I am born and bought up in a Hindu family which does’nt eat egg on Tuesdays, though I don’t know the reason for this, neither do my parents, nor my grandparents. But I follow this blindly because Hindus don’t eat egg on Tuesdays. If one looks around, one can see Muslims doing namaaz five times in a day, followers of Jainism following a strictly vegetarian diet and Sikhs not shaving off their beard, keeping a turban etc. Christians going to confession box in church to seek forgiveness for their sins or attending a mass on Sundays and Hindus visiting Siddhi Vinayak or Vaishno Devi temple with the belief that Lord Ganesha or Mata Rani listen to their wishes and fulfill them. One can often see people getting emotional and crying on being able to have a darshan of durbar after walking uphill for 14 km. And people donating hundred thousand rupees in temples in Vrindavan, Tirupati Balaji or Manikaran etc.
Whatever might be the reason for these beliefs, why do people follow them and what will happen if these beliefs are not being practiced? That, I don’t really know. Some call it superstition, some follow it strictly and so do the others, who are very emotional about it. But one thing which is very clear from this is that religion has been among the most influential agents of determining human attitudes, habits and behavior in a society like India. Where people respect it, follow it and believe in it and are also willing to die in its name. Need not mention about all those religious riots, of which we have had enough in India; and for that matter, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh or Akali Dal getting people to follow their ideologies; or the importance of banking upon religion and caste in vote bank politics in India.
No matter whether one is a slum dweller or living in a posh bungalow, but one thing common between the two is belief in religion, God, religious leaders or spiritual gurus, who will guide them to the right path in this kalyug, who has a solution to all their problems, who will help them catharsis their sins because these religious leaders are considered the messengers of God, bestowed with divine powers, who guide one to the path of humanity, path to moksha and heaven. Who help them listen to their inner voice, their conscience! People have faith in what they say. They have no less fan following then film stars and now, with 24/7 channels like Aastha, Sadhna etc., these religious leaders have better reach and are more popular among masses.
No matter which religion, faith, God or Goddess these religious leaders or temples may promote, but one thing that binds them all is that they spread the messages on humanity, love, compassion, kindness, truthfulness etc. and they have been putting their words on humanity in to action by the means of orphanages, charitable dispensaries, hospitals, educational institutions etc.
But its time to move forward from doing acts of humanity to making people move towards humanity. By this it is meant that these religious leaders can be a potential force and religious places can be a platform for bringing about social change for better. These can be platforms for spreading social messages for fighting with social problems because of importance they have in people’s lives and emotional attachment people have with them.
For instance, a lot of newly wed couples do go to Mata Vaishno Devi Temple. So by the means of street plays in such places on issues like female foeticide, newly wed couples can be made to pledge not to go for female foeticide once they plan their family.
Similarly, for messages on gender equity and domestic violence, the in the divine voice of religious leaders at satsangs, kirtans and masses will definitely lead to better penetration and induce change in societal attitude towards these nuisances.
Change makers, social workers have been using edutainment as a means for social change. Now its time to use religion as a means of social change, applying the principles of social marketing here, planning effective social campaigns to spread social messages routing through religion. As Dr. B. R. Ambedkar once said, “Religion is the most powerful force of social gravitation”