I believed I was an atheist because I was not comfortable with the obsession with thousands of variations of God in Hindu mythology and its accompanied paraphernalia bordering on hypocrisy.
That was as a growing teen before years of debates and insight of knowledge made me realise that there is indeed a God, except I am against idol worship.
So lurching between an absolute rigid stand to somewhat relenting, one is in his 39th year and Diwali comes by. As head of the family you are meant to show the way and recite some pooja (prayer) to go with the least amount of presence in front of the different Gods vying for space on the small mantle in the house.
One or two days is fair enough time to indulge in such practices because as the cliche goes; God is within you as long as the good part of you is intact. Isn’t it?
If not for Youtube and the blessings of internet, the awkward moment could have been more awkward.
So a quick load of three aartis (prayer songs) to run by the side as you light up the diya (lamp), agarbatti (incense sticks) and all that, and you are done. Just like that.
And that’s when I got another chance to listen to the words and soak them in.
Halfway into the Lakshmi pooja something hit me hard.
No, nothing divinely. But a verse in this video (7.05 to 7.35) jarred. “Mahalaxmi Ji Ki Aarti, Jo Koi Nar Gaata, … Ura Ananda Samata, Paap Utar Jaata”
It means, ‘whoever Male sings this verse will find bliss and evil will go away’.
Did that also mean that whoever Female sings it is an exercise in vain. Only for men?
Forgive my rough literal sense of the word but I feel it reeks heavy of gender bias. Yes it was written in yesteryears and was too obvious when Hindus till date are reluctant to accord equal rights to women in the patriarchal society.
But times have changed. A talk show Face the Nation in the night on CNN-IBN talked about the relevance of Ram on the occasion that is Diwali and the panelists had a few interesting things to say like, “Ram was a warrior but not an ideal husband” and “Ram was as bad as Ravana because he killed people”. (The video link is on the discussion after Ram Jethmalani kicked up the fuss.)
The inept handling by the anchor Sagarika Ghose and the aptness of the comments is a different debate altogether but the fact remains that such views, right or wrong, exist.
Times have changed. Women are more empowering than before. And universally, every human being on planet Earth is equal.
Isn’t it time to update the religious books – of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc – to keep it relevant?
What is your say?