I originally blogged this in 2013, at least an year before BJP govt of Modi was sworn in after 2014 Lok Sabha elections, so this has nothing to do with current Sabarimala crisis. Reproduced with some ‘edits’
Let us get offended for right reasons. It’s not anyone’s prerogative to harm Mother Nature, and champions of the environmental cause are green warriors, not pseudo liberals.
An ardent Hindu, I am still not blind to how environmentally polluting our ways of worship are.
Everytime i light an oil lamp in my Pooja, i think of the billion homes lighting up the traditional diya all over India morning and evening just like me… and of our million temples lighting millions of lamps for their part….
I am worshiper of the sacred Diya myself – the lamp, the DEEP, the DIYA, the JYOTHI SWAROOP, that which dispels darkness which is supposed to be the manifestation of the very ‘light of knowledge’ we seek…
Still how many of us stop to think, how much we are heating up planet Earth with our religious practices that were perhaps once justified but may not be justifiable in present times… how many degrees we keep adding year after year to our annual average temperature without any second thoughts? India has definitely warmed up like never before in last two decades… to which how much exactly is our religious contribution any guess?
I know its next to impossible even for the rational me to stop lighting the ‘diya’ in my home – its unthinkable, inauspicious… Age old custom, its pretty tough to shake off this practice in a day, granted. So i can imagine how others around me must feel like on the issue… and as for our temples that light tens of thousands of lights every single day… what will happen to them without the ‘deep?’
Hinduism without the lit lamps is hard to imagine. The flame, the ‘jyothi’ is the light of our very own lives. Everything for us focuses on ‘light’ – the lamp. After all, our biggest national festival is ‘Diwali’ (Deepavali), the festival of lights. The lamps are our identity, like the bindhi (the dot) on our women’s forehead and the sari we drape… How to put off the lamp ever in this nation of ours without a whisper?
So when we have to rethink even about our oil diyas in my opinion, the question of chemical fire crackers does not even arise. A green Diwali and a cleaner chemical-free colourful Holi are the need of the hour. Immersion of painted Ganeshas (Ganesh Visarjan) and Kalis in our water bodies killing the marine life in the belt also has to be stopped forthwith. Is it anti-Hindu when we sound sane and logical.
One keeps hearing of Global Warming everywhere, especially in India. In my city, even the lower middle class homes can afford at least a single air-conditioner in harsh summers, so think of how much we are heating up planet earth every summer. Combined with the religious effect, think of the sum total warming up of our immediate ground atmosphere… (Not even taking into account the air pollution owing to vehicular traffic and fuel exhaust here).
So its ridiculous that year after year we must be complaining of erratic monsoons and melting glaciers and deficient rainfall, or in short Climate Change. Try explaining to our masses, the heat that must be generated by a billion lamps through out the country for years, for decades, for centuries and their effect on our environment … but this is one country where reasoning never works!
While i am kind of a believer in most of our rituals (i am not saying they are completely meaningless), which i understand have hidden contexts, I am increasingly concerned about the harm we are doing to our environment with our rituals. The rituals mean more to me for the Sanskrit mantras chanted which are supposed to have neuro linguistic and psycho linguistic benefits. Look at the Yagna here that is using up so much of precious potable water, a scarce product in many arid Indian states that might be reeling under drought wrought in by failed monsoons. (One may come up with argument about bath tubs at homes and hotels).
The Yagnas or the Homas. No Hindu marriage or housewarming or whatever is complete without this great Hindu religious ritual in which fire plays a major role. The holy fire I mean. In our wedding muhurat, the couples have to walk around the holy fire ‘Agni’ for seven times that will be alight for hours as sanskrit mantras are chanted in chorus by priests …. and for most of our ceremonies like death anniversaries, birthdays for children etc, again the homa fires in the homagunda will be lit for hours raising a big smoke… into which we pour everything from ghee (clarified butter), dried twigs, Nava Dhania (the nine food grains like pulses), flowers, fruits, even silk clothes, coins (gold if you can afford)…. because we believe giving the holy fire these things means our offerings will reach the Gods directly though the Agni medium which is one of the purest, and one of the five major natural elements of Earth (the other four being the air, the earth, the water, the sky)
Not denying i have participated in homams in my own family, but even the staunchest believer in me keeps questioning always why should so much be put to wastage by our religious practices. Isn’t there a different way? Can’t our Gods hear our prayers by any other means? Should our Gods have to be essentially bribed this way?!
One of our greatest temple rituals is ‘Abhishegam/Abhishek.’ This means bathing our ‘Murthis’ (idol or vigrahas) with water, curds, honey, milk, panchaamirtham (made out five fruits), etc after application of oil to the dieties. Imagine this done to all Hindu deities through out India in thousands and thousands of temples. After the ‘abhishek’ or’abhishegam’ is complete, we decorate our deities with floral garlands, silk clothes and gold and diamond jewelery. An ‘Archana‘ follows which means invoking the Lord’s and/or His Missus’ names 108 times or so with floral tributes. While i until today revel at the darshan of my Mother Goddess and Her Consort Shiva (and other gods and goddesses as the case may be) in their finest adornments in our temples, i can’t help wondering at all that which go waste in the name of these rituals…
Fortunately, a Hindu mind is trained in a way never to get carried over by superficial adornments of our deities that despite all the finery glittering in temples, we are still able to focus on the One Supreme – for in the bright ‘thejas’ face of the Lord and/or His Missus, we see infinite contentment, happiness, well being, prosperity, wisdom, health, all goodness of the world. So that’s one thing that eludes me completely…. that despite my skeptical views on temple rituals, i am unable to draw myself away from all this, that i am drawn like a bee to the nector when the abhishegam and archana are complete and when its moment for the ultimate ‘Darshan.’ …
I have stood in hour long queues for ‘darshans’ so who am I kidding. Yet i wonder, is this the way it is supposed to be, like whether we have reduced it all to one over-powering physical ‘darshan’ – a view of the reigning deity in all His/Her grandeur….
I wonder if its blasphemous to even write like this… but then i am a believer in a forgiving God always, a reasoning God and NEVER IN A PUNISHING GOD. One of the greatest advantages of being a Hindu is, you can be an atheist and still you are a Hindu! The very nature of Hinduism which is all encompassing, permits this!
Quote unquote :
…… No two paths need be alike …… that one is most a Hindu when one is least a Hindu. Hinduism’s propensity to absorb a multitude of thoughts including even atheism makes it, at times, inscrutable to its own followers….
I am not pro-Kumbh and it saddens me terribly to see how we mindlessly pollute the life-giving rivers of our land with our blind beliefs. Respect and reverence shown to our water sources is best illustrated with maintaining the water bodies clean and the water potable and useful for irrigation purposes for which they are meant. Rivers are our lifeline. Millenniums ago, perhaps we could afford the luxury of a Kumbh Mela, but can we in this 21st century wherein future wars are predicted to be fought over water?
I don’t want to add here how some north Indians dispose off their dead in the flowing Ganga. Its too distressing and gory. In our families mostly we cremate the dead. We have completely switched over to electric crematorium at least in cities these days which is a big relief. Even in our death, we seem to add smoke to our clear skies ….because in villages all over India, the dead of this billion strong nation are cremated with fresh wood cut from trees. The wealthier you are, the costlier is the wood for your pyre like the sandalwood.
Having blogged about my disgust on use of elephants in our temples only very recently, i wish to make the point once again:
Elephant habitat has shrunk drastically over years in India. When ‘Ashrams‘ spring up in elephant corridors we do not condemn them because we have the bargaining chip called Tourist Resorts. Finally, we shall wake up when the last Lord Ganesha will vanish for good from our Punya Bhoomi.
After all this i confess, i am a passionate Hindu at heart always….while i believe most of our rituals held some hidden meaning centuries back perhaps, time is now ripe for a revolution to redefine our beliefs in rituals. What is wrong with self-introspection?
I am for a Green & Eco-friendly Hinduism always if that can be made possible in my lifetime like a miracle somehow. I deliberately miss lighting my lamp twice a week atleast – my small contribution for a start to keep global warming a bit low. I wish we could be Eco-Friendly Hindus somehow.
There are many ways we south Indians are eco-friendly by culture. In our weddings, we still serve feasts on washed banana leaves and not on plates. The used banana leaves used to be fed to cows in the sheds in olden days. I am not sure how the used banana leaves are disposed off these days.
To a population that reveres nature so much with worshiping the flora of fauna of the universe, why is not there the realization on the flip side of this ancient culture?
Having said all this, would it be ever possible for me to go 100% green with my faith…. i do not want to lie, the transformation will be tough and testy but can be done step by step over a period of time. I wish i get encouragement from family and friends. I wish i could cut down on rituals boldly without being labelled an outcast and keep my faith at heart with just my prayer Mantras …. the Gods i believe in will be more than happier for the new believing me…
Convincing a billion Hindus around the world on the subject is another impossibility. How anyone should go about it is not clear, because like Christianity or Islam, the world’s oldest faith Hinduism does not have a religious book like the Bible or Quran, does not have a governing body like the Church or the Mosque and has no prophets or messengers from God like The Christ or Mohammad and no religious head like the Pope or the Maulvi….,,, Hindu Dharma is a way of life, way of life for over 6,000 years or perhaps older without all these elaborate set-up or disciplinary control… Sanatana Dharma has no founder, no founding date and is no man’s private or personal invention.
My earnest wish is that Hinduism evolves as it has been doing for centuries, for eons, to a greener way of life, less polluting Mother Earth, less harming Mother Nature. I appreciate the freedom my faith allows me to think rationally in all circumstances. At least, ‘a fatwa’ won’t be issued on my head, hopefully! I am today blogging like this because, Hinduism is still the most tolerant practice in the entire world, its all absorbent, most flexible, and grows with every merciless onslaught, much more powerful and stronger than ever before…
This is a country that celebrates vegetarianism where masses still worship ‘The Tulasi’ (basil) as a goddess, who marry the neem tree to the peepal tree who we think are like gods, who never slaughter the cows that walk on our highways, and who worship even inanimate objects like machine tools and musical instruments and books because they are creations anyway! I believe my tribe of like-minded Hindus is an ever-growing one.
LET’S NOT ALLOW HINDUISM TO BE TAKEN HOSTAGE BY EMPTY RITUALS THAT HAVE COME TO CONFINE OUR FAITH, ERODING ESSENTIAL SUBSTANCE OVER PERIOD OF TIME AND OBLITERATING THE TRUE ESSENCE OF DHARMA. HINDUISM IS FAR ABOVE AND MUCH MORE THAN ALL THAT – AN ENIGMA, A PHENOMENAL EXPERIENCE.
Let us allow Sanatana Dharma the vital lung space it deserves to evolve and flourish without our narrow, crooked-minded and low level of thinking.