Narrow Religious Beliefs Are So Last Century; Month Of Shravan Brings This Topic Up Again

Posted: August 6, 2019

We forget the highest religion of humanity when we discriminate and are violent against our fellow human beings based on our narrow religious beliefs!

A customer recently refused to accept a food order that he had placed from Zomato because the app assigned a ‘non-Hindu’ delivery agent for his order. He argued that he couldn’t accept food from the hands of a non-Hindu since it was the holy month of Sawan and Zomato should respect his religious choices.

A huge uproar erupted when he posted about it on Twitter and threatened to uninstall the app if Zomato didn’t cancel his order. Zomato boss Deepinder Goyal told him to go ahead saying that for him the idea of India was more important than a bigoted customer.

What followed was equally astonishing

For days on end, hour-long debates and discussion were conducted on news media channels. Twitter and other social media was divided between those in favor of Zomato and those supporting the customer. Various hashtags started trending within hours. People dug up past tweets from both Zomato and the customer’s accounts to validate their own support.

This set me thinking.

What is it that drives a person to refuse food delivery from the hands of a person who has not even cooked it? And what has the month of Sawan got to do with it?

Let’s first see what is Sawan or Shravan

Sawan is the month of peak monsoons. It’s considered a holy month and it’s believed that worshipping Lord Shiva during Shravan is 108 times more powerful than worshipping him on other days. Devotees observe a fast on Mondays during this month. Many of them also bring holy water from the Ganga river in Haridwar in Kaanvad and offer it to Lord Shiva on the Poornima (full moon day) of Shravan.

Shravan also sees many restrictions on the kind of food items that can be consumed this month. Many people don’t partake any food item that is grown under the soil. Not only non-vegetarian food but even onion-garlic are prohibited because they are considered Taamsik (heat inducing). In many homes, even potato, carrots, radish, colocasia and sweet potatoes are not eaten.

But come to think of it, they are grown under the soil and are, therefore, more prone to insect infestation during the monsoons and it’s advisable that such veggies are avoided in order to avoid falling prey to harmful bacteria.

I also remember a friend of my mother often saying that no mother could do a worse sin than feeding her family Urad daal (black gram lentil) during Sawan.

Sin? Really?

Isn’t there more of a health concern than any religious one behind these prohibitions? What has religion got to do with them? Isn’t it good to eat light and freshly cooked food because stale food gets spoilt faster due to humidity and frequently changing temperatures in the rainy season?

Our ancestors had far more wisdom than what we credit them with. They knew what was good for maintaining a healthy body during transition of seasons and hence gave these advisories.

But with the passage of time, this traditional wisdom was lost and everything was converted into a religious dictat. People began to follow those rules blindly which had some religious aspect attached to them. Scientific reasons, logic behind framing these rules and also relevance of them in the current context is never questioned, just because people tend to think that it’s laid down in our religious texts and hence mandated by our elders.

Now getting back to the original topic, this man declined to accept food from a person who is a ‘non-Hindu’ because his food would become impure on being touched and carried by a non-Hindu person. How preposterous!

Let’s look at a relevant mythological story

Before I write anything further, I need to quote here a legend which may already be known to a majority of Hindus.

The legend says that the Samudra Manthan or churning of the ocean had happened during the month of Sawan as asuras and devas participated to churn out nectar. During this time 14 different rubies emerged from the great churning with the fourteenth being the poisonous Halahal, which had the power to destroy the whole universe including every living being.

Lord Shiva volunteered and consumed the whole Halahal and stored it in his throat. The poison from the Halahal turned His throat blue and he came to be known as Neelkantha.

The effect of the poison was enormous and all the Devas offered water from the holy River Ganges to Lord Shiva. It was done to reduce the effects of the poison. Since the incident happened in the month of Sawan, it is considered very auspicious to offer Ganges water to Lord Shiva in this month.

Read more here.

And why is this relevant here?

Now this customer failed to realize that Shravan pooja holds so much importance for devotees because it’s supposed to cleanse the soul. He may have observed a fast but sadly he failed to cleanse his own soul of the misgivings and hatred for humans of a different faith. He may claim to be an ardent follower of Lord Shiva but he forgot how He had consumed Halaahal to protect fellow devas from its poisonous effects.

The man not only harbored orthodox, narrow beliefs about a non-Hindu but also spread the toxic stench of his hatred to other people by tweeting about his acts.

Same is the case of many Kaanvadiyas who masquerade as Shiv bhakts. They openly consume alcohol and other banned substances in the name of them being the prasad of Lord Shiva, create nuisance by blocking entire roads, playing so-called devotional music through blaring DJ systems, and resort to violence if they are even touched by a passing vehicle or asked to put on a helmet.

The most important thing is that by their illegal and immoral activities they bring a bad name to the genuine devotees of Lord Shiva.

A fast is not only about abstaining from certain foods on certain days. A fast is not only about cleansing of the physical body. Keeping a fast is a spiritual act, the purpose of which is to achieve purity of body and mind and thus gain divine grace.

Observing a fast helps one practice and attain control over one’s desires and vices. It’s also about remembering to uphold the most important religion of humanity. If you forget the basic tenets of religion and go on humiliating and harming other humans just because they follow a faith different from yours, then you have defeated the very purpose of observing a fast.

Image source: shutterstock

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