Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Moral Policing

Moral policing has become a regular ritual in India by the right wing
of certain religious groups. In the name of protecting and
safeguarding our culture and stopping the invasion of Western cultural
values and symbols, they introduce a new kind of violent culture in
our Indian worldview, which otherwise has always remained tolerant in
its spirit. No doubt every wrong needs to be opposed. But the way it
is done completely mars the very purpose of that cause. Not only what
to oppose is important but how to do is too.

'We are not opposing the celebration of love, but the
commercialization and vulgarization of it,' is the argument put forth
by those who oppose the different expressions of the so-called
Valentine's Day. Every tender feeling like love, care and compassion
is part of our human life. Whether we realize and express them in our
everyday activity or not, it is there in its spirit. But, we take
some special day and time to express in concrete form in life. So
what is wrong by doing it on certain day, though imported from the
West? Birthday, wedding anniversary, golden jubilee etc. are also
imported and very well integrated in our culture now.

If commercialization and vulgarity is the main concern for these right
wing people, better let them first pay attention to the
commercialization of religion in India. Just visit any famous temple
and see the commercial activity there. It is disgusting to see the
way pilgrims are exploited by the temple authorities and priests. As
they are in a hurry to have the darshan and go to the next place, they
become easy victims (by paying money) or are deprived of their right
(by missing the darshan).*

Regarding the vulgarity, this is the land of Kamasutra, Kajuraho and
Konark where sex is not only celebrated in art, but also displayed in
a graphic way. Those who see them as art are not disturbed by their
graphic expression. In the same way, if we too learn to see the
spirit behind the expression of love on such days like Valentine, then
we too will celebrate it with them.

This does not mean that I am supporting these kinds of 'days'.
Whether we agree or not, such things are going to come. But how to
handle such events depends not upon those who celebrate them, but who
oppose them. When discipline degenerates, then it becomes legalism,
which will antagonize people and force them to become rebels rather
than better people. Those who want to reform, should do it with the
same spirit as the culture they seek to preserve.


Matthigir, February 15, 2007

*Let me give one recent example. When one of my shishyas family came
from North India to visit some places in South, I accompanied them.
When I took them to Chidembaram, I explained few important things
about the temple and also pujas. Among them two are very important:
Ratna Sabapathi puja and seeing the 'Chidembara Rakasyam' (secret of
Chidembaram). When we reached the temple it was almost 10.00 am. As
usual they have to buy for special tickets to see 'Chidembara
rahasyam' and also to see the main deity in the sanctum sanctorum.
And they paid Rs. 50/- person and got the ticket. But I didn't go
with them. However, as the time was nearing for Spatikaling (Crystal
lingam) and Ratna Sabapathi puja, the main priest in the sanctum
sanctram just chased the people down. So they hardly could see the
main deity Nataraja and the Chidembaram Rahasyam was not shown to
them. As they don't know Tamil, they could not even ask about it to
the priest. I felt very sorry for them and told how
'commercialization' of religion and rituals, forces the temple
authorities only to think about the money and not the desire of the

If the time for the other pujas was nearing, then they should have
stopped selling the special darshan tickets. The Deekshidar (priest)
who was issuing the ticket was also sitting on the very mandap in
which the sanctrum sanctum is located. He knows well that if he
issues the ticket that time, the devotees cannot see both the main
deity and Rahasyam. Yet he was least bothered about the devotees, and
his only aim is to sell more tickets to collect money. This family
from North is not going to come again to the South, spending money,
energy and time. But the religious brokers have no concern on such
matters; they are only after the money.

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