Random Thoughts about Religion in India

Random Thoughts about Religion in India
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Our recent trip to Kerala again showed me that religion is central to Inidan life; reminders of religion are everwhere: images of gods are displayed in homes, restaurants, businesses, cars, buses, sidewalks, and almost everywhere else you look, temples, churches or mosques are bustling as soon as they open in the mornings, and it is rare to meet an Indian who does not follow at least one religion. In Mysore, most of the population is hindu, but there are many mosques, and also one of the largest catholic churches in India. In contrast, in Kerala about 70% of the population is christian; in other parts of India, moslems are a majority.

My overall feeling is that there is a high level of religious tolerance; quite unlike the impression given by the news stories which highlight clashes between muslims and hindus. I'm not sure why my own view differs so much from the media's. Perhaps the media is trying to sensationalize a few isolated incidents, or perhaps the reported incidents are mostly in north India, while hindus and muslims may get along better in the south.

All this religion does not necessarily equal a perfect society; a brief glance at the local newspapers shows rampant govenment corruption; and here in Mysore we have all run accross businesses, shops and rickshaw drivers that don't hesitate to deceive and overcharge (especially when the targets are westerners). Religion can also be abused; there is a young yoga teacher in Mysore who likes to lecture people on spirituality but sets up "pujas" to lure female yoga students into his bedroom.

Nonetheless, my overall impression is that India's emphasis on spirituality seems to have a very positive effect: many Indians who are almost unimaginably poor seem more content than most people in my home country, and many Indians show a degree of self respect, dignity, kindness and generosity that is inspiring and humbling.
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by dcaplan | 2006-02-04 16:38 | Religion in India
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