Modern Version of Religious Rituals - 13 Oct 10

It is Navratri right now, a Hindu festival of nine days. Hindus worship the Goddess Durga all over India but different regions of the country celebrate in different ways, with different traditions and ways of worship. This worshipping includes fasting, different ceremonies, rituals, dance and music.

Of course Vrindavan, as one of the most popular pilgrimage places, is also fully involved in the celebrations and many people do fasting here for the course of nine days. There are certain food types that people don’t eat and food prepared in certain ways which is then called fasting food. Unfortunately however nowadays they do it in the modern way: fasting food has become fast food! The original idea was to give your body a break, to make it feel light. Nowadays companies sell and make so many different fasting dishes and sell them like fast food!

I see how people here sometimes have a strange idea about this nine day celebration, when they suddenly turn religious for this length of time. Then they go to temples and worship and do fast. Normally they don’t care about religion, they even eat chicken and other meat during the year although Hinduism generally propagates vegetarianism. However for those nine days these people do their fast, they eat no meat of course and only fasting food. It doesn’t matter what they eat during the whole year, if they just manage to keep their fast for these nine days, the Goddess will be happy with them. Yes, I can see, they are some of the most religious people out there!

It is also usual and traditional that people go to do a certain dance in these nine days which is called ‘Garba’. Normally this is a dance in which you get high in your devotion and love. Nowadays people like to drink alcohol before they go to dance and think they have more fun like this. If you ask them if alcohol is not forbidden in fasting time, they say that it is anyway only fruit juice, wine made from grapes! So nothing wrong in that, it would be allowed during the fast.

Another news is that in this time the sales of condoms have increased very much! You can imagine how nicely and religiously people are fasting and full of devotion, full of love and full of alcohol they spread their love but at least they take care not to spread any sexually transmitted diseases along with it.

I anyway do not believe in any of these religious celebrations. If you want to do something good for your body sometime and decide to eat less or only fruit, it makes sense and is good. If you want to celebrate, you don’t need alcohol or a religious reason for it. However if you are following any tradition, please keep its value.

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  1. Patricia Pashia D'souza

    On the second point, it is a lesson of history that if religion is to be more rational it will have to be less ritualistic. The tendency of all external rites is to become empty and hollow. Nobody is worse off and everybody is better off wh…en religious practices or rites which have become merely mechanical and utterly hypocritical are abandoned, whether in disbelief or in disgust. As a religion becomes less inspired, it becomes ritualistic. What it is no longer able to give men through inward power, it pretends to give them through outward forms. When the means of worship becomes an actual hindrance to communion with the Worshipped, when the worshipper is deceived by pretense of the act into belief that he has performed the act itself, it is time to call a halt. Nevertheless, ritual is useful if it helps the mind to think of diviner things and it therefore has a proper place in religion. If a religious ceremony acts as a springboard whence a man can enter more easily into a reverential mood, it has justified its value for him. This is usually the case with the peasant mentality among the lower classes and with the aesthetic temperament among the higher ones, although it is much less true of artisan town workers and city intellectuals who indeed may find it a hindrance to worship rather than a help. Religion will always be, by its nature, something of an allegory; but it need not always stick to the same set of symbols. Why should not this era find a new religious symbolism? In the end, religion will find its truer expression in the public acts and private thoughts of a man than in its own public rites. Those who would propagate it will best do so by their living example. It will then become less formal and more vital, less institutional and more free, less devoted to public parades in church, temple, or synagogue and more devoted to personal righteousness in home, factory, and field.

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