and stage of
has no founder or date of origin. The authors and dates of most Hindu sacred
texts are unknown. Scholars describe modern Hinduism as the product of
religious development in India that spans nearly four thousand years, making it
the oldest surviving world religion. Indeed, as seen above, Hindus regard their
religion as eternal (sanatama).
is not a homogeneous, organized system. Many Hindus are devoted followers of
Shiva or Vishnu, whom they regard as the only true God, while others look
inward to the divine Self (atman). But most recognize the existence of Brahman,
the unifying principle and Supreme Reality behind all that is.
Hindus respect the authority of the Vedas (a collection of ancient sacred
texts) and the Brahmans (the priestly class), but some reject one of both of
these authorities. Hindu religious life might take the form of devotion to God
or gods, the duties of family life, or concentrated meditation. Given all this
diversity, it is important to take care when generalizing about
"Hinduism" or "Hindu beliefs."
sacred writings of Hinduism, which date to about 1200 BC, were primarily
concerned with the ritual sacrifices associated with numerous gods who
represented forces of nature. A more philosophical focus began to develop
around 700 BC, with the Upanishads and development of the Vedanta philosophy. Around
500 BC, several new belief systems sprouted from Hinduism, most significantly
Buddhism and Jainism.
20th century, Hinduism began to gain popularity in the West. Its different
worldview and its tolerance for diversity in belief made it an attractive
alternative to traditional Western religion. Although there are relatively few
western converts to Hinduism, Hindu thought has influenced the West indirectly
by way of religious movements like Hare Krishna and New Age, and even more so
through the incorporation of Indian beliefs and practices such as the chakra
system and yoga in books and seminars on health and spirituality.
Hindu Temple in India
Hinduism embraces a
diversity of beliefs, a fact that can be initially confusing to Westerners
accustomed to creeds, confessions, and carefully-worded belief statements. One
can believe a variety of things about God, the universe and the path to
liberation and still be considered a Hindu. Perhaps the most well-known Hindu
saying about religion is: "Truth is one; sages call it by different
Still, there are some
beliefs common to nearly all forms of Hinduism that can be identified, and
these basic beliefs are generally regarded as boundaries outside of which lies
either heresy or non-Hindu religion. These fundamental Hindu beliefs include:
the authority of the Vedas (the oldest Indian sacred texts) and the Brahmans
(priests); the existence of an enduring soul that transmigrates from one body
to another at death (reincarnation); and the law of karma that determines one's
destiny both in this life and the next.
The gods of modern Hinduism are many, and
include the chief gods Shiva, Vishnu and the Goddess Shakti as well as a myriad
of local community gods. Devotion to these various deities is based primarily
on one's region and needs, and even when devotion is given to only one, the
existence of others is acknowledged. Hindu worship virtually always involves
sculptures and images, to which offerings are made and rituals are performed. But, a specific belief
about God or gods is not considered one of the essentials in Hinduism, which is
a major difference between it and monotheistic religions like Christianity,
Judaism, Islam and Sikhism. Most Hindus are devoted followers of one of the
principal gods Shiva, Vishnu or Shakti, and often others besides, yet all these
are regarded as manifestations of a single Reality.
incorporates a vast pantheon of deities, some of whom are manifestations or
combinations of others. Most of the deities mentioned in the Vedas are no
longer worshiped; much of today's popular devotion centers around the major
deities of Shiva, Vishnu, and the Goddess.
describe a number of deities, most of whom are personified forces of nature.
The most oft-mentioned are Indra, Agni, Soma, and Varuna.
the chief deity and the god of war and rain, the greatest concerns of the
people at that time. He separated the heavens and the earth by defeating Vrtra,
a snake-dragon representation of chaos and obstacles.
Vedic myth describes his defeat of Vrtra using wind and a thunderbolt as his
weapons, enabling the monsoon rains to end. Indra must be strengthened with the
drink soma, provided by worshippers, to accomplish this task.
the fire of sacrifice, and thus a mediator between man and the gods, and Soma
is the hallucinogenic drink of the sacrifice. The personalities of the latter
two are left largely undeveloped.
significant Vedic deity is Varuna, who is associated primarily with issues of
morality, guilt and forgiveness. Varuna is the god of the rita, a concept
having to do with faithfulness to allegiances, both between humans and gods and
humans and one another. So, Varuna is the god petitioned for forgiveness,
deliverance from evil, and protection.
Thus, Hinduism is a theistic
religion, but it can be difficult to determine whether it is a polytheistic,
pantheistic or monotheistic religion. Of course, this is chiefly a western
question. The Indian mind is much more inclined to regard divergent views as
complementary rather than competing.
been said that Hindus have a holiday for every day of the year, but even that
may be an understatement! Exactly how many Hindu festivals are celebrated is
not known, but one scholar of Hinduism has listed more than a thousand
different Hindu festivals.
As in most
ancient religions, many of the Hindu holidays are based on the cycle of nature.
They mark the change of seasons, celebrate the harvest, and encourage fertility
of the land. Others are dedicated to a particular deity, such as Shiva or
other popular holidays commemorate events in the lives of Rama or Krishna. In
addition to the major Hindu festivals that are celebrated throughout India,
many regional festivals are also held in honor of various deities.
general, Hindu festivals "are intended to purify, avert malicious
influences, renew society, bridge over critical moments, and stimulate or
resuscitate the vital powers of nature." They include a wide variety of
rituals, including worship, prayer, processions, magical acts, music, dancing,
lovemaking, eating, drinking, and feeding the poor.
festivals likely to be observed by most Hindus are:
(also called Holaka or Phagwa) is an annual festival celebrated on the day
after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna (early March). It celebrates
spring, commemorates various events in Hindu mythology and is time of
disregarding social norms and indulging in general merrymaking. Holi is
probably the least religious of Hindu holidays.
from the Sanskrit word Dīpãvali, meaning "row of lights" is a Hindu
festival of lights lasting five days. For many Hindus, Diwali is also New
Year's Eve. Diwali is held on the final day of the Vikram calendar, a type of
Hindu calendar followed by North Indians.
(also called Shiva Ratri) is the Great Festival of Shiva. It is held on the
14th day of the dark half of the lunar month of Phalguna. Mahashivaratri is
especially important to Saivites (devotees of Shiva), but it is celebrated by
most Hindus. Other sacred days are:
Rama Navami - birthday of
Lord Rama (April)
Krishna Jayanti -
birthday of Lord Krishna (July-August) Raksābandhana - renewing
bonds between brothers and sisters (July-August)
Kumbh Mela - pilgrimage
every 12 years to four cities in India
(Ganesha Utsava) - festival of Ganesh (August-September)
Dassera - victory of Rama
over demon king Ravana (September-October) Navaratri - festival of
Shakti (in Bengal) or Rama's victory over Ravana (South India)
Hindu Temple with Deities Statues
In Hinduism, the cow is
revered as the source of food and symbol of life and may never be killed.
The Sanskrit word karma
means "actions" and refers to the fundamental Hindu principle that
one's moral actions have unavoidable and automatic effects on one's fortunes in
this life and condition of rebirth in the next.
In Hinduism, there is not
just one purpose of human life, but four: Dharma (fulfilling one's purpose),
Artha (prosperity), Kama (desire, sexuality, enjoyment), and Moksha (enlightenment).
The authority of the
ancient scriptures known as the Vedas as well as that of the priests known as
the Brahmans are two concepts that are fundamental to Hinduism and
differentiate the faith from Buddhism and Jainism.
Most Hindus venerate one
or more deities, but regard these as manifestations of Ultimate Reality. So
who, or what, is the Ultimate Reality that is behind the universe and all the
gods? In the Rig Veda, it is referred to as "the One." In the Purushasukta,
it is given the name "Purusha," and in the Upanishads it is called
"Brahman," "the One," and several other names.
well-known historical practice of suicide associated with Hinduism is that of
suttee (Sanskrit sati), the self-immolation of a widow on her deceased
husband's funeral pyre. In the Hindu epic Mahabarata, some queens commit
to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the custom of suttee probably had
little to do with the religion of Hinduism; it was rather an ancient custom
based on beliefs that a man needed companions in the afterlife. In the medieval
period, the hardships suffered by widows may have contributed to the spread of
the practice. In theory it was a voluntary practice, but there were instances of
compulsion to suttee.
Hindu Temple in India
Valley culture began to decline around 1800 BC, due possibly to flooding or
drought. Until recThe practice of suttee was not universal throughout Hindu history. The first mention of it outside the Mahabarata is made by a 1st-century BC Greek author writing about 4th-century BC Punjab. Tombstones commemorating women who died by suttee are numerous in India; the earliest is dated to 510 AD. Suttee was abolished in India in 1829, but it continued to occur for at least another 30 years.
As in Buddhism, Hindu views of euthanasia and suicide are grounded in the doctrines of karma, moksa, and ahimsa. Karma is the net consequence of good and bad deeds in a person's life, which then determines the nature of the next life. Ongoing accumulation of bad karma prevents moksa, or liberation from the cycle of rebirth, which is the ultimate goal of Hinduism. Ahimsa is a fundamental principle in Indian religions, and means doing harm to no other being.
Suicide is generally prohibited in Hinduism, on the basis that it disrupts the timing of the cycle of death and rebirth and therefore yields bad karma. According to one Hindu website, suicide is not approved in Hinduism because human life is a precious opportunity to attain higher states of rebirth that even the gods envy. It also has dire consequences for the soul's spiritual progress.
According to Hindu beliefs, if a person commits suicide, he does not go to the heaven or hell. The dead person remains on the earth as a bad spirit and wanders aimlessly till he completes his actual and allotted life time. Then, the person goes to hell and suffers. After that, the person returns to the earth again to complete his previous karma and start from there once again. Suicide puts an individual's spiritual clock in reverse.
One exception to the Hindu prohibition of suicide is the practice of prayopavesa, or fasting to death. Prayopavesa is not regarded as suicide because it is natural and non-violent, and is acceptable only for spiritually advanced people under specified circumstances.
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, a Hindu leader born in California, took his own life by prayopavesa in November 2001. After finding that he had untreatable intestinal cancer the Satguru meditated for several days and then announced that he would accept pain-killing treatment only and would undertake prayopavesa (taking water, but no food). He died on the 32nd day of his self-imposed fast.
Given the complex history of suicide in Indian thought and the various considerations outlined above, not all Hindus agree on whether euthanasia should be permitted. In the end, there are two Hindu views of euthanasia: From one perspective, a person who helps other end a painful life and thereby reduce suffering is doing a good deed and will gain good karma. From the other perspective, euthanasia interrupts the timing of the cycle of rebirth and both the doctor and patient will take on bad karma as a result.
The history of Hinduism is unique among the world religions in that it has no founder or date of origin. While most major religions derive from new ideas taught by a charismatic leader, Hinduism is simply the religion of the people of India, which has gradually developed over four thousand years. The origins and authors of its sacred texts are largely unknown.
Although today's Hinduism differs significantly from earlier forms of Indian religion, its roots date back as far as 2000 BC, making it one of the oldest surviving religions. Because of its age, the early history of Hinduism is unclear. The most ancient writings have yet to be deciphered, so for the earliest periods scholars must rely on educated guesses based on archaeology and contemporary texts.
In the last few decades, the history of India's religion has also become a matter of political controversy. The history of any nation (or individual) is an important part of its self-identity, and this is especially true of India, which so recently gained independence after centuries of colonial rule. The controversy over India's history centers on the origin of the Aryan culture.
Hindu Temple in India
In 1921, archaeologists uncovered evidence of an ancient civilization along the Indus River, which today runs through northwest India into Pakistan. The so-called Indus Valley civilization (also known as the "Harappan civilization" for one of its chief cities) is thought to have originated as early as 7000 BC and to have reached is height between 2300 to 2000 BC, at which point it encompassed over 750,000 square miles and traded with Mesopotamia.
Some writings of this period have been discovered, but they have yet to be deciphered. Knowledge of this great civilization's religion must therefore be based on physical evidence alone. Baths have been found that may indicate ritual bathing, a component of modern Hinduism. Some altar-like structures may be evidence of animal sacrifice, and terracotta figures may represent deities. An important seal features a horned figure surrounded by animals, which some conjecture is a prototype of Shiva, but itently, it was held that the Aryans, an Indo-European culture
whose name comes from the Sanskrit for "noble", invaded India and
Iran at this time. According to this hypothesis, both the Sanskrit language and
the Vedic religion foundational to Hinduism is attributable to the Aryans and their
descendants. The original inhabitants of the Indus Valley are thought to have
had a Dravidian language and culture, which became subordinate to that of the
of this hypothesis point to similarities between Zoroastrianism (the ancient religion
of Iran) and the Vedic religion of ancient India, as well as similar finds in
ancient cemeteries in modern-day India and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In
addition, no trace of horses or chariots have been found in the remains of the
Indus Valley culture, but were central to Aryan military and ritual life.
1980s, this "Aryan Invasion" hypothesis has been strongly challenged
as a myth propagated by colonial scholars who sought to reinforce the idea that
anything valuable in India must have come from elsewhere. Critics of the
hypothesis note that there is lack of evidence of any conquest, among other
historical and archaeological problems.
One alternative hypothesis is explained
by Encyclopedia Britannica as follows: Between
about 2000 and 1500 BCE not an invasion but a continuing spread of Indo-Aryan
speakers occurred, carrying them much farther into India, to the east and
south, and coinciding with a growing cultural interaction between the native
population and the new arrivals. From these processes a new cultural synthesis
emerged, giving rise by the end of the 2nd millennium to the conscious
expressions of Aryan ethnicity found in the Rigveda, particularly in the later
The 19th-century Aryan Invasion
theory has generally been abandoned as inaccurate, but most scholars do not
reject the notion of some outside influence on the Indus Valley civilization.
For many, it is a political issue as well as a historical one, with the
original theory is regarded as racist and offensive. Many people argue that there is now evidence to show that the original
proponents of this hypothesis were wrong. Others, however, believe that the
case against the Aryan invasion theory is far from conclusive.
Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed
(1560 - 1614) was a countess from the wealthy Báthorynoble of the Kingdom of Hungary. She is known for being a serial killer
and has been labeled by Guinness World Records as the most prolific female murderer in
history although the exact number of her victims is unknown. Báthory and four
collaborators were accused of torturing and
killing hundreds of young women between 1585 and 1610. The highest number of
victims cited during Báthory's trial was 650. However, this number comes from
the claim by a woman named Susannah but Báthory's court official claimed to
have seen the figure in one of Báthory's private books. The book was never
revealed and never mentioned it in the testimony. The countess was imprisoned in December, 1610,
within Csejte Castle, Upper Hungary
(now called Slovakia) where she remained there in a set of rooms until her
death four years later.
According to all testimony,
Báthory's initial victims were the adolescent
daughters of local peasants, many of whom were lured to her castle by offers of
well-paid work as maidservants. Later, she is said to have begun to kill
daughters of the lesser gentry, who were sent to her private quarters by their parents to learn
courtly etiquette. Abductions were said to have occurred as well. The
atrocities described most consistently included torture, severe beatings,
burning or mutilation of hands, biting the flesh off the faces, arms and other
body parts, freezing or starving to death. The use of needles was also
mentioned by the her collaborators in court.
The stories of her serial
murders and brutality are verified by the testimony of more than 300 witnesses
and survivors as well as physical evidence and the presence of horribly
mutilated dead, dying and imprisoned girls found at the time of her arrest.
Stories which ascribe to her vampire-like tendencies (most famously the tale
that she bathed in the blood of virgins to retain her youth) were generally recorded
years after her death but are considered unreliable. Her story quickly became
part of Hungarian folklore.
She was kept bricked in a set
of rooms, with only small slits left open for ventilation and the passing of
food. She remained there for four years, until her death. On August 21, 1614, in
the evening, she complained to her bodyguard that her hands were cold. He
replied, "It's nothing Mistress. Just go lie down." She went to sleep
and was found dead the following morning. She was buried in a church but
according to some sources because of the villagers' uproar over having her
buried inthe local cemetery, her body
was moved to her birth home at Ecsed, where it was interred at the Báthory
family crypt. Today, the location of her body is unknown.
Reinhard Heydrich was born in
Halle an der Saale to a cultured family of social
standing and financial means. His father was composer and opera singer Richard Bruno Heydrich and his mother was Elisabeth Anna Maria Amalia Krantz. His two
forenames Reinhard and Tristan) were patriotic musical tributes:
"Reinhard" referred to the tragic hero from Amen(an opera his father wrote), and
"Tristan" stems from Richard Wagner's
Tristan und Isolde. Heydrich's third name,
"Eugen", was his late maternal grandfather's forename (Professor
Eugen Krantz had been the director of the Dresden Royal Conservatory).
His father was a German nationalist who instilled patriotic ideas in his three children, but was not
affiliated with any political party until after World War I. The Heydrich household
was strict. As a youth, Reinhard engaged his younger brother, Heinz, in mock fencing duels.
Heydrich was very intelligent and excelled in his schoolwork especially in
science at his school. He was also a skilled athlete, and he became an expert
swimmer and fencer. He was shy, insecure, and was frequently bullied for his
high-pitched voice and rumors about his Jewish ancestry. The rumors earned him
the nickname "Moses Handel".
In 1918, World War I ended
with Germany's defeat. In late February 1919, civil unrest including strikes
and clashes between communist and anti-communist groups took place in Heydrich's
home town of Halle. Under Defence Minister Gustav Noske's
directives, a right-wing paramilitary unit was formed and ordered to
"recapture" Halle. Heydrich, then 15-years old, joined Maercker's
Volunteer Rifles. When the skirmishes ended, Heydrich was part of the force
assigned to protect private property. These events left a strong impression on
him and he said that it was a "political awakening" for him. So, he
joined the Deutschvölkischer
Schutz und Trutzbund
(National German Protection and Shelter League), an anti-Semitic
Many historians regard him as
the darkest figure within the Nazi elite. Adolf Hitler
described him as "the man with the iron heart".He was the founding head of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), an intelligence organization charged with seeking out and
neutralizing resistance to the Nazi Partyby using arrests, deportations and murders.
He helped organize Kristallnacht, a series of co-ordinated attacks against Jews
throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on
November 9th and 10th,1938. The attacks, carried out by SA Stormtroopers
and civilians. Upon his arrival in Prague,
Czechoslovakia, Heydrich sought to eliminate
opposition to the Nazi occupation by suppressing Czech culture
and deporting and executing members of the Czech resistance. He was directly responsible for the Einsatzgruppen,
the special task forces which travelled in the wake of the German armies and
murdered over one million people, including Jews, by mass shooting.
Heydrich was attacked in
Prague on May 27,1942, by a British-trained team of Czech and Slovak soldiers
who had been sent by the Czechoslovak
to kill him. He died from his injuries a week later. Intelligence falsely
linked the assassins to the villages of Lidice and Ležáky. Lidice
was razed to the ground, all men and boys over the age of 16 were shot, and all
but a handful of its women and children were deported and killed in Nazi concentration camps.
Tristan Eugen Heydrichwas responsible
for over sixty thousand deaths while he was alive and over five million deaths because he was the
architect of the Holocaust.
Leopold II of Belgium
II (1835 - 1909) was the
second King of the Belgians, and is chiefly remembered for the
founding and exploitation of the Congo Free State,
resulting in the deaths of 10 to 15 million Congolese people. Born in Brussels as the
second son of Leopold I and Louise of
Orléans, he succeeded
his father to the throne on December 17th, 1865, reigning for 44 years until
his death. He was the longest reign of any Belgian monarch.
Leopold was the founder and
sole owner of the Congo Free State,
a private project undertaken on his own behalf. He used explorer Henry Morton Stanley to help him lay claim to the Congo,
an area now known as the Democratic Republic of the
Congo. At the Berlin Conference
of 1884 - 1885, the colonial nations of Europe authorized his claim by committing
the Congo Free State to improving the lives of the native inhabitants. From the
beginning, however, Leopold essentially ignored these conditions. He ran the
Congo using the mercenary Force Publique
for his personal enrichment. He used great sums of the money from this
exploitation for public and private construction projects in Belgium during
this period. He donated the private buildings to the state before his death, to
preserve them for Belgium.
Leopold extracted a fortune
from the Congo, initially by the collection of ivory, and after a rise in the price of rubber in the
1890s, by forced labor from the natives to harvest and process rubber. Under
his regime there were between2 and 15
million deaths among the Congolese people. The exact number of deaths is
unknown because accurate records were not kept and because smallpox
epidemics and sleeping sickness also devastated the population. Leopold took
steps to limit word of the atrocities reaching the outside world. Missionaries
were allowed only on sufferance, and Leopold was able to silence the Belgian Catholics.
Rumors circulated but Leopold attempted to discredit them, Also, publishers
were bribed, critics were accused of running secret campaigns to further other
nations' colonial ambitions, and eyewitness reports from missionaries such as William Henry Sheppard dismissed as attempts by Protestants to
smear Catholic priests.As a result, for
at least a decade, criticism was largely contained.
Inspired by works such as Joseph Conrad’sHeart of Darkness (1902) which was based on Conrad's
experience as a steamer captain on the Congo twelve years earlier, organized
international criticism of Leopold’s rule mobilized. Reports of outrageous
exploitation and widespread human rights
abuses led the British Crown to appoint their consul Roger Casement
to investigate conditions there. His extensive travels and interviews in the
region resulted in the Casement Report,
which detailed the murders and abuses of natives under Leopold's regime.A widespread war
of words ensued. In
Britain, former shipping clerk E. D. Morel
with Casement's support founded the Congo Reform Association, the first mass human rights
movement in history. Supporters included American writer Mark Twain, who
wrote a stinging political satire entitled King Leopold's Soliloquy, which portrays the King arguing that
bringing Christianity to the country outweighs a little starvation, and uses
many of Leopold's own words against him. And, writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also criticized the "rubber
regime" in his 1908 work TheCrime of the Congo, written to
aid the work of the Congo Reform Association. Doyle contrasted Leopold's rule
to the British rule of Nigeria, arguing that decency required those who ruled primitive
peoples to be concerned first with their uplift, not how much could be
extracted from them. Many of Leopold's policies were adopted from Dutch
practices in the East Indies. Similar methods of forced labor were employed to
some degree by Germany, France, and Portugal where natural rubber occurred in
their own colonies. Reports of the deaths and abuse led to a major
international scandal in the early 20th century. In 1908, Leopold was by the
Belgian government to relinquish control of the colony to a civil
de Torquemada (Thomas of Torquemada), OP (1420 -1498)
was a Spanish Dominicanfriar and the first Grand Inquisitor
in Spain's movement to force Roman Catholicism
upon its populace in the late 15th century, otherwise known as "The
The existence of many
superficial converts among the Moriscos and Marranos (aka: Crypto-Jews),
who had found it more socially, politically and economically expedient to join
the Catholic Church, were perceived by the Spanish monarchs of that time (King
Ferdinand and Queen Isabella) as a threat to the religious and social life of
Spain. This led Torquemada, who himself had converso
ancestors, to be one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree
that expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492.
Torquemada was born either in
or in the nearby small village of Torquemada. He entered the local San Pablo
Dominican monastery at a very young age. As a zealous advocate of church
orthodoxy, he earned a reputation for learning, piety and austerity. As a result,
he was promoted to prior of the monastery of Santa Cruz at Segovia. Around
this time, he met the young Princess Isabella I and the two immediately established
religious and ideological rapport. For a number of years, Torquemada served as
her regular confessor and personal advisor. He was present at Isabella’s
coronation in 1474 and remained her closest ally and supporter. He had even
advised her to marry King Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469 in order to consolidate their
kingdoms and form a power base he could draw on for his own purposes.
Torquemada deeply feared the
Marranos and Moriscos as a menace to Spain's welfare by their increasing
religious influence on, and economic domination of Spain. King Ferdinand and
Queen Isabella concurred, and soon after their accession to power petitioned Pope Sixtus IV
to grant their request for a Holy Office to administer an inquisition in Spain.
The Pope granted their request and established the Holy Office for the
Propagation of the Faith in late 1478. It still exists today. The Pope went on to appoint a
number of inquisitors for the Spanish Kingdoms in early 1482, including
Torquemada. A year later he was named Grand Inquisitor of Spain which he remained
until his death. In the fifteen years under his direction, the Spanish
Inquisition grew from the single tribunal at Seville to a
network of two dozen so-called Holy Offices. As
Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada reorganized the Spanish Inquisition, establishing
tribunals in Sevilla, Jaén, Córdoba, Ciudad Real and
quest was to rid Spain of all heresy. The Spanish chronicler Sebastián de Olmedo called him "the hammer of
heretics, the light of Spain, the savior of his country, the honor of his order".
Under the edict of March 31,
1492, known as the Alhambra Decree,
approximately 200,000 Jews left Spain. Following the Alhambra decree of 1492,
approximately 50,000 Jews took baptism so as to remain in Spain; however, many
of these were "crypto-Jews" and secretly kept some of their Jewish
traditions. Torquemada made the procedures of prior inquisitions somewhat less
brutal by moderating the use of torture, limiting its use to suspects denounced
by two or more "persons of good nature" and by cleaning up the
Inquisitorial prisons. The condemned were made to wear a sanbenito, a
penitential garment worn over clothes and of a design that specified the type
of penitence. One type, worn by those sentenced to death, had designs of hell’s
flames or sometimes demons, dragons and/or snakes engraved on it. Another type
had a cross, and was worn instead of imprisonment, then hung in the parish
There is some disagreement as
to the number of victims of the Spanish Inquisition during Torquemada's reign
as Grand Inquisitor. Some scholars] believe that he was responsible for the death of 2,000
people. And, Hernando del Pulgar, Queen Isabella’s secretary, wrote
that 2,000 executions took place throughout the entirety of her reign, which
extended well beyond Torquemada's death. During his final years,
Torquemáda's failing health, coupled with widespread complaints, caused Pope Alexander VI to
appoint four assistant inquisitors in June 1494 to restrain the Spanish
Inquisition. After fifteen years as Spain's Grand Inquisitor, Torquemáda died
in the monastery of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ávila in 1498 and was interred there. His tomb was ransacked in 1832 — two
years before the Inquisition was disbanded. His bones were allegedly stolen and
In 1976, Pol Pot's régime reclassified Kampucheans into three groupings:
as full-rights (base) people, as candidates and as depositees, so-called
because they included most of the new people who had been deposited from the
cities into the communes. Depositees were marked for destruction. Their rations
were reduced to two bowls of rice soup orp'bawper
day leading to widespread starvation. "New people" were allegedly
given no place in the elections taking place on March 20, 1976, despite the
fact that the constitution establisheduniversal suffragefor all Cambodians over the age of 18. Hundreds of thousands of the new people, and later the depositees, were
taken out inshacklesto dig their ownmass graves.
Then, the Khmer Rouge soldiers buried them alive.
A Khmer Rouge extermination prison directive ordered, "Bullets are not to
be wasted." Such mass graves are often referred to as "the Killing Fields".
The Khmer Rouge also classified people by religious and ethnic
background. They banned all religion and dispersed minority groups, forbidding
them to speak their languages or to practice their customs. They especially
targetedBuddhistmonks, Muslims, Christians,
Western-educated intellectuals, educated people in general, people who had
contact with Western countries or with Vietnam, disabled people, and the ethnic
Chinese,Laotians, and Vietnamese. Some were put in theS-21camp for interrogation involving
torture in cases where a confession was useful to the government. Many others
were summarily executed.The combined effects of executions, strenuous working conditions,
malnutrition and poor medical care caused the deaths of approximately 25
percent of the Cambodian population.An
estimated about 3 million people out of a population of slightly over 8 million
died due to the policies of his four-year premiership.
Skulls of Some of Pol Pot's Victims
In 1979, after theCambodian–Vietnamese War, Pol Pot relocated to the jungles of
southwest Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge government collapsed.From 1979 to 1997, he and a remnant of
the old Khmer Rouge operated near the border of Cambodia andThailand where
they clung to power with nominal United Nations recognition as the rightful
government of Cambodia. Pol Pot died in 1998, while under house arrest by theTa Mokfaction of the Khmer Rouge. Since his
death, rumors that he committed suicide or was poisoned have persisted