Religion - Let's Rejoice, Review And Reform

September 10, 2009 Pune, India - My chauffeur, Imam asked me an unusual question last week. But before discussing that, let me make certain things clear in the first place that this post is not intended to attract any slanderous remarks over any religion or their sentiments. This is a prose that raises all those questions that have always been sitting in the corner of my head. I recollect that these queries were being interrogated by me a couple of decades ago when I was learning the world around me as a novice child.

"Why is it that there is a small rat beside the statue of Lord Ganesha?" asked Imam. Although his question was a result of an enthusiastic approach towards my religion, I welcomed his doubt given that he was a follower of Islam.

"A mouse is an official Vaahan of Ganesha!" I replied.
Later, I spent several minutes trying to explain him why most of the Hindu Gods had their own official carriers or the Vaahan. I named every other animal that I was able to think of including the dog, the peacock, the snake, the tiger, and the lion and so on. I felt happy to tell him that I could associate every animal to a respective Hindu God - each had their own official Vaahan. After that long explanation, it was not unnatural for me to expect a little bit of appreciation from him, to have shared a good knowledge of Hinduism with him. Unfortunately, his reaction to my explanation took me to a different world - my world of innocence and the childhood days when I often bombarded my Papa with a hell lotta novice questions.

"I wonder how such a meek creature is able to sustain the weight of such a huge body!" exclaimed Imam. I observed him as his exclamation gradually burst him out in laughter but that really did not hurt me. I was spellbound since I knew; I had no answer to that. And I was left with no choice than to anticipate and join him with his joke.

But that was not the end of the joke. It revived all those novice queries that I had as a child, as a newborn when I knew almost nothing about religion. I asked similar questions to the elders around me during the days when my mind was like a blank printer paper, waiting for an imprint to be made on it. Being born to a Hindu, they kept on imprinting my mind with the cartridge of mythological beliefs. I was taught to obey the taboos and venerate the Hindu Gods relentlessly. They made me accustom to offer rituals to these Gods and to remember the do's and don'ts of each one of them. One fine day, they made me learn that there are thirty three crore Gods I should believe in. I feel sad to not even learn their names ever. I wish I could have known at least the ones we commonly preach and organize festivals for. Alas! Neither mythology nor history has provided me a justifiable explanation to my queries.

Several years down the line, I was overloaded with too many things, so much so that I started learning to take certain things for granted. My religious beliefs were one of them. In almost every case, the religious beliefs are induced upon us. If I was born as an orphan, with no trace of my family, it is certain that I would have no compulsion on adopting a certain set of religious beliefs. As a Hindu, I have always been enjoying the popular festivals like the 'Janmastami'. Festivals, in India are something more than religious celebrations; they possess huge significance in social fronts. They are the occasions when people from various walks of life come together or rather integrate. I wholeheartedly, welcome such social causes that help us remain united and integrated. Lord Krishna, today has a profound sum of followers and is considered as a role model around the globe. As his fable goes, he was a well known troublemaker, a thief and an eve-teaser. He had his own troop of partners in crime that he leaded. If this is so, today, I suppose we have a great deal of such lords in the underworld, possibly even better than our famous Lord Krishna himself. They are ill-known as to be the criminals; they too possess some godly qualities that have still kept them untamed and free. Why is it that if gods perform the act, we term it as a ‘Leela’ (a play) whereas, if the same act is performed by a human, it is a crime? Well, jokes apart, this is not a true definition of a role model in the real sense.

Mythology fails to justify several things that includes, teleporting which was common among the Gods. Despite so many technological advances, scientists today are still trying to improvise the means of travel and transportation. True, but that’s where the irony hides. It is not unacceptable to believe that some great warriors in the past possessed exceptional skills in archery, wrestling and so on which made them famous. Lord Rama, for instance was well known for his archery skills, but his potential to use an arrow to bring down the biggest mountain on the planet seems hard to digest without a clear scientific base. Or is it a sheer outrage of a praiseworthy exaggeration?

I am proud of my country's rich and varied heritage. I am always ready to flaunt and boast about the heritage on which our culture is based upon. But it really makes me sad when I really find no answers to my queries, esp. when it has something to do with our beliefs and devotion. For ages, India has been a land of sages and saints but it is hard to learn that most of our religious values are still based on relentless superstitions. Several of our festivals, are being observed just because they were followed for ages. Hardly do we care about our natural resources that are bitterly impacted due to the activities we perform in the name of God. The toxic content being used in the statues we immerse in our rivers is ruining the sanctity of our water bodies. Liters of milk and curd are merely wasted in the name of God, when more than half of our population sleeps empty-stomached every other evening. A dozen bones and a zillion earthen pots are broken down during Janmashtami, all in the name of God. Millions of crackers are burnt in the name of God, when we, on the other hand, keep complaining about pollution issues and the global warming effect.

No religion tells us to preach the negative aspects of life. Evil and good, both are the two aspects of the same old coin. God, a virtual super power that we believe in as a human, tells us to believe in the good and condemn the bad. Now to perform killings and sacrifices in the name of god is unjustifiable. To riot and kill a fellow-human in the name of religion is not Jihad, it's a sin. I am sad to live in a world where people, who are incapable to understand the true meaning of religion, commit such sins in the name of religion itself. This makes me wish to get rid of the imprints that this world has made up on my mind and ink it with a sole religion of patience and compassion. God doesn't need loudspeakers to hear your prayers; neither does he need your rituals. He understands the language of compassion and love. This is where the true meaning of religion lies. Let us continue blowing the conches, let us keep ringing those bells, let us continue folding our hands and let us continue bending our knees. Let us dance and sing in his glory, let us praise the almighty but let us change.


  1. See...for one..when hindus pray in front of a statue of god, they do another form of prayer( the name escapes my mind)...and Hinduism says that it is for people who arent at a level where they can be one with it isnt necessary to pray in front of statues...even rishis and munis at earlier times sat in meditation for hours without food and water but not in front of an idol....
    See the point I am trying to make is that all the religions today are a result of the acts of the past and the religions keep evolving...for eg
    in Islam there is a law which allows a man to marry four it could have been only one...but during the times men used to marry 13-14 women...and there were a lot of war widows who needed support so then 4 wives...but in todays times if the laws to be changed it would become one....
    its time that we forget the road we take and think about the final destination and that is GOD

  2. My parents were aghast when they came to know I didn't believe in their religious beliefs. This was a long time back, but I still remember the furore caused at my home. I had to convince them that I am no atheist. Its just that I don't believe in their God. :)

    They were pacified. But then I wonder, how many parents are there in India who are as accomodating.

  3. It's really sad Paritosh to have religious ideas being induced within us, when we are not matured enough to really understand it. Our parents teach us to venerate statues just for a sole reason - cos' their parents told them to do so. A newborn is a clean soul trapped in a new body and tends to gather the shape the way he is moulded! We elderly folks hardly think from a plain logical point of view. We are tied to our traditional taboos, so much so that we are so reluctant to think in a sane and wiser direction.

  4. A very thought provoking post indeed. You must understand that Ramayana is actually just a story extolling the virtues of a great man - Rama. And like every other story, there is always exaggeration.
    Just like there are lot of people who worship Rajnikanth (as his fans), there are even more people (our parents fall under this category) who worship Rama as a God. The legend has grown over the ages and become a GOD.

  5. Interesting post! Religion for me is more of a practice than a norm! Being a spiritual person, I understand that people are one and religions, in their purest intent, teach us to be better people!

    However, it is sad to note that religion has over the years been exploited to divide people, more than to unify them - which is the purpose. By unify, I mean in oneness of the human kind, with respect and unity!

  6. Religion is a way of living that's all. Parents just want their kids to be good persons. They teach you what they think good for you. In Hinduism 33 crores of gods are there and most of them is related with nature.(Many animals,trees,rivers,hills etc..)So if now we are exploiting nature it's our fault not religion's! All religions are same. we have to understand the real meaning of them!

  7. Dear Neeraj,
    All your questions are valid and hold goold onto their own! As a child even i had similar thoughts and was confused a lot!
    But slowly i realised, these stories are a way to continue the folklore. Now just imagine the difficulty one would face in trying to teach the lessons of humanity, humility, courage and bravery. But when you tell it in the form of a story, The story of Maryaada Purushottam Ram, it becomes easy to understand! And even if he doesnt understand, he is at peace with it because he respects Ram and he knows ram is right and he has to follow him..!

    Almost everything in hinduism is a mixture of truth and fiction.
    When u reach any village, u will surely hear, "Peepal k ped pe bhoot hai", or "Tulsi ko mat kaato, Bhagwaan paap denge". But for once try and think of the importance Peepal and tulsi in daily life. From their medicinal properties to the amount of oxygen they release in the environment.

    Our ancient thinkers were smart ;) They knew hw to make people do the right thing. Beware, just because we have had modern education, discarding old rituals as superstition can be very easy!

    And yes, hinduism is a progressive dharma. We change according to time. Thats the beauty of it. So, if Ganesh Visarjan is harmful for out rivers, we must stop it. And people have started their efforts. Last time I visited Mumbai, people from Pawai lake area had made a resolution not to do any Visarjan. Thumbs up for bringing it to light and educating people!
    I would be happy to try to clear your doubts.

    Sorry for the long comment, but found your post invigorting and could not stop myself! :)


    P.S- Just google the importance of following animals in human food chain. Cow, rat, Snake and Peacock.
    By now you must have guessed each animal is related to some god. So, automatically the animal becomes sacred and revered!

  8. even if my parents seem to be just like yours... even if I follow each and every ritual they 'force' me to follow... I don't think I believe in utility of having religion as a medium to praise or for that matter worship God....

  9. Nice writeup and I fully endorse about what you feel. What we are witnessing today is the dual policy by those who claim to be religious.While they preach one thing, but practice the other! If one is serious about his religion than HE MUST FOLLOW THE PREACHINGS OTHERWISE THERE IS NO POINT IN JUST LISTENING TO DISCOURSES, CLAPPING AND FORGET EVERYTHING. In my view, this is not religion.
    I have also written on this subject and interested people can read them on my blog.