Religiousness can safely be called one of the most defining characteristics of Indians. It may be by practising one or hating another, but we allow religion to become a large part of our identity. And with these religions come a multitude of traditional practises, rituals and not to forget festivals. We get so caught up in these physical manifestations of our faith, that this displayed religiousness becomes more sacred that the religion itself and the logical Indian loses his rationality to his God.
It is that time of the year again, when Mumbai, one of the largest cities of the world, loses its head over the Ganesh festivals. Mumbaikars celebrate this festival by visiting friends and family who “welcome the god to their homes”. During these visits the most universal topic of conversation is the idol of the god and the decorations that have been arranged for it. Hearing people talk about the money they spent on the idol’s setting or the latest trends in flower patterns, one would think that the blessings of the god were directly proportional to the efforts and money spent on the decoration. And sadly most of these people do believe that they are.
But the farce of religion is not limited to the Ganesh festival, we have thousands of rupees donated uselessly to make idols of gold, barefoot devotees starving themselves to prove their loyalty to god and little girls with their faces covered or heads shaved in the name of religion.
Why don’t we think twice before tying that red string around our wrists? Why go to Siddhivinayak, what’s wrong with the Ganesh idol at home? How can an old man in a dhoti chanting mantras he probably doesn’t understand himself communicate your prayer to God?
When one asks these questions out loud, two out of three aunties will raise their eyebrows. But isn’t it high time that we stop obsessing over these useless superficialities now. Before teaching a child a prayer verse, should we not teach him to not litter on the road. Before telling him of the importance of mythology should we not tell him of the importance of respecting the environment? And mostly, rather than simply asking him to be religious, should we not ask him to be a better person?