Sunday, September 19, 2004


Nothing like spending quality time with your countryfolk. Yesterday was the first day of the Ganesh festival. Last year, I had spent the day completely uneventfully, because I could not get in touch with any Indians from Emory. Well, frankly, there are almost no Indians at Emory, one reason being that it lacks an Engineering School.
But yesterday, I got a surprise visit from one of my friends at Georgia State. GSU has a respectable, reasonably sized Indian Student Association and my friend told me that 'a few' of them were going to get together for Ganpati. I was pleasantly surprised when this group of few actually turned out to be a garrulous gathering of about 20-25 students, most of them Maharashtrians and 'Mumbaikars' at that. The group had put together the whole works, getting a beautiful idol of Ganpati from the International Farmers' Market, and making kilos of the traditional 'prasad'. We had a ball of a time singing the 'Aartees' together, and eating the ton of 'prasad' which everyone had enthusiastically concocted, not to mention cracking typical tongue in cheek Marathi jokes.
Festivals are a fantastic time for connecting with the storehouses of culture and memories in your mind. One important thing I realise is that they can be enjoyed by everyone with the same cultural backgrounds, even remotely so, irrespective of people's religious beliefs and the intensity of those beliefs. I am an agnostic, and hence cannot vouch for a personal, all forgiving or punishing God. The wonderful thing is that whether you believe in such a God or not, you can always enjoy such events because they connect you to your childhood and culture in a unique way. In that respect I think, culture is greater than religion, and subtle and powerful are the ties that bind you to it. These ties are all-accomodating, at least from my perspective, and they don't care whether the participant is a skeptic, downright atheist or a soulful mantra chanter. For me, this fact is a source of delight much greater than any possible religious revelation.


Blogger Hirak said...

Had a similar experience on Saturday. Was wondering if it was moral to be mumbling Sanksrit Shlokas which I did not know what they really meant. I did it anyway like all the million times before. Vowing like each time to ensure that the next time I will know what I am really doing from a religious and knowledge standpoint and not simple a cultural or social one.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Culture is greater than religion..."

I am not so sure about that. For one, redictionist creed based religions - like Christianity, Islam and to some extent Buddhism span several cultures. And while religious influence on culture can be fairly strong, it is seldom uniform or universal.

Secondly, in case of national religious traditions like Hinduism, culture and religion often become symbiotic to the point of being indistinguishable.

RYC: I certainly am not a 'patient' because there's nothing wrong with me.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Well, I don't think there's anything immoral in it. Psychologically, it can be nothing more than a feel-good device, and there's nothing wrong in feeling good, isn't it?

3:45 PM  

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