Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Temple at a glance

What humbugs we are, who pretend to live for Beauty, and never see the Dawn!  ~Logan Pearsall Smith

I acknowledged this quote just recently, very subtly on a trip to Tirumala (Tirupati).
Sitting at a restaurant, waiting for dinner to be served, we googled Tirupati. The demigod informed us that Tirupati is a huge pilgrimage city, abode of Lord Venkateshwara and attracts millions of devotees every year. Its the country's richest temple (temples are also rich and poor!!!!) and the collection on 1st January alone was 3.80 crores (no comments)!!!!!
But you can access this information online. I'll tell you what you'll not read anywhere. 
Early morning when sun is still sleeping, we get up, take bath and leave for Tirumala hills. Its a collection of seven hills and on the top of the highest hill is the sacred shrine. The 30 minutes drive up the hill offers a panoramic view. The unending expanse of lush green valley, the pristine scenes and beautiful rest places for people to bask in the beauty. But no car stops here as all are in a hurry to reach before the queue for darshan becomes longer. We reached the top and its not just a temple on the hill top its a well planned town where everything is FREE!!!! Yes, free accommodation, free food, free toilets, even free buses. Tirumala resembles The Mall Road of Shimla a lot with an exception that never in the history of Shimla will so many people be present together on The Mall Road. Yes, the people came in buses, taxis, private cars and even on foot. They came like waves in an ocean, they came like angry bees from an upset beehive, they came like soldiers trying to seize a city from the enemy during war. 
I was amused and very soon saddened. The multitude had come for a trip- a religious one but a trip. They had travelled miles from home, had taken leave from work, packed bags and come for a trip. But hardly anyone on reaching Tirumala saw the sheer beauty of the place. No one saw the morning sun peeking between the green hills, no one saw the birds calling each other. No one seemed to smell the scent, no one seemed to inhale the fresh, cool air. No one saw how clean the roads were, no one saw how peaceful and serene Tirumala was. No one saw the nature's extravaganza touching the sky, no one. All were in a hurry to reach the queue and quench their thirst for the divine darshan. I agree that the town owes its existence to the temple and an ardent devotee is preoccupied with the idol darshan. But there is a small question that refuses to leave my mind unanswered-How can someone overlook the beautiful and breath taking creation of the Almighty for a man-made temple???  
Tirupati is a place where a man has to forget his comforts, his peace of mind and run like a mad man, suffer like a poor fellow. I saw police beating people to get into the line, I saw police insulting old men who couldn't walk fast, I saw pickpockets taking advantage of the queue and I saw corrupt people taking advantage of the few facilities given to the old and handicapped.
I was spared by all this, thanks to my father but I wonder those who come to Tirupati with their hearts full of religious fanaticism, ready to stand in a queue for hours, to be abused by other men, do they lock their self respect at their places and then arrive here???
There's one more thing which disturbed me a lot. God is perhaps the only object which is at the disposal of every person despite his rank, reputation, power or money. The shrine is acclaimed as the holiest of the celebrated 108 Tirupatis. The place where Lord himself came down to settle in Kali Yuga differentiates people on the basis of money!!! Yes, if you can spend more then you can have a better darshan. A person stands in a queue for 4-5 hours without any refreshment, not even water and finally when he enters the glittering room made of gold, he is pushed by petty policemen and forget a look, he is not even allowed a glance . A devotee who has spend money, stood in line for hours does not deserve to be treated like this. If he cannot be respected then he should also not be disrespected by policemen who themselves are morally degraded.  
Behind this expensive room of gold is another room where fat pandits sit and count lakhs and lakhs of rupees and a devotee dishevelled by ill-treatment watches them playing with the moolah!!!!
I have no hard feelings against the pandits or the devotees or the temple administration. I do not mean to disrespect the feelings of people. I am not an atheist and I do not appreciate blasphemy against God or traditions. But I am extremely anguished to see that the system is not correct. 
You pay to watch a movie, a dolphin show, a circus but you are not meant to pay to see your God. If you are a respectable person in your society then you do not deserve to be treated like a beggar when you wish to see your God. Temples are meant to give you peace of mind, relieve you of all worries, make you a better person by retrospection and introspection. They are not there to take away some peace that you have. I have always felt that the vibes are so positive in a temple that they have the power to transform thoughts, feelings and emotions. I just wish that this potential is not stolen by the disguised pickpockets present at the administrative corridors of temple. 


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