Temples (NaBloPoMo- Take 2)

Today morning when I got a message from my brother that he and our parents had gone to the temple, my heart yearned to be with them. I wished to God that I could have gone with them too.

Its one thing I miss having here. A temple. There are no temples in Doha and I feel something amiss because of that. Although we do have a corner in our house where we have kept our deities and where R, Namnam & I pray. Still there’s something about temples that brings a peaceful, calming effect to my being.

Sometimes I wonder why? Why do I feel so much at peace and so connected to God when I’m inside a shrine? Yes I do try to think practically and tell myself that if God resides in me then it doesnt matter if I get to go to a temple or simply pray at home and be connected to Him. And frankly that belief has helped me stay calm and sane this far.

Yet, when I’m in a temple, the very aura makes my devotion even more passionate and I feel even closer to God. The very minute I enter a temple, hundreds of diyas lit up in the wee hours of the morning illuminates my whole being. There’s something magical about those devotional songs even. They sound profound despite blaring through the loudspeakers. And those chants that start on a lower octave hit the highest octave filled with utmost piety, when the priest opens the Nada* amidst chiming of bells and sprinkling of water and rose petals, to give everyone present there a beautiful glimpse of God.

I dont know what is it that makes temples so special . Maybe it has to do with my growing up years where going to temples was a part of a routine and much looked forward to. Or maybe its vaastu or some spiritual pull. Whatever be the reason, the sense of tranquility and inner peace is something that I’ve felt at noplace else.

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Worshipping while Menstruating- Why not?

WHY EVER NOT?

Its amazing to realize how, sometimes, your beliefs can rule your life. Even when those beliefs border on the lines of superstition, you still allow them to take over you. I’m not talking about person A, B or C. I’m talking about myself. I’m frustrated to think that I’m allowing my religious beliefs to clash with my superstitions because of which my decisions are being influenced.

I had a long and fierce discussion with R & my mother about the same. While I voiced my inhibitions, they were constantly urging me to shed them and go by what my belief and faith ask of me and not what some ridiculous ideologies/ superstitions want me to do.

I’ve been wanting to initiate Namnam to music for a while. And since she had been showing an inclination towards it lately, I thought I’ll introduce her to the world of music this year on Vijayadashami.

Vijayadashami is considered to be an auspicious occasion to start formal education of any kind. On Ashthami, the eighth day of Navarathri, children keep their books, musical instruments, etc. for pooja, which are taken back and used after pooja on Vijayadashami, the tenth day.

Now there is a slight glitch here, which is making me withdraw my plans, much against my wish. And that is the clashing of Vijayadashami with my menstrual cycle.

According to Hinduism, the religion I follow(sometimes blindly, I wonder), a woman is not allowed to take part in any kind of religious ceremonies for the first four days of her menstrual cycle. She cant go to temple, do poojas, eat prasadams or offerings from temples, churches, or mosques. Partake in festivals. She cant enter the kitchen. In a nutshell, she is ostracized. So much so that she is made to feel like a sinner if she goes against such beliefs, no matter how ridiculous they may seem.

This has been going on for ages, for generations. Those 4-5 days women are considered ‘impure’ or ‘polluted’. Its so disturbing to even write about it.

In some parts of our country women are confined to a shed/hut and allowed to eat dry foods, salt and rice as though they are being punished for some crime. Preposterous!

And this is where I’m frustrated. I know how ridiculous it sounds to me, and yet I’ve been following it blindly for as long as I can remember. Why? Because all my life the reasoning that my religion presented to me was that God doesnt approve of women worshipping Him during their menstrual period. And if I wanted to defy that reasoning, I couldn’t because I didnt want to invite God’s wrath.

When I hit puberty, I remember very vividly how disturbed I was , when I was told that I’ll not be taken to the temple or allowed to light a diya. I could very clearly see the agony, the pain in my mother’s eyes as she forbade me. I was so shaken up that I had cried into my pillow that night- something even my parents dont know about till today.

I remember an incident when we had gone to Kerala on one of our summer vacations. The entire family had planned a temple visit and as my luck would have it I got my period. My Ma, the rebel that she is, decided to stay mum about it and take me to the temple, come what may. Of course I was asked to keep mum about it too. But one of the aunts overheard us and word got around just when we were about to reach the temple. Oh dear, the accusing glances that my mother & I had to endure!! As though the whole town had got polluted! I could sense how helpless my mother felt at that moment. As expected I was not allowed to go the temple :(. I’ll never forget this incident as it brought forth the regressive and backward line of thinking of my society.

Thats how it is isnt it?? We steer clear of questioning any illogical reasoning for the sheer fear of being shunned by the society. So we bind ourselves to the ridiculous customs and let our lives be taken over by them.

I’ve wondered all my life why does a woman have to be ostracized for something that is one of the most natural and important functions. Ok agreed, in olden days it would have been hygienic. But today, we have sanitary pads, we have other clean ways of handling the situation. Then why this need to seclude women?

If God is the one who created us, as is preached universally, then He would surely have thought about this particular function well enough to understand it to be an important aspect of a woman’s body and NOT something to be shunned , right? If He were to disapprove of us women worshipping Him, then why would he give us this function in the first place, while creating us? If we have faith in God, then cant we believe that He will be reasonable enough to understand us?

What I’m trying to say is that such beliefs are nothing but brought about by some religious fanatics to propel their ridiculous ideologies. And sadly such beliefs are still being practiced by fools like me.

Today, I feel overwhelmed as a mother, when I think about the situation when in a few years Namnam will reach her puberty. What do I do then? What do I tell her then? Can I tell her that worshipping God can never be wrong, in whatever circumstances one is in? Can I tell her that so long as she and her God know she is ‘pure’ and her devotion is pious, no society can forbid her or decide for her when she should worship or why she should or should not worship? I hope to God I can. I hope to God I do.

After a constructive discussion with R & my Ma, I’m seriously driven to defy these very illogical beliefs and go ahead with full faith in my God and initiate Namnam to music.

Maybe I should. Maybe I will, if I want to raise my child in a prejudice-free environment.

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EDITED TO ADD: Here’s wishing one and all a wonderful, joyous and blessed time this festive season. Happy Dussehra to everyone!

At your (in)convenience

Before I begin my long pent-up rant, I’d like to make it very clear that this post is not directed at any one particular religion, sect or belief. My frustration or anger is aimed at all those people who seem to care a lot about their faith thereby bringing about a certain amount of discipline in their own lives, but at the same time are highly insensitive towards the inconvenience they cause to others.

I left home to go out in the morning on Friday. It was only when I got out of my building that I realized I had chosen an inappropriate time of the day to go out.

Zuhr, the afternoon prayer was about to start and people who had come to pray in the nearby mosque had parked their vehicles in every possible direction outside of our building. The entire stretch of road was blocked. So much so that there was hardly any space for vehicles coming from adjoining roads, to pass by.Needless to say,I had a tough time getting out of that mess.

I was really bugged as I had planned to be at this place at a certain hour and I was clearly far from achieving it simply because of some people’s indifference.

Such nonchalance can be so frustrating! What if someone had had to rush on an emergency and this unwarranted hiccup was something the person could not afford? Aren’t indifferent actions of some people adversely affecting the day-to-day lives of their fellow beings?

Let me point out this is not confined to one region or country. I’ve seen similar things happening in India too.
Delhi and a few other parts of North India have Jagrans/Jagratas organized, in the name of God, every now and then, by some of His devotees.

Jagrans/Jagratas,as many of you would know,is a session wherein people stay awake through the night and offer prayers to God. They show their devotion by praising Him,singing bhajans and playing loud music with religious songs blaring through the loudspeakers. It’s a different matter, though that those bhajans would have a guess-game,of an interesting kind,attached to them. Guess the original film-song!

I’m not against praying or being devoted to God. I’m a God-fearing person myself.I have my own beliefs and follow to some extent, the values and teachings that my religion, Hinduism,offers. So I perfectly understand the sentiments behind people’s devotion and implicit faith in God.

What I don’t understand is the logic behind showing devotion so explicitly in a residential area, through the night, with deafening music, thereby hampering the lives of others.
Let me not even get started on those incessant political rallies and religious rath-yatras that bring cities to an absolute standstill.

All I’m trying to point out is that all of us are free to follow our beliefs and practice what we believe in. But do we need to do that at the cost of others’ convenience? Is that the right way to go about it?

I know what I feel or write is not going to make people think or behave any differently. The system will still function in the same manner as it is now.The people will still have the attitude of unconcern towards others’ feelings.

But I also know that this is a topic that has been brewing inside me for quite sometime and I’m feeling much better after letting it out. One of the virtues of blogging,I guess!!