It is meant to be a soul-cleansing and mind-purifying experience in the holy month of Shravan. But the influx of kanwarias, going to collect water from various rivers in the worship of Shiva, on to public thoroughfares in the Capital and other smaller cities during this time brings nothing but stress and trouble for people living in these areas.
It is nobody’s case that the kanwarias in question not be allowed the right of passage, but when it is done with huge trucks fitted with ghetto blasters and takes up half the road, throwing all traffic out of whack, then it is a cause of concern.
The kanwarias are not alone in this public and intrusive demonstration of faith.
Across India, faith and devotion have come firmly out of temples and homes into the streets, the louder the better being the motto. There are not many of us who have not been startled out of our wits or been kept awake all night, thanks to a bhagwati jagran or the local mosque calling the faithful to prayer.
The authorities have sternly warned against the use of loudspeakers and encroaching on public spaces, but when it comes to religion, no one wants to go by the book or keep things toned down.
Pilgrimages and festivals today are massive shows of strength, many of them sponsored by the very worldly corporates.
So we see Kali puja pandals moving very far away from focusing on faith and depicting themes like Jurassic Park or the White House.
The annual Ganesh chathurthi is a massive rally, shutting off all roads in Mumbai and adjoining towns. It is not the aesthetics that is the issue, but the fact that displays of faith tend to overrun everyday life. Those who don’t want to be part of the festivities are put to great inconvenience when roads are blocked and prevent them from getting to their destinations.
Even during examination time, when children already under stress are studying, local places of worship unmindfully use loudspeakers well past the accepted time limits.
In a secular state, faith should ideally be a private matter. If there has to be a public occasion, then permission ought to be sought and great care taken to see that people are not put to trouble. But, in many instances, these religious festivities are organised with the active participation of local politicians.
And once things are in full swing, even the police are wary of taking on the faithful. The anti-social behaviour of some kanwarias is a case in point. All religious processions and festivals must be made to strictly adhere to the law. If this were done, perhaps the propensity to display one’s religious fervour in full public view may be dampened a bit.