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.

Sankasthi Chaturthi

Sankashti Chaturthi (संकष्टी चतुर्थी) also known as Sankata Hara Chaturthi, Sankath Chot is a day dedicated to Lord Ganesha. This day is observed in every Lunar month of Hindu calendar month on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha (dark lunar phase or the waning phase). If this Chaturthi falls on a Tuesday it is called Angaraki Sankashti Chaturthi.

On this day, the devotees observe strict fast. They break the fast at night after having darshan/auspicious sight of the moon preceded by prayers to Lord Ganesha. Observing this fast is believed to reduce your problems as Lord Ganesha symbolizes the removal of all obstacles and supreme lord of intelligence. Before moonlight the Ganapati Atharvasheersha is recited to invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesha. During each month, Lord Ganesha is worshiped with a different name and peeta (seat). Each ‘Vratha’ (strict fast) has a purpose and is explained to us by a story known as the ‘Vratha Katha’. This prayer offering has 13 Vratha Kathas, one for each month and the 13th story is for ‘adhika’ (The Hindu calendar has one extra month every 4 years). List of the 13 Kathas can be seen here.

Ganesh is widely worshipped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or at the start of travel. (Excerpts from Wiki and discussion with a Ganesha follower)

Ganesh is one of the very famous gods in India. Ganesh festival is celebrated very auspiciously and joyfully every year in the month of August. This celebration of Ganesh festival by placing idols of Ganesh in every street was encouraged by Lokmanya Tilak for social collaboration, unity and the feeling of integrity. But long before that the scholars in India knew that there must be a mechanism devised to help people live a life of harmony.

The idea of fasting every month on a particular day, following the lunar calendar, has a physiological reasoning to it. It helps to  reduce the toxic effects in the body and is the same reasoning for all the other fasting rituals. During the fasting, when they sing songs of the Lord and the stories are narrated every year, they create a spiritual and psychological impact on the person. Long back when there was no media, press or TV, stories were shared through hymns, sloks and rituals. The significance of stories and the moral pertaining to them must not be forgotten.

The faith restored in the Lord and the rituals followed religiously, builds in your discipline, confidence, strength of fulfilling and feeling of harmony.

This post is a part of series in Discovering the Cultural Significance of various rituals and festivals in India.

Fasting ritual in Jainism (India)

Jainism is a very scientific culture. Jain Fasts are very austere and require a lot of skill, strength and devotion. Fasting is just one of many forms of penance (tapasya) and its purpose is usually to strengthen and purify the soul by shedding or weakening the karma attached to it and reminds the practitioner of Mahavira’s emphasis on renunciation and asceticism, because Mahavira spent a great deal of time fasting.

There are many types of fasts which people might undertake daily, on holy days( like Paryushan), or whenever they feel like doing it. There are no special fast for girls or boys or for job or anything else. Some people take vows to fast X times per week, or Y days every year, and stick to that schedule.

An important thing to keep in mind is that no one is ever required to fast. To fast is a personal choice, and most Jains accept that each individual’s circumstances and karmas affect the extent to which he or she can fast. Those who can’t fast are sometimes encouraged to limit the amount or variety of the food they consume on certain holy days, but even this is optional.

Forcing oneself to fast for the sake of social appearances or out of obligation is not spiritually useful for Jains.

Different types of Fast are:

  • Upvas: To give up only food for the whole day.(starting from previous sunset to 2nd day sunrise – approx 36 hrs)
  • Chauvihar Upvas: Like Upvas, to give up food as well as water.
  • Digambar Upvas: One may drink water only once a day, before sunset.
  • Shwetambar Upvas: One may drink boiled and cooled water after Porsi, provided this is done before sunset.
  • Tihivar Upvas: One may drink boiled water between sunrise and sunset.
  • Ekasana: To eat one meal a day at one sitting and drink boiled water as desired between sunrise and sunset.
  • Beasana: To eat two meals a day in two sittings and drink boiled water anytime between sunrise and sunset.

And many more like Bela(2 days), Tela(3 days), Athai(8 days), Navai (9 days), Masakshaman (a month), etc.

This post is a part of series in Discovering the Cultural Significance of various rituals and festivals in India.