a sponsored prayer

My daughter just called from Varanasi. She had gone there with some musician friends to spend Shivaratri. She is a person who spurns all rituals and is somewhat an agnostic. I had tried to share my experience of this holy city that I had visited many years back when I had fallen under its spell.

So imagine my dismay when she told me that the evening Arati on the banks of the Ganga was now sponsored by some five star hotel group and was a well orchestrated affair. In my now fading memory, the evening arati was a spontaneous affair where the dissonant chants of each priest lent a special flavour to the prayers. Every one lent their voices and hummed when words were forgotten. We each held on to our precious lamp waiting to let it sail on the water. The mood mas magic and spellbinding with each one lost in their own thoughts and prayers. Even when the arati ended it took some time before one reconnected and started moving again.

A sponsored prayer seemed anathema to me, robbing the sacred of its very essence. My mind went back to the recent hullabaloo about Valentine's day. What would the protectors of our Indian identity say have to say about this.

I guess there are two ways in which we can look at such occurrences: one is that everything is acceptable as it brings extra income in a world that extols globalisation, the other is to try and draw some lines but then who bells the cat.

Perhaps there is a third one, and that is to go back to the very essence of our religion in its purest form and find the much needed sacredness within one's self as in this world where money has assumed a hallowed place, everything is possible.

And maybe, next Valentine's Day someone should wonder why it is Radha who sits in temples next to Krishna and not Rukmini his wedded spouse.