become all too common for T.V. anchors to demand that an M.P. or minister who
makes a frivolous or politically offensive statement should be forthwith forced
to resign by his party or that a spiritual guru who holds antiquated views must
be taken to task and immediately disowned by all his devotees as scum of the
earth. Some of the TV anchors turn outright abusive to prove their reformist
zeal. For example, much as I disliked Asaram Bapu’s stupid statements on rape,
the abusive harangues he was subjected to in absentia for hours on end, the
tsunami of pejoratives used against him, the attempt to bully Sri Sri
Ravishankar, Baba Ramdev and Guru Vasudev Jaggi into calling him names made me
far more angry at the TV anchors who exceeded all limits on January 7 than I
was at Asaram's stupid statement. Fortunately
each of these spiritual gurus stood their ground and remained dignified in distancing themselves
from Asaram's thoughtless statement.
To spend so much time flagellating nonsense on a day
when major tragic events were taking place in the country is the height of
irresponsibility and narcissism.
sense of priorities gone haywire, the bigger question is: Do our media men want
to create a world in which everyone thinks alike, everyone mouths politically
correct platitudes? A world in which there is no space for divergence of views
or foolish people? A world in which anyone who makes a statement which does not
meet with the moral and political standards set by T.V. anchors and their
handpicked guests must have their heads roll instantly-- be either locked up in
jail or banned out of existence? All such self appointed social reformers
should remember that even authoritarian Nazi, Stalinist or Maoist regimes- each
of which carried out unprecedented genocides to create an intellectually homogeneous society
- failed in their mission.
What if the same logic is used by the government to
take strict action against those who offend the sensibilities of the ruling
establishment? What if a large mass of people –who feel extremely agitated at
the partisan politics of our news channels, the politically dubious role played
by many media men, were to demand strict censorship laws to bring under control
all those who misuse their position as journalists, editors and News Anchors-
many of who convert T.V studios into daily kangaroo courts to demand vigilante
Therefore, in their own self interest, our media
persons should know their legitimate domain and limits. Their job is first and
foremost to inform and not to browbeat people
to “reform”. This world must have place for all- the foolish, the mentally
retarded, self hating, as well as those with “conservative” views. The only lakshman rekha we need to draw is that you can’t act
to harm others based on your misogynist or foolish views. When you cross that
line, the law enforcement agencies must step in to refrain you and hold you to
Even gods and goddesses not spared: Their demand for uniformity does not stop at political
views on contemporary issues. Their diktats extend to religious practices,
rituals and even the conduct of gods and goddesses. I decided to write this
after witnessing poor Rahul Easwar, one of the young hereditary priests of
Sabarimala being flagellated on Tv for the Nth time on 7 Jan 2013, for allowing
the presiding deity of his temple to shun the company of female devotees.
Just as our colonial rulers with their faith in the
superiority of their monotheistic faith, despised Hindu religious practices,
with their millions of gods and goddesses, our modern day missionaries can’t
stand the temperamental nuances of our diverse deities. They have no problem in
accepting that women are barred inside friaries meant to house Catholic priests
who have taken a vow of celibacy. But they can’t stomach the idea of a male
deity who has likewise vowed eternal celibacy avoiding the company of women.
They take it upon themselves to cure this kink because in their moral universe
with its borrowed vocabulary, this amounts to misogyny and gender
discrimination! Rahul Easwar has asked each T.V anchor who has grilled him over
the years, how would they deal with all those temples which only allow female
devotees, where the presiding goddess forbids men’s entry? Would they likewise
force “women only” temples to open their doors to men? Not one
has ever condescended to answer this simple question; nor did any of the
anchors tone down their aggression or hostility towards Rahul’s intelligent
defence of his faith and his Ishta
Following in the footsteps of our British rulers, who
despite their disdain for our gods and goddesses, took away shiploads of
priceless ancient idols to display as art objects in their museums and their
living rooms, so also our westernized elites have taken to displaying
paintings, bronze and stone carved idols of diverse gods and goddesses as
decoration pieces in their homes as proof of their aesthetic lifestyle. But
their disdain for those who treat them as objects of worship remains as
ferocious as that of our colonial rulers.
If that were not the case, they would have no
difficulty in appreciating that Hindu divinities are not unknowable, distant
creatures like the God of Semitic religions. They have distinct personalities,
character traits, likes, dislikes. Even in matters of food, floral offerings,
pooja ritual, each deity has his or her preferences. For example, Ganesh loves modak but Hanuman ji prefers boondi
ka laddoo. There are Shiv temples where devotees offer ganja as prasad.
Some devatas only accept liquor as an
offering. Even though all goddesses are different manifestations of the great
Shakti, yet in their different avatars, they have their unique demands. Vaishno
Devi cannot stand even the smell of meat, so the entire area is vegetarian. But
in her Kali roop at Kalighat, devotees believe she demands animal sacrifice. If
you don’t respect their unique temperaments, you are free not to worship them
and choose the devata or devi that suits your taste.
Even the most illiterate and illiberal among Indians
do not insist on uniformity of rituals or modes of worship. They let each faith
group, each sect decide for itself how to define their relationship to their
chosen deity, what foods to offer her, what modes of worship they think
appropriate to express their devotion and how they interpret her likes or
dislikes. This spontaneous, mutual respect for differences in ways of being,
ways of worship, singing, dancing, clothing, cooking and so on, is what enabled
the rich diversity of India to survive through ages.
But our self proclaimed modern liberals can’t deal
with these lived forms of diversity. They can only relish in museumized
versions such as folk dances on Republic Day or as consumer good. For example,
possessing a collection of Kanjeevaram, Ikat, Chanderi, Patola sarees,
Madhubani and Worli paintings, Moradabad brassware, wood carving from Kashmir,
Tanjore paintings, Rajasthani miniatures etc. is a fashion statement. But the
moral universe of those who create these diverse art objects is unacceptable.
It is assumed that they all need a dose of reform to cleanse them of antiquated
beliefs and values.
be surprised if tomorrow a group of overzealous diet freaks decide to reform
the food habits of our gods and goddesses saying, for example, that modak and laddoo are both high cholesterol, high calorie food items. They
encourage devotees to have pot bellies. Therefore, they should be banned in
favour of sugar free diet chocolates!
It is time the imperious missionaries of “liberalism”
understand that our temples are not meant to be tourist centres-where entry
must be free for all. Most of our traditional temples are run by specific sects
for the devotees of that particular deity. If you don’t like the values of that
sect, if the preferences of that particular deity are offensive to you, just
avoid going to that temple. There are lakhs of others to choose from.
If I walked into the homes of our self appointed
reformers and insisted that they change their lifestyles and food habits, I’d
be shown the door and asked to mind my own business. What gives these
non-believers the right to dictate to Lord Sabarimala how he should live and
act in his own abode or dictate terms to harmless little sects among Hindus who
prefer to indulge in whims and wishes of their chosen deities?
Our deities are willing to move heaven and earth to
please or come to the aid of their true devotees. That is why young Rahul
Easwar has kept pleading with all news anchors to please learn to engage
respectfully with faith leaders if they are serious
about catalyzing changes in allegedly outmoded customary practices
and cultural values. In the Hindu faiths, nothing is written in stone. Devotees
have the right to dictate their deities to change with changing times.
But our Deities can’t be ordered around by those who
only have contempt for them. They cannot be bullied into surrendering their
unique Being and become colourless, soulless robotic creatures that
yield to every new wave of political fashion we import from our intellectual
mentors in distant lands.
version of this article appeared in The
Hindu of January 17, 2013
under the title "Don't Like This Temple? Choose Another" (See link:http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/dont-like-this-temple-choose-another/article4313507.ece)