Stop shaming and bashing our Hindu rituals

There is usually a lot of debate around how Hindus ‘waste’ money on religious ceremonies. Now that the Kumbh Mela is upon us, such talk is even more prevalent. It wouldn’t really have mattered to me were it not for my first cousin, who started to compare the idols I worship to his pet puppy. An animal lover friend of my cousin went a step ahead and likened this practice to ‘shit’.

My cousin, like a lot of millennials with a newly-acquired conscience and sense of responsibility, decided that everything I do in the name of ‘puja’ is wastage of money. I should instead help the poor, he felt.

So, for everyone who considers these rituals as wastage of money, here is some information: money is never wasted. It only changes hands.

When I go to the temple, I buy flowers from a poor woman. I buy fruits from a poor vendor. I buy an earthen ‘diya’, camphor, incense sticks, a ‘chunni’, vermilion, sweets, all from not-so-rich businessmen, helping each of them earn some money in exchange of their services.

I also take a rickshaw to the temple – the rickshaw puller makes 20 rupees from that. I give Rs 101 to the ‘pujari’ as ‘dakshina’. For most temple priests, money received from devotees is vital to survival. Even the saree I offer to the deity, goes to the priest’s wife.

Do you see wastage?

After the ‘prasad’ is offered, it is distributed among people, mostly the poor children outside the temple.  When I bought a little mandir for my place, the carpenter and the furniture seller made money. When I purchased an idol and photos for the mandir, the sculptor and the painter got some business.

Though I have stopped giving ‘daan’ to temples, and won’t do it till these establishments are freed of government control, it’s common practice for temple trusts to use that money to run schools, hospitals and other charitable organisations.

Any wastage yet?

I know some people get severe heartburn seeing milk being poured on a black stone. I buy the milk from a milkman of limited means and I think I have the right to do whatever I wish to with it. So, please, allow me to do an ‘abhishekam’ of the Shivalinga without being judgmental and shaming me!

Maybe, I could just give this money to the poor? No. I will not do any such thing. I work hard to earn money, hence I value hard work. I’d rather a poor man EARN that money than just get it for FREE, because humans have a tendency to not value things that they get easy. For all I know, the crisp Rs 500 note I hand over to a needy person in exchange for nothing would be spent on alcohol.

So, there’s the explanation for all the ‘wastage’. Dear cousin, if you are reading this, you have a spacious ‘puja ghar’ in your palatial house. When are you throwing away the pictures of your ‘babaji’ and bringing in a couple of street-dwellers?

I await your response.