Friday 16 November 2012

'Vaishnavism' Engulfing Uttarakhand's Local Culture

Written by Anil Singh

The inspiration for today's write-up comes from a News report in one of the local newspapers. The Headline of the report says: 'Bhagwad Katha Destroys all Sins'.

If it is true, then everyone should either read, Listen or organise a Bhagwad Katha (After all quashing all the Sins, is central tenet of most religions).

But doing anything requires time. Because there are only 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year, a person either has to take time out for a Bhagvad Katha -- A Time which he was spending on some other activity; or he has to choose between two competing alternatives. For instance he can devote the same time Hence there's always a need to make place for any activity. An action which means either displacing or totally leaving another.

With Bhagwat Katha happening in every nook and corner of the state, these Bhagwat Kathas, which are a part of 'Vaishnavism' are Engulfing Uttarakhand's Local Culture.

Let I explain how.

Earlier we Hill people, used to do Pujas in our own way in our local temples. We celebrated harvest festivals such as Jagars and performed ritual animal sacrifices. Now all this is being replaced by Bhagwat Kathas and Kirtans.

Today many among us may see a bigger and more compelling point in banning animal slaughter in Uttarakhand and elsewhere. But the point which I'm making here is that : Whatever way we may look at the situation today, we will see that sooner than later the local Hill culture and rituals of Uttarakhand hill people will go into oblivion (Will be LOST!).

This is in the DNA of Vaishnavism (or the broader Hindu religion being practiced in India and elsewhere). It eats other religions, and cultures, and assimilates them into it.

During Harappa age, people used to worship Indra (God of Lightening and Rain), Sun (Usha), Varun etc. that is the nature forces. By Late Vedic Age all these are replaced by Vaishnav Gods like Vishnu, Shiva (Proto Shiva of Harappa age). Buddhism and Jainism which were founded in India; can't survive in India. In recent years, most Indian cultures (which included cultures in Uttarakhand Hills as well) are slowly getting transformed into wider Hindu culture.

Since the pace of change is much faster now, than ever; hence it will not be surprise if local Uttarakhand Culture gets wiped from public memory in the next 10 years; and where we will find local rituals second fiddle to wider Hindu culture. In the way, we see Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, not as the founder of a religion opposed to Hindu orthodox and rituals; but as an incarnation of God Vishnu (which may indeed be debatable).

When Supreme Court imposed a ban on Animal slaughter; I though that many Uttarakhand people will oppose the ban. But interestingly there is no such disappointment. Although killing an animal may or may not be liked by most people; what saddened me is the fact that the Uttarakhand Local culture, which we inherited from our fore fathers is slowly losing the battle to Vaishnavism.

To conclude, in this secret war between Uttarakhand's Local Culture & religion AND the Wider Hindu culture (as preached by Pandits); the Wider Hindu culture will Win. The Win will be visible this way:

Though many of the local religious practices of Uttarakhand People will be trashed as cruel, inhuman and illogical; they will still exist. But this time they will exist in a way which benefits Vaishanvism. For instance, people will not be able to slaughter animal in their pujas; but they will be paying the Priest the Price for the Goat (the way people do Gaudan, "Gifting a Cow").

Now, how much this issue is relevant to you, I don't know; but it will not be a great sign, if the Rich and diverse culture of Uttarakhand gets engulfed by Vaishnavism, which is mostly regulated by the whims and fancies of Pandas (Priests).


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