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