Inspired by the church, Hindu temples in Mizoram now conduct similar ‘Sunday service’ for various deities. Community leaders say it is a case of ‘doing what the Romans do in Rome’ and adapting to a more convenient way of connecting with the gods and goddesses.
Christians account for 87% of Mizoram’s 1.1 million people. Hindus are less than 4%, behind the Buddhists (8%).
Churches are thus all-pervading while only 12 temples exist in this north-eastern state, half of them in capital Aizawl.
Christianity arrived in Mizoram with the British conquest. A number of Gorkha soldiers and Bengali clerks settled in the area.
“Our forefathers came on a mission to rescue Mary Winchester, daughter of a British tea planter abducted by a Mizo tribal chieftain in 1871. They stayed behind to reside on plots allotted by the British and built most of the temples in the 1870s,” MB Thapa, chairman of Central Gorkha Mandir Sanchalan Samiti, said.
“I grew up in Delhi knowing Monday is for Shiva, Tuesday for Hanuman and so on. Here, we invoke the deities from 8:30-10am every Sunday,” Bishnu Prasad Subedi, priest at the Om Temple in Aizawl’s Thuampui area, said.
Subedi’s schedule and that of his counterparts in other temples includes heading the ‘Sunday service’, delivering sermons and chanting prayers from a standardised ‘book of psalms’. Simultaneously, community elders conduct theology classes designed for children.
“What is the harm in imbibing the good things from other religions? Besides, switching from weekdays to Sundays has helped us keep social contact and share our joys and sorrows at a common place,” Om Temple committee member Pratap Chhetri said.
The temples adhere to a strict code of cleanliness and offer hygienically packed prasad that every household in a locality supplies by rotation.
The contents of the pack — a piece of fresh fruit, dry fruits and a dollop of ghee-cooked halwa — are almost always the same.