Disclaimer: This post might hurt the sentiments of a lot of people, but then, it’s meant to!
Background: I come from a strongly religious north indian hindu brahmin family and my father (papa) and my grandmother (amma) have been very religious people. They do fast, they pray a lot of gods and do a lot other things. As a kid, we used to visit haridwar many times and I used to like the vacation a lot. Last weekend was one of those many times when we drove to rishikesh and haridwar for a brief trip. It was majorly because we wanted to skip holi madness back at home.
The post: There is a lot of information, tradition, rules, gyan, money and everything else that flows down from one generation to the other. Most of the ‘hardware’ that flows from the upper generations to the lower ones is generally accepted with a lot of ease and comfort and is used as logically as possible, this could be money, property or whatever. However, the ‘software’ that percolates to the lower generations is accepted blindly most times and is seen as sacred and unquestionable. Our society does not support much questioning. And those who question are considered cynic. Nevertheless blasphemy in our country is profane, its rather fatal.
A simple example! I was at har ki paudi (the religious bank of Ganga at haridwar which is considered very sacred by hindus – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Har_ki_Pauri). it is said that once you bath in ganga your ‘paap’ will be cleared off and you can go to heaven after that – convenient, isn’t. So the scenes at that sacred bank on a holi morning are such – people are playing holi with ganga by emptying packets of gulaal in the river, they are emptying remains of ashes from god-knows-where places in the same area, they are buying food items and shooing off kids and beggers and throwing it in Ganga maiyya! And when you ask them to rather give it to someone or eat it yourself, you hear ‘chup, humnein to tujhe padha ke hi galti ki’ (shut up, we did a mistake by sending you to school!!!). Then you try to debate by asking ok, what is the reason why you pray a river and why this one specifically and why here at this specific bank. You are asked to shut up again. Now you don’t know whether to laugh or to be angry.
I think most of the traditions that our ancestors used to do are very meaningful; there is a lot of sense and logic behind their actions. Praying our rivers is the signal of respect that they used to give to rivers because of a million reasons. Our rivers, our forests, our environment they are all of utmost importance and our ancestors knew it. But the problem is, once again, we understand how this software is run, but most of us dont even try to understand the ‘why’ of it. And in this process the whole essence of this action is lost. So, while we must thank the river for all it gives, we pressurize it further by doing all sort of random experiments on it. Yes, the river has self-cleaning attributes but that doesn’t let us exploit it to our convenient.
And then there is the conscience part! I strongly dislike the Hindu overdependence on their gods for everything, from getting a baby-boy to salvation to an Indian victory to a 6-pointer to a job to a BJP/Congress win to a fair skin and the list is endless. I see it as convenience mentality. Most of us are too immersed in our ever increasing desires which lead to two things. One, it makes us do a lot of stuff which our conscience disagrees to and two; it makes us go back to gods with our open palms.
I like water! I enjoy being in clean and cold ganga in Rishikesh on a sunny afternoon myself. And most importantly, I am no saint myself. Nowhere in the bhagwad-gita is it said that one must blindly follow rules of the previous generations and it’s basically written in the query mode, in a question answer form and that’s how it should be. I have a lot of questions, mostly unanswered, but the quest for it is amazing.