Tag: #religion

Book Review: The Radiance Of A Thousand Suns (Manreet Sodhi Someshwar)

“History was alive and entangled in everyday stories of India, and it needed to be coaxed onto the pages of a book”.

The Radiance of a Thousand Suns” is the story of Niki Nalwa who undertakes to finish her father’s lifelong work of writing a book. A book about the oral stories of Partition of India and the riots of 1984. The Nalwa family’s history is intertwined with the history of the country, starting from the Partition of the country to the days of emergency to the riots of 1984 to the turbulent years of militancy in Punjab to 9/11 to modern-day racism in New York. Also intertwined is the story of Mahabharat, the story of brothers at war, of Draupadi and of reminding us, that violence begets violence.

This book is like Nooran’s bagh, a colourful tapestry of stories, of Nooran’s fearlessness, Zohra Nalwa’s desire to get justice for riot victims, Niki’s feminism and the desire to complete her father’s work, Meher’s innocent adolescence and Jyot’s sacrifice and suffering. It might feel very simple, but sometimes even simple has the power to move you, raise gooseflesh, draw tears in your eyes and break your heart. Nooran, Zohra, Niki, Meher and Jyot are not only characters in the book, but they are a part of us all. They are amongst us when we love our children, scold them, motivate them, teach them to be good humans.

The author evokes memories of simpler times when she mentions “choori” or “karah prasad”, you smile as you read as it brings back comforting memories of your own childhood. However, like in Niki’s childhood, there are wisps of dark in your childhood too, you remember the hushed whispers of massacres in 1984, of the curfew and the soldier keeping guard on your street. With Jyot’s story, the generic becomes personal, you are horrified by the violence in Jyot’s life. Jyot’s life becomes a metaphor for all the women in conflict areas, the ones who face violence and destruction over and over again, all because of the games that men play, the games of war and power.

In the book, Niki mentions that while there have been countless books/movies about the Holocaust, the Partition of India ( which was no less catastrophic) has been relegated to the footnotes of History, even Indian history. A deeply disturbing , yet a true fact. Quite a few of us also forget that so many people who had to bear the horrors of Partition had to again face the horrors of 1984 as well. It is almost as if the violence followed them irrespective of where they were, they couldn’t escape its bloody clutches.  Partition on the surface may have affected Punjab and Bengal the most, however, it’s repercussions are felt even now, not in the least in the instinctive acrimony between India and Pakistan.

Even though this is a Punjab/Sikh centric book its appeal is not limited to that region as this book, at its heart, is about women. Women who give birth and are yet relegated to the shadows; women whose bodies are to be conquered to show-off manhood; women whose bodies become battlefields when brothers fight wars over land; women who are made to follow rules and archaic customs in the name of religion.

There are certain books for which writing a review is very difficult. The book might have touched you, moved you to tears, left you heartbroken, stayed with you constantly. You want people to discover the beauty of the book, but as you sit down to write, you struggle to find words that would do justice to the author and to your emotions on reading the book. Yet you somehow persevere as you know such books are required in current times of mistrust when humans are against one another. When once again, the price will be paid by women. I hope I have done justice to the book and can motivate people to read this beautiful book, a book which will make you pause and think, about your actions and how they affect us all.

The Vedas And The Upanishads ~Roopa Pai

Hinduism is difficult to understand. Most of us, who call ourselves Hindus do so because we were born in a Hindu household. We follow customs and rituals thinking that it is the way it is supposed to be done, confusing the rituals with religion. Each person has his/her own definition of what Hinduism is, some call it religion, some call it idol worship, some call it a way of life, some, have even confused it with nationalism. It is one of the most complex and yet the simplest concept/religion/philosophy (pick what suits you best). Despite all the variations and plurality in Hinduism, there is however a constant, none can deny that, the Vedas form the bedrock of Hinduism.

Roopa Pai is one of my favorite authors for children, especially those ten years or older. She has written books on Economics, science, and Krishna Deva Raya for the young ones, making complex concepts easy for them. She wrote the brilliant “The Gita, for children” ( read my review here https://undecidedindubai.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/the-conversation/). She has now followed it up with the book “The Vedas and The Upanishads”.Running at almost four hundred pages, this book skims the basic core of Hinduism. It has the Vedas, their introduction, the layers, the meters used for chanting the Vedas, the important Gods mentioned in the Vedas and a few of the important hymns, including my favorite the “Nasadiya Sukta”. The Upanishad section deals with the need and the history of Upanishads, a brief about Adi Shankaracharya and the ten principal Upanishads. Each of the ten Upanishads has been given its own chapter, its Shanti mantra(in English), the back story, the gist, explanation and an after story. The after-story is usually in the form of an example so that the children can relate more easily. Since each Upanishad has its own chapter, if you want to revisit and read only a particular Upanishad, you can pick that.

By the author’s own admission this is not an exhaustive work. It, however, is a great way to introduce children (and even adults) to the complexities of one of the world’s oldest religion. The book introduces the basic concepts in an easy way so that children can understand it. Written in an easy narrative style you can almost imagine the author talking to you while you read. What saves the book from becoming too preachy or “Satsangi” is the language and the references to the current world. She gives examples to illustrate the main points, the examples are such that the children can identify with. She has tried (maybe sometimes too hard) to sound appropriately “teenagery”, making the book more relatable.

There is lots of fun trivia amidst the heavy duty concepts. Do look out for the connection with T.S.Eliot, the topic, “How West Was Won” ( which in it’s sub-context, also points out to the syncretism in India) and the ultimately cool one, about the movie Matrix! Such trivia and popular fiction references make the book more unique. The book does not stand aloof and isolated but co-relates to issues being faced in the world today, like fake news for instance.

One of the drawbacks of this book (in fact, it is true for almost all recent books I have read on Hinduism) is the fact that the Sanskrit shlokas are in English. Sanskrit is hard enough, to read a shloka in English is even more difficult. The shlokas might be in English to make the books more approachable to people who cannot read Sanskrit and thus have a more global reach. However, I would prefer if the shlokas were printed in Devanagari script as well as in English. It will make it easier for people like us who can read Sanskrit and I do think it will add a musical cadence in reading the book. To be fair to the author she has translated the shlokas in English and given their meanings. In some instances, she has even given the pronunciation of the word.

Would I recommend this book? My answer will be an emphatic yes!!

This book is not a definitive guide, but it makes an excellent starting point, for both children and adults. The book doesn’t try to influence or enforce any belief. Even though it is the author’s interpretation the readers are free to make up their mind about the concepts introduced in the book. Do be aware that the concepts, even though told through stories, are quite complex. If in your enthusiasm you are handing the book to a ten-year-old, the child might not understand or may not want to read it as they might find the book heavy going. In fact, even as an adult, you need to be in an open frame of mind to understand and absorb the words.I, myself, took frequent breaks while reading so as to appreciate what the author had written. I would recommend the book for ages thirteen upwards (though good luck with convincing them to read what you recommended!).

Bravehearts

“Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.”

These words from the poem “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” are often quoted to show the dedication of the armed force. The CRPF personnel massacred in Pulwama were also following orders. The nation was still coming to grips with it when there was another encounter and four more Bravehearts lost their lives. This one hit harder home as one of the Bravehearts Major Dhoundiyal, was from my hometown of Dehradun. The news channels and Indian twitter was awash with the scenes of brave send off by the wife of Major Dhoundiyal. Shock, horror, anger, sadness, these myriad emotions chased one another in my mind when I first read about the carnage in Pulwama. My eyes couldn’t help but water up at visuals, first the tricolour-draped coffins, scenes of the carnage and then the young lady’s courage.

My father sent me a picture of the newspaper, there were two stories side by side. The first was about Major Dhoundiyal, his martyrdom and his brave wife. The second story was about the rent owed by the former chief ministers to the state of Uttarakhand for overstaying the in official accommodations. My father asked us for our views/reactions to the two stories. At first, the two stories had me dumbfound, a little later I was filled with a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. The two news reports showed the dichotomy of Indian society. The first news report showed the courage of a simple yet extraordinary family, of how even their lives don’t matter if for the greater good of the country. The second news report showed the dishonest politicians, the ones who have made a career out of siphoning money and are not even the teeniest bit apologetic about it.

I fail to see a future for a country where the politicians, like parasites, keep sucking the money and resources meant for the nation. A country where soldiers and policemen are treated as cannon fodder to pander to the delusions of grandeur by the politicians. A country which uses the Republic Day parade to massage the ego of a nation who, in truth, doesn’t really seem to be much interested in the welfare of people who protect our country. While we all watch, hearts swelling with pride, the columns marching by; While we listen to the politicians mouthing empty platitudes; The same governments sign their death warrants when they sign defence deals for sub-standard products and pocket millions of dollars; When they make wrong policy decisions and send these brave men to the point of the no return.

The point to ponder is if only the politicians are to be blamed and not the citizens of India? It would be a fallacy to put the entire blame only on the corrupt politician and absolve ourselves of the moral duty as citizens of this country. We have been given the power of the vote, unfortunately, most of us vote according to our caste, region or religion. We let the politicians get away with pocketing the change as we do not hold them responsible for their work and policies. We, in fact, accept the corruption of the politicians( irrespective of party lines) and therein lies the biggest problem of our democracy “Accountability”. We do not hold our politicians accountable and thus they behave with impunity. If you hear any politician’s speech, the blunder is always made by the other party, they themselves will never, ever own up to their failures and their ineptitudes. Apart from harming the nation, this has affected our armed services the most. For us the scams of defence deals like Bofors, MIG parts and Rafale are only newspaper news, it is our armed forces who have to bear the full brunt of these. The citizens of our country rather than asking our netas questions fall in the trap of endless shouting matches which masquerade as TV debates. Our patriotism is somehow limited to shouting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” or in forwarding Whatsapp messages and sharing videos on Facebook. We get agitated and influenced by the people spewing venom instead of words and start baying for blood, without any thought of consequences.

Maybe its time we made our politicians accountable. The next time your neta comes asking for the vote, ask them. Ask them what they did with their MPLADS fund, ask them about what they did about development in your area, ask them to show you the proof, ask them about their foreign junkets and farmhouses, ask them about the cases pending against them, ask them about the cases against them which vanished the moment they came in power. Make them accountable rather than accepting it and saying “Yeh India hai, Yahan sab chalta hai”.

The time is ripe in India for the mandatory draft for all the citizens of India. I am quite sure that the Armed forces will not be happy with all the riff-raff coming in but I do think that this is the only way that our armchair patriots and defence experts will learn what truly loving the country means. It will teach them the courage to actually work for their country and not just wave the tricolour on 15th August and 26th January. The so-called activists of all the parties, the ones who stand up for our culture, our religion, our cow, our downtrodden, our secularism, should be the first ones to be drafted under this scheme. Maybe then they will realise what facing the enemy truly means(and no it doesn’t mean beating up someone just because they disagreed with you).

In this age of instant news and social media, the martyrdom of these soldiers will be buried under other news very soon( it is already happening, barely a week after the first attack). There is an old song sung by Lata Mangeshkar, “Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon” which implores people to remember the sacrifices made by our soldiers It is a song we all should listen to, over and over again, lest we forget that martyrdom of even a single soldier doesn’t only affect his family, his village, his town, but it affects the nation as a whole.

I am not a trained analyst who can objectively look at issues and find a solution. I am a simple person who is affected by the senseless loss of lives. Ideally, I would like to live in a world which has no conflict, but I am a realist enough to know that it is not possible. I can, however, hope and pray that such horror doesn’t happen again.

Being Hindu

~A Review of “Being Hindu, Old Faith, New World and You”~ by Hindol Sengupta

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world. A religion which has 33 million gods and which has somehow become synonymous with cows, snakes, female infanticide, and lingams. Books about Hinduism usually depict a Sadhu with rudraksha about his neck who may or may not be naked, if the sadhu is smoking chillum then so much the better. So is Hinduism only about all this or is it something more, something deeper? Hindol Sengupta in his book Being Hindu has tried to answer some questions and delves deeper into a religion which has survived and even thrived for the past three thousand years.

This book attempts to look at Hinduism in a rational way from its roots to the relevance of Hinduism in this digital age. It starts with a  prologue in which the author narrates the reason why he undertook to write about Hinduism. In essence, this book is about his own spiritual path and his own journey in understanding our faith. The chapters of the book are divided into questions starting with the most obvious  “How to write about Hindus?”. He then tackles questions likes “Who is a Hindu?”, “What makes you a Hindu?”,”Who is the One True God?” , “Is God afraid of Science?”, “How do books portray Gods?”, “Does being Hindu mean you are vegetarian?” “What do we know about History?”, “The Internet Hindu- How does Hinduism fit in Digital Age?”, “ A Start-Up for the Soul: Why should we re-examine the Hindu Way?”

As you can make out the author covers basically all the pertinent topics, from the origin, the impact of the Hinduism in science, the ills of Hinduism, its dietary requirements, the relevance of Hinduism and of course the changes/reforms that need to be done at the way we look/follow Hinduism. You can make out the author has researched the topic well and gives extensive sources, Indian as well as Western, to back up his arguments.

This is the first book where I have actually marked out the passages which struck a chord with me. The book spoke to me on so many levels. When I read the prologue it brought back memories of the convent school where we learned the God’s prayer without even understanding it. I was, in fact, so used to saying “Amen”, that I would say it even after reciting the “Gayatri Mantra”!! (I still do it sometimes, when I am not concentrating on prayers and just reciting by rote). While we sang hymns, celebrated Christmas and went to the school chapel before exams, we sang aartis and celebrated Dusshera and Diwali at home.  After marriage, I dutifully followed the religious rituals, went to some pilgrimage sites, attended the religious events I was invited to. I discovered peace in following the age-old rituals and traditions but as I grew older I realized that there was something lacking in just following the rituals. A casual conversation with a relative brought up the point that we are becoming more ritualistic than religious. My confusion about my religion grew. While I am a steadfast Hindu, I refuse to accept the view that chanting mantras will lead me to moksha, nor do I believe that keeping a fast will lead me to salvation. Though reading “Sri Ramcharitmanas”  brings me peace, the feminist in me sees the misogyny in the book.  I was, as you can see, very very confused.

This confusion led me to read books dealing with religion, its myths and stories. There were a few books which popped out in my search, namely, The Gita for Children by Roopa Pai and Devdutt Pattanaik’s My Gita.  This book differs from the other two as Being Hindu deals with the basic underlying philosophy of Hinduism, stripped of all its symbolic rituals. The author specifically mentions that it is “his journey” about discovering Hinduism. He is not saying that it is the only way to understand Hinduism and that is the charm of this book. The author has tried to peel back the layers, tried to find the identity of Hinduism and its association with science and digital age.

My favourite chapter of the book was the chapter “A Start-Up for the soul: Why we should re-examine the Hindu Way?”. While the book deals with the inter-relation of the religion with science, its impact on history and the literary sources, this chapter looks ahead. It talks about how Hinduism needs to reform itself away from the ritualistic jargon that has entrapped it, to a form which shows its true essence. It points out how we have forgotten that the real meaning of Hinduism is to look inwards and quotes Mahatma Gandhi when he said he would not accept any Shastra as an infallible guide if it opposes the maxims of morality. This basically drives home the point which the author is making in the book.

I was also re-acquainted with the Nasadiya Sukta”, the hymn of creation in the Rig Veda. I had heard the hymn for the first time on television when the Hindi version of the hymn used to be the title track of a series called “Bharat Ek Khoj”. Even though at that time I was unaware that it was the Nasadiya Sukta”, I was mesmerized by the words of the track. Reading the words of the hymn in English not only brought back memories but also made me realize how little I know about this religion that I believe in. The author has compared this hymn with the chapter of Genesis in the Bible and you will be surprised at the marked difference in the theory of the creation of both the religions.

The author also raised some very relevant points like vegetarianism in Hinduism (not mandatory as per me and the author) and the point about scientific inquiry and Hinduism. Another point raised by him which I totally agree upon is the concept of messiah in Hinduism, which the Hindus have used as a crutch for centuries.

The chapter “What do we do about History?” is in my eyes one of the weaker links in this book. This chapter deals with the three main issues in Hinduism namely gay and third gender rights, caste discrimination and Islamic invasions of India. While Gay and Third gender rights have been argued well, caste discrimination seems to be from a very urban point of view. Though the author talks about statistics and the economics of caste discrimination we all know it still exists especially in the rural heartlands. Even the issue of  Islamic invasions seems to be skimmed over though he does lay across a very valid point that History should be seen in its entirety and should not be distorted by the political lens (something which seems unavoidable as long as politicians decide our History).

India is a Hindu majority nation with 80 percent of the population following a religion to which they are born in and is deeply ingrained in their day to day lives. However, as the author has pointed out if you ask the same people their thoughts about religion and its philosophy they will not be able to define it. Being a Hindu is also not very easy in today’s India. On one hand, you have the BJP’s firebrand Hinduism in which nationalism and religion are mixed into a deadly cocktail. On the other, you have the opposition’s peculiar brand of secularism, which to most people, seems to be anti-Hindu.  Where does this scenario leave us, the educated, rational thinking Hindu, how do we define our identity as a Hindu?

I would recommend this book as a stepping stone to understanding Hinduism. It does not claim, nor is it, a treatise on Hinduism. If, however, you were like me, floundering and wondering about your faith then this is a thought-provoking read. The arguments are lucid and most of the time you will be nodding your head while you are reading. The book has definitely opened my eyes to the myriad ways I can interpret Hinduism and still be correct.

 

Sita – An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana

 

I was first introduced to Ramayana when my grandfather told us post dinner stories from it. The second introduction was of course the serial Ramayana on television on Sunday mornings ( something not to be missed at that time). The first book on Ramayana that I read was C. Rajagopalchari’s Ramayana. This book is a must have on the reading list if you want to know the story without any religious baggage that comes with this story. Being a practicing Hindu, Ramayana is a big part of my life and I have read Tulsidas’ ShriRamcharitamanas too, but  more as an extension of my faith  rather than for any literary pursuit. So one wonders what is new about this book Sita written by Mr.Devdutt Pattnaik. The author has picked a topic about which almost all the Indians know something about and a few have very strong opinion on it too. So what new dimension can the author add to the topic??

Ramayana’s story is not new; it is about a young Prince Ram, beloved of his parents and his countrymen of Ayodhya. The prince is exiled to the forest for fourteen years on the orders of his step mother Kaikeyi who wants her son Bharat as the King. The loyal brother Lakshman and Ram’s loving wife Sita accompany Lord Ram in his exile. The lovely Sita is abducted by the demon king Ravana and taken to Lanka. Lord Ram then raises an army of monkeys helped by Sugriva and the ever faithful Hanuman. The traitor Vibhishana tells the secret of Ravana’s long life and thus helps Lord Ram in defeating Ravana. Lord Ram returns victorious to Ayodhya to be crowned as King. Sita however is cast out of Ayodhya later by the Lord Ram after aspersions were cast on her reputation. Sita finally returns to the bosom of Earth leaving her two sons Luv and Kush with Lord Ram. It is a tale of love, of brotherhood when one brother gives up the throne for the other brother and he also refuses to accept it. It is a tale of loyalty, of following the elder brother, come what may. It is a tale of the victory of good over evil. Above all it is a story of Dharma. Dharma must be followed irrespective of  the circumstances or personal feelings. Ram as a son followed his Dharma by accepting Kaikeyi’s demand to go to exile. After the war Ram, the King, following Dharma asked his wife to prove her chastity even though Ram, the husband, loved her. Ram , the King, cast out Queen Sita , as he understood that his Queen had to be unblemished, even though the husband Ram was always faithful and true to his wife Sita.

This is book is an illustrated book (Mr.Devdutt is quite well-known for adding them to his books). There are small drawings on almost all the pages, almost like folk art. These depict scenes from the narrative in a rather simplistic manner. Even though it doesn’t add anything more to the narrative it does make it visually quite appealing.

The language used in the book is simple and easy to understand without losing any of the complexities of the characters or the situations. Rather than black or white, the characters are portrayed as humans with human emotions. Even though the core story is the same with a few new sub plots the end of each chapter has a few notes giving the source from where the author has taken a particular incident or situation from. Some personal observations are also included which gives the author’s perspective and interpretation. Some readers might find these notes a bit distracting and might break the flow of narration but since they are given in a bullet-ed box my recommendation is to skip if you don’t like the interruptions. These notes make you realize how many times this simple tale has been told and re-told; each region and narrator adding their nuances to the story. I found the idea of notes really good as they are not as cumbersome as foot notes. We already do know the story but now you know the source of a particular story. Mr.Pattanaik’s interpretation to some of the situations also gives a fresh perspective to some incidents.

The author has done a commendable job by narrating the story in a matter of fact manner. He has shown Lord Ram to be a morally upright man for whom upholding the dharma is very important. Even when Lord Ram was cruel in casting out his wife he somehow does not come across as a villain. Sita on the other hand, contrary to the weepy, wailing lass shown on television, is shown as a strong protagonist. Considering Sita is the embodiment of Shri, the female goddess, this avatar is more palatable to me.

The book had many incidents and sub-plots taken from folk sources or regional re-telling and not only Valmiki Ramayana. These added a different flavor to the book. Especially Sita’s imprisonment in Lanka, rather than being morbid and weepy has been shown in a more positive way. So even though Ravana is trying to woo and seduce Sita, Sita on the other hand is visited by the ladies of the royal household and taken care off. The story of Shanta lord Ram’s sister was also new to me (in fact Shanta has more than a passing reference in the book). Even when Sita is cast out by King Ram, she is not portrayed as weak and helpless. Rather she is shown as a strong woman who understands the actions of her husband and even chooses to forgive him.

There are many incidents when this book picks the regional retelling than Valmiki’s version and hence it is more comprehensive. This is not a religious book but just a re-telling of a story which is now a divine epic for the Hindus. (The book actually has lots of references from the Jain re-telling too). Lord Ram is not portrayed as god per-se in the book, but the book does talk about dharma and the difference in the approaches of Bhrahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (that theme is recurrent in Mr.Devdutt Pattanaik’s books).

Final verdict?  Read it if you want a different perspective to the tale, specially if you have never read the Ramayana this is a good book to start. It is also a good read for those who want to know the sources behind some of the stories in Ramayana .

The Conversation

~~~~Book review of The Gita (for Children) by Roopa Pai

I am not a trained writer nor a reviewer of books but I do read a lot and love recommending them to friends and family. I had been planning to review a book for my blog for quite sometime now and this was one book that insisted that I pick up my pen.This  review is an attempt to put across my feelings and thoughts about this book.

Gita by itself is a vast huge topic, to write about it in 260 odd pages and to be able to get the message across loud and clear is a huge achievement. Ms.Roopa Pai take a bow! You have taken a complex concept (yes, I would like to call it a concept ), one which is the most valuable part of our Hindu,nay, Indian culture and present it in a simple, easy way that even a teenager would love to read this book.

A good book is one which keeps the reader engrossed,it compels the reader to keep turning the pages and never close the book before it’s over. This book is one those books. It’s not a thriller or an adventure book, its is about a religious scripture but never does it becoming boring or preachy and keeps you involved. It is written in an engaging manner almost as if the author was talk to you. The target audience (as the tittle suggests) are children, more specifically ages ten onwards and the author given such examples which they can understand and relate too.

Ms.Pai  has started off the book by writing why Gita is still relevant and important in today’s day and age. She has gone to give a gist of the story of Mahabharata so that even if the child is unfamiliar with the story , they can have a little heads up.The  illustrations by Sayan Mukherjee add spice to the book and help keep the kids involved in such a serious topic. The facts given along with everything keep the mixture interesting,specially look out for the fact about number 18!

The author then moves on to “The Conversation” as she calls the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna.The one fact that really stood out for me is that how she related all that Krishna said to Arjuna  to modern times, we even have Batman in the book!! All this I think makes it very relatable ,  bringing the message of Gita closer to children and to us too. However you should not think that this book just has some some funky examples ,each chapter does have at least one “shloka” in Sanskrit with its meaning in english, keeping it all in perspective. So not only are you reading a readable(!!) version of Gita but also reading a few shlokas of the mahakavya.

The charm of the book is that it is wonderful and engrossing read for the adults too. Admit it if original Bhagwad Gita was given to us most of us would struggle to read it , let alone understand it. Even the various versions  that I have come across are heavy tomes requiring seriousness and total dedication to understanding it. This book does the work of igniting our interest , it makes us want to know more , explore more about the truth. It shows us the path and asks us to choose, whether to follow it or not.

I would recommend this book to everyone as it shows us the beauty of truth. It shows us what God really wanted us to learn and how. This shows us the true beauty of our religion and our country.

For The Love OF God

It was Ganesh Chaturthi on the 31st of August. Fervor and religious devotion marked the day.

The visarjan or the symbolic immersion of the idols started from the 1st of September. The Facebook posts changed from the status’s of “Ganapati Bappa Maurya” to photos of idols lying on the beaches after the visarjan. It’s the same story year after year. I have been blessed by invited to quite a few Ganapati Celebrations this year. In almost all the houses I saw resplendent Lord Ganesha smiling benevolently at us. None of the idols were less than a foot big and they were all going to be immersed. Even if they were all made of clay (which I do doubt) the amount of paint itself that each idol had would cause quite a bit of pollution.

Every year thousands of Idols are bought and immersed in the name of religion. Interesting point is that the concept of big pandals and community worship was introduced by Lokmanya Tilak to ignite the nationalistic fervor against the British rule. Until that time it was inherently a private family function.

Now each year every family wants to have a better, fancier Ganapati than the year before. The question is why? Why is there a need to get a big fancy idol each year? Why can’t there be a symbolic immersion? Why can’t little bit of creativity be used to make idols of clay and decorations made of flowers.

God doesn’t see the size of the idol or the fancy decorations or how many days you keep it. God has the ability to see beneath the surface and looks into your heart.

And that is all that matters!