The revival of faith has a positive as well as a negative side, though often the negative element wins, said writer Keki N Daruwalla at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Thursday, citing the Islamic State's killing spree and union minister Niranjan Jyoti's infamous "Ramzaade vs Haramzaade" statement.
A steady drizzle forced a change of venue for the session titled "Matters of Faith", but it failed to dampen the spirits of the speakers and the large audience gathered for the discussion on the impact of religious identity and upbringing on people's creative and literary selves.
"We need to stick with morality, though morality without spirituality is difficult," said Daruwalla, a former R&AW officer who won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984.
While Indian-American entrepreneur Rajiv Malhotra described faith as an inner journey, adman Ambi Parameswaran steered the dialogue outwards and on to the tangible.
Writers Esther David, Keki Daruwalla, Amish Tripathi, Alberto Minguael, Ambi Rameswaran, Rajiv Malhotra and Arshi Sattar at a session on Maters Of Faith. Photo by Mohd Zakir / Hindustan Times
"In the Mumbai local trains during the Navratras you'll find women wearing different-colour saris on different days," he said, elaborating on the issue of new rituals invented by the market to profit from the customers' appetite for religious faddism.
Most of the speakers suggested faith and religion were overvalued that often act as divisive forces instead of uniting ones.
"I grew up without religion till the age of 46," said Jewish-Indian author Esther David in conversation with author and filmmaker Arshia Sattar, as Canadian novelist Alberto Manguel said he was an agnostic with faith in the written word.
Amish Tripathi, author of the Shiva trilogy, invoked the Mahabharata while arguing that a person needs to be completely detached from the fruits of his labour, success and failure to be truly blissful.
"People who are happy are completely in the present moment," he said.
The eighth edition of the literature festival, the world's largest event of its kind, has drawn authors, politicians, artists and Bollywood celebrities in large numbers with more than 200,000 people expected to attend the five-day programme that kicked off on Wednesday.