Bismillah And Baba Counter ‘Islamic Fanatics’ Charge

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Bismillah   Khan playing sehnai  in Kashi Viswanath temple

SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUND today  in stories of Islamic ‘sleeping cells’ in Kasmir and Kerala, of Imams calling for defiance of  Covid-19 epidemic lockdown rules, clerics directing attack on health workers from masjid loudspeakers used for Azan and saying Mulims will not be hit by the pandemic – only Hindu kaafirs will be. There was even one who wished more Hindus die of the virus.

These are mavericks and, luckily, a minority. Hindu fringe grops like Ram Sena and Bajrang Dal are equally fanatic but, again luckily, ignored by people.Years ago I sought a Museum of National Integration to prove how both sides have sane people showing tolerance and admiration for the other side, It is, therefore,  very relevant today.

Of those who rose above fanaticism was Bharat Ratna Ustaad  Bismillah Khan, a devout Shia muslim brought up in a friendly Hindu environment and used to do riaz in a temple. He disclosed at several fora that he was blessed by Hindu Gods and Lord Krishna had favored him with his deedar (darshan), revealing to him secrets of a new ‘Raaga’.A few years back, the Ustad was travelling by train from Jamshedpur to Varanasi.  He was travelling in third class in a coal-run passenger train. At an intermediate rural station, a young cowherd boy boarded the bogey in which Ustad was sitting. He was a dark and lean boy holding  flute in his hands. Slowly the boy started playing his flute. The supreme quality of his music surprised the maestro, who did not know the ‘Raga’ the boy was playing. Bismillah Khan immediately recognized that the boy was Sri Krishna, the Supreme God Himself.The nectar in Nada-Brahma (Brahma in the form of music) flowing out of Krishna’s flute filled Ustad’s heart with ecstasy; and tears of joy started poring out of his eyes.

After the stunning performance,the Ustad called him and presented a coin, requesting him to play the tune again. Krishna did,  repeating  again and again until Bismiillah Khan’s wallet became empty. Young Krishna got down at the next railway station and vanished. In fact, the Ustad was on way to play in a music concert of Kumbh Mela (a holy Hindu gathering of many million devotees). In that concert, the  Ustad presented the ‘Raga’ which he learned that day from Krishna.  It was greatly appreciated by the audience who sought an encore many times. Music scholars around could not  name the ‘Raga’ and they asked about it to Bismillah Khan. Ustad said  the Raga is ‘Kanharira’. Next day’s newdpapers headlined the new ‘Raga’ invented by the Ustad.  Having read it, Hariprasad Chaurasiya, the legendary Musician (Flautist), asked Bismillah Khan details about ‘Kanharira’ Raga, . The Ustad revealed the truth and sang Kanharira. Hariprasad Chaurasya, worlds top fluit player, burst into tears of joy. ‘Kanharira’ is a divine gem in Indian music, as it originated from the  lips of Sri Krishna.The story was told  by the Ustad  to the Editor of Illustrated Weekly of India.

Bismillah Khan was born in a family of  court musicians in the princely state of Bhojpur, now in Bihar. His father was a shehnai player in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon Estate. Bismillah hated studies anf played marbles on the streets of Benaras. In the corridor of the house hecould hear his uncles playing the sehnai.  Bismilla Khan’s uncle Ali Bux used to go to the  Jadau Balaji (Vishnu)  temple every morning  to play the sehnai for the entire day for four rupees a month.  After sessions, both walked to the temple where a room was reserved for him to practice for about five hours a day.  Bismillah sat beside him, listening. Though hungry he did not disturb his uncle. 

Bismilla often wondered why his  uncle  practiced in the temple when he could do it at home undisturbed. He asked his uncle one day and   was told,”You will learn it one day.”   They returned each day for lunch. That evening uncle Ali took Bismillah to the  temple and, after the evening recital, to the room he practiced in for 18 years. Then he gave Bismillah permission to practice there, on one conditiin: ”In this temple, if you experience or see anything extraordinary, don’t tell any one.” Bismillah practised in the room for 4 to 6 hours a day, overtaken by the thirst to perfect his music. One day Bismillah, engrossed in his sehnai practice at 4 a.m.  all alone, realised that someone was sitting next to him. It was none other than Bhagavan Balaji Himself!.  Shocked and astonished, Bismillah Khan remained still . Balaji smiled and said, ”Play.” Khan was too shocked to do so.Then Balaji smiled and vanished. Later Bismillah Khan went to  his Guru Ali anf narrated to him the experience. The uncle slapped him and said, ”Did I not tell you not to say anything to anyone?“  Ustad Bismillah Khan told this story on Doordarshan   some 10 years ago. Bhagavan does not go by caste,or creed; ‘Bhakti’ is the only criterion.

My father used to tell me about another such case. Pt Ravi Shankar’s first wife Annapurna’s father Ustad ALauddin Kan known as Baba, was a Muslim but a devotee of Saraswati at a temple in Maihar, MP.   When the king of neighboring kingdom of Rewa invited him to shift there as his asthana vidwan, he refused,  saying he couldn’t leave Ma Saraswati. Ravi Shankar was a dancer in the troupe of his famous elder brother Uday Shankar, but after an accident he was told he could never dance again.  He wanted to commit suicide.

Uday then brought him to Baba and asked him to save the boy. Baba taught him music, made him world’s greatest Sitar player and also gave his daughter who he named Annapurna, in marriage.  A great singer who rejected a king’s offer sang for a postal audit party of my father as a member of the team knew classical music as  his questions revealed. Don’t beleive fanatics on both sides. Remember the son of  poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, as great a as Tagore, had a Sankrit name: Savyasachi.

Abrahamic Islam of Sunnis is NOT the only Islam. It also has Sufis, Babas and  Bismillahs

Islamic Law Permits Girl’s Beheading For ‘Honour’

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Islamic Sharia law permits her beheading for family ‘honour’

IRANI MUSLIM CLERIC Mousa Ghazanfarabadi said a father who beheaded his daughter (in the picture above) cannot be executed for murder “because it is against Islamic law,” reports Jihad Watch site.

Hinduism once had barbaric practices like ‘sati sahagaman’ – a woman burning herself alive with her dead husband. But no Hindu religious leader then or now justified the long-abandoned ritual as a part of ancient culture as no Hindu law supported such barbarism which came into being because Muslim invaders raped the wives of the kings they killed. Hindu customs and practices changed with time. So did all major religions in the world – Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Jainism or Sikhism. Every religion has a few orthodox groups that refuse to adapt to changing times. A section of Muslims do the same, but they seem to be dominant.

According to the (apparently Jewish anti-Jihad) website, Islamic Sharia law “contains many inhumane legal verdicts related to the treatment of non-Muslims and Muslims alike.  Subtle differences exist between the various schools of Sharia law.   It should be noted that most of the inhumane legal pronouncements made in the Sharia have been abandoned in Islamic states, but some elements want them enforced in non-Islamic nations too.

The Maulana, the website says, is not an “Islamophobe” but a Muslim cleric who has dedicated his life to studying and interpreting Islam to the layman. That honour killing has the sanction of Islamic law cannot be denied.  Beheading may have once been a part of its coulture. The beheading of an American journalist, Daniel Pearl in Pakistan is still fresh in public memory. It may be according to Islamic law.  But in civilized society “retaliation is obligatory against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right.” The cleric, however, “a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring’s offspring.”  Is  “not subject to retaliation” he says (Reliance of the Traveller). In other words, someone who kills his child incurs no legal penalty under Islamic law. The victim was the murderer’s daughter. The culture of violence and intimidation that such laws help create has sanctioned the killing.

The site says “Muslims commit 91 percent of honor killings worldwide. The Palestinian Authority gives pardons or suspended sentences for honor murders.”  Women have asked for tougher sentences in Iraq for Islamic honor murderers, who get off lightly now.  In 2009 Syria scrapped a law limiting the length of sentences for honor killings, but the new law still allows a man to plead “extenuating circumstances” in crimes of passion or honour “provided he serves a prison term of no less than two years in the case of killing.” Just two years jail for killinng  or beheading one’s daughter, grand-daughter or sister! The Telangana  parents who killed their unwed pregnant daughter on June 6  may be wishing the Nizam succeeded in joining Pakistan as he  had planned in 1947. Editor  Shoeb, born 100 years ago, was murdered  by Nizam supporters brutally for opposing it.

In 2003 the Parliament voted down a provision designed to stiffen penalties for honor killings. This was done “on Islamic grounds.”  Islamists and conservatives held that the laws violated religious traditions and would destroy families and values,” Al-Jazeera reported.  And  supporting them is secularism for left liberals.

More women will suffer as long as the Islamic law encourages honor killing.

 

 

Easter is Not Eggs or Bunny, But Sacrifice

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EASTER SUNDAY, TODAY, puts the spotlight on religion again after the misguided bid to tell followers of one religion that theirs is the ONLY path to salvation and they must convert all others in the world to follow their God.

Easter Sunday is the day of ressurection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament says it occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD on Good Friday. The name Easter is said to have come from Eostara, the goddess of rebirth.

Christian thinking of feeling for fellow brothern and sacrifice has indeed influenced many. Therefore Good Friday and Easter Sunday are important for the spirit of sacrifice, forgivance and compassion — not for Easter eggs or bunny, Also, on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays during the month of Lent, Catholics above 14 abstain from eating meat. During these days, Catholics are not suppoosed to eat lamb, chicken, beef, pork, ham, deer and most other meats, like Hindus, though it is an occasion for feasting. Eggs, milk, fish, grains, fruits and vegetables are all allowed.

Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism ALL have great aspects of spirituality and path to God and ALL deserve respect. Hinduism, however, concentrates on life and assimilates all faiths, even atheism. It talks of ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ (all humanity as a one family)and ‘Sarvo Jana Sukhino Bhavantu’ (Let all people be happy) and would have ‘swallowed’ even Christianity and Islam, accepting Jesus and Mohammed as ‘avataaras’ (incarnations of God) had they not believed in using the sword (in Christian crusades and Islamic Jihad) to spread their religion.

Hinduism does not proselytize, but got bogged down in meaningless rituals. Form became more vital than conent. Idols, mere symbols of God, became important. Due to its impact, perhaps, even in others rituals cloud their real goal. Islam is for peace and charity, but hijab and shariat, meant for another generation and culture, overtook. Buddhism has rituals like prayer drum. Sikhs are more concerned about headwear etc than defending the Indian way of life. Jainism’s talk of forgivance (Kshama) has become a mere ritual.

Now,f or the enlightened, religion has lost all significance. Service, Compassion and sacrifice override all other thought. Atleast that is what many believe. As in Jains’ ‘Moolamsntra’ all sages and seers and teachers deserve our salutations.

Human race, however, has not evolved yet to that stage.

Ahmed Faiz & Friends ‘Dekhenge’

Faiz Dekhega, Ham sab Sunengey

THERE ARE THOUSANDS in India who admire poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Similarlys there are thousands in Pakistan who hate him and his follower Saahir Ludhianvi for deriding Taj Mahal as a monument built by Shah Jahan using his ill-gotten wealth. They both prefer to ignore the slave labor, cutting the hands of thousands Indian workers to prevent them from building such monuments again, his marrying Mumtaz by killing her husband and marrying her sister within days of her death. Some fundamentalists may even commend him for subjecting her to over a dozen pregnancies and having over 500 concubines.

I am one of Faiz’s admirers.

While Faiz told his beloved that there were many sorrows other than love in the world (aur bhī dukh haiñ zamāne meñ mohabbat ke sivā) Saahir asked his mehboob to not meet him at the Taj as the king, using his wealth to build the Taj Mahal, belittled the love of those who were too poor to build such monuments (ek shah-en-shah ne daulat ka sahara lekar ham garibon ka muhabbat ka udaya hai Mazak).   Both consider the Taj a symbol of love.

There is no doubt that both were great poets. I had even taken at the face value the claim that Faiz Ahmed Faiz had migrated to Pakistan  not because he believed in the supremacy of Islam and hated India and Hindus, but to build the Communist movement in that ‘virgin land without any ideology’. 

When India the British communally partitioned India on the demand of Muslims, those who believed in the supremacy of Islam alone migrated to that Islamic Republic while thousands of Muslims stayed back in India not because of their secularism, tolerance of Hindus or love of this country but because of their property, societal relationships and because they saw no threat to their religion. Thousands of Hindus too remained in Pakistan because of their land or other property and under the impression that because of their good relations they would not be harmed.  Their women may be married forcibly and converted to Islam. Strange ‘blasphemy’ laws meant you can be jailed or executed just because someone said you ‘insulted’ Quran or the Prophet. And not following Him unquestioningly is an insult.

 Liberal ‘secular’ Hindus thought it was normal for thousands of Hindu temples to be destroyed and lakhs of statues disfigured but weep loudly when a wall of an abandoned mosque built on a Hindu temple by a foreign conqueror was pulled down. Can they deny these facts?    Christians may be jailed for blasphemy but a Christian girl shouts a pro-Pakistan slogan at  Bangalore (out of her own possibly sexual frustrations) and she becomes a heroine! Hardly any Muslim leader protests at Kashmiri Pandits being massacred and thrown out their homes but many thousand Hindus participate in the protest against CAA. 

These Hindu ‘intellectuals’ (IIT students not illiterate) chose as their anthem a poem by a Pakistani poet which asserts the holy land of Islam (Kaaba) shall reverberate with the name of Allah when all statues disappear (on being destroyed, as solids do not evaporate).  Their right to protest and freedom of expression are fundamental. Free to choose their slogans or anthems, they prefer poem by a Pakistani over the ever-popular ‘Ham  Honge Kamyaab’, protest songs of Bhagat Singh  or Ram Prasad Bismil or others including Saahir. Protests against this choice are called communal. The poem of Faiz which they chose is ‘Ham Dekhenge” (हम देखेंगे). Google to read it.

Protesting against this poem being used to symbolize anti-CAA protest is ‘communal’. Many Bollywood celebrities like Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah say it is secular. True loudmouths among the ruling coalition’s supporters who back the Hindu fringe elements should also be condemned, though a minority.

जिहाल-ए-मस्ती मकुन-ब-रन्जिश, बहाल-ए-हिज्र बेचारा दिल है ‘गुलामी’ (June 1985) फिल्म के इस गाने का मतलब समझ ना आने के बावजूद भी आजतक सुन रहे हो

Few could understand it, including many who proclaim Urdu to be their mother-tongue. For decades we tolerated such lyrics and made their writers millionaires, (even if,  like Saahir, they were capable of writing without a single Urdu word — see ‘Aaj sajan mohe ang lagalo janam safal ho jaye’ in ‘Guide’)

Faiz’s poem was chosen ONLY because it is Pakistani. And yet we are ‘intolerant’ if we protest.

Social Justice – Only For Some?

THAT MUSLIM GROUPS and Indian ‘liberals’ would successfully organize a boycott of the enumeration work for the National Register of Citizens with several non-Muslims are supporting them is obvious. The entire Opposition and several Indian celebrities oppose the CAA, NRC, NPR and exclusion of Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan from automatically getting Indian citizenship, now open to persecuted minorities of these countries. Though not automatic citizenship, other avenues for Muslim to get Indian citizenship and migrate to India remain unchanged.

Film above nation

These great intellectuals seem to be bestowed by Allah with knowledge that enables them alone to understand the legal provisions which were (admittedly) started by Congress itself to ensure ta record of Indian citizenship and a demographic count of the Indian people, The party is now opposing them. Most Muslim countries have citizenship cards pictures of which have been shown on social media, but these great minds think India should have no such records as it may expose the fact of Muslim population of India growing at a much faster rate than others. So, like all countries which once had 16 per cent or above Muslim population, India too would become an Islamic country. That is what they want.

They justify Hindu laws being modified by the government, Hindu places of worship brought under state control and taxed about 24 percent, while others can have their own laws, marry four wives (as bloody wars in ancient desert Islamic countries reduced male population and left many women without spouses) and pay no tax on the income of their places of worship. Travel to holy places of Mecca for Muslims and Jerusalem for Christians can be subsidized from taxes paid by Hindus, they feel.

In the three Islamic countries named minorities, officially, are treated as second class citizens and persecuted. The Indian Opposition, however, denies this and wants Muslim migrants from these countries and from Myanmar given Indian citizenship as refugees. The Congress always had a Muslim vote bank policy. In fact it had encouraged such influx in Assam by giving them ration cards and ID cards overnight.

Why should Muslims from Islamic countries come as refugees to India where, according to the same Opposition, they are being discriminated against? They have no explanation. They are not convinced by the government assurance that normal courses like naturalization remain. Adnan  Sami being given citizenship and honoured with a ‘Padmashri’ does not matter to them. No Act says Muslims will be ousted from India, but liberals readily accept the Pakistani propaganda that they would be. Muslim ‘leaders’ can make money promising block votes as if they are dumb driven cattle obeying the leaders.      

False Congress propaganda that Muslims are being discriminated against and the media backing anti-CAA protests is being given wide publicity by Pakistan. The big-business owned Indian newspapers are losing circulation fast as no one believes in them anymore. Facing extinction, they are fighting a last-ditch battle to survive by sensationalizing news, spreading falsehoods and backing the anti-Indian slogans of JNU and Aligarh Muslim University students.

Once the Congress sought to erase its ‘anti-Hindu’ image claiming Rahul Gandhi is a ‘janeudhari’ (wearing the sacred thread) Brahmin. In due course it realized that its existence depended only on Muslim and caste vote.  It began to project all Muslims as not only anti-Hindu but also pro-Pakistan by questioning every government act against the terrorists. Some Congressmen exhibited love for Pak leaders while some others sought that country’s help in ‘removing’ Narendra Modi.

The Congress does not realize that most Muslims have roots in this land, reject Pak ‘Islamic ’ label and have cordial relations with the Hindus. The Hindus too have forgiven those who destroyed Hindu temples and heritage and sought to disfigure statues of all their gods,  by allowing them to practice their own religion. They let more mosques come up all over India, their loudspeakers blare before dawn and some roads be blocked for Namaaz. Yet, for Congress, thousands of terrorist acts by Muslims are “mere crimes without religion”, but one (alleged) act by some Hindus is “”saffron terror”, Only  politicians, upset with communal harmony, provoke riots.

‘Liberal’ intellectuals rightly seek social justice with reservations to Dalits for the historical blunder of casteism which drove them to conversion to other religions but they condone the acts of destruction of temples and massacre of Hindus. Their own historians admit this, but they seek no social justice here. The victory of colonial troops at Koregaon is celebrated as the British army had many Dalits. The next step would be to shed tears for the victory of Chatrapati Shivaji because he had a Muslim general. The party that swears by him, Shiv Sena, already took a step towards that by joining hands with ‘saheb’ Pawar and the Congress, rejecting ‘sevaks‘ for power.

There are fringe elements on both sides and Hindus being more in number could have more of them. And yet for centuries the invaders’ followers were allowed to remain. On the other hand there are reports of oppression and harassment including forceful conversion and abduction of women and their forced marriage to locals, in all three countries mentioned in the Act. Despite being a majority Hindus have not forced them out. In several districts like Malappuram (Kerala) and Srinagar (J&K), and some states, Hindus are a minority but are denied minority rights.

Satya asatya?

And yet several Hindu celebrities, who hid their faces when Kashmiri Pandits were massacred and thrown out, thought it fashionable to support the anti-national forces to gain publicity.  An actress sided with the ‘tukde tukde gang’ that wanted India to break up, just to promote a film which had merit and novelty. This actually had the reverse effect. Her film lost the box office race.

The agenda-driven media misled international figures like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has his own compulsions to maintain the ‘world leader’ image. It also misread him. “If the Indian media can read Nadella’s statement with some nuance, they can read a new meaning into it,”  Swarajya, a Digital news site said.

Ayodhya: A Wasted Opportunity

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INDIA’S SUPREME COURT has wasted its time and effort by pronouncing a 1045-page verdict on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case.  That could have gone to reducing the pendency of thousands of cases delaying and thereby denying justice;  it is still a welcome act as a pestering l issue of  dirty politics as been buried for ever, so that we can  oncentrate on real problems of  the coujtry.

 

While the dispute is centuries old, the court case, starting with the demolition of the mosque in 1992 by BJP-led ‘kar sevaks’, was kept alive for decades by those interested in suppressing the Muslim minority by creating fear-psychosis and thereby a vote-bank of millions for the dynasty-ruled Congress party.  The hatred generated in that community by self-seekers had thwarted its efforts to join the national mainstream by integrating itself with the culture and lifestyle of the country.

No one had objected to their keeping faith in their own religion and its rituals, including blocking roads for prayers, and yet Muslims were encouraged to become separatists, join militants who wants to break India and destroy it. Some even joined the barbaric ISIS.

That this section of the minority community would reject, oppose and protest any verdict that did not uphold  its own claim was a foregone conclusion, even after all major Hindu organizations and the government said they would accept whatever judgment the court gave. It could be said an equally foregone conclusion was that some Hindu fringe groups would have protested if the verdict favoured the masjid.

Logic, rationality and law did not matter: it was an emotional issue based on the sect of that community, one happened to be born in. Indian Hindus have no problem with Shias, Dawoodi Bohras, Ismailis, Ahmedias or any other sect, though all are Muslims;  Sunis alone lead the protest.  Sunni All-India Personal Law Board, the AIMIM party of Razakars who wanted Telangana to be a part of Pakistan, the ‘Tukde Tukde’ gang of  Jawaharlal Nehru University and such Sunni groups are opposing the verdict and supporting the right of invaders from Turkey and Arabia, who brought Islam to India,  to have more rights and  special privileges than others because Indians let them convert by force.

The view that goodwill could have been earned by them is not mine alone. “Even now 

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Archaeologist K.K. Muhammed 

the time has not elapsed. Before the Supreme Court gives its judgement, Muslims should hand over the place to Hindus and create an example. That is my humble request to them” wrote a Muslim K. K. Muhammed, Regional Director (North), Archaeological Society of India (ASI), who according to a social media post, “publicly told about the discovery of remnants of the temple under the masjid despite the threat of  being suspended.”  He is a Sanskrit scholar who “excavated and restored a complex of 100 temples” in Morena (MP),  negotiating a deal with dacoits who still rule the ravines of Bhind and Morena, the post says.  In these days of fake news, I hope this is true.

 

Years ago I suggested building in the Masjid area a ‘Museum of National Integration’ which may highlight stories like this. There are plenty: the Muslim potters of Kolkata’s Kumartoli who make the Durga idols, the IAS officer of late ’50s Dr A. U. Sheikh who had a Ph.D. in Sanskrit, a Telugu Muslim ‘Harikatha’ exponent, a Hindu girl who knew the Holy Quran by-heart, a Muslim boys team which presented a Hanuman Chalisa dance in a TV competition…. Or just yesterday, a mosque putting off Ide-e-Milad celebration in Kerala as a Hindu wedding was to take place next-door.

The chance for producing such goodwill has been squandered.

Hindu liberals who condemn   the Masjid demolition (but not Babar destroying the Ram Mandir or Ghori the Somnath temple) wanted a urinal built there and famous Bollywood writers Salim and  Javed a hospital. Obviously they all do not want a Ram mandir there.

Neither Hinduism is enriched, nor is Islam poorer with the Supreme Court verdict ….. In their spirituality, none of them reside in the bricks and plaster monuments,” wrote a former colleague, Promod Puri of Canada in a thought-provoking blog.  He feels  spiritualism is buried in the foundations of places of worship.

Let the Ram temple at Ayodhya be the last Hindu temple built in this century, till we build schools, hospitals and toilets in all villages in India. That is the real tribute to Rama, the Hinduism of Swami Vivekananda and patriotism of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

Let Us Pray For Nation First

 

 

Picture courtesy ANI news agency

DASARA FESTIVE SEASON is here. The Indian populace is in the grip of a devotional frenzy. The Ganesha festival season has just ended and idols of the elephant-headed God, costig of millions of rupees, have been just immersed in rivers, tanks and sea, throwing along with them tonnes of flowers, plastic and polluting material.

And now the Durga idols will be immersed. It may take till next Ganesha season to clean up all the beaches, river banks and tanks – and the pollution will occur again.

Thousands of crores of rupees are offered in ALL places of worship daily. There are many lakhs of them in the country. In Tirupati, the offerings often cross a crore per day, with some presenting diamond-studded crowns or other ornaments or bundles of currency notes.

It is not in Hindu places of worship alone that offerings are made, though they seem to believe more in quid pro quo: you receive God’s benevolence and you pay for it in the same proportion. This custom might have started in the days when Brahmins, poor by choice, lived on alms and temple offerings. Now they do jobs or even launch business enterprises. The temples too need money for maintenance and upkeep, but the collections far exceed this requirement in most temples.

It is not in Hindu temples alone that people make offerings, In churches plates get passed around for collections. Islam makes it mandatory for every believer to give for charity a portion of the earnings. Mosques and churches too invove big money. Money from churches and mosques is used for monastries, madrasas or proselytisation — to convert more people to the religion by any means.

Recently newspapers have published pictures of a golden Durga idol (above) costing Rs 20 crores (which of course, will not be immersed) at a Kolkata pendal. And that city has lakhs of pendals with very costly idols and fixtures. They also promote high creative talent. Many other cities have also begun putting up Durga pendals. Religion attracts huge wealth in ths country – and in most countries.

If that money is used to build schools, homes for the poor, toilets, bridges to villages cut off during monsoon and such things, the image of India as a nation of snake charmers and beggers, prevalent in Western countries, may change for good.

Whenver there is talk of development, of things like bullet trains or money-earning tourist attractions such as Sardar Patel’s Statue of Unity, self-proclaimed liberals and intellectuals come up with objections, mentioning the above list and more as bigger priorities.
They are right that India needs development.

Some, though far fewer, such voices were raised when my Nagpur friend Vasant Sathe, as Information and Broadcasting Minister, wanted to bring colour to Indian TV. Does any of the objectors now opt for a B&W television set as home? Are such sets seen even in slums, most of which have scores of dish antennas? Do those who object to latest devices go to their offices by bullock carts instead of the AC cars they use? Would they prefer India without ‘unnecessary’ airports and flights?

The present government depending for its existence on ‘Hindutva’ elements may not have the courage to compel religious places to use their huge collections for public welfare.
There is a close link between organised religion and commerce.

Here is a comment on this:
कम से कम दो साल के लिए भी ऐसा हो जाये देश का विकास,बिजली बचत हो जायेगा l
हर शहर के हर मोहल्ले में एक़ पूजा भी कर दें तो बेहतर रहेगा l
ये तो दिखावा और काला धन खर्च कर पाप शुध्दीकरण स्थल जो हो गया