To begin with, I am one. More devout than I ever thought I would be, I believe in my faith and I am not ashamed about it. Having been brought up in an orthodox Hindu family, religion has always been a part of life and I am glad it is.
Right from ‘Lagta hai Bhagvaan ki yeh marzi nahi thi’ to console us when something turns out some way to ‘Sab Bhagvaan ki dua hai’. From going to my ancestral village to listen to one of my grandfathers do the annual Bhagvad Gita event to reciting the Hanuman Chalisa every morning and do the puja every evening. While everyone loves Holi and Diwali, I love all of them – Ganesh Chaturthi when these huge pandaals were decorated across my previous locality and I used to visit every single one of them for prasaad (I have quite the sweet tooth!); Dussehra when for many days before it, we used to watch these chariots (savaari) depicting a particular scene from the Ramayana and we watched in awe (And after it was done, I always bought a bow and arrows and played the hero!); Janmashtami when the monsoon added a new flavor to the festivities or maybe Maha Shivratri when we stayed up to worship the Lord Shiva. This is what my religion meant to me as I was growing up – a cocoon of comfort and warmth, the aromas and the taste of celebrations. It meant watching Ramayana – The Legend of Prince Rama every year as a Diwali routine on Cartoon Network and choosing the trendiest pichkari for Holi.
As an adult, religion started becoming more than that. Through various heartbreaks that adulthood bestowed upon me, I found comforts in stories of my religion. I began to see things from different viewpoints, analyze stories and come up with conclusions of my own. In my drop year, watching Devon ke Dev Mahadev every day was my therapy. I saw that even asuras can act with integrity and that gods too would resort to deception. I began to see the lines between good and bad blur and I started to form opinions from these tales. I began to relate my findings to the real world and surprisingly, so many of them fit perfectly. I read this wonderful trilogy by Amish – The Shiva Trilogy and it helped me become the person I am today.
However, soon I came face-to-face with some of the aspects of my religion that I didn’t analyze before – How for about fourteen years, if I touched the cart of a sweeper cleaning the drains or the sweeper him/herself, I would rush back home and take a bath because I had been rendered impure. If I didn’t do so, I wouldn’t be allowed the enter the temple in my house or eat (and be scolded). I realized how I would squeeze past these carts to ensure that no part of me touched them; How my mother was always supposed to play her feminine roles in the household and have restrictions placed on her that I never identified before; I came face-to-face with the patriarchal construct of my religion.
I realized that some things were wrong, and I chose not to follow them. Sanatan Dharma has the Manu Smriti (the code written by Manu, the first human) and when I went through it, I was horrified to read so many regressive statements – This was not the religion that I loved. And it was not the religion that I loved, my religion was what my religion meant to me – not a code but tales that I had the freedom to analyze with a rational mind. My religion could co-exist with my vision for progress and it helped define the ideals that I have. My religion – it was personal to me. No one could forcibly define it for me nor can I impose it on someone else. That is what I learned. The religion exists within me and nowhere else -Finding peace and happiness in my religion would be easy if only I remembered this little thing. Something, that sadly most would not realize.
Then I came to the age of social media and I saw that believing in one’s religion was considered a demeaning quality. Soon, a word that was synonymous with Hanuman was now used in a derogatory manner (bhakt). Why was it so then, that a person’s religion now became a means to insult someone? Who was at fault here? Why was the bullying existent in the virtual space? Why then suddenly being a Hindu become such a problem?
Of course, fellow believers of my faith would blame the leftists, media, atheists, people following others’ religions etc. but I was shocked to see that these believers too actually never did learn much from the very religion they seek to protect. Instead, they resorted to throwing mud on the beliefs of some other individual which were different than theirs and on and on it went. Furthermore, disagreeing with someone from my own faith (and with particular elements of my faith) branded me as a leftist anti-national Anti-Hindu. Choosing to overlook all that was inherently wrong in my religion in today’s context, people became polar. So, who was at fault here? How did the world become such a vengeful place?
We forgot what Lord Rama did when he was harshly sentenced to 14 years of exile. We forgot the tales of compassion and love. We forgot what the Gita said. We forgot how to set an example. We forgot to listen and accept our mistakes and responsibilities. We forgot the time when even Lord Vishnu was wrong when he used deception to help kill Jalandhar. We forgot how even Lord Brahma enraged Lord Shiva. We forgot how even Raavan started out as a scholarly devout Brahmin and how Kansa loved his sister till power drove him mad. We became the very individuals that offended us in the first place.
My religion was never the law, nor would it ever be. It doesn’t need to be.
But honestly, are we so insecure that we need to establish our faith better than someone else’s?
The problem to me has always been people using religion to mask their own ambitions/reservations/insecurities and commit acts that brought the entire religion to shame. Even Gods would plead you to stop using them to do something that you want, not what God wants. More than the people who would insult my faith, I am disgusted at those people from my own faith who have created this scenario where the believers of my faith need to suffer the rebukes as consequences of actions taken by a few.
I am a Hindu and I do not need to run down another religion to reaffirm this fact. In fact, as a Hindu, I would treat you the way I would like to be treated by you and if you don’t treat me that way, then I do not need to resort to mudslinging for that.
I belong to one faith, hence I presented the story from my side but the message remains the same for people of every faith or no religious faith. Every religion has problems (it takes maturity to accept that) and I am not here to say which is more wrong but to discard the wrong and accept the right is what is our duty.
By: Nikhil Dixit (Email Id: [email protected])