Temples for Spirituality, Harmony and Joy
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 18 Dec 2017
18 Dec 2017 – As is well known India has diversities of virtually all types — geographical, linguistic, ethnic, cultural and religious among others. We have all types of weather — from extreme heat to extreme cold; from the rainiest to the driest regions; from high mountains to a long coastline. India also has innumerable languages along with their specific cultures and cuisines.
As for religions, we have followers of all major world religions — Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and smaller faiths such as Sikhism, Jainism, Judaism, Arya Samaj, Baha’i. Other faiths such as Brahmo Samaj, Dev Samaj, along with their specific deities, rituals and holy books are also present in different regions of the country.
The reason India has so many living religions is because when people of different faiths were driven out from their homelands, they chose to come to India that welcomed them and their religions with open arms. This happened with Parsis and Baha’is who were driven out from Iran (also known as Persia). There are also a handful of Jews who have made this country their homeland.
Followers of the various religions celebrate their faiths with gusto and gaiety in India. Muslims fast for a month and then celebrate Id with joy and a sense of brotherhood by greeting each other and distributing gifts. So do the Christians on Christmas and Easter. The Sikhs remember their Gurus, especially Guru Nanak with enthusiasm and joy. Gurudwaras (temples of Sikhs) provide langar (free food) to all irrespective of their economic and social status. Similarly Buddhists, Jains and followers of other smaller faiths celebrate their various anniversaries with devotion and joy.
The temples of various religions are vast, beautiful and inspiring with a few of them acquiring heritage status. Some of these are the Golden Temple of Sikhs in Amritsar, the Jama Masjid in Delhi which is one of the biggest mosques in the world. The Lotus Temple of Baha’is in southern part of Delhi is a beautiful and inspiring place of worship which has also become a world famous tourist centre. Nearby is the ISKCON temple which again attracts millions of Indians and foreigners and has become a world heritage centre. Similarly there are several historical churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples all over India and overseas. One of the most beautiful Hindu temples in the world is the Angkor Wat built in about 400 acres of land in the early 12th century in Cambodia which has been recognised by UNESCO as a heritage institution; subsequently it was converted into a Buddhist temple.
Hinduism has the largest number of followers in India with Islam having the next largest number of adherents. Among Hinduism, Lord Krishna and Lord Ram are the most respected and revered deities with their profound religious texts, attractive folklores, exciting ways of celebrations and customs that never cease to amaze and provide pleasure, harmony and joy. Krishna is a loving God and has become popular in many parts of the world through institutions like ISKCON. He (Krishna) is also a wonderful teacher of morality, spirituality and philosophy as is evident in the Sanskrit epic Gita and other texts. Eminent Indian scholars and philosophers — Gandhi, Gokhale, Radhakrishnan and others have written profound commentaries on this epic. Many believers shower their love on Krishna in diverse ways.
Similarly Lord Ram or just Ram is beloved of most Hindus who pray at his innumerable temples and seek his blessings and celebrate his anniversary and return from the fourteen year exile with joy and pleasure. The occasion is celebrated by all Hindus as Diwali which is one of the most popular festivals by lighting of lamps and candles and firing of crackers. In addition, the story of Ram from his birth to marriage to exile for fourteen years and his return is staged as Ramleela all over India and even in Bali in Indonesia. Many books including the ancient epic Ramayana written by Valmiki in Sanskrit language more than 2500 years ago and Ram Charita Manas by Goswami Tulsidas (1532-1623) in the 17th century in Awadhi (old form of Hindi) language extol the life, teachings and morality of this beloved God of Hinduism.
But Ram is not just a God but was also a fine human being who showed exemplary qualities as a son, husband, brother, prince, wanderer etc. who continues to inspire millions of ordinary mortals. Many people greet each other today by saying ‘Ram, Ram’. Gandhi was a devout person and had deep faith in Hinduism and in Krishna, Ram, Shiv, Vishnu and other Gods. When he was assassinated on January 30, 1948, the last words uttered by him were “He Ram”. (He Ram is pronounced like Hay Raam).
Recently, an exhibition in Delhi was held of photographs of a traditional sect of Chattisgarh Hindus called Ramnamis whose bodies are tattooed with the words Ram, Ram. Earlier they did not wear any clothes since the felt they were protected by Lord Ram. Today they do wear simple clothes with the words of their beloved Ram printed on their clothes and a headgear of peacock feathers. But their faces are still tattooed by the name of their God whom they revere and trust.
Should we call these simple people foolish or primitive or should we think that their faith and spirituality gives them a reason to sustain their lives? Some people will argue in one way, others in a contrary way. But what is not in doubt is the fact that religion, spirituality and faith give many people Joy, Harmony and a purpose of life all over the world.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Dec 2017.
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