Sudhir Kakar on the large number of reported suicides following two recent deaths Michael Jackson in June from an overdose of drugs and Andhra Pradesh chief minister YSR Reddy this month in a helicopter crash:
Suicide, on the death of a leader, has been sanctioned in many cultures. In Japan, for instance, hara-kiri, with its 1,000-year-old history, though now officially forbidden, has been an honourable way of expressing grief over the loss of a superior. In some Brazilian tribes, it was customary upon the death of a chief for his retainers to kill themselves so that their souls might serve him in the spirit world. Nearer to YSR's home state, the Avippoli form of suicide in Tamil culture, in which warriors killed themselves on learning that their commander or king had died, is said to be deeply embedded in the Tamil psyche. Suicides after the death of a leader, especially one who had become a folk hero, are thus not only a pathological form of mourning as psychoanalysis would have it, but also need a social and cultural gloss for their fuller understanding.
Read the full piece at the Times of India: Following The Leader, In This World And After