People evolve over the years, so do their thoughts, beliefs and dispositions. How have my thoughts on religion shaped and broadened?
The earliest recollection I have is seeing my parents offer prayers to a set of figurines twice a day everyday – morning and evening. In the morning this was done preferably before they ate their first meals. Till date, my mom does this and I often reprimand her to break “fast” first.
I don’t exactly recall my first tryst with religion or God. All I know is that I had learnt “Gayatri mantra“, before I fully grasped languages. I removed my shoes and recited the mantra in my head with folded hands to the figurines at my home or at a temple (I still do that, irrespective of the figurine of God in front of me).
I encountered the various religions at school . It was through a batch of mixed faith and also the school curriculum. I sang carols and prayed to “Our father who art in heaven, holy be thy name” in the morning assembly. I learnt the 5 Ks of Sikhism, was deeply moved by Premchand’s “Idgaah” and heard the saying – “Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, sab hai bhai bhai“.
Theoretically it was all good and fascinating, I guess, but practically I used to get irritated. The week long daily visit to the crowd-ridden, frenzied Dussehera and Durga Pooja celebrations during Navratri irked me. I distinctly remember blatantly expressing my displeasure and reluctance and also the scolding that followed. Nonetheless I had to go, tumultuous in a myriad of emotions – anger, confusion and shame. Ashamed that I may have hurt God, or that I had disrespected our religion. This was back when I was in primary school.
As I grew, my questions brew, I questioned my mother whenever she instructed me to get a particular leaf or follow a custom as a part of a prayer. She had to spend good 10-15 minutes on logical reasoning. Frankly, yet, I do not understand why certain well defined methods have to followed while conducting different forms of worship and do not believe in them. A prayer is a prayer is a prayer.
A certain Kabir Das ‘s doha comes to my mind –
Mala ferat jug bhaya, fira n man kaa fer,
kar kaa mnaka dar de, man kaa mnaka fer.
Having said all this, I have subconsciously imbibed the thoughts and ingrained the rituals. Certain actions come naturally to me. For instance, paying respect to a book accidentally fallen to the ground or touched by my feet. I touch the book and raise the hand to my forehead and then chest, in that order.
Or even to a backpack – which used to be a symbol of my school books, even now when they do not have books in them, I still follow this process, when I accidentally touch them by my feet. I eat curd and sugar before embarking on a journey and pray before an exam.
When I first started living outside, these festivals formed a new meaning – they were time to go back home. The very same queues, the heat and frenzy inspired nostalgia, longing and togetherness. Of remembering culture and celebrations.
So this is how I perceive the very purpose of religion, I think humans created it to bring families together. Much similar to how the much recent festival “Ganesh Chaturthi” was created, to unite people. It is this spirit which I respect.
Also it could be that the original intention was to preach, to create an orderly environment where people followed certain concluded upon virtues possibly arrived after discussions.
Hinduism focuses on people praying to the source of their livelihood. India traditionally being an agricultural, cattle and fodder driven economy. Therefore we worship rain God who brings water to the fields, cow who brings milk, Solar Energy which helps in the growth of crops. The different celebrations – Lohri, Pongal, Makar Sankranti, Basant panchami, all symbolize seasonal changes. The food eaten in such festivals are unique to the season and kite flying bit adds to the fun of it.
Also religions could be means to focus energy in a positive direction.
But like an aping monkey, these have become hollow or might have lost relevance in the present world. What I try to do is bring my own meaning to the festivals, I fast twice a year as a healthy ritual. I visit new temples as an adventure – awed to see different architecture in different parts of India, yet inspiring the same reverence from devotees. I view them as a means of cultural feat! I found tranquility in a Gurudwara at Mysore, when I served food and when I ate atte ka halwa, Ah! Bliss!
But the long lines and hurried worship at the temples defeats the very purpose of prayers. It becomes more of a task we drudge through. That’s when I start questioning again! Why do we pray? That could be another monologue!
Amen! Shabhakheir! Alvida!