Utthan is an NGO which has been conducting Women’s interstate Car Rally for the past 10 ten years. Last year I had evinced an interest and so my friend Alka Mathur, invited me as her companion for the 10th Women’s Car Rally from Gurgaon to Pushkkar. Gayatri Manchanda another old friend was the navigator. Our third passenger was Gayatri Subramanium whom I made friends with during the journey.
For me the charm lay in being with friends whose company I really enjoy and the bonus of visiting Pushkar and Ajmer, both of which have significant religious and cultural history attached to them.
The rally was great fun with all sorts of rules which I as a non-driver could only be awed by. Some of them were:
Few acts of yours will invite penalty points :-
Abrupt braking on Highway
Reverse ( strictly prohibited )
Stopping before Marshal Points
Breaking queue at Marshal point
Not following instructions of Route Chart.
Non compliance of Traffic rules
RALLY IMPLIES YOU’VE TO FOLLOW ALL TRAFFIC RULES AND REGULATIONS AS ITS NOT A RACE.
We started from Sohna Country Inn & Suites at around 7am and by 4pm with stops for tea and lunch we had reached the finishing point which was Pushkar staion.
A tip for travellers given to me by Alka Mathur. If one keeps a clove of laung in the mouth one can avoid the inconvenience of toilet breaks. I was quite comfortable with the two thatw ere scheduled for us. Also its handy to carry toilet paper and sanitizers as our roadside toilets aren’t the cleanest.
A feast of hot pakoras and ‘internet’ tea awaited us!
Picture by Gayatri Manchanda
The Pushkar station is an impressive modern building though it has only one train service to Marwar. However, the lofty staircsase made an ideal place for photography!
From there we all went and settled in our beautiful rooms in the scenic Pushkar Fort Resort, built in the style of an old Fort with massive doorways.
We were all tired after driving for 9-10 hours. We had got up at 4am to reach the starting point in time but physical tiredness was no match for spiritual enthusiam and after a quick wash we were ready to go to Pushkar Lake and the world’s only Brahma Temple.
I had read about these in College and had always wanted to visit them. The word ‘Pushkar’ means lotus flower, which is said to be the seat of Brahma, one of the Hindu holy trinity, who is worshipped as the creator of this world. The legend has it Brahma performed a yagna (sacrifice) at this lake on Kartik Purnima (the full moon day of the Kartik month (generally in the month of November)), and a lotus fell from his hands into the Pushkar valley.Immediately a sarovar or lake appeared here.
Our first stop was the Brahma Temple which is a long and beautiful walk. Although one can take their car down quite a long way towards the temple I recommend parking it on the main road, where there is a proper car park and then walking. On the way there are in numerous temples and dharmshalas which are worth peeping into. We not only went into a few we also talked to the pujaris there.
As in any religious town of India there were many foreigners and of course shops catering to their needs with their idea of ethnic clothes, jewellry and even pagdis being sold all the way to the temple.
The colours of Holi were very apparent on the people as well as the roads!
The present temple structure dates to the 14th century, the temple is believed to be 2000 years old. The temple is mainly built of marble and stone stabs. The temple is governed by the Sanyasi (ascetic) sect priesthood.
Alka, Gayatri and I climbed up the stairs and into the temple which is situated on a high platform. The temple remains open till 8pm so we were able to get darshan of the Brahma ji murti which is kept in the sactum sanctorum or garb griha. It also houses the idol of his consort Gayatri.
The temple itself is very attractive with its red shikhar or pinnacle (shikhara) and a hamsa bird motif.
Having studied in a Christian school the saying
“Ask and Thou shall receibve”
is ingrained in me.
The Quran too says :
“Indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me.”
I love to pray in every religious shrine or place of worship that i go to. For me the religious energy and miracles associated with each instil a sense of spirulism. I also don’t find anything odd in praying in temples, gurudwaras or churches for for ultimately one prays to the One God, whom one has grown up worshipping. For me Allah is Omnipresent and so listens to me everywhere.
Verily! We have sent you with the truth, a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner. And there never was a nation but a warner had passed among them”
I grew up hearing that there are 1,24,000 paigambar or Prophets ( hadith) were sent to earth and no region/place has ever been without one. Out of them we know the names of only 24. So my mother always told us that Lord Rama, Krishna ji must be prophets too.
In fact I have a special bond with my Kanha and a twitter friend Shealja always teases me that in some previous birth I must have been ‘Kanha’s mommy!’
We rang the bell and entered. There was a rush so we couldnt linger in front of the diety and went to do the did the parikrama. We sat for sometime in the Annapurna Devi Temple on one side and prayed for personal and universal peace and prosperity.
In European churches I have seen that there are many small chapels dedicated to various saints around the main altar. Here too there were small temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Indra, Lord Kubera. The similarity of religious motifs and symbols never ceases to amaze me.
From here we set off towards the Lake. It was a magical time as the evening aarti was being performed. The ghats were alive with the sounds of the chants and the chimes.
The Lake has 52 bathing ghats and is one of the most serene places I have visited. I wanted to keep sitting there as evening fell, and the chants from the evening arti and chiming of the bells filled the atmosphere. It was a divine feeling and an absolutely spiritual experience. I plan to go back there and sit for a few hours and contemplate on life and its meaning.
One thing that impressed me about the Brahma Temple was the lack of beggars which are present in every religious shrine. The Ghat had some aggressive people selling pooja thalis but that was all.
We had to leave early as we had to attend the dinner, cultural evening and Award Function arranged by Uthhaan in another scenic resort called Aaram Bagh. The only disappointment was that dinner didn’t have any Rajasthani cuisine which I love. Kadhai Paneer and dal makhani was a bit out of place in the the Rajasthani settings.
Next day after breakfast we set off for Ajmer Sharif. Ajmer and Pushkar two holy cities are separated by a ghat and 14 km and seem almost to be twin cities.
The Ajmer Sharif Dargah is considered to be among the holiest Muslim shrines in India and is also a famous landmark in Ajmer. Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chishti, the Sufi saint from Persia is enshrined here. In keeping with his secular teachings, its doors are open to people of all faiths and religions.
It has been described that while on a visit to Medina, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty had a ‘Basharat’ (prophetic dream) from the Holy Prophet who said, “O Moinuddin you are the shining star of our religion. Go to the land of Hind and take the message of Faith, Respect and Unconditional Love. Don’t settle in the center of power but to a place surrounded by mountains and where peace shall prevail. With your spiritual presence dispel the darkness of ignorance , war and0 poverty by bringing people together. This is your mission to serve the people . Inshallah, Allah will help you. “
Khwaja Moinuddin was very pleased at this ‘Basharat’ but didn’t know the geographical situation of Ajmer which was revealed to him in another spiritual communion with the Holy Prophet: he was however shown a map with the exact position of Ajmer with its surrounding hills and the fort. He arrived in Ajmer at the age of 52 in 587 AH or 1191 AD.
His teachings were:
He indeed is a true devotee blessed with the love of God, who is gifted with the following three attributes: river-like charity, i.e his sense of charity has no limits and is equally beneficial to all the creatures of God who approach him, Sun-like affection, i.e. his affection may be extended indiscriminately to all like sunlight and Earth-like hospitality, i.e. His loving embrace may be open to all like that of the earth.
Another tip for travellers to Ajmer sharif is that as the police normally doesn’t allow cars to take the straight route to the Dargah it might be better to park in some car park and take a tempo which are easily available. We were thoroughly lost and had it not been for the kind offices of Munna whom we met on the way it would have been difficult for us to reach as on the alternate route, roads are narrow and circuitous.
Haji Syed Salman Chisty, the gaddi nasheen in the Dargah of khwaja Gareeb Nawaz had very kindly prayed for my visit to Khwaja ji’s dargah. It is my firm belief that one only goes to these places when the ‘bulawa’ or call comes.
Syed Salman Chisty very graciously sent someone to receive us and we spent some time with him at his beautiful khanqah.
We took our flowers and chadar and made our way inside.We could not spend much time inside as there was a long que and i had waited 40 years for this visit. My only previous visit had been in 1976 as part of a college tour.
Both Alka and Gayatri deep in meditation and prayer at the dargah.
It was an emotional experience for all three of us – Alka, Gayatri and myself.
Promising to come again we took our leave from Khwaja Gareeb Nawaz. Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishti is also known by different names as, Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, “Sultan-Ul-Hind”, Khwaja Baba, and Khwaja Ajmeri.
The Delhi Sultans and Mughal Emperors were great devotees of the Khwaja ji and over the eyars many of them contributed to the buildings in the Dargah. That will be described in a separate post on the Dargah itself.
We left from Ajmer around 1 pm and headed for Delhi. it was Easter Sunday and there was a sense of peace and tranquility within us. This was rudely disturbed by the tragic news that there had been a bomb blast in a park in Lahore killing mainly Christian women and children who had come there to enjoy the holy holiday.
(Religious tolerance and co-existence is the need of the hour)
Hazrat Amir Khusrau heard Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya say when he saw some people praying to their deity:
Har qaum raast raahay, deen-e wa qibla gaahay,
Immediately the disciple replied
Har qaum raast raahay, deen-e wa qibla gaahay,
Mun qibla raast kardam, bar samt kajkulaahay.
Sansaar har ko poojay, kul ko jagat sarahay,
Makkay mein koyi dhoondhay, Kaashi ko koi jaaye,
Guyyian main apnay pi kay payyan padun na kaahay.
Har qaum raast raahay, deen-e wa qibla gaahay…..
Every sect has a faith, a direction (Qibla) to which they turn,
I have turned my face towards the crooked cap (of Nizamudin Aulia)
The whole world worships something or the other,
Some look for God in Mecca, while some go to Kashi (Banaras),
So why can’t I, Oh wise people, fall into my beloved’s feet?
Every sect has a faith, a Qibla.
This led to a lot of soul searching and though I am still very far from finding any answers I present some quotes from friends and family who very kindly answered my question of why Many and faiths and one belief and why religion should be a path to the Divine and not a fight over Him.
I give you their answers:
My Aunt Mrs Rabab Naqvi ( 80 years old) writes:
I think religion should be entirely a personal and private matter. With all the advances in science and technology we still have not found answers to many questions. In time of stress and uncertainly people fall back on their religious beliefs for peace of mind. It also brings people of one religion together. which gives people a sense of community and belonging which is good. What is wrong with religion is the fact that it also divides people on religious grounds. You can argue that it is the practice and misuse of religion not the belief itself. But I feel that all religious preaching and even religious books preach their religion to be the best giving a false sense of superiority and promotes intolerance towards people of others faith.
<strong>Zunaira Naqvi my niece and the youngest in our family writes :
I believe religion should not be forced on anyone. Everyone should have the right to choose what they believe is the the correct path for them. As for me, I follow and practice things that seem logical and relevant to the time we are living in. As human beings and other living things evolve according to the changing times, so should religion. What was applicable 1000 years ago may not be required in today’s world. Practicing numerous rituals does not convey your love and belief for your religion, your thoughts, deeds and personal communication conveys it. Religion is very personal thing and everyone should have the freedom to practice what they believe in.
Alka Mathur my companion on this journey writes:
I remember feeling the presence of a higher being in Brahma temple as well as in Ajmer Sharif Dargah. The atmosphere in both the places was of holy fervor. People in both the places came with hope and faith. I felt at peace in both.
Gayatri Manchanda our navigator writes:
(Gayatri inside the dargah)
Faith and religion are two sides of the same coin. One completes the other. So are the twin cities of Pushkar and Ajmer. There is similarity in diversity of two religions – Hinduism and Islam. Ajmer Sharif shrine epitomises Ishq-E-Haqiqi, spreading unconditional love and Pushkar is a city of holy lake, Brahma Temple, land of the creator of Universe as per Hindu Mythology.
For me, the visit to twin cities of Pushkar and Ajmer was the journey from land of creation to land of nurturing. One completes the other. Just like two sides of a coin.
Or Like two analogous lines running parallel along with banks on both sides of a river. Lines that never meet but their journey is towards the same destination. To be one with one’s self and the Supreme Power.
Gayatri Subramanium another co-passenger writes
Religion should be about promoting the freedom of all beliefs including that of atheistic ones. This is what is true religious freedom and something that is the dire need of our society today.
As Swami Vivekananda rightly put it: “As so many rivers, having their source in different mountains, roll down, crooked or straight, and at last come into the ocean — so, all these various creeds and religions, taking their start from different standpoints and running through crooked or straight courses, at last come unto Thee”
My sister Farah Naqvi writes:
Religion is indeed a path which as you travel makes your connection to God stronger Hence religion should be our strength and not weakness we should not find faults with other religions but be content with our own. I personally think a beggar is not a person who has no money but a beggar is a person who has no one to fall back upon during difficult times. I agree relatives help you big time but when you are feeling really low that one Belief that He is up there and one day things will fall in place keeps you going
Alka Kaushik, travel writer and blogger writes:
As a kid, religion meant just a temple to me while it was a Gurudwara for my bestie Mandeep Kaur. I think this is how we start forming ideas. Later in life, as a young girl, I developed my own definition of religion which was having a faith in some supreme power and ever since then I have never felt the need to change my views. And as this supreme power has no colour or shape or identity, I realized I was in complete harmony with advaita system of Hinduism without me ever being told about this. This is how our families teach us in the initial years and I believe this is true with most of us. A tribal family may teach their children about Nature as the supreme God but they do not tell them that the God of other community/countrymen is less God!
Faith is a private affair for me, as has always been taught by my parents. As such, there is nothing to be displayed or flaunted to the world outside. None’s faith is superior or inferior in comparison to the other’s.
Having said this, I have always felt that it is a powerful weapon in the hands of those in power. British used this weapon to divide us and our own leaders, post-independence have tactfully used caste, religion, faith etc to pit the awam against one another. Hinduism is my private way to send my prayers to the Almighty just like your namaz is a your personal call to Allah or a prayer flag is a Buddhist’s way of practicing his religion. A real faithful can never have any problem with the other faithful going his own but different way. It’s the leaders with their own vested interests who make us fight with one another.
Akul Tripathi, writer & media personality who anchors the Ekaant series on Epic Channel writes:
Ek Aas Ki Aasha
Veeraane mein bikhre shikhar aur kamaan, baithe thhe batiyaate.
Ekaant mein mujhe mile veh, ummeedon ko sehlaate.
Ki nayi zabaani likhegi, ab ek nayi kahaani
Ki yaari-dosti karegi taameer, ab ek nayi nishaani
Saath baithe hain jo khaakh mein
Sar ooncha karenge voh ek hi bagh mein
Judaa rakh paayega na koi Ram, na Raheem
Dharma ki hogi tehzeeb, kehlaayegi
Pervaiz Alam, Professor & Dean at Apeejay Stya University (ASU) writes:
It never occurred to us that we were going to do something that involved two faiths when four of us decided to visit Pushkar and Ajmer in a one single road trip to Rajasthan. I had heard a lot about the Pushkar Temple as one of the very few Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Brahma. Though, later, we realized that three of us came from the Muslim faith and the fourth one represented the Hindu faith. The whole experience turned out to be incredibly fabulous and spiritual. In fact, I would recommend the same itinerary to everyone who’s planning to go to Ajmer. At the Pushkar lake, a Pandit performed puja for us, involving all rituals. As he started reciting the Sanskrit shlokas for the departed souls, he asked me the names of my dead ancestors. The poor chap looked totally confused when he heard some of the classic Muslim names.
He sent the following photograph from the journey taken by Sajid Raza Khan
Mehru Jaffer, well known Author of The Book of Muhammad and columnist writes:
no religion no nation no state no flag no ideology is more sacred than all life than all human beings . love respect care for all creatures and creation of this planet is the only worship worth practicing.
My niece Noor Zainab Husain a journalist writes:
Pope Francis said,”It is the duty of everyone to defend religious freedom and to promote it for all people.”. Walking along the same lines, I have always felt that one must first be allowed to explore their inner faith, to read up about the divine power, culture as well as the history that makes up a “religion”. Such an exploration can lead to a journey not unlike what Rana Safvi and her friends recently undertook. Such a journey will bring forth enlightened and most importantly “educated” minds. In my eyes, education is the greatest form of freedom. A journey or “path” to the divine, rich with life’s experience and culture, will give birth to literate individuals who can make smart decisions and not follow the herd of mindless fanatics who usually don’t even know what they are fighting for! So, I believe, religion should be a path to the divine, a road that will eventually lead to freedom!
Reema Asnani a young professional sent me these photographs instead which are very self explanatory:
Manimugdha Sharma, Journalist with Times of India sent a personal example which can serve as an example for all:
My grandmother was my first teacher of matters of faith and history. She had seen Partition and the bloodshed that it brought and would often tell me stories about it to illustrate the power religion has to divide people. But despite suffering in that great tragedy of 1947, she never uttered a word of hate for the Muslims or anyone else from another religion. In fact, when the Bangladesh War broke out and there was a sea of refugees coming over to India, she and my father had volunteered at a relief camp where most of the people were Muslims. Yet she was a devout woman who would fast every time there was a puja at home, and was the only one in our entire family who knew how to do a Kali puja—people believe Kali gets angry if there’s any mistake at any level. She had a poor opinion about godmen and never wore any amulet or ring, having made her destiny on her own despite becoming a widow at 16 with a month-old son on her lap.
Today, with polarisation happening everywhere, mostly due to the machinations of political and religious groups, perhaps grandma’s life and words wouldn’t make sense to many people. But I strongly believe she was the only person of her age I knew who made sense always.
Lubna Irfan, student of History in AMU writes:
Two faiths One Belief
Why Religion should be a path to the One Divine not a fight between followers
“The condition to which the institution of religion has led mankind is an astonishing state. Instead of implementing the true Loving, Humanitarian and Merciful nature of God in their lives, followers have turned to fulfilling all evil and selfish plans in the name of religion.
The deliberation on the idea of God, Its Nature, Its Being, Its Need have been skilfully marginalized by the so called “protectors of god”. The issue is not religion the issue is ego, whether of a person, or of a community, or of a nation. We are all running in a race of proving our God better than the others’ God.
And in this race we forget how incapable and irrational we are in doing so.
My idea of God is very simple, It’s Perfect. Perfect Knowledge, Perfect Love, Perfect Beauty, Perfect Science, Perfect Time. It can be called by any name and can be worshiped in any way, the idea is to understand that one doesn’t own God, It’s neither ours not theirs, It’s of us all. Even of those who won’t believe in It.
Also God for me is not a distant entity, for me It is inside every human being when he/she does something good selflessly, It is there, It helps people through people.
Another very important aspect is of promoting comparative religious studies, as have been attempted in Medieval Times by Akbar and Dara Shukoh, when one would compare the verses of say Quran and Bible and Torah and Gita one would come across such stark similarities in the basic teachings, in the propagation of a Universal Truth that this would lead to realization among-st people of the need of being humans first. This is the only way one can save Humanity Today.
In addition to that, better understanding of the original sources, the scriptures, with an open mind would lead to better understanding of the things truly important and it will help remove many misconceptions propagated by different people for different purposes.
Prof Ali Nadeem Rezavi, of Centre of Advanced Studies, Dept of History in AMU writes:
My personal belief is that Myriad paths lead only to one destination: the realisation of Divinity. If one remembers this goal, then nothing else matters.
The problem is not the religions, nor their lay practitioners, the real problem is the so-called religious classes, the theologians who to have their ascendancy complicate the simple message of all religions – realisation of Truth and Morality.
Priyanka Manjari writes:
To create symphony out of two faiths, to be more harmonious among ourselves we need to follow religion as a path to one divine. Our religion is in all elements of nature, may it be the wind, the air, the fire, the earth, the sky. Why can’t my mosque and temple be the sea, the whispers of the of the breeze, the free flying birds, the lights sieved through the windows and doors. This school of learning will bring peace to the society, will diminish absurdity slowly and gradually, will make us realize the importance of following for congruence to gather eternal lights than fight for no gains but destruction of humanity. Why at all there has to be principles, distinctions and differences. Let the solidarity Shine!
As Kahlil Gibran asked “Is not religion all deeds and all reflection” and he further stated:
Your daily life is your temple and your religion.
Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.
Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,
The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.
For in reverie you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your failures.
And take with you all men:
For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.
And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.
And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the
lightning and descending in rain.
You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.”
Sanjeev Singh writes:
“बुतख़ाना ओ काबा ख़ानए बंदगी अस्त,
नाक़ूस ज़दन तरान ए बंदगी अस्त ,
मेहराब ओ कलीसा ओ तस्बीह ओ सलीब ,
हक्का कि हमा निशान ए बंदगी अस्त” …
“बुतख़ाना (मंदिर) और काबा दोनों (उस परवरदिगार की) बंदगी की जगह हैं, शंख बजाना उसी की बंदगी का तराना है, मस्जिद के मेहराब, गिरजे के सलीब, तस्बीह सभी उस (परवरदिगार) की बंदगी की निशानियाँ हैं …” ……उमर खय्याम (1048 – 1131 ईस्वी)
Usman Ghani an engineer in Southern Punjab in Pakistan who is from Lahore writes:
I was raised in a society which feared and hated other faiths. That was 1980’s, the Zia regime. Dawn of Taliban.
It took me many years of my adult life to understand that for everyone, their faith was the truth and their path was right.
Although others see today’s society in the light of intolerance, bomb blasts and suicide attacks, I see an emerging ideology in new generation. I hear voices being raised against religious bigotry. Such voices were not heard in 80’s & 90’s
Analysts might think that today’s society (specially in Pakistan) is moving towards extremism because they see bloodshed. I beg to differ. I believe this is the time extremism is fighting its last battle and they’re losing.
I never felt the need to hate or even dislike someone for their belief because I read and tried to understand my religion, instead of asking a Mullah to interpret it for me. When you see for yourself, you know it’s all about love and peace.
My daughter Subuhi Safvi writes:
I think it’s important to have a space to explore what you believe in so that you learn more about religions and can decide what works for you.
The current state breeds more contempt and ignorance. It’s a path to the Divine and it should be worked on. By that I mean, everyone should work on their connection to the divine and not just go with what’s being told to you. Because that is what causes problems. Every person passes their own prejudices or beliefs down and the true message of divinity gets lost along the way, then religion becomes more about rituals and less about spirituality. We work so hard at our jobs, making money, our homes, our bodies, our images etc, we should work equally hard on our spiritual connection. And that usually gets diluted when you’re just told what to do, or it gets peppered with resentment because rituals can be annoying without understanding.
Prerna Jain, photographer writes:
I am proud of myself that I can recite, Jain Navkar Mantra, Hindu Gayatri Mantra, La Ilaaha from Islam, Sikh Ardaas and Christian Hymns. I feel the same feeling of peace in a Temple, Dargah, Church and other places of worship. Don’t follow rituals of any religion yet respect all religions in the same way. I have friends from different religious sects, they are as good or bad as the others.
Aditya Pathak a young professional writes:
The concept of “religion” forms one of the fundamentals of the societies and communities today. Yet, we see that “religion” finds its place in being a central reason for conflicts across the globe. This makes me believe that somewhere our understanding of this concept is flawed.
For me, institutionalisation of religion ultimately leads to corruption of the same due to politicisation. Also, the fact that newborns “inherit” their “religion” from their families leads to half baked awareness about the fundamental vision of the beliefs.
The basic unit of any caste or community is an “individual”. And, their expressions maybe different, but the natural instincts, the humane characteristics, the awareness of one’s own being remain the same across the globe. Apparently, finding/realising/discovering one’s own “nature” is one’s own “religion”. This is also reflected in the fact that we find references to nature, winds, birds, rivers, love, nectar, beauty and formlessness in the works and writings of several aware individuals from various sects, be it Sufis, wandering Hindu saints, Shamans or even those walking the paths of the Buddha, Tao and Zen… at times they all seem to be talking of the same fragrance…the same source!
If a new born is given a chance, is exposed to faiths and beliefs from across the globe and is made aware of the lives of great men and women (and not just of their greatness) from world over – I am sure he/she will grow into a more aware individual and will be able to realise his/her own nature, own religion one day…and with a community full of such individuals harmony will prevail and life will be a piece of art 🙂 Amen!
Prof Shubha Tiwari writes: a friend from Sindh in Pakistan writes:
Sindh is a secular polity. There is no discrimination on religious grounds. All Sufi shrines are attended by all faiths all most all over , but the most interesting part in Sindh is that at Shewan that custodian of the shrine is a Hindu. Untill I was in college the Shiva linga was part of the rituals that one would do at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.
Anil Chandra, retired advertising executive writes:
In my opinion the Man made the God after he learned to hunt n gather, after he had made tools good enough to hunt, after he had learned to make fire n learned to swim n make raft to cross rivers. Now he had arrived. He had learnt to overcome most of the threats. He was well fed n learnt the skill of ownership. He did not want anyone to have more n better. His God grew with him from stone and water and fire and rain of snow and storm to his imaginary shapes. Mine had to be better than yours. The antithesis had begun.
That’s my take on God n religion. My own faith is very dear n personal to me like my intimate part of my life. It’s neither light or path.
Shubra Chatterji, Director of Ekaant and Lost recipes of India on Epic Channel writes:
I have always felt that the one place I see no religious divide is our film and tv industry. It’s quite beautiful really. It’s a happy co-existence that I feel transcends the divide. On my team itself my Executive Producer Anthony is Christian, my cameraman Ismail and sound recordist Shahnawaz are both Muslim, and I am Hindu. Akul is a UP Bhrahmin. Ram is a Yadav from Bihar. but we eat, live, travel the country and work together. These boys take care of me everywhere we go. You must have met them during the shoot. It’s the same across the board. Across the industry. Even the little rituals that are followed. The first shot to be rolled on any shoot every morning is a shot of a pic of Ganpati. After the first shot, a coconut is broken and all partake. In a similar vein, during ramzan, the whole team breaks for iftaari and eats together. I’m talking about every crew in Bombay. I feel the pursuit of a higher cause… In this case art… together… has melted away a divide if any. This is a space that is truly multi-religious. You can think about it… Look back at the pre-partition industry, immediately after partition, and right up till now… You will realise that there exists a oneness.
Adnan Ghani who never misses his Friday prayers is married to Sonal a practising Sikh and they have a 4 year old adorable son Amaan who is being brought up in teachings of the best of both the religions. he writes:
For us, LOVE is the only religion……Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism etc are merely sects. We both are indeed religious, but not sectarian.
We can understand it better through a Urdu couplet : Idhar Masjid udhar Mandir, idhar Gurudwara udhar Girija / Tujhe sajde se matlab hai, jahan chahe wahan girja
The above is our joint view on religion and religious practices all together.
For Amaan the religious place where he doesn’t get some prasad / mithayi……is not a religious place 🙂
Sudha Ganpathy a senior academician writes and I respect her for sharing with us:
I would like to share something personal. Something that happened about 20 years back. Something that I have not shared with many people.
It was a time when I was very angry about religion per se. I was the angriest with my own religion. I declared to my mother that I was an athiest and didn’t believe that there was anything like God.
Those were difficult days and I was angry with anything religious. My mother tried talking to me, but I was contemptuous of her belief and her God. One day, after a heated argument, my mother said something that shocked me.
[ She said that it was important to believe in a higher power. If I got that sense from some other religion, then why not I consider studying other religions and maybe even converting if that made sense to me.
To say that i was shocked is a bit of an understatement. Here was a woman who was a devout and practicing Hindu telling me to choose my own religious path. I thought she was joking, but she meant it.
I think that was the time I really understood what faith and belief was.
(Thank you Sudha for sharing this deeply personal anecdote with us. Your mother is a very courageous lady with very firm belief and very forward thinking. I wish more mothers could guide their children so well)
My Cousin Sakina Hussain writes:
Some of the greatest struggles, as well as joys that I have experienced as a parent have centered around passing on my religious beliefs and value system to my children. As a mother, I want to see them run and grow, but also worry about them being led astray. However, the one thing I have learnt is that it is very important to give little humans as much credit and respect as the big ones! Children should be allowed to embark on a journey or “path” of self enlightenment. As a parent, one can only pray that their kids meet the divine being along the way. If we take away the pleasure of such a journey, a child is at the risk of being close minded and unaware. This will lead to wars in the name of religion. I, therefore believe that religion should be a path to the Divine and not a fight over Him.
Times are such that we have to fight bigotry on each and every forum that we have access to. Bigotry comes in all shapes and sizes and has no religion.
There was a Facebook status by journalist Natasha Badhwar on how some Hindus feel unsafe in a Hindu rashtra. She called the person out by telling her to try being a Muslim in a Hindu rashtra.
This person is not the only one as we have many Muslims too saying such things. This is all part of the propaganda to make everyone be suspicious of the other and make it Us vs Them.
The point is that we have to learn to go back to gentler times, be more patient, larger hearted and stop believing propaganda which is being spread by whatsapp and FB messages.
Dushyant Arora, a young lawyer replies to a comment on the post:
Vile people do and have engaged in poisonous propaganda all over the world. And vile propaganda needs to be called out. In a time when a ‘majoritarian’ sentiment is rampant, attributing ignorance to vitriol is either silly or cowardice or veiled complicity.
Mazhab nahin sikhata aapas mein baer rakhna
Hindi hain hum, watan hai Hindstan hamara
(Note : This is an on going journey I will keep adding as and when I get more reactions. )
Stay curious, stay strong but stay innocent like a child on your journey towards God