Tuesday October 23, 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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The Other Side of “Hindu Pakistan”

Although, the mainstream parties stay away from nominating Hindus, this time there are many independent Hindu candidates contesting from general seats — mostly from the Sindh province

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Hinduism
The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Sagarneel Sinha

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s remark that India would become a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP is elected again in 2019, sparked off a major debate among the political circles of the country. BJP didn’t let the opportunity go by launching a scathing attack on Tharoor and his party for insulting Hindus and Indian democracy, forcing the Congress party to distance itself from its own MP’s comment. Only one year is left for the next general elections and in a politically polarised environment such comments serve as masala for political battles where perception is an important factor among the electorates.

Actually, Tharoor, through his statement, is trying to convey that “India may become a
fundamentalist state just like its neighbour — Pakistan”. Tharoor is a shrewd politician and his remarks are mainly for political gains. The comments refer to our neighbour going to polls on 25 th of this month which has a long history of ignoring minorities where the state institutions serve as a tool for glorifying the religious majority bloc and ridiculing the minorities. This compelled me to ponder about the participation of the Hindus — the largest minority bloc of the country, in the upcoming polls.

There are total 37 reserved seats for minorities in Pakistan — 10 in the National Assembly
(Lower House), 4 in the Senate (Upper House) and 23 in various state legislatures — 9 in the Sindh assembly, 8 in Punjab and 3 each in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistani Hindus, like other minorities have the dual voting rights in principle. But the reality is they have no rights to vote for their own representatives as the seats are reserved — means the distribution of these seats are at the discretion of parties’ leadership. Practically speaking, these reserved seats are meant for political parties not for minorities. In case of general seats, it is almost impossible for a Hindu candidate to win until and unless supported by the mainstream parties of the country. The bitter truth is — the mainstream parties have always ignored the Hindus by hesitating to field them from general seats. In 2013, only one Hindu candidate — Mahesh Kumar from the Tharparkar district won from a general seat, also became the only minority candidate to make it to the National Assembly from a general seat. This time too, he is nominated by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — a major centre-left party of Pakistan. However, there are no other Hindu candidates for a general seat from the two other significant centre-right parties — former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s Tehreek-E-Insaf (PTI). Although, there is a Hindu candidate named Sanjay Berwani from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — a Karachi (capital of Sindh province) based secular centrist party of Pakistan.

Shashi_tharoor
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s remark that India would become a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP is
elected again in 2019, sparked off a major debate among the political circles of the country.

The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures. It means that despite the state’s hostile policies, Hindus have been able to remain stable in a highly Islamist polarised society. 90% of the Hindu population of the country lives in the Sindh province. Hindu population in Umerkot,Tharparkar and Mirpur Khas districts of the Sindh province stands at 49%, 46% and 33% respectively — making them the only three substantial Hindu districts of the country. The three districts have 5 National Assembly and 13 Provincial seats. However, Hindus have never well represented from these seats.

Although, the mainstream parties stay away from nominating Hindus, this time there are many independent Hindu candidates contesting from general seats — mostly from the Sindh province. Many of them belong to the Schedule caste — the Dalit community. A recent report based on Pakistan Election Commission’s data says that out of 2.5 lakh women of Tharparkar district, around 2 lakh of them are not included in the electoral list — means that they are not entitled to vote for the upcoming general elections. All over the country, there are about 1.21 crore women voters who will not be able to vote in the elections. The reason is the lack of an identity card. Most of them are poor who are unable to pay the expenses required for an identity card. This has made difficult for independent Hindu Dalit candidates like Sunita Parmar and Tulsi Balani as most of their supporters will not be voting in the upcoming polls. In Tharparkar district, around 33% percent are the Hindu Dalits — brushed aside by the mainstream parties. The reserved seat candidates are based on party nominations, where mainly the upper caste Hindus are preferred. Radha Bheel, a first time contestant and the chairperson of Dalit Suhaag Tehreek (DST), a Dalit organisation, says that the fight is for the rights of the lower socio-economic class and scheduled castes. Sunita, Tulsi, Radha and the other independent Hindu candidates know
that the possibility of winning from the general seats is bleak but for them the contest is for their own identity — an identity never recognised by the political parties and the establishment of Pakistan.