When did we lose the power to think independently? When did news agencies change their role from transmitters of information to mediums of forcing particular opinions down our throats? Are we ever going to realise how certain systems and practices are so ubiquitous in our society that all of us follow them without realising how wrong they are? Are we ever going to be firm enough to not need the influence of “godmen” in our lives? Will we ever be able to accept our past and just live happily in the present?
We are living in a world which might look like a progressive one but if one looks with a keen eye, the omnipresent truth will raise its ugly head. We are taking a step backwards with the passing of every single day. In this post-truth era, words matter more to us than actions, we are so satisfied with the appearance of perfection that we never really try to achieve it. A gamut of difficult issues present themselves in front of us day in and day out and these aren’t issues that can be solved from a top-down approach. A bottom-up approach is what we need.
Women on their periods cannot go to the temple, cannot roam around freely in their own homes, cannot enter the kitchen, cannot touch plants and in many extreme cases, cannot touch the male members of the family. In many regions in the mid and far western parts of Nepal, women have to live in seclusion in huts called goths, where the living conditions are bad enough to cause deaths. It is interesting to see all religions unite for establishing these taboos.
Menstrual taboos are found in the Quran:
“go apart from women during the monthly course, do not approach them until they are clean” Quran 2:222
They are also found in the Bible:
“…in her menstrual impurity; she is unclean… whoever touches…shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening” Leviticus 15.
Even though the Vedas don’t particularly portray menstrual cycles to be impure, Hindus have also been ostracizing women on their periods since times immemorial. The origin of this myth dates back to the Vedic times and is often been linked to Indra’s slaying of Vritras. The Veda declares that the guilt of killing a brahmana symbolically manifests itself in the form of menstrual flow every month in women because they had taken upon themselves a part of Indra’s guilt. Cultural norms and religious taboos on menstruation are often compounded by traditional associations with evil spirits, shame and embarrassment surrounding sexual reproduction. In some cultures, women bury their cloths used during menstruation to prevent them being used by evil spirits.What good is a religion if it cannot accept a creation of god, a creation of the very nature it worships? It is heart-wrenching to see smart, educated people following many of these practices in the name of tradition and religion.
This is exactly where the “Godmen” come into the picture. Godmen, as the name suggests, are considered as ‘men of God’ who can act as a channel between the common public and the God. Such Godmen are considered charismatic and are thought to possess certain magical powers like quickly healing a wound, producing gold from soil and other similar tactics. The sheer lack of confidence in ourselves leads us to their “ashrams” opening up innumerable possibilities for them. They can take us for a ride without our knowledge and inveigle us into believing in their superiority. In this delirium, everything else stops mattering to us and we are ready to do anything on one command uttered by our “guru”. This not only leads to social and economic exploitation and but also ends up becoming an exploitation that we welcome with open arms when we succumb to the brainwashing. There has been an alarming increase in the number of rape cases filed against these adroit individuals. At the beginning, this looked like a good sign because it meant that people have again started thinking for themselves. The mirth, however, was short-lived. The media attention that they got did not have any effect on their “fan-following”. Their “bhakts” still believed that these are publicity tactics to malign their “guru’s” impeccable image. The charismatic persona of these self proclaimed “Godmen” is enough for their followers to believe each word that comes out of their mouths. Religion ceases to be a personal affair. This is a cause of deep concern because these “Godmen” are creating “armies” of their own and even if they don’t preach violence, if this continues for long, we might be signing up for a pretty difficult future.
The insouciant attitude is what we need to do away with. Disapproval needs to be expressed fearlessly and problems must be talked about openly. If we fervently believe that we can be the harbingers of change, we can do it.
– Contributed by Vinny
Picture Credits: Representational Image Only (Credits – desiringgod.org)