A very popular pilgrimage is that to the four abodes in Himalayas called Chota Char Dham (Chota meaning small):Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri – all of these lie at the foot hills of Himalayas. It is considered to be a journey that the devout undertake for earning punya … a term I have no English equivalent for – perhaps good deeds? But then many undertake it in the summers, to escape the heat and placate the Gods at the same time. Killing two birds with one stone…
Everyone has a personal religious journey to undertake.
There was a time in life when I was overwhelmed with life itself and everyone and everything that was happening to me. I did what people normally do, when confronted by impossible odds. I turned to religion. Since I live life and do everything with passion, when that did not work for me … I went whole hog; I turned to world religions, to occult, to spiritualism and to astrology. I wanted answers to the question that plagued me, “Why me?”
I did not get the answer to my question, but I got much more. I got a world view on how human beings made sense of their surroundings, of nature and environment through religion.
In my humble view, all religion stems from one basic fact; it teaches us how to live in harmony with our surroundings, with nature and with each other. It is a set of rules to live life by. Rules which, when flouted, have disastrous consequences.
“Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” [John 2:16]
The Bible says that Jesus cleaned up the House of God by throwing out the merchants, the money traders and people who were plying their wares.
Matthew 21:12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.
The Koran has very strict rules on attire, behavior and conduct when one visits the mosques.
The Hindu religion, like every pagan religion has its root in nature worship. We have myths woven around banyan trees, peepul trees, tulsi plants. We consider our mountains holy. We have huge temples and shrines built on rocks and hill tops. Kailash Parbat is the abode of Shiva, the Himalayas are given a religious significance. We, by rights, should be a very eco-friendly country should we not?
How did commerce get into it?
I went to JagannathTemple in Orissa once and was put off by the rampant commercialism. I came back upset; there was no sense of piety there. I visited Vaishno Devi twice and then turned away. I get more happiness chanting and meditating in the confines of my bedroom sitting on my bed than I get when I go to these places. But then each to his/her own. My purpose here is not to upset any one else’s religious sentiment.
Religious tourism is a huge commercial force. And hotels have been built to cater to pilgrims who can afford to be the religious tourist, afford the Char Dham Yatra. The priests in the temples almost salivate as they take our donations, by hook or by crook.
Everyone is familiar with the images of the buildings being washed away in those awful floods. Six floors to a building, or more, and built so close to Kedarnath, that one does not have to walk too far. Pilgrimage in comfort.
The images scared me and shocked me. To me, they seem to be a scary version of our belief of washing our sins away by taking a dip in Ganga.
Are the Gods mocking us?
Are the divine forces sending us a warning?
Our ancients built these shrines with a purpose in mind. The purpose was that spiritualism stands for harmony with nature. They were situated far away in the lap of nature, where piety and peace would be found.
Nature is a stern taskmaster. And a powerful one. It is sending us a message … those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. As a Devi worshipper I implore to all …
“Stop turning my Mother’s house into a marketplace!”