Hinduism and Hindu’s way of life and their dharma is under threat from inimical forces opposed to the very ideals of temples and its ancient traditions. It is time to stand up to them and reassert our ideals, traditions and culture along with our Gods and Goddesses.
I was born and brought up in Srirangam, a temple town in Tamil Nadu where the famous Ranganatha temple is majestically situated in the heart of the town. The moment I say ‘Srirangam’, the beautiful orb glistening over temple comes to my mind. The olden days come alive in my memory, when school bell rings at the end of the day. My heart would beat a little faster with the thought of rushing to the temple at once. Apart from the time we spent at schools, college or office, most of our time was spent in the festival-filled temple premises of Ranganatha Swamy temples. Our parents never have had to worry about us being led astray by What's App, Instagram and Facebook or YouTube. These sacred havens kept us tied to our traditions while effectively barring us from getting into dangerous ways.
If you are wondering why I am recounting all these good old days is that we in today’s world of pseudo secular ‘Breaking India’ forces that are hostile and inimical to our way of life and Dharma have laid virtual siege to our temples and its ancient traditions. Hence, we, at Gurukula, have consciously taken a decision to teach Sanskrit to our children so that they can access the Holy scripture directly and practise it for themselves. It is noteworthy that children of our Gurukula are offered a melange of Eastern and Western education along with Indian arts like Carnatic music, instruments, dance etc. This is our humble contribution to save our culture for the future generation.
In order to know what we lose, we should know what we gain by keeping our temple traditions alive. There is a threefold contributions made by the temples to individuals, society and the nation as a whole.
a. Harnessed in Discipline
b. Healthy way of life
a. Socio Cultural centres
b. Inequalities eradicated
a. Dieties unite nation
b. Humanity reconsidered
1) At a personal level, temples help us live a healthy and disciplined way of life free. And I can provide examples from my own experience in life.
Chapter 2 in Ashtangahrudaya, an ayurvedic treatise explains a daily routine for a human being and its benefits. It explains when we should wake up to have a healthy life. Accordingly, the opening of temples in the morning and the closing times are in perfect harmony with the rhythm of nature for a healthy life. Opening a temple at 12 midnight for a new year which is not in any of our traditional panchangam (Calendar) is not supported by Agama sastras or Ayurveda sastras. Healthy lifestyle is questioned by changing the traditional practices there.
2) Temple’s role as a socio-cultural centre is undeniable. Devotees worship the deities there with garland of colourful flowers, musicians set the rhythm to the occasion, the jingling of the dancer's anklets reverberate in the air while they dance before the deity, kathakars delight our minds with inspiring episodes of Lord and his devotees; devalas, vaidikas, and even farmers thrive due to these temples. In Srirangam, 360 varieties of rice is offered to Lord Ranganatha Swamy in a year, one each a day! Isn't this an interesting and creative way to encourage agriculture?
Secondly, men of all castes walk as one alongside the deity during processions during chariot festivals. These simple but old traditions did what endless debating nowadays simply failed to: Eradicating social inequality. When Rama walked flesh and blood in the streets of Ayodhya, he showed compassion and affection to people of all castes and creed, says Ayodhyakandam in Ramayan.
सवेर्षाम् स हि धर्मात्मा वणार्नां कुरुते दयाम्
चतुर्णां हि वयस्थानाम् तेन ते तमनुव्रता।। (2-17-15)
Now, after the era of Lord Rama has ended ages and ages ago, the archavatarams, i.e. temple vigrahas, still continue that legacy. We heard recently that after Aarudhra Darshan in Chidambaram, the dikshitas themselves fed the supposedly ‘untouchable’ cleaners of the temple.
3) Finally, temples promote national integration. If we trace back to the etymological meaning of our country's name, the word ‘Bharat’ comes from the root Bru - Bharane which means ‘to bear’. And what is it that Bharat bears? It bears our diversities. So then what bears the unity?
My Guru, Dr Ranganji, often explains that the temples bear this unity. For instance, he says, the same Krishna who is celebrated as Guruvayoorapan in Kerala is worshipped as Shri Nathji in Nathadwara, Rajasthan. In Guruvayoor Krishna feasts on chakapradhanam and in Rajasthan Shri Nathji has chappan bhog. While Guruvayoorapan goes on Seeveli, Shri Nathji enjoys Shringar darshan. Kathakali dancers’ tap-tapping and chendai vaadhyam’s musical rhythm rings in the ears of the Lord of Guruvayoor while Hindustani music soothes the Lord of Nathadwara. Thus, though the names of the deities, their decoration, language of eulogies and entertainment offered are different, both Guruvayoorapan and Shrinathji are the same Krishna in the eyes of a Krishna devotee. So, for him, both Rajasthan and Kerala are the Lord's kingdom. Therefore, it won't be wrong to say that the deities create national integrity, promote social harmony and enhances an individual's life, and the temples that house them are the pillars of our tradition and our culture - Sanathana Dharma.
This Hindu dharma is unique because this is one religion which prays for ‘lokas samastas sukinoh bhavantu’ – for the welfare of all the world, including those who don't even belong to this religion. We accept men of other faiths and even pray for their welfare. While Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam promise fire and brimstone in eternal hell for non-believers, the only religion which gives refuge to those who don't belong to its faith and tradition is Hindusim, a universal religion for humanity itself.
Misinterpreting our scriptures and destroying our temple traditions are made to destroy this one nation. So, threat to temples is a threat to an individual, a threat to the society, a threat to the nation and a threat to humanity itself. Let us save our temples to save our tradition and nation, for this religion is universal.
(The writer is a speaker on Ramayana and a member of WEBOLIM, an organisation dedicated to spread Vedic values and culture through Ramayana)