«ESTHER WAPSTRA Thesis submitted for MA degree Supervisors: Dr. Laurens G. H. Bakker Prof. Paul J. C. L. van der Velde 30 August 2013 COMMUNAL HARMONY ...»
Theresa Martiz who calls herself ‘Christ-follower’ and whom I met in the courtyard of the New Vishwanath Temple also told me that she does go to temple when her friends are going. However, she does not worship but goes “Just for enjoying it, nothing more.”.174 The New Vishwanath Temple is located on the campus of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and on days when the weather is good the courtyard is crowded with people, mostly groups of students who take some time to relax in between the classes. However, people do not only come to the temple for relaxing, there are also non-Hindus who genuinely go to the temple for prayers. The pandit, Mr. Parvesh Chaturvedi, recounts that “There are many Muslims who change their get-up and come to the temple from their houses for darshan, they change their cloths to come for darshan. They do not let people recognize them that they are Muslims. They go there, see from distance, worship, but do not touch [the deity or linga].”.175 He told me that earlier he had considered it cheating and continued to relate how he had followed a Muslim from Bombay to the temple to check whether he was genuine. He recognized him by body language and found out he even did Interview with Mr. Abishek Dutta, Dashashvamedh, 13 January 2012 Interview with Ms.
Eventually they brought me to a dark shack with some looms where I was shown a corner that was demarcated by a low fence and with straw on the floor, obviously intended for the goat that were outside. I was told the direction of the Kāba and left alone to pray. Because there was no place to perform wuzū (ritual ablution) and the situation made me feel quite awkward I went home. Yet, it is very likely that the wife of the social worker is actually referring to dargāhs (shrines of Muslim saints and holy men) instead of mosques (see section 220.127.116.11). Many people told me that dargāhs are visited by both Muslims and Hindus. I have experienced this personally in the famous dargāh in Ajmer as well as in a small local dargāh in Varanasi. Indeed, a dhobī walā who filled in the questionnaire added that many Hindus, like herself, visit mazārs.177 The social worker and his wife also describe how half the people The Sankat Mochan temple is a temple dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god from the Ramayana Questionnaire 61 participating in the urs of Ghazi Mian are Hindus.178 The way Hindus and Muslims pay
respect to the saint has many similarities to worshipping a deity in a Hindu temple:
prashād (offerings of flowers and sweets) is offered and received back with blessings from the saint, incense is offered, lights might be lit, loud music might be played, and donations are offered to the dargāh or to beggars at its entrance. In some cases, like the dargāh of Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi, the red-and-yellow threads that are tied to the wrist in temples are tied to the wall.179 Mr. Shekhar Mallah told that he personally goes to Hindu temples, Islamic mosques, Christian churches, and Sikh gurūdwārā all the like: “Indeed there are differences between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus are Hindus, Sikhs are Sikhs, Christians are Christians, but there is love in all!”.180 He seems to be quite exceptional as all the interviewees as well as all Hindus I talked with informally indicate that they do not visit mosques, although they might visit dargāhs. It appears that Muslims do visit temples, for leisure but for religious purposes likewise. However, all interviewees I discussed it with assert that praying together is and will always be impossible because the way of praying is so different.
6.2.2 Celebrating religious festivals Many interviewees said that Hindus and Muslims celebrate their religious festivals together. They mention a wide range of festivals in which they meet; the Hindu festivals Diwālī and Holī and the Islamic festivals Īd-ul-Fitr and Īd-e-Azhā (Bakrīd) are mentioned by nearly all. But also Dussehrā and Shab-e-Barāt are mentioned.
Religious festivals involve a lot of ritual; both religious as well as more cultural customs (see section 3.2).
With Diwālī, often referred to as festival of lights, the return of Rama is celebrated.181 As it coincides with the end of the harvest season in North India, blessings are asked from Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Everywhere in the streets small clay murtīs (idols) Lakshmi and Ganesha, the guardian of thresholds and therefore of new beginnings, are sold. Small clay cups are filled with oil or ghī (clarified butter) and in the night people lit fireworks. With Holī it is remembered how Hiranyakashipu The urs is the ‘wedding ceremony’, or commemoration of the day the saint died and subsequently was reunited with God Based on personal observations Interview with Mr. Shekhar Mallah, Khalispura, 16 January 2012 Because of a trick of his mother, Bharat, a younger half-brother of Rama, was chosen as king and Rama, the hero of the Rāmāyana, was sent in exile for fourteen years. However, Bharat acknowledged Rama as heir of the throne and agreed to serve as regent during Rama’s exile. After fourteen years Rama returned to Ayodhya to rule an ideal king (Klostermaier, 2007, pp. 67-69; see also section 18.104.22.168) tried to kill his own son Prahlada.182 People throw coloured powders to each other and Holika bonfires are lit in the night. Dussehrā is a Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil by remembering the battle of goddess Durga with the demon Mahishasur and the victory of Lord Rama over the ten-headed demon Ravana.183 During the nine days of the battle between Durga and Mahishasur nine forms of the goddess are worshipped, many neighbourhoods have a makeshift temple with a murtī (idols) of goddess Durga, made of straw and clay and wonderfully painted, and people abstain from certain foods and diminish their food intake. On the tenth day Durga murtīs are brought to Ganga River in procession and are immersed. The battle of Rama and Ravana is remembered with performances of the Ramlila (re-enactment of the battle).
Īd-ul-Fitr is the end of the Islamic fasting month. During the month Ramadan people fast between sunrise and sunset and in many mosques special prayers are offered, reciting the complete Qurān within the span of the month. With Īd-ul-Fitr many people wear new clothes and visit family and friends. During Īd-e-Azhā it is remembered how God tested the faith and submission of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ishmael.184 In remembrance of this, all Muslims should sacrifice an animal. The sacrificed animal is offered to god and divided into three parts: one for the family, one for friends and family, and one of the poor.
Shab-e-Barāt is the 15th day of the Islamic month Sha’ban. It is called night of deliverance (Laylatul Bara’ah in Arabic), during which Muslims perform prayers and commemorate deceased ancestors.
Although most people seem not participate in the religious rituals of the festivals that do not belong to their religion, it is very common for especially young Muslims to Hiranyakashipu, the demon who not be killed ‘during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or in the sky; neither by a man nor an animal’, was frustrated by his son's devotedness to his enemy, Lord Vishnu. He decided to kill his son Prahlada, but he survived all the attempts. Eventually Prahlada is put on a pyre with Holika, Hiranyakashipu's demoness sister. Holika burns to death and Prahlada survives. Then Hiranyakashipu is killed: at twilight, on a threshold, on the thighs of Narasimha, a half man-half lion (Klostermaier, 2007, p. 200) Durga & Mahishasura. The demon Mahishasura terrorized earth, heaven and the nether worlds and could not be defeated by any man or god. Shiva's wife Parvati took on the role of warrior and battled ten days with the demon, who changed forms many times: from buffalo to elephant to lion to man, but in all the forms he was slain by Durga. Finally, in the guise of half man-half buffalo she defeated and killed him (Klostermaier, 2007, pp. 233-235). Rama & Ravana. In exile, Rama's wife Sita was abducted by demon Ravana to his kingdom of Lanka. Together with his brother Lakshmana, Hanuman and an army of monkeys, Rama battled to rescue Sita. On the tenth day Rama defeated the tenheaded demon Ravana (Klostermaier, 2007, pp. 67-69; see also section 22.214.171.124) Ibrahim once had a dream in which he saw that Allah requested him to slaughter his son. His son, upon being asked what to do, told Ibrahim that he should follow the command of Allah. When his son was about to be slaughtered Allah called out that Ibrahim had fulfilled the request and that it was a trial. Instead another sacrifice was made (based on the Muhsin Khan translation at http://quran.com) participate in the cultural aspects of the festival, like lighting of fireworks or to join in the procession and the immersion of murtīs. Līlās (e.g., Ram Lila and Krishna Lila) are also popular among non-Hindus.185 Many interviewees and people I spoke with informally reported that they visit friends and neighbours, distribute sweets, and sometimes share in food during festivals of their own as well as other religions (see also section 3.3.2). Interviewees often describe these get-togethers in terms of “mutual togetherness” or “brotherhood”. Again, it is the social worker who is outspokenly positive: “The hearts of the Hindu-Muslim meet and then people are connected.... people interact with each other, in Hindu and Muslim festivals, they share their happiness, talk with affection and love.... We meet with smile.”.186 Mr.
Irfan Malik, the retired mason, told gives me an example of how the celebrating of
someone else’s religious festival goes hand in hand with one’s own religion:
For example there is a Shivarātri march in which we would participate, we know that we are with them, but when we need to pray and offer namāz then we go to offer namāz! Indeed, both religions are different! We pray according to a schedule, when time come then we go to pray! And after praying namāz we come back and again meet and interact with them.187 While discussing whether it is not hypocrite to celebrate a religious holiday for a religion to which one does not adhere, Ms. Theresa Martiz, who said she went to the temple to have a good time with her friends, responds that she does not mind celebrating the festivals “because it’s for friendship and relationship making, na.”.188 The elderly weaver woman, Mrs. Husna Anzaari, was the only one to tell me explicitly
that they would not participate in festivities:
There are difficulties in that for us! It is in our religion that we should not touch color particularly on the day of Holī! It can be done on other days; someone can do so in a funny [i.e., leisurely] way but no colors should be touched on Holī! It is not in our religion so we should stay away from it! It is not permitted in our religion so we try to protect ourselves.189 Based on personal observations Interview with Mr. Shekhar Mallah, Khalispura, 16 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Irfan Malik, Kashpura, 20 January 2012; Shivarātri (‘big night of Shiva’) a festival in which his marriage with Sita is celebrated and thousands of people go to a Shiva temple, preferably the Vishwanath temple Interview with Ms. Theresa Martiz, BHU, 2 February 2012 Interview with Mrs. Husna Anzaari, Varanasi, 13 February 2012 However, she continues that people who do business with each other do celebrate together. Informal conversations confirmed that business relations share in festivities, especially distributing sweets. Interestingly, the lady then adds that people come to celebrate Īd with them and share in their sawaiyan or share in the meat of slaughtered animals during Bakrīd.190 This is a remarkable statement, as slaughtering animals on Bakrīd is a bit controversial in India. The name Bakrīd comes from the custom of sacrificing a goat, as goat is bakrī in Hindi. Although sacrificing goat is permitted in Islam, seven people can share in the sacrifice of a cow making it cheaper than sacrificing goat. Yet, cows are considered sacred in Hinduism and the slaughtering of cows is an insult to them. This has been leading to disputes since the 1880s, when the first massive campaign against cow slaughter was undertaken, supported by Swami Dayananda and the Arya Samaj (Thursby, 1975).191 In 1888 an Indian high court decided that cows are not ‘sacred’ animals as defined in section 295 of the Indian Penal Code and Muslims cannot be prosecuted for slaughtering cows (Veer, 1994, p. 92).192 The intensity of emotions resounds in the words of Mr.