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It?s time for a spiritual rush

LUCKNOW IS growing at a fast pace in all dimensions. Amidst this external growth, there is a burgeoning need to find internal peace. Religion, faith and spirituality have thus come to occupy a bigger domain in neo-Lucknow.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2006 02:02 IST

LUCKNOW IS growing at a fast pace in all dimensions. Amidst this external growth, there is a burgeoning need to find internal peace. Religion, faith and spirituality have thus come to occupy a bigger domain in neo-Lucknow.

If we say that almost no road or street in Lucknow is without a school or liquor shop, then they are not without a place of worship too.

A decade ago Bada Mangal used draw about 10,000 devotees to the Hanuman Setu temple. Now, in modern Lucknow, over a lakh devotees throng the temple on Bada Mangal. Shashidhar Malvi of the Hanuman Setu temple says: “This is just a conservative estimate. Number of devotees is rising by at least 20 per cent every year and they belong to all age groups.”

The demand is verily reflected in the supply. To cater to the spiritual rush, the city has seen a spurt in temples, churches, mosques, gurudwaras, dargahs, satsangs and spiritual-religious assemblies.

Even spiritual leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Amma, Jaya Row, Asaram Bapu, Sidanshu Maharaj have made several trips to the city during the past three years. Their shows are big crowd pullers and the gatherings outstrip the even the biggest of musical nights.

But why these upsurge of spirituality?

“Stress, tension, wrongdoings, etc have sent people on a solace hunt. Their tilt towards religion, faith and spirituality are very normal and obvious responses to the situation they are in,” says a psychologist.

“It (the spiritual pull) is good provided a person does not stray towards superstitions and dogmas,” says Dr Prabhat Sitholey, HoD, Department of Psychiatry, KGMU.

“Religion actually is wisdom accumulated over the centuries. Religion in its true sense promotes positive mental health,” he says and adds: “A person becomes less aggressive and more tolerant if spirituality is blended into their lives.”

While Sitholey tells this, Pt Shashidhar Malvi has a different take on the rise in religiosity. He feels it is also a negative indicator. “Majority of ‘bhakti’ and charity that we witness is selfish and triggered out of stress, uncertainty and desire. People keep fast so that their wish is fulfilled or do charity for the similar reasons. Generally, across all age group, worship is not ‘nishkaam’ (without motive),” he argues.

And when it comes to showing off faith, people do more than just wearing it on their sleeves. The dashboards of car become the sanctum sanctorum and so does plush office cubicles. Pictures or symbols of their lord or religion can be seen plastered all over.

Speaking about idols, symbols and rituals, GM Viswanathan, founder of the Sri Venkateshwara Temple at Banthra, Kanpur Road, says: “Some elevated/spiritual being may be able to relate to god without an image, symbol, idol or ritual, but most ordinary people need some reference point. An image, symbol or idol becomes that reference point. And rituals too have their significance for ordinary people as it makes an activity that keeps one involved in devotion.”

Viswanathan, who was once grappling with science and technology as an IAF fighter pilot, has over the years attained great knowledge about scriptures.

But what difference religion has brought to him? Viswanathan replies, “As a young fighter pilot I was very brash and aggressive. But as a devout I became calm. Earlier also I said my prayers and visited temples, but it was part of my habit, which was induced by the culture around me. So I was not very sincere in my prayers. Then, I ‘found’ Lord Venkateshwara and after that I have realised that whatever happens, happens for good.”

Similarly, an IT professional with a top-of-the-notch computer company, Asheesh Gautam, says: “I was into cut throat competition and hi-fi life. But when I sincerely embraced spirituality, things changed for the better. With faith, my happiness increased.” But for Gautam the journey to spiritualism was made with the help of a guru. So, what role does these spiritual gurus and preachers play in one’s life?

Sitholey says: “I have observed some of the preachers live and on TV. They ask people to do some very simple, basic and logical things. They tell simple truths in a very understandable and persuasive manner. And their role is akin to Amitabh Bachchan doing an ad to urge people to administer polio drops to their child.

Though it is common knowledge that polio drops are vital for a child, but when Amitabh tells people do pay heed. These preachers too tell simple things for one to attain happiness bit in a manner that draws attention.”

In the midst of all these spirituality, multi-faith has caught the fancy of many.

So some find the spiritual journey incomplete without visiting the Sai temple, Shani mandir, gurudwaras and a dargah at one go.

TV spiritualism
AASTHA, SANSKAR, GOD or Q-TV have played a significant role in people turning to religion, faith and spirituality. SK Singh, who is a Mahoba-based engineer, has tuned into the ‘Aastha’ channel. “For us it (Aastha) is the channel. It helps to improve life.” Similarly, Q-TV is a big hit in many Muslim families.

Many more churches
AMIT Newton & LANCE Mannays

AS OTHER religions have seen a great growth in terms of the faithful (worshippers) and places of worship, Christianity too has seen a growth in these areas.

The Assembly of Believers Church (ABC) has a place of worship in almost all the colonies of Lucknow, on its outskirts and even in other cities of the country.

This also proves the growth of believers in this denomination, headed by Brother Augustus Anthony.

The Central Methodist Church Satsang (House Church) is held on Saturdays and Sundays in various parts of Lucknow — Indira Nagar, LDA Colony, Chandganj etc.

In Vikas Nagar there is a Sunday School run by Rev Pradeep Gunnar. Even though there are no new Roman Catholic churches in and around Lucknow, there is a marked increase in the faith and expression of people, according to director and spiritual guide of St Paul’s Seminary Rev Fr Robert Pinto.

“Man by nature tries to find new ways to manifest his faith and it can be both on the individual level, as well as in community life. Individually, helping the needy, service to the impoverished and giving alms to the poor have seen a marked increase,” he said.

“However, since man is a social animal, there is little spiritual fulfilment in individuality. The focus, thus, shifts to the community and how it can work as a whole. No wonder then, there is more-than-a perceptible increase in the number of prayer meetings being held in people’s homes, giving strength to the charismatic movement,” Rev Fr Pinto said.

Namaz, topi & jeans

Ek hi saf mein khade dono Mehmood o’AyazNaa koi bandaa raha naa bandanawaz
(Standing in a row both the emperor — Mehmood Ghaznavi and his loyal slave Ayaz — and his slave; there’s no master here and no slave)
THUS SPAKE Iqbal extolling the virtue of Islam.

The present-day ‘saf’ comprises, besides a mix of muezzins, hafiz and retired persons a good number of students, IT professionals, salesmen on the move, mechanics and you name him.

“Offering every namaz of the day makes no difference to myroutine/schedule/appointments. On the contrary, it gives me the confidence to face setbacks and move on a stronger person,” says Faiz Mohd Khan, who earns by designing software for private and public enterprises. “My religion is liberal, allowing me even to make up for those prayers which I am likely to miss.

I plan my day around the various namaz times and everything goes fine,” he adds. Is it a sea of humanity you see draped in white kurta pyjama at such congregations? Check out any Juma prayer and you would find them in jeans, cargos and suits and…kurta pyjamas too.

“It’s not necessary I turn out in a particular attire, or keep a beard and wear my trousers above my ankles all the time. Bas, looking at me, nobody should say ki yeh to Musalman ho hi nahin sakta,” avers Kamran Beig, a stock trader.

A good number of young men and old could be seen at the masjid well after the namaz reading the Quran, another exercise besides prayer that provides succour to a soul torn by worldly strife. TV channels such as QTV owe their popularity to the constant flow of verses from the holy book with meaning and counselling on matters spiritual.

First Published: Apr 09, 2006 02:02 IST