Monday, October 31, 2011

2 Why do we visit temples?

Is it about God? Is it about dressing up? about community? about the journey or about mental peace. As children, we are led to places of worship by devout parents, taught to pray and bask in the glory of god. Its a practice that is initiated and continues till death for many.

For some, a pilgrimage is an outing that they cherish - they have a valid reason to step out, travel, interact with peers - have all the fun that youngsters can have on a road trip - there is nothing wrong with this apart from the fact that all this is done in the guise of religion/god/culture and the same people have a problem when their children do this without these labels.

I like going to temples - but to temples that are not noisy, clean, dont have big queues and make me feel calm - that is my purpose. When I walk into such a place, I feel relaxed and at peace. But each person has a different purpose and reason - Agreed. It can be for meeting like-minded people and building a community. There are definitely good aspects too - such as Annadhana - the donation of food, community activities that give a sense of belonging and entertainment.

The place of God - Where does it stop being about God?

When there is discrimination based on caste, religion, money:
 "Only Hindus are allowed inside this shrine". Oh yes, there are lot of arguments for this - "the others are impure, they dont know our ways, they do not respect our God." In the futility of these statements, where does the Hindu tenet of "All in One. Everything is the Brahman" stand? Why pin point on Hinduism - the case is similar across religions - Will god differentiate between believers and non-believers? Does that mean that everyone who comes to the temple or church are believers?
 Money plays a role in your access to your god: This is across 90% of temples. "Pay Rs 100 and you get express entry", "Pay Rs 1000, and you can personal perform puja to god". How does money make one devotee's time and effort smaller in comparison to another?

Performing rituals to alleviate doshas: So we beleive that chanting some mantras will remove sins - committed in past, now, future - and secure you a happy place on earth. Here is another barter system - do something and you get something else in return. It undermines the belief in self.
Animal sacrifice: Prevalent among hoards of temples in the rural areas. Goats, hens are donated to be sacrificed. How can anything Godly have killing in the picture?

Coconut, milk, curd, honey - tasty nature given bounties wasted - I never understand this ritual. During abhishekam these are used to anoint the idol and some of this is collected and distributed as prasad. But most of it gets wasted. Why cant these be given directly to the people in need?

You respect God but dont respect nature: Hordes of devotees throng temples - but what are they devoted to? You will find plastic bags strewn across the roads, empty waste baskets but mounds of garbage at every corner. There is nothing left of the Sanctum sanctorum - people take bath using soaps in natural rivers, throw plastics, banana peels into it, spit and-wash clothes - but one holy dip is supposed to cleanse your soul. Some dips really make you question your beliefs - and one such place is Varanasi. It is weird, scary, holy, dirty. Experience it first-hand and you can vouch for all these adjectives!

I am happy meditating, being alone in the comfort of my home and connecting with myself and peace. This is luxury and a necessity. Going to temple is a nice-to-do thing. Nothing more for me.


  1. Your observations are to the point. If somebody make a research on the amount of Milk, curd,honey,bananas,turmeric etc used in Abhishekam rituals in Southern temples amounts to ,it may be in several lacs if not a crore.

  2. Yes. I am sure it will run into crores. Research against anything religious - touchy topic.


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