Sunday, 4 October 2009

'No reservations'


I attended a prayer ceremony for Mamma on Sunday morning.

Nothing wrong with that except that the official norms of her religion didn’t allow for folks from other religions, like me, to attend their prayers. I had the good fortune to be a part of it thanks to a lot of love and affection of the family… and a priest who was willing to fulfil the wishes of those who didn’t wanted to be constrained by the shibboleths of their religion. In fact I was not the only outsider there. There were two close family friends too.

Not that Mamma would agree to a prayer ceremony for her which excluded those she loved.

But that set me thinking of the various religious dogmas that one has heard of.

There are certain Hindu temples which do not allow non Hindus. It was before my time but I think Mrs Gandhi wasn’t allowed into the Jagannath temple when she was the Prime Minister as she had married a Parsi. Other temples don’t allow Hindus of certain castes or to women. There are limits to who can be priests too. Parsi fire temples are closed to all non Parsis. I don’t think women can be Christian priests very easily. I remember reading Erich Segal’s “Acts of Faith’ where the same applied to women and Jewish priests. Menstruating women can’t be part of ceremonies across religions. Women can’t go to all mosques. At least there were mosques in Turkey which claimed that they were one of the few where women could come and pray. I am not absolutely sure about this but I think that non Muslims can’t enter the Muslim Holy City of Mecca. And I know of at least one ‘modern’ philosophy of life interpretation type of practices which don’t enlist people who don’t speak English in India or who do not belong to the Middle Class or above.

Now I don’t want to really debate on the factual accuracy of the above. I could be wrong on some of them.

What I do find interesting is that most religions were started by someone who wanted to protest against the overbearing nature of the religious order of the day. The new religion was supposed to be ways for ordinary folks to connect with God without having to pay their tax to the religious toll keepers.

Then the new faith became an organised religion.

Religious wars and oppression started.

And the world waited for the next Prophet.

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