Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Religion without social conscience

Hyderabad has become a peculiar practitioner of religion. It all begins with the rains. First the Mahankali jaatra. Followed by Ganesh puja, followed by Durga puja.
When we were growing up in the 50s and 60s in Hyderabad, only Mahankali jaatra used to be held, the most famous one being the Ujjaini Mahankali of Secunderabad.
I do not recall loud drum beats and prolonged processions. People used to take offerings to the temples and yes, used to sacrifice animals and chickens in public. One day evening the Potharaju procession would be on, which was fun to follow around, culminating with the oracle event.
But the modern day avatars of the festivals interfere with the existence of others who may not want to participate. Take the Ganesh festival. It was a delightful family celebration, most fun for children. It was fun to pick the cutest figure and bring him home for worship. The lesson in botany would follow, as we actually used to hunt and find the leaves and flowers for the puja. Fun to hear the story of over-eating till one's tummy went bust. We would religiously get our books marked with kumkum for better grades!
Now it has taken on a monstrously polluting street avatar. It is polluting lakes; the sound pollution during the ten days of celebrations is unbearable. No one is worried about blocking traffic which may well include an ambulance or two. No one is worried about disturbing the old and the sick. They seem to be making some of the loudest drums these days. And they beat unconcerned late into the night disturbing school children, office goers, the elderly. And all this is done with money collected from you, me and the neighbourhood shopkeepers. Everyone, including the administration wait with bated breath for those days to pass. From social insesitivity, pollution of lakes, sound pollution, we also have thought pollution - leading to religious muscle flexing. One wonders whom the drums really mean to keep awake?
Now Durga puja, the latest entrant into the game of going public with what was private worship, is on in Hyderabad. It is past midnight and I can hear frenzied drumming outside. I hope Durgaji is pleased with all the energy being expended to show how much we love and revere her. Each of the processions would have several dozens of able-bodied young men, who are telling us that if society doesn't show them a better way of channelling their energies, this is what society will get from them. Sleepless nights from July to October.