Temples

When was the last time you heard any positive story about a temple?

And I am wondering this as a full time card carrying bonafide agnostic.

The only news we get about temples – someone has been denied entry because of caste or great amount of wealth has been unearthed or that abhorrent devadasi system or worse of all stampede.

And of course, if you happened to grow up in Communist Bengal, you would be brainwashed into believing that the worst crime in the world is being a Hindu and that temples are the source of all evil.

Hell the Communists burned more than 20 Hindus alive on the Ballygunje Bijon bridge for the crime of being openly Hindu.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bijon_Setu_massacre

Naturally, we in Bengal don’t have grandiose temples.

 

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Now of course the “secular” liberal Indians will say that having no temple is not a loss at all.

I am not so sure.

As I found out on my trips to South India – esp Tamil Nadu and Karnataka – temples have other functions apart from religious ones.

One important role of temple – an outlet for artists and sculptures. A massive amount of India’s rich artistic and architectural legacy lies in its temples. Just look at the temples in Belur and Halevidu (Hoysala), or the ones in Thanjavur/Tanjore and Gangaikondacholapuram (Chola) or the Pattadakal group (Chalukya) or the Mahabalipuram ones (Pallava) or Kailash Temple in Ellora (Rashtrakuta) or Konarak temple (Kalinga) or the temples of Hampi (Vijaynagara).

Each one is a byword for magnificence. They are the epitomes of grandeur and splendor and are living breathign reminders to us of our glorious past (as far as art and architecture is concerned).

Our artists and architects outdid each other and the world for century after century. And they could do so because of royal patronage and because there was an outlet, an area where they could express themselves.

Nowadays the only statues that are commissioned are those of politicians and weirdly elephants.

How will the artists flourish?

 

Vijaynagara

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Pallava

 

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Chola

 

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Chalukya

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But art is not the only ting affected.

As I found out during the trips the temples have another purpose – they are a meeting place for friends and families. The more religious sit in front of the temples singing bhajans. But even the non religious or semi religious gather on the courtyards etc and chat with their friends. Its a free evening/night out for families.

You can see groups of all ages and genders just hanging out generally having a nice comfortable time.

Compare and contrast to the Commie utopia of West Bangaldesh.

There are no temples. So where do people congregate?

Nowhere is the answer.

Unless you count the umpteen gambling dens, bars, local alcohol breweries, satta hangouts and neighbourhood “clubs” where people congregate to well drink and gamble and occasionally kidnap a passing female and rape her.

But hey, at least they are all enlightened and “secular” and does not believe in evil stuff like Hinduism right?

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3 thoughts on “Temples

  1. Do not agree with the last point. In Bangla or West Bangladesh, the rock has been the quintessential meeting and “adda” place. We also have something like the coffee house – which gave us Shakti, Sunil, “Krittibaash” and lot more. There is the Nandan chattor which gave us great theaters. It is a different issue nowadays the West Bangladeshis do not congregate at coffee house as they need to stay in Vietnam to feed themselves. But it does not mean that you can only hangout in temples. Infact “congregation” in temples (or mosques or churches etc etc) is basically the source of making you believe (as George Carlin would have said) – “that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

    But He loves you!” (for Hindu temples the nuances maybe different but the thinking is the same)

    I agree with you on the second point though.

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    1. Valid points, but
      The difference between the temple complexes I saw in South India and the Bong Rocks are that one is for everybody while the other is a for a highly specialised group. The rocks have always been for the youth, or the geriatrics on their morning walks. How many rocks do you know where families or ladies congregated? In the South Indian temples, I saw oldies, extended families, couples with young children, groups of friends (college kids etc) and even a few lovie dovies – as you can imagine, religion is more or less the last thing on their minds.

      You say coffee house – I agree it is an integral part of the Bong antel psyche; its a Bong heritage place, no doubt. But, answer me this, whose coffee house is it anyway? Is it a place for everybody or is it mainly for the antel/hipster/wannabe crowd? There is a mythic/legendary gravitas to the place that is frightening to the average person.

      The only comparable place in the modern enlightened West Bangladesh is the malls or the cafe Coffee Day outlets – but once again, these being commercial enterprises – and that too for the generally well to do, they remain out of bounds for the vast majority.

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