If state is our enemy in Sabarimala, we’re ours in Vaishno Devi

A Lutyens' Delhi alienated from the people may have scripted the showdown at the shrine of Lord Ayyappa; the sheer apathy towards India's heritage, reducing a pilgrimage to a picnic in Vaishno Devi, shows why we finally get an insensitive state

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What has transpired at Sabarimala was inevitable. It was a matter of time before the state sponsored attack on Hindu traditions by the enemies of dharma would breach the feeble and organic line of defence of the devotees. The attack on the shrine is brutal, explicit, forceful, straightforward and shameless. It is easy to identify the enemy and feel outraged by their hatred for us and our customs. The problem was scripted in the alleys of Lutyen’s Delhi but the solution will be found on the streets of Kerala. Maybe through violence. Maybe through a timely retreat by the enemy.

There is another kind of attack on our temples, one that is more akin to an immunodeficiency as opposed to a mere infection. This assault is soft, long-term, cultural, devious and ambiguous. It almost seems like a reinforcement rather than a threat. It uses the apathy and cultural illiteracy of Indian society against itself. It comes cloaked in the form of better infrastructure, employment for locals, commerce and devotional consumerism. I was witness to this assault a few days ago. An assault of human numbers.

I suppose the prized solitude of Ma Vaishno Devi has been an eyesore for the progress oriented, fun-loving citizens and their ever-so-helpful government. The logic is reassuringly self-evident – why would anyone want to be alone? Therefore, the 13 km trek to the temple has now been converted into a giant mela with helicopter rides for the affluent pilgrim, ponies for the lazy pilgrim, battery operated cars for the lazier pilgrim, a ropeway for the lethargic pilgrim, shops selling religious merchandise for the homesick pilgrim, coolies over-timing as masseurs for the tired pilgrim and the ubiquitous Bose speakers broadcasting a mix of peppy devotional music, lost-and-found announcements and unsolicited spiritual advice for those who are missing Arnab Goswami’s uplifting sermons.

What is at stake at Vaishno Devi and countless other shrines is the preservation of heritage — cultural, natural and spiritual. The concern for a delicate ecology, acknowledging the difference between a picnic and a pilgrimage, willingly enduring hardships for the beloved deity, meditating on her and approaching her with devotion and humility, in silence — these are things that seem unreal today. Yet these are the things that inspired our ancestors to protect the sanctity of this land, often with their blood.

We have given up our ancient civilizational identity for the numb comfort of being global doormats. We have lost the blessings of our devas in the march of progress. We are colonized and deracinated and cheap imitations of those who hate us. We are lambs waiting to be slaughtered but for the protection of the kshetrams we are so diligently destroying. That your name is not Michael or Manzoor is a miracle. Don’t worry about your favourite jackass winning the next election and don’t worry about saving the environment or the civilization. Protect Sabarimala. Protect Vaishno Devi. Reclaim the kshetrams that protect you and save your pagan arse.