Saturday January 20, 2018

Does visiting a temple in western attire cause disrespect to God?

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By Pratyasha Nithin

Thousands of people visit temples every day for variety of reasons though the primary purpose of the temple is to allow people to offer their devotion to the Gods. Most women in India wear saree or salwar-suit to the temple. But, some women do wear casual tops and jeans, or skirts to temple as they are more comfortable in those clothes.

Such women who visit temples in western clothes may sometimes be subjected to stares and unnecessary attention from other people inside the temple. The elder generation often advises girls and women to wear only saree or salwar-suits to the temple.

Well there is nothing wrong per se in wearing Indian dresses, but it is often suggested, sometimes explicitly and most times implicitly, that going to temple in western attire amounts to disrespect to the deities who reside there. But does this suggestion hold any real value? Or is it just a mere superstition? Does it have any meaning from the standpoint of dharma?Grand_Palace_dress_code

Let us examine few hypothetical scenarios to understand the matter.

Scenario 1: Let’s say a woman gets ready in a traditional attire to visit temple. When she reaches the temple, she hastily takes darsana of the deity and then sits right next to her traditional friend who had arrived a few minutes ago. Then instead of doing japa or meditation or simply praying the deity, they sit there and gossip about their neighbors, daughter-in-laws, mother-in-laws, cousins etc. Is it respectful to do so?

Scenario 2: Now, take a situation where the same woman sits in her house in a traditional dress to do puja, but in the middle of the puja, instead of concentrating on the deity, she starts thinking about her problems, her conversations with her husband, and her arguments with her children etc. Now these thoughts will make her angry and frustrated and then she starts thinking about finishing the ritual as soon as possible because now what she is doing does not interest her anymore. Is keeping such anger and frustration in mind during the puja, and thinking about finishing the ritual with no more interest respectful towards the deity?

Scenario 3: Let’s now assume that this traditional* woman does not do any of the things mentioned above. Instead, she is very keen about doing the rituals properly. When she is in a temple, she sits silently and tries to concentrate on the deity. But suddenly another woman in a western outfit, may be a jeans or a skirt, arrives. As soon as the traditional woman sees the modern woman, she thinks – “Oh she has no sense of dressing in a temple. Why on earth temple authorities allow such women in the temple? It is so disrespectful.” At this point, the traditional woman’s concentration gets diverted. Instead of thinking about deity in front of her, now her mind is irritated and thinking about the western-attired woman whom she considers as culture-less. Is this attitude also not disrespectful towards the deity? Irrespective of the attitude of western attired woman, our traditional lady who had come to offer worship to the deity, has sidelined the deity and is now concentrating on another woman which also amounts to disrespect** towards the deity.

Scenario 4: Let’s now consider the modern woman. When she arrives at the temple, she is in a good mood. She takes darsana and is waiting for the priest to give her thirtha and prasad. But suddenly she finds a few ladies sitting there, pointing towards her and gossiping about her dress etc. This, of course, makes her uncomfortable. She thinks, “Why on earth these ladies cannot mind their own business? They are sitting here gossiping about my dress. Couldn’t they spare the temple? Oh, what a cheap mentality?” Now, two things can be observed here. First, the gossiping traditional ladies not only showed disrespect to the deity by gossiping, but also by diverting and distracting others. Secondly, this modern-attired woman was also no better than the traditional-attired woman in terms of devotion and mind-control. She did no better than the gossiping group. She easily became distracted and became angry at those who were gossiping about her dress. Also, now her thoughts were more concentrated on her own dress and on the gossiping women, than on the deity in front of her. Hence, in this case, the traditional-attired women and the western-attired woman, both were disrespectful towards the deity.

Scenario 5: Now consider a second traditional woman, who regularly goes to temple, sits and meditate. She does not care about the world around her. All she knows is that the temple is there to concentrate and meditate on God. After a few moments, a modern woman comes. She sees this woman and thinks, “Wow, what a dedication. So many people are around here and she is still meditating. If only I could meditate with such dedication.” Well, to be inspired with other people is good. To think about our own faults is good as well. But, it should not end with thinking. If it ends with only thoughts, as it has happened with this western-attired woman, she is committing the same mistake as people in previous scenarios. This western-attired woman is again concentrating on what other people are doing, instead of focusing her mind on the deity. Hence, she commits same disrespect.

Scenario 6: Now what if a western-attired woman sits and meditates in the temple. And a traditional woman sees her. This traditional woman can either be impressed with the western-attired woman’s devotion and dedication, or she may find it as a drama and show-off. In either case, if this traditional woman is only thinking about western-attired woman or about what others are doing, then she is also committing same disrespect as in the case of western-attired woman in scenario 5.

Scenario 7: Now, consider another woman who is crazy about her dressing sense. She may be traditional or modern. Before she leaves her house, instead of thinking about the deity or doing japa she keeps admiring her looks. She wants to look perfect. She puts on full makeup, wears her best outfit and goes to temple. Even in the temple, her concentration is on her looks. She does not want to touch or take anything that would ruin her looks. Her mind is stuck on herself. Irrespective of the attire she is wearing, she is disrespectful towards the deity, as her mind is elsewhere.

From all the above scenarios, it is clear that it does not matter how one dresses, it’s the thoughts and devotion that matter. The deity is not human to think about one’s materialistic appearances. He/She/It is far above that. The truth is, even if one covers every single inch of his/her body thinking that the nakedness will be offensive to the deity, even then all his/her efforts are wasted, as there is nothing hidden from the deity.

So even if one sits naked in front of the deity, it cannot be disrespectful to the deity. God knows what one thinks and what one does, he sees only dedication and not appearance. And most importantly, he gives one only what one deserves.

God would not prefer a person wearing traditional outfit but with zero concentration and devotion over a person wearing western outfit, but with strong dedication and devotion. If one worships God devotionally, he will be spiritually elevated. If one indulges in gossiping and is solely concerned about dresses, one will be more bounded to the mundane world. So it’s better if people stop arguing about dress codes and dressing sense, and wear whatever they are comfortable with and put their best efforts towards developing devotion and dedication towards the deity they adore.

Note:

* I have used the term “traditional woman” only in the sense of someone who considers herself very traditional and devoted just because she wears sarees and adheres to normally accepted outer ways of life. (She may not be truly traditional in the sense of rooted in traditional values of dharma)
** Actually, a deity does not get offended by any of our actions. He is the giver of fruits of our actions. When we say we are showing God disrespect, it does not mean God is getting offended. It only means, that our actions are improper and our attitude towards God disrespectful.

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12 Interesting Facts About Somnath Temple Probably You Didn’t Know

The Somnath Temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot.

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Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
  • Somnath Temple is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode
  • The first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past
  • Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga

Somnath Temple is a specimen of fine architecture of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas Shrines of Shiva. This place is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode, therefore it is dubbed as Eternal Shrine. This legendary temple has been vandalized numerous times in the history but with the help of some Hindu Kings, the temple was reshaped each time.

Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. The temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot. Lord Shiva has a strong connection here and also known as shrine eternal.

Somnath Temple History

According to popular tradition, the first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past. The second temple has been built at the same site by the “Yadava kings” of Vallabhi around 649 CE. In 725 CE, Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sindh destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. In 815 CE, the Gurjara-Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple, a huge structure of red sandstone.

Also Read: Top 10 Famous Hindu Temples of Tamil Nadu

The Chaulukya (Solanki) king Mularaja possibly built the first temple at the site sometime before 997 CE, even though some historians believe that he may have renovated a smaller earlier temple.

Somnath Temple Attacks

Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga. Ghazni took away the wealth of almost 20 million dinars. As per historical records, the damage to the temple by was quite negligible because there are records of pilgrimages to the temple in 1038, which has no much mention of any damage to the temple.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

But claims are there that Mahmud had killed 50,000 devotees who tried to defend the temple. The temple at the time of Ghazni’s attack appears to have been a wooden structure, which is said to have decayed in time.

According to an inscription of 1169, Kumarapala rebuilt it in “excellent stone and studded it with jewels,”

Also Read: Angkor Wat: History behind Cambodian Hindu temple

Then in 1299, the Somnath Temple was invaded by Alauddin Khalji’s army, led by Ulugh Khan. They defeated the Vaghela king Karna and sacked the Somnath temple. Legends state that the Jalore ruler Kanhadadeva later recovered the Somnath idol and freed the Hindu prisoners, after an attack on the Delhi army near Jalore. However, some other sources state that the idol was taken to Delhi, where it was thrown to be trampled under the feet of Muslims.

The Somnath Temple was rebuilt by Mahipala I, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra in 1308 and the lingam was installed by his son Khengara sometime between 1331 and 1351.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage.

In 1395, the temple was again destroyed for the third time by Zafar Khan, the last governor of Gujarat under the Delhi Sultanate and later founder of Gujarat Sultanate.

In 1546, the Portuguese who were based in Goa attacked ports and towns in Gujarat including Somnath Temple and destroyed several of its structures.

Somnath temple to Dwarka

Dwarka is an ancient city in the Indian state of Gujarat. It is very near to Somnath temple and due to its relevance to Hindu pilgrimage; people do tend to visit this place also.

Also Read: The Temple of Death: The Abode of Yamraj

The magnificent Temple of Dwarka has an elaborately tiered main shrine, a carved entrance and a black-marble idol of Lord Krishna.

Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons

The road distance between Dwarka and Somnath is 231 km and the aerial distance from Dwarka to Somnath is 210 km. One can also cover the distance through train which is almost 398km distant.

Here are some facts that are attached to this sacred and architecturally marvellous temple.

  1. The present-day Somnath Temple was built in five years, from 1947 to 1951 and was inaugurated by then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad.
  2. Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga, the Philosopher’s stone, which is associated with Lord Krishna. The stone is said to be magical, which was capable of producing gold. It is also believed that stone had alchemic and radioactive properties and thus it remains floating above the ground.
  3. The temple finds its reference in the sacred texts of Hindus like Shreemad Bhagavat, Skandpuran, Shivpuran and Rig-Veda. This signifies the importance of this temple as one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India.
  4. According to records, the site of Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times as it was said to be the junction of three rivers, Kapila, Hiran and the mythical Saraswati. The meeting point was called as Triveni Sangam and is believed to be the place where Soma, the Moon-god bathed and regained his lustre.
  5. According to Swami Gajanand Saraswati (a Hindu scholar), the first temple was built 7, 99, 25,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skanda Puran.
  6. The temple is said to be located at such a place that there is no straight-line land between Somnath seashore till Antarctica continent. In a Sanskrit inscription, found on the Arrow-Pillar called Baan-Stambh is stated that the temple stands at a point on the Indian piece of land, which happens to be the first point on land in the north to the south-pole on that particular longitude.

    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
  7. According to the text of Skanda Purana, the name of Somnath Temple will change every time the world is reconstructed. It is believed when Lord Brahma will create a new world after ending the one we are living, Somnath will acquire a new name of Pran Nath Temple.
  8. On the walls of Somnath Temple, the sculptures of Lord Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu can be seen.
  9. According to another reference in the Skanda Purana, there are about 6 Brahmas. This is the era of 7thBrahma who is called Shatanand.
  10. The flag mast on the peak of Somnath Temple is 37 feet long and it changes 3 times a day.
  11. The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati.
  12. Non-Hindus doesn’t require any special permission to visit Somnath Temple. The decision was taken in view of security issues.Now, pack your bags and begin your journey to one of the most the sacred places of India.