For years, 57-year-old architect Bharat Panchal had looked for the answers to many philosophical questions - about life and God. All went unanswered. Till he met Jin Hee Kim, a South Korean woman, also known as Yaho, distributing pamphlets about the Raelian movement outside Churchgate station.
For the uninitiated, Raelians believe, among other things, that aliens called the Elohim created human beings on earth. The movement was Rael (he uses no first name). On December 13, 1973, in France, Rael is said to have met an alien who emerged from a spaceship to give him the message of peace.
So impressed was Panchal by Yaho that he bought a book by Rael, Message Given To Me by Extra Terrestrials, and read it through the night. “I was so excited at getting the answers to all my questions that I met Yaho the next day,” he recalls, as a DVD of Rael's meeting with the alien plays in animation mode on a laptop in his JVPD Scheme office. Yaho showed him 'footage' of UFO sightings around the world.
“Ever since, I've been working for this movement which spreads the message of peace and love,” says Panchal, a Mira Road resident, who leads the Raelian movement in India today.
Adds Sangita Sultania, a 29-year-old scriptwriter from Vile Parle, “It does not breed fanaticism and is not particularly against any religion.”
They admit, however, that they are often ridiculed. “We understand that our philosophy may not be acceptable to everyone,” says Panchal, letting on that his wife has accepted his thinking but his sons remain cynical. “My family doesn't understand either. I don't talk about it too much,” says Sultania.
However, Amit Negandhi, a 21-year-old pharmacy student, had no such problems. “My parents are open-minded so I could speak to them about this,” says Negandhi.
India has just 50 Raelians, 20 of them in Mumbai. They meet every Saturday to discuss anything new they have come across, clear their doubts and share information about alien life.
Raelians are ‘baptised’ in a ceremony. that usually takes place in a location open to the sky, “so that we can connect with the aliens,” says Panchal. After that, he adds, “The information is transmitted to the Elohim's computer and all your actions will be taken into account from then on. “The Elohim will use this data to decide whether you should be reborn or not,” adds Negandhi.
Raelians believe that, in rebirth, a person is cloned and his memories are given back to him. This is one reason why Raelians are advised to avoid drinking coffee, alcohol and smoking. Explains Panchal, “These destroy genetic coding and introduce genetic defects into future generations.”
Sensual meditation is another important aspect of being a Raelian. In his book, The True Face of God, Rael advises his followers to surround themselves with all things that bring pleasure — be it paintings, food, flowers, sculptures or people who appeal to them physically and spiritually. Says Rael in the book, “If you love somebody, you should give yourself to this person entirely.”
For all those dying to know whether aliens look like little green men, the answer is an emphatic no. “They are humanoid, about four feet tall and look like us,” says Sultania. However, Rael has described the Elohim who stepped out of a spaceship as a small-made man, with almond-shaped eyes, long black hair and a small black beard.
Raelians believe that the Elohim speak all the languages of the earth. “They are waiting for us to become a peaceful people. When that happens, they will come and share with us their technology, which is 25,000 times more advanced than ours. They will help us solve all our problems,” declares Panchal.
So how does one become a Raelian? Replies Panchal, “The only criterion is that you have to believe and share in our philosophy.”
This weekly column examines the diversity of urban communities.