Almost all Indian religious congregations and functions have been robbed of the piety and devotion that was once an intrinsic part of such gatherings.
The biggest of them, the Kumbh, is now full of thousands of little-known ‘sadhus’ and ‘babas’ showing off their wealth and faux prowess (treating it as investment in order to lure the neo faithful!). Or take the various pujas and visarjans, everything has got so hugely commercialised and vulgarized. Even Ramlilas or dandiyas are no exemption!
Thanks to an over-riding factor in every modern Indian household called television, nothing is exempt of Bollywood and its impact on everyday life. Access to digital music at high decibels and new found craze for showing off their social participation in such gatherings has made lower and lower middle class Indians feel ever-powerful in a religious mob. Nothing else describes the frenzy that overtakes many of them on such occasions. Every such occasion is a party… a big religious party, a source of entertainment, particularly for the youth who comprise majority of the
(Hindus causing Environmental Damage after Ma Durga Visarjan Festival at Delhi Yamuna Ghats )
Even a source of earning for many more, also a social show-off! But why do average Indians reduce such pious religious functions into a tamasha with rampant abuse? They will take over the roads, public spaces and just about anything they fancy in the name of religious freedom. It is actually a social problem India has at hands.
With growing purchasing power and expanding markets bring in everything to your doorstep, the propensity to abuse this newfound freedom too has gone up several notches.
A religious or a social crowd is the last refuge of the roguish citizens because those are virtually never touched by the police and administration. And that is where half the problem lies.
Lack of various facilities and processes and rules to conduct or guide such socio-religious gatherings and the sheer pressure of numbers are two most important factors that have led to rise in lumpenism in Indian religious congregations. Hinduism cannot but drown in this populist festive partying!
I have attended last three Kumbh Melas and the sheer ineptitude of handling something as massive as that leaves so much to be desired. If the demand would be for 10, the governments and administrations provide for 3 or 4 at best, leaving huge gaps in supply, leading to bunching of lakhs at exactly one spot at a time.
Every year in Sawan, a number of rowdy elements mingle with the genuine, simple worshipper called Kanwariyas and display their ugly prowess on the routes of Western UP and Delhi. Ditto Durga Pujas which get reduced to pomp and show, or worst dating platforms. A spurt in pre-marital conjugation has been reported by media after Dandiya Ras in Gujarat, going by the sudden increase in rubber (condom) sales.
Visarjans are no less ugly. It is sickening to see many in the crowd trampling upon discarded gods just dumped by the sea or river sides, with young Rowdy Rathores eyeing and pawing women & people’s wallets like eagles, some merrily drinking alcohol through pre-mixed Pepsi bottles & gyrating wildly as if they have come to a discotheque.
It is the same streak that leads to blaring loudspeakers during Pujas, jagrans, Namaz or Ardas and the same that leads to extra loud and hugely irresponsible Chinese crackers being used during Diwali in NCR’s wealthy and posh pockets; roads and public spaces being occupied with impunity for jagratas and Jumma Namaz or Guru ka Langars.
To that extent, nothing compares to the madness that overtakes us when we want to paint anybody and anything during Holi, without exceptions! Or the sheer hooliganism that takes place during Shab-e-Barat on Delhi’s streets!
Look at how abused is Dahi-Handi today, which was started by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Mumbai in late nineteenth century to bring crowds together; or the Maa Durga or Ganesh sthapana and visarjan, whose complexion has all but been changed by the average participant and organiser alike.
What makes it pitiable that majority of them usually have scant or no regard for religion, other participants, and the non-participants. Thus, it becomes a mere social exercise devoid of any religious or spiritual overtones. It is utterly disgusting to see this facet of crass religionists. Just the opposite of what the greatest Sanatan Hindu religion is all about.
Already, hurtling down the path of instant gratification, everything for Indians has become HAPPY, from Dussehra to Diwali and Holi to Independence and Republic Day. Going by the billions of ‘HAPPY’ greetings going around during festivals on Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook, Indians will come across as one HAPPY people!
Except that they are NOT! A little too high on rowdy religious quotient may be! The pursuit for Happyness could not be farther than this.
Can’t we ever have the true, loveable smaller festive gatherings back? Seems a dream that’s run its course. Like a thing of the yore! Is it a typical urbanist’s dream? Well, if lumpenism is not to be tolerated, it indeed is. For it disconnects a number of upper middle class from wanting to participate in most public religious congregations.
What else explains average Hindus’ love for the gods leading them to trample upon them after deserting them by the riversides, ponds, under trees and in the oceans? But the far bigger question mark is on the very essence of these festivals which were meant to usher in spirituality. Today, these perversities do everything possible to drive spirituality away from religion.
But look not towards the so-called gurus, mathadheeshwars and others for direction for they are mostly busy milking the cow. The churning has to come from within. The core of Hindutva is the self! The cleansing has to come from there. Change and drive it before it is too late.
By N Saxena