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Faith in god is such a personal thing. Social restrictions abound, but today’s educated woman can certainly decide what she would want to believe in.
I ask her, “What do I usually pray?” She quickly replies “Devbappa mazya Bunnula shahana karun de!” (God, please let my Bunu be a good girl.)
So we pray and step out. Just as I tell her to sit for five minutes outside the sanctum space of the temple, she runs inside back yelling that she has to tell something to god. I indulge her and run behind her to hear her ‘Speak’ to god. And she happily yells at her god “Devbappa, mazya mummala shahana karun de!” (God, please let my mumma be a good girl!)
I can’t stop smiling. It’s quite late and there are hardly any people around to witness a child happily yelling at their beloved gods. So I think we are safe!
I stop and remember my conversations with god. I remember the times when I would like most other children pray / talk fervently with god just before an important exam. All the promises that would be made of behaving well. I remembered my engineering days when all of us close friends would find our peace in the Ganesha temple near our college. The temple that would see many homesick tears being shed. The same temple would see these tears transform into tears of heartbreaks, homes long forgotten as we progressed in college. I remember a beautiful temple on a hill top that had become a favourite for many friends; the beautiful evening light and the peace that it brought.
I remembered my favourite gods. Ganesha was always a favourite but Krishna came a close second. I don’t remember if it was the TV series ‘Krishna’ or what the reason was. I remember many Ganesha pujas at home and the feeling of peace and wellbeing that accompanied it. There was that time in my life when going to a certain temple on a certain day was mandatory. Or fasting on a particular day to please a particular god was not to be missed for anything in the world. Who would want to incur the god’s wrath?
Now when I look back at all those memories, I am amazed at how much I have evolved. Today if somebody tells me about ‘God’s wrath’, I would rather disown that god. I still believe in a supreme power but I don’t feel the need to go to a temple to please that supreme power.
I still go to temples, just to feel happy. Temples make me smile and in place like Bangalore temples have a lot of space, greenery. Taking the little monkey and letting her run freely around the temple is a favorite past time. The tasty prasad is of course a bigger attraction for her. But no more fixed temple visits for me.
I guess marrying into a different culture, I gave up on all rituals. Rather than argue and fight about ‘your rituals’ and ‘my rituals’, we live with no rituals. And it suits us just fine. Of course it was also when I tried converting my almost atheist husband into a believer did I see the shaky foundation of my own beliefs. Once that realization hit, it was easy giving up on a lot of things. I realized that if in my heart I do the right thing, that supreme power is bound to love me. Obviously the strong believer that I was in rituals, I haven’t given up completely on them. So I still do things that give me peace, a good feeling, a positive energy but mindless rituals are gone. This year I went back home for ‘Ganpati’ and the pure joy of spending good time with family was a strong connector for me to the ritual.
As I let go my rituals, I also let go some of the age old beliefs ingrained so strongly inside me. The other day when the little one was talking to her god in the temple, I had my periods (oh yes, who talks about periods and god together, isn’t it? and that too here!) and as it still happens with me, I hesitated going in. But she wouldn’t relent and then I just walked in. I rationalize everything in life, I fight for a women’s right in this world and yet this step needed so much of a push internally.
But finally I made my peace with my god. You gave me a body, you gave me bodily processes, so you cannot disown me for one of these processes. I think I internally questioned my god that day. I also realized that this step is much needed, especially by rational, educated women like me. This is a legacy for my daughter and her daughter. And I like to believe that Ganesha understood.
The little monkey has her own sense of her god. There is Ma Lokkhi on TV and Krishna also on TV. And then there is Ma Kali and Ma Durga who look so strong and powerful and vanquish all demons. We usually end up talking to Ganesha many a times, thanking him for the plenty’s of our lives (which includes the toy dinosaur too). So right now she believes in many forms of that supreme power but doesn’t yet know the give and take equation that most of us have with that power.
I am sure soon she will start believing, demanding, and praying fervently. I also know that one of the days she will be in my shoes, questioning the rationality, her faith and beliefs. But I think each one has to find his / her own god, own peace, own faith, isn’t it?
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Mommy to a little Miss Sunshine. I write for myself, most of my rants being
Hi Rohini! I really liked the beautifully honest nuances of this post and easily identified with them. My spiritual path roughly matches yours- from an intensely ritualistic tangible one, to a more rational “inner” spirituality. I too have no regrets about the different phases I have had in this journey. Like you, for the child’s sake we hold on to some rituals so that she may have something to fall back on, should she need it later in a time of crisis for comfort or solace. From a sociological point of view, the purpose of rituals is largely to help us cope with the stress and celebration of life’s inevitable events, in a more structured socially acceptable manner and it has a certain place in one’s life!! Definitely this is so, till the point when one can reach an inner resilience to do the same without the external props of ritual. Even after this, there are still times that we may slip into ritual for the predictable,familiar comfort and solace it has given us in the past- perhaps in childhood when it was intensely tied with family bonding. It is much like a woman’s going back to a mother’s home regularly after marriage- although she’s essentially moved on in many ways, yet sometimes the familiarity of one’s childhood home and family, can sometimes instantly offer a comfort and security nothing else can. It’s a complex set of feelings to define yet undeniable as well Like you, I too also believe that the journey of finding one’s own spiritual path is beautiful and important, to help us define our sense of “self” more accurately as we go along and it an evolving journey.Thank you for articulating and sharing your thoughts and personal experience so beautifully!.
Thanks Sonia. The comfort or solace that a temple or a ritual gives is what binds me to many of these things even today. I do therefore also worry if my daughter will miss such anchors in her life but I am hopeful that she will find her own anchors. Loved reading your thoughts, resonated with me
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