Respecting India’s Diversity of Belief

NEW DELHI, INDIA, January 17, 2013 (The Hindu by Madhu Purnima Kishwar): (HPI Note: This editorial is from earlier this year, but we missed seeing it, so post it now.)

The imperious missionaries of liberalism have no respect for the diversity of India’s belief systems and have taken it upon themselves to reform everything they perceive as outdated and incorrect

Do we want to create a world in which everyone thinks alike? A world in which there is no space for divergence of views or foolish people? I write this after witnessing poor Rahul Easwar, one of the young hereditary priests of Sabarimala, being flagellated on television for the nth time on January 7, 2013, for allowing the presiding Deity of his temple to shun the company of female devotees.

Just as our colonial rulers with their faith in the superiority of their monotheistic faith, despised Hindu religious practices, with their millions of Gods and Goddesses, our modern day missionaries can’t stand the temperamental nuances of our diverse Deities. They have no problem in accepting that women are barred inside friaries meant to house Catholic priests who have taken a vow of celibacy. But they can’t stomach the idea of a male Deity who has likewise vowed eternal celibacy avoiding the company of women. They take it upon themselves to cure this kink because in their moral universe with its borrowed vocabulary, this amounts to misogyny and gender discrimination!

Rahul Easwar has asked each television anchor who has grilled him over the years how would they deal with all those temples which only allow female devotees, where the presiding Goddess forbids men’s entry. Would they likewise force “women only” temples to open their doors to men? Not one has ever condescended to answer this simple question; nor did any of the anchors tone down their aggression or hostility towards Rahul’s intelligent defense of his faith and his Ishta Dev.

Following in the footsteps of our British rulers, who despite their disdain for our Gods and Goddesses, took away shiploads of priceless ancient statues to display as art objects in their museums and living rooms, so also our Westernized elites have taken to displaying paintings, bronze and stone carved statues of diverse Gods and Goddesses as decoration pieces in their homes as proof of their aesthetic lifestyle. But their disdain for those who treat them as objects of worship remains as ferocious as that of our colonial rulers.

If that were not the case, they would have no difficulty in appreciating that Hindu divinities are not unknowable, distant entities. They have distinct personalities, character traits, likes, dislikes. Even in matters of food, floral offerings, puja ritual, each deity has his or her preferences. If you don’t respect their unique temperaments, you are free not to worship them and choose the Devata or Devi that suits your taste.

(Madhu Purnima Kishwar is founder, Manushi, and professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.)

SOURCE: The Hindu