Hate, violence, unrest is gripping India more than ever, centuries of tradition and cultural practices are painted with streaks of religious color damaging the social and cultural fabric of India. ‘Unity in Diversity’ had been our biggest strength, and the foundation of our Nation building was the celebration of our diversity and taking everyone along making it an inclusive India.
The diversity of India is so vast that almost every village has its own deity and cultural identity, most of these deities are mere stones or roughly carved images kept in open or under a tree without any permanent structures or could be obstruct items like bangles, tree, clay lump, coconut etc. These deities referred as Kuladevaru (deity of a caste or locality), Oorudevaru (deity of the village) are the deities of everyone in the village irrespective of religion and castes but for non-brahmins as the deities are offered animal sacrifice and rituals may be performed using animal blood.
People pray to these gods and goddesses as they believe that they are the protectors, saviors, and healers and are accessible to all. People irrespective of religion offer prayers to Maramma to heal their family member suffering from chickenpox, sacrifice an animal (mostly hen and sheep) to Muneeshwara seeking peace at home or to calm a naughty & stubborn child at home.
The famous Plague Maramma was prayed to save people dying from plague, Yellamma, Patalamma, Kariyamma, Nagappa, Bhadramma, Choudamma, Saplamma and many more of the Shudras worshiped deities believe to have their own unique powers to heal people who seek their blessings.
Emergence of Hindutva ideology propagating a single identity of religion and culture is becoming a threat to diverse identities of these Shudra's deities and the practices of the Shudras, where there is no set rituals or chanting of mantras, anyone could perform the pooja and make offerings of meat too. People from across faith seek blessings of these local deities which are blended into our cultural fabric locally across the nation. But the hyper Hindutva push is slowly painting the color of religion, and a burkha clad woman at the Nuggikere Hanumantha temple or bindi wearing woman at the dargah are forced to choose sides and color, disregarding their freedom, belief, and personal choices.
People across all faiths visit the ancient Kumaramangala temple in Kasargod to seek the blessing of snake god and escape the curse of snake, there are millions of such examples where people across faith praying to local deities as they truly believe in the power of these deities to protect, heal, and bless.
What we are experiencing today is a violent, disruptive Hindutva political ideology trying to enforce itself as a single Hindu narrative, the problem is not the political ideology itself, but the intent to capture power by destroying the harmony and diverse belief culture that has its deep roots in every village of India by misusing the Hindu religion is the real threat.
Dr Ambedkar said “religion is for man and not man for religion’’, forcefully installing saffron flags at will, questioning the beliefs of people from other faiths, intimidating, questioning the meat eaters, and even branding them evil, mocking them as converts are extremally dangerous trends we are witnessing. This reminds me of a very popular Kannada movie ‘Bedara Kannappa’ of Dr Rajkumar, where the hunter Kannappa offers meat to Lord Shiva. We were thought to believe that we can offer any kind of food to the deity with immense sincerity, love, gratitude, and the deity will accept it. If the fate of the believers in the current Hindutva hyper propaganda is this demonizing, imagine the people who are agnostic and who are non-believers.
From birth to death the practices of upper caste, Shudras, Dalits are not identical so are our deities, the practices in north, south, east, west of India is not identical either, when most of the Hindus bury the dead in the south, Hindus from north are unable to comprehend this practice. The deities of the Shudras are for protection, healing, blessing, whereas the Hindutva propaganda of gods is about heroism, curse, preaching, fear, and unless we do not realize the cultural erosion the false narrative of Hindutva propaganda is causing, our diverse identity cannot be protected.
Tree with more branches always grows bigger, gives more shade, and houses more birds, like wise cultural diversity of India is her biggest strength and gives shade to all deities, practices, and beliefs, will our diversity allow a political Hindutva ideology to cut the Tree? only time will tell.