My new piece "Kannagi at the Royal Court" has just been selected to be part of the "I Have the Right" exhibit on art & human rights sponsored by the PICTURE Art Foundation (http://www.pictureartfoundation.org/). Thank you PICTURE Art Foundation, and congratulations to all the artists who participated!
Where did the idea of "human rights" come from? We often assume it originated in 1948 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. Most people would be hard-pressed to come up with other sources for the idea of "human rights," perhaps (in a pinch) citing some texts from the 18th century European Enlightenment. In any case, most people pretty much equate the rise of "human rights" with the rise of modern Western democracies. However, it is a mistake to think that only modern (or Western) societies have exhibited a concern for "human rights." In fact, there is increasing evidence to show that pre-modern, non-Western cultures all over the world have supported ideas of "human rights" for centuries, mostly through story-telling. Also, most of the political and social ideas of these cultures were rooted in religions. Therefore, it's fair to say that many pre-modern, non-Western religions have also advanced (or at least supported) ideas of "human rights." One such example from India is the story of Kannagi from the Tamil epic Cilappatikaram ("The Tale of the Anklet," circa 2nd century CE).