Recently, on our visit to Washington DC, we decided to stop by a Hindu temple, to pay homage to our faith and more importantly, to our stomachs. The temple was very huge according to American standards and had gods & goddess from- Shiva, Krishna, Durga, Hanuman, Ganesha’s, Tirupati, etc. As usual, accompanying the gods, there were many pandits, and accompanying the pandits there where many privileges/ rules/ maryadas. Though almost everybody communicated with each other in English, all the vedas were recited in Sanskrit ( an arcane language). I stood somewhere in the corner of the temple, my ears and eyes wide open, taking in everything, yet understanding nothing. I stood there, not as unknown to the Hindu faith, after all, I was born to it, but lost in the understanding that I know felt, I could question.
A Ganesh aarti was taking place, the pandit reciting bathing the
god idol with milk, there where about 6-7 people sitting with their hands folded, sanguine expressions, they had paid their dews ( read money ) to god, now it was gods turn to pay back- in kind- in protection, in knowledge …at least this is what I figured from the words that where floating- ” Jai ganesh Jai Ganesh Deva, mata taki parvati, pita mahadeva… ” Wait a minute…son of Parvati & Mahadev, Ganesh was a privileged child, was this a direct example of importance of lineage/ ancestory?? Not different from ” Jai Rahul Gandhi, Jai Priyanak Gandhi, Jai Ranbir Kapoor..
Then came the physical & characteristics description- a trunk, four hands, the compassionate/generous god who rides on a mouse, while I in my head, I was rolling my eyes, exalting the imagination of the creator of Ganesh, and wondering did those creative genes now flow into character animators! It seemed to me, that in the given scenario, the more you gave in cash ( which was then created to puja money ) to buy fruits and gallons of milk to offer to the idol, the more the idol would hear you out. An analogy to the concept of bribery, the higher you bribe, the more chances you have to get what you want. But, as the aarti continued, the words said – ” Anadhan ko aank de, kodin ko kaya, Banjhan ko putra det, nirdhan ko maya”, which means, that the god gives sight to the blind & treats leprosy, a role fulfilled by the doctors, gives child to the childless and money to the destitute, again roles fulfilled by medicine and business or charity. Does this mean, that our offerings are meant for these professions? Cause clearly in a modern day temple, none of these tasks are performed. Then what were we offering too? What were we singing about? Why then the aarti, when the idol clearly didn’t perform any of the functions.
Simultaneously, I saw a woman, continuously taking rounds- she went on and on and on around an idol, murmuring to herself, clearly in faith, her actions made sense.. but not to a practical mind like me. I could not fathom what accomplishment this ritual gave her? Maybe, she was testing her endurance, her determination.. maybe, this is similar to the need of running a marathon. Does that mean, those two are comparable. Does that mean, that by offering your devotion by proving to do miraculous things, you end up testing and thus increasing your endurance, to which no idol/god/deity has any contribution but the human will? Well, that seemed like a fair deal to me, maybe then, God was like this cool person, who just with their mere presence helped you push yourself, like a coach!
And then my thoughts came back to the kind of people who visited the temple, we all belonged to a group, united by nation, and to some extent faith.. but why did this happen? Since the time man learned to live in groups, we appointed the strongest amongst us to protect us, protect us from the nature’s fury / from the unknown, and for the protection we paid an offering. Eventually, we started supplicating to the entire family of the protector, elevating them to a higher status, and thus were born royalty, the kings, who then became as powerful as Gods, but God is a manifestation of intellectuals. God, in every religion is a combination of responsible actions /beliefs/ ideologies. Then when did we start expecting god to perform jobs of a human? How can we expect god to be happy with our humanly poor banal offering? Is our offering the correct medium to connect with god? Is it clearly not a money making strategy being sustained by a few trusts? A quick google search will show many articles by esteemed organizations acknowledging the same. Yet, though we are aware of this, we still need a place to find solace..
Coming back to Ganesh, the symbology of Ganesh, which I derived, not from a temple or a Pandit, but through a Google search, which then led me to the site of ” Art of Living”, which appeased to my practical self is shared here, I wonder if this message really comes across anymore??