Friday, April 21, 2006

Being religious--Who Me?

21st April 2006.

What is so bad about being religious?

I am wondering why are some people shy about being religious. This was triggered off by an interesting event last week. I happened to visit a temple on my way to work. This was a habit which evolved over the last one year. There is a small Ganesha temple outside Kurla station in Bombay. I have to change trains at this station and it was very nice experience going to this temple in the morning. At the peek hour traffic, commuters stop in the middle and spend a few seconds—and a few dedicated ones spend minutes—bowing before the idol, close the eyes and enjoy those ‘moments of peace’.

On my last visit, when I came out of the temple, I bumped into a student of mine. He looked very very uncomfortable and seemed to be unhappy that he met me in a temple. I was wondering what went wrong. In a tense and apologetic tone he requested me not to tell anyone in the institute that I met him in the temple! I promised him to keep this a ‘secret’ and walked off.

It rang a bell.

I realized many hindus, especially from the young generation, seem to be ashamed of being religious. I am wondering why! We feel shy to be seen in a temple, it is considered very “old fashioned’ and ‘orthodox’ to go to a temple, it is considered ‘out of sync’ if we listen to a bhajan, it is out of fashion to pray to God!

Why is it happening to us?

Look at other communities—Christians never feel shy to go to church, Muslims never feel shy to offer namaz. Why are hindus so shy of our own rituals?

I had this ring tone of the bhajan “Om Jai Jagdeesh Hare” in my mobile and many of my students used to laugh when they heard it! They found me old fashioned!

Remember the film ‘Kuch kuch hota hai’? When Tina finds out Rahul comes to the temple every Tuesday, she feels so nice about it—BUT Rahul pleads with her not to tell his college friends about this! I think it is a wonderful and truthful commentary about religion today. While a Christian and Muslim is proud to be what they are, Hindus have to feel shy about being a hindu!

I am not forgetting the fanatics and the rath yatra specialists and the moral policing hypocrites!

I am talking about the younger generation, the yuppies and the next gen—gen X!

It is worth an effort to look into the psychological aspect of this.

Rahul in ‘Kuch kuch hota hai’ and my student in front of the Ganesha temple believe that their ‘modern’ and ‘macho’ image will be destroyed by the tag of being religious—the very sight of them near a temple!

Did the british do this? Maybe, after they brainwashed us into believing that everything Indian is bad and everything western is great and God’s gift to mankind!


Sameer Kumar said...

Dear Saar,
Read your concerns about religion, and these are very valid. I think why young people are shying away from being associated with religion these is because 'religion' has been sullied, dirtied and made very sordid by those who choose to market it as a commodity. You have fake godmen running around everywhere, and in temples you have crap like 'normal darshan,' 'special darshan,' and 'VIP darshan.' You also have different types of prasad, depending on how much you choose to pay up at the altar of god. Is all of this not laughable? Religion has been cheapened and it's been made into a trashy, low-brow commodity. Which is perhaps why some people choose to stay away. These people aren't staying away from God - they do connect with the almighty at some mental/emotional level - it's just that they choose to stay away from being seen in temples, which are definitely the very manifestation of the purely commercial side of religion.


Rajeev Nair said...

Dear Sree,

This is my first comment to any blog .. thank you for the introduction to blogging.

Read your story. " While a Christian and Muslim is proud to be what they are, Hindus have to feel shy about being a hindu!" I must infer that your reference is only about Indian Muslims and Christians .. because the only practicing Christians I see in developed countries are from Kerala! Mallu achayans / nurses and their family!
Even in Saudi Arabia the practicing Muslims are the underprivileged. The rich have their cars and harem ..

As a professor in a leading scientific institute in the world, can you afford to be a believer in God .. What is God in "scientific" terms?

With numerous gods or rathers icons of God, no wonder people relate practicing Hindus as, I would say, superstitious,

Finally I believe that Hinduism is not a religion and is only a way of life .. and all encompassing envelope .. there are no rules .. the truth is sanathana dharmam



x814beau said...
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Seema Kamdar said...

well said.
i think rajeev's point about hindus being supersitious begs the question. the point being why should having so many gods--crores at last count-- be so bad? maybe we need to study our texts to figure why we have. i am no authority but could it be because we have so many different energies operating in different fields of influences?
most religions have a theory about spirits. could all these gods refe to so many spirits?
i dont know it's right to disown or dismiss a religion at first view. especially when it's your own.

anand j dev said...

dear sreekumar,
i think its all human nature to like and dislike the day to day experiences. once i used to hate to go to a church. i used to laugh at people who pray at the church. i used to say, 'look, i am against seremonious aspects of faith!'. but after years, i realised that i was missing something in life. i started exploring it in my own way. i started reading about christianity. i started realising whats 'faith'. i found out that its very personal. and i would like it to be like that. very much within me. and after three or four years, it got transformed into a passion.i guess, the person who asked you 'not to tell anybody' might have a perception shift oneday. i guess, nothing is to be worried about.
anand james dev

Rashmi Bansal said...

hi Sreekumar! Nice to see you blog.. you write well. Long time, no hear. Drop me a line at

Manisha said...

Hi Sreeku,
I guess that what they called you.
Religion has become a 'LS' word. Sad but true. People believe religion is in the traditions handed down by generations. Actually it is your inner strenght and faith hence eventually becomes a way of life. Well, art of living populated meditation and a positive outlook to life. But isn't that the root of Hindusim? Strange but true.


Sumod said...

+1 Sameer, I say ditto :-)

@Rajiv: I see no conflict between being a scientist and believing in something you can't _yet_ prove or disprove. In any case, IMHO religious faith is not about proving or disproving existence of god, but of connecting with your personal definition of god (or gods as the case may be).

I of course am a fashionably agnostic atheist :-P