Are rituals performed in India relevant in modern age ?


Rituals play a very important part of our life, whether it is religious, cultural or personal. We live by some principles in our life, some of them meditate and some go to gym while others go to temple. The significance of rituals or you may name it differently like discipline, habit or practice, but eventually it all boils down to some repetitive action that you perform on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. You understand the significance behind the ritual you perform as a part of your choice, like you eat food 3 times or take a bath in the morning. For some it might be similar as to going to temple.

Whether that makes any sense to you or not is your look out. If that makes sense to them or not, is not your look out. Everyone has a sense of choice to make. No one is forcing you to follow any ritual and if they are then what is that stopping you from listening to it? I am a non-religious person and I am a non-visitor of temple or any religious shrine as a part of ritual or compulsion. I visit for architectural reasons and in a quest to understand the significance of that place. I take part in all rituals over there and try to experience the divinity. It is like going to an amusement park and taking part in all the rides.  Some do participate, some don’t. Some like to take deep dives while others keep it simple. Everyone has a margin to experience certain feelings. Similarly everyone has a margin to experience spirituality. You cannot question what they do  is correct or not.

Now that I put some base to the topic, I would like to address few questions that some of us have –

  • We Indians give too much importance to rituals…
    • Really do we? There is a whole lot of generation coming up who are loosing the essentials of the rituals and forgetting them. Some might be following them strictly but not everyone. Your inclusiveness of the  questions, makes me wonder if the question is about the rituals or about small community of people or about those who try to misuse the knowledge they have.
  • Visiting a temple on a particular day…
    • Whether or not one should visit a temple
    • If so do they do it on particular days
    • Now let me ask you something, where do you go to read books?
    • Where do you go to watch movies?
    • You can watch at home, you can read at home, yet you go to library and theaters. You go to libraries on Mondays and movies on Friday, similarly you to Sai Baba temples on Thursday. You can pray at home, yet going to a place with certain significance helps. It helps to channelize your thoughts. You eat on dinning table, you sleep on bed and you go pee in the bathroom. It is the place devoted for a particular task or action and you do that in that place.
  • Fasting for religious reasons
    • Let me elaborate your assumptions
    • Fasting for Shiva on Mahashivratri
      • The reason was never religious. The reason was for your physical good and some spiritual significance. A stop point to check yourself.
  • Are these relevant in this age?
    • How do you measure relevance? They were never more important to understand than now. We are on the verge to tip off and wash ourselves from all the rituals and cultural diversities. We are all moving towards one goal of fitting in the trend and social media status update. We have lost a lot of heritage, knowledge and learning from the past, now we don’t want to lose whatever is left!
    • Culture doesn’t die when people die. Culture dies when people stop doing those things. There are many food recipes that people don’t cook anymore, because no one cared to learn that in the kitchen. Similarly if we stop caring for the rituals and consider to stop them because of our laziness, lameness or rudeness to understand that, then we will be doing the most punishable act in the eyes of history and future generation.
    • When my friend asks why don’t we know what was there in Nalanda! How did they manage to build such a wonderful caves in the middle of nowhere! Why don’t we have any tracks, knowledge and documentation of such immense knowledge. The only answer I would give it to him is ask yourself and people around you, who are being dumb and lazy enough to ask the question of significance of the rituals performed in Indian Culture. Once a generation questioned the credibility of building all the temples and we lost half of the knowledge related to architecture. Now we question the credibility of following the rituals, we abandon the entire civilization. Welcome to modern India – f**king killing their own culture.
  • Or they are just a solace to fight our fears and insecurities?
    • Fear is the one hardwired feeling in our minds from the times of caves. You cannot do anything about it. Fear has kept us, humans, alive longer than what is expected. We will continue to do so, in our fear of extinction, we keep teaching our next generation to strive harder and stronger. We are always in a fear.

What do you think are the right questions to ask?
Do you think the rituals performed in India have lost all their significance?

If you want to understand or explore the significance of the culture and rituals performed in India, you may visit – Discovering the Cultural Significance of various rituals and festivals in India.

Please feel to share your opinions or thoughts on this post.

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33 thoughts on “Are rituals performed in India relevant in modern age ?

  1. It’s not that easy…..rituals and customs are closely tied with philosophy and way of life; especially for Hindus. If Hindus start waking up late and going to pubs and parties, they stop the ritual of early morning meditation, absolution etc. Similarly, if women start leave their hair untied, then they generally do stop putting on jasmine flowers….you get the gist.

    Thus the root is for us to be proud of our culture and follow it, instead of hob-knobbing to western culture which is proving to be in a decline before it is even born,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a 100% ritualist – a properly trained (Yajur) Vedic and Tantrik ritualist.

    I completely agree with your analysis and I am so glad that there is at least one sane well-reasoned voice amidst this general negativity about rituals. I pity the so called “modern” secularists who are quintessential RNI (resident non-Indians) – eating pizza, drinking coke, watching Salman Khan movies and questioning Vedanta. This American style dumbing-down of a generation of India is truly troublesome.

    Instead of irrelevant topics like these, they should question the relevance of multiculturalism, communism, western universalism, American exceptionalism and the Arabic Doctrine of War – these combined have brought tremendous harm and destruction to society as a whole – not Indian rituals.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A very thought provoking post Bhanu! I totally agree to the point that we all have a margin for everything ..be it for the feelings, our thoughts or the spiritual part.
    I don’t think the rituals performed in India have lost their significance but it all depends on whom we are questioning or rather who is answering the question.
    Earlier most of the rituals performed had a scientific background to it. But unfortunately people over the generations twisted them and modified them according to their own needs and comfort and then tried to force those rituals on the younger generation. And I guess this is one of the main reasons why people are moving away or trying to get rid of certain rituals.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You made a humble sociologist very happy 🙂 This is why I studied sociology in the first place: because of my interest in different cultures. I really enjoyed this post, as I knew nothing about Indian rituals whatsoever.
    Rituals are fascinating because they serve no tangible purpose, but are a huge part of one’s culture anyway. It would be a shame to see them wither away, although history shows that a little update every now and then isn’t so bad, either. Time changes, and with it rituals do, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So rightly put ‘Culture doesn’t die when people die. Culture dies when people stop doing those things.’ Rituals have relevance in that they help define and integrate our social and cultural identities.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well Bhanu ……I don’t know about rituals …but for me India’s gift to the world is ‘Yoga’ …..yep it’s a system both complex and simple ….and I believe is a system VERY relevant for today …..it is my understanding that ‘The Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali’ are the oldest scripted philosophy in the WORLD …..the teachings and practices of ‘Yoga’ are timeless.
    India gave us this gift …which YES forms the basis of Hinduism ….but can be practised by those of other faiths or ascribing to none…….which is why it is PERFECT for today’s ‘Global’ citizens.

    Like

    • PS) My personal view is that Yoga is India’s GREATEST export and a fundamental part of Indian heritage ….it’s just a shame it’s taking the rest of us so long to catch on:D:D:D

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, heritage must be preserved. But I wouldn’t blend rituals with heritage. Rituals evolve, they’re never static. Whereas heritage is timeless. I have no truck with people who’re religious and perform rituals, but it’s only sensible to first know the meaning, the idea behind that rite, as you very rightly pointed out.

    I know many people who’re mindless perpetuating myths, passing of crude, half knowledge as community rituals. In my opinion, that’s not a very wise thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As much as they are passing on crude and half knowledge, that’s because they were served so. It is not their fault. They are following it because of their limitations. Now a wise (wo)man who can see this and understand, questions the myths and rituals performed. Then rules out many of them – on the basis of what ?

      Just because the previous people had half knowledge ? Or because of their inability to understand it ? Or because of the lack of information they can get ?

      Is it valid to rule out something because there is not adequate information ?

      If so, then what will be left of is nothing. Then there will be no knowledge as well. There will be no evidence. There will be nothing left of someone else to ponder or investigate upon ?

      Like

      • You tell me, is it good to pass around knowledge when you’re not sure of “why” and “what”? Perpetuating superstitions and myths as rituals is what is wrong.

        I’m not saying rituals are bad, no. They’re our culture. But I don’t think half knowledge benefits anybody.

        And about lack of information, where does it stem from? If I want to prove the earth is flat, I can’t. Because it’s false. This is lack of information. I can’t provide you with information in support of my conjecture because there isn’t any available. Doesn’t mean what I’m saying is true though.

        Again, I’m not against rituals. Just against rampant perpetuation of myths are rituals.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes it is not easy at all and I was wondering if you had any specifications for that.

        You see why is not a question that can be asked by all, because not everyone can understand everything and even if they do, they cannot explain it to everyone, the way they understood. Considering a time when there was a separation for educated and common man, well even now we have, but back then only a few were learned men and others would know from what they preach (they came to be known as Brahmins).

        Since not everyone was aware or known to of, scholars devised measures, steps and rituals for common man to follow without focusing on the why, but on what and pass on – as is.

        Everything went on well I believe, until cultures blend in. Empires fall. People started learning new things. And then the era of time crept in when they started to misuse the knowledge to misguide people to follow certain rituals for their own benefit.

        E.g. giving fruits, money etc to Brahmins, not a part of compulsion but a will. A means to their survival.

        Anyway so those who ask ‘why’ need to be equipped or responsible enough to quest for the equally important question ‘why’ to rule out?

        It cannot be merely based on common understanding but it must based on strong reasoning to rule out something and term it as superstitions or myth.

        I understand your point of saying – it is difficult to prove your point. I understand your thoughts too and appreciate it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know it’s difficult to prove, and I get your side of the story too. You’ve made a valid point. I totally get the historic bridge.

        As far as ruling out “why not” is concerned, as i said, rituals are not static, they’re incessantly changing. And we are the ones who moulded them, change. After all, all change comes from humans themselves.

        Our ancestors created rituals based on what they thought of the world around them. Science advanced, we grew closer to the truth and made our modifications. So here there’s no right or wrong. What was right a 100 years ago simple ceases to fit our definition of right, and it’s totally fine.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes they do change and everytime they change as per what is considered to be best in that era of time. Yes there is no right or wrong.

        There is the need to make wise decisions. The only thing makes me wonder is the ruins and we have no idea about them. If they were so scholarly back then why can’t we go any closer to those perfection and that makes me of wonder are we going any close with the scientific inventions. E.g. a temple with a structural significance of alignment in perfection to Solar movements. Calculations that might take computers today, were done with naked eye and some math (Vedic as it is called) unknown to now.

        We need Microscopic attitude to test the rituals and a wise (wo)man to chose the way forward.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nobody’s saying people were stupid back then!
        We’ve got grand temples in our country which are centuries old! It’s hard to imagine how people in those times could conceive of, and actually build something so marvellous! But we have innumerable examples.
        I think they saw the world in a different light, and many of their ideals wouldn’t fit in today’s world.
        Again, it’s not a question of right or wrong. We see the world differently. That’s what I think!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it’s not about right or wrong 🙂
        It’s about improving our thoughts with discussions.

        Yes we do see the world differently.
        Thanks for such a valuable contribution. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Very good points mentioned. Rituals are relevant because many times, they actually help in physical and mental health.
    I feel like it’s the superstitions that make us stop believing in all of it. We fail to separate the superstitions of not buying anything on Tuesday with everything you mentioned.
    Rituals are not only tradition, they are symbols of our heritage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, indeed and it is worth mentioning that the less we follow them the closure we go towards making them extinct ! With extinction lost is the very usual information.

      And then somebody needs to decrypt it their entire life.
      The pillars of Ashoka for eg.

      Liked by 1 person

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