Wednesday, October 9, 2013

God’s own religion

Last week my visit to Jagannath Puri made me realize that the whole hullabaloo around Modi being a secular or not is a waste of time because in a ‘secular’ and religiously tolerant country like India, even God has a religion and that religion is Hinduism.

Of course, in a Hindu dominated state God has to go with the majority, may be when we decided Lord Jagannath’sorissa-jagannath religion we didn’t know about the privileges enjoyed by a minority. After all, Jagannath literally means ‘Jagat ke Nath’ or the Lord of the universe. And how can a secular state allow a Non-Hindu to rule.

A temple, or any other holy place for that matter, acts like a bridge between man and God and when the very same bridge is used to create gap, people like me begin to doubt my faith.

I was amazed by the glory and the magic of Jagannath on His devotees. The undying devotion and spiritual fervor for the divinity can be felt the moment you step inside Odisha. The omnipresence of the astounding belief fuelled my desire to visit the temple. One of my friends from Odisha once said that the moment he enters the temple there are tears in his eyes. Nobody can describe Jagannath such is his aura. And I think he was true because despite the temple’s mismanagement thousands of devotees flocked the temple for a glimpse of the Almighty.

The magnificence of the Lord can be understood by the grandeur of His residence. Built on an area of about 4,00,000 square feet, the triad  deities, Jagannath, Subhadra and Balbhadra, reside in the Garba Griha (Sanctum sanctorum) section of the temple. The sanctity of the place can’t be challenged but the lack of management and security seems to be a major issue.

With no proper frisking, one can easily carry cell-phones and other stuff inside the temple. This is a major issue for a place visited by thousands of people daily.

lord_jagannath_photo_-_triad (1)But more than the security and the management what disturbed me was an incident that happened with a friend of mine. None of the guards checked our bags properly because we looked Hindus but a friend was asked to prove his religion because he was bald and had a beard which is a typical Muslim get-up.

It was difficult for me to understand why were the non- hindus not allowed in the temple. I am a Brahmin by caste and I am supposed to visit temples but I prefer Bangla Saheb Gurudwara over any other religious place. It is all about faith and for a place like Puri which is one of the holiest cities in the country, discrimination on the basis of religion is not justified.

Since the ancient times, the servitors of Lord Jagannath have restricted devotees inside the temple. From Kabir Das ji to Guru Nanak Dev ji to Indira Gandhi to the Italian Odissi dancer Ileana Citarasti, the temple has posed restrictions on the entry on the basis of religion and has landed itself in more number of controversies than any other deity in the country. Mahatma Gandhi had even protested against the rampant caste discrimination practiced by the temple authorities.

The debates and protests have resulted in a lot of changes in the temple rituals like the Dalits are now allowed inside the temple but there are miles to go before we close this debate on restricting entry to religious places on the basis of religion. Jagannath is the lord of the universe. He is an assimilation of all the castes and religions and thus we all must get a fair chance to assimilate in Him irrespective of our castes and religion. It was only after visiting the sacrosanct that I realized that there is more Jagannath outside the temple than it is inside. Inside those four walls of the majestic temple He is only getting divided and cashed by his servitors but His real glory lies beyond those four walls where even the mention of His name commands respect and  nothing auspicious can happen without His blessings.


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