Farakka, April 20, 2014 (Alochonaa): I have often wondered about the need of religion in our lives. What purpose does it serve! How much different my life would have been if I was a Christian or Muslim or Sikh or Buddhist and not a Hindu. To put it in other words, what role does religion play in the life of today’s youth & society in general? What is its relevancy in current times? In spite of knowing that religion plays a pivotal role in our lives just like we know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, I wanted to look beyond the conundrum of religion and explore the practical implication on Indian society.
India with its burgeoning population of approximately 1.27 billion people is rapidly growing economy. It is the birthplace of four major religions, namely Hinduism, Jainism , Sikhisma and Buddhism. My assumption, following an imaginary psychic reading of the minds Jesus Christ, Buddha , Lord Shiva, Mahavira would be that their sole purpose behind forming and preaching a religion or ideology would be unification of the masses and creating sects or communities who might be following different paths but ultimately all of which inspired people to lead pure, purposeful lives which would ultimately lead them to enlightenment .
Ironically, they had very little idea about what a potent tool they were creating for a class of iconic people who were going to take birth in our blessed motherland thousand of centuries later – namely our parliamentary elite. What could a more potent tool than religion do to promote divisiveness & strengthen vote banks , to distract the attention of the masses from all sorts of scams and corruption and keep them fighting amongst themselves in the name of Holy Wars or Communal Riots. After all, how can we stand blasphemy or any disrespect towards our religion .
No matter whether a daily wage earner gets to eat two square meals a day or not he still has faith in Allah, he offers Namaaz without fail – it helps him forget the hunger pangs as the devotion in his heart percolates to his stomach. In spite of rising unemployment in India, a mother has unyielding faith in some gemstones & amulets blessed by one of our 33 crore dev/devis , which will make the impossible possible by securing a good job for her children. It gives her the assurance to sleep peacefully. Who else is the bearer of our hopes and aspirations on the night before the exams and semesters and not to forget in examination halls when the question paper seems to be written in hieroglyphics. Religion has the power to transform the staunchest atheist into the most ardent devotee. Faith does move mountains after all.
Whenever the price of basic necessities, such as food skyrockets without any logically explicable reason the common man faithfully prays to their respective gods and has enough faith in their prayer which they think has the power to overcome the evil connivance of some unknown puppeteer who pulls the strings in our country. On a different perspective saying “I’m fasting , I’m having some Braat or Upvaas” is much better than having to say “I’m having to manage without food for a day.” The holy month of Ramadan comes as a welcome relief where having to manage on a single meal is a religious mandate & matter of glory. Faith helps us keep patience and not question the root cause which might not have an immediate solution.
Then again there are people like Asharam Bapu , reincarnation of some saintly person of yore , a self proclaimed Godman who would earnestly ask young girls to shed their inhibitions & offer themselves respectfully to the supreme. We all have some faint idea about what is meant by the SUPREME here though!! Any government sponsored schemes to control the burgeoning menace of our overpopulation might hurt or jeopardize the religious sentiments of many. Many temples in our country have earnings more than some big multi-national corporations (MNC’s) and the personal property of some of our ascetic Sadhus might make Warren buffet want to sit up & take notice!
Politicians are always eager to grant many special advantages to minority religions – grant to IMAMS, jobs for youths. But my question is do they ever ponder to think any normal, educated youth in our country will want the same thing? Wouldn’t a secure economy which will give them a fair chance of a decent livelihood irrespective of his/her religion?
On a completely different perspective when our multi religious country dresses up for Eid, Diwali, Christmas, NavRatri or Durga puja , little do we think about the huge number of people for whom these occasions are the sole source of livelihood, their only once in a year income – be they ardent devotees or agnostics or atheists.
No matter how gloomy the events of the year might be recession, inflation, soaring food prices, rising unemployment – these festivities comes as divine intervention to pull us above mundane realities even if it’s for a day or two. When the pure devotion in our hearts pulls us to some remote pilgrimage we indirectly might be funding a state whose only revenue might be coming from religious tourism.
On a neutral, unbiased analysis about the relevancy of RELIGION in India as an educated, Indian youth strangely I’m ending up with more pros than cons!
I read in the newspaper recently that the numbers of atheists in America are increasing. It made me wonder why would people want to stop believing in the supreme power, was it because God has been unable to fulfill their wish. I think the explanation might not be that simple, I think in this scenario nothing but a shifting of faith from the unknown to the known. But in order to recognize this divinity within lots of dry & clinical things needs to be taken care of first for example food security, job security, improved medical provisions etcetra, then we will be able to arrive at the top most tier of Self Actualization – as per Abraham Maslow’s Pyramid depicting the Hierarchy of Our Needs.
But since India is still a little far away from these idealized state I think we will have to fast , pray & perform Havaans to fight corruption & scams & whenever our politicians will get shifty in their thrones with the unnecessary inquisitiveness of the common man about soaring food prices , rising unemployment , farmer suicides, rising gap between the rich & poor in our country or their income or about them enjoying their legitimate rights they will quickly bring out the most potent tool from their arsenal. And off course we never shy away from fighting communal riots – by god, & sadly religion will continue to serve every other purpose than what it was intended for by its founders.
But being the eternal optimist I am I would definitely like to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel! Till then HAVE FAITH!
*Nilantika is a regular writer of Alochonaa. She is the author of the novel‘To The Anya In You. She now lives in the rural part of India as part of her job posting.
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