A road map to change and purity

Source; express buzz
First Published : 30 May 2010 10:29:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 30 May 2010 12:28:36 AM IST

Jagmohan, who was once an MP, then a governor in Delhi and subsequently in Kashmir, where he made quite a name for himself (read My frozen Turbulence), has come out with a new book, Reforming Vaishno Devi which makes a parallel between the cleaning-up of the Vaishno Devi shrine, and reforming Hinduism. He starts by quoting Sri Aurobindo to tell us how much he has been connected to the Mother, since his childhood: “When you ask who is Bhavani, the Mother, she herself answers you: ‘I am the Infinite energy which streams forth from the Eternal in the world and yourselves, I am the Mother of the Universe, the Mother of the Worlds, I am Bhavani Bharati, Mother of India.’”We jump now to the time when Jagmohan becomes governor of Kashmir, turbulent times indeed, which saw the first stirrings of the separatist movement and the exodus of 4,00,000 Kashmiri Hindus. Jagmohan, after the Centre imposes President’s rule in J&K in March 1986, goes with his wife to visit Vaishno Devi, near Jammu, one of the oldest shrines dedicated to the Mother. He is appalled by the filth. There is no drinking water, no latrines, rabid dogs roam around, beggars hassle you every metre of this place, which is littered with filth and garbage. But when he enters the shrine proper, he has a strong mystical experience, feels the Mother’s presence and comes out transformed. Jagmohan is a thinking man. Thus he ponders and broods about the extreme contradiction between the outer dirtiness of Vaishnoo Devi and the Divine Presence still found inside. He comes to the conclusion that nothing short of a takeover can solve the problems. Therefore, on August 30, 1986, the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Act is promulgated and signed by Jagmohan and he springs into action. The 11-km route that leads to the shrine is enlarged and lit by hundreds of lamps. Some 15 lakhs tiles are laid, latrines are built, cottages, restaurants, stalls rise up as if by  a miracle, beggars are rounded up and employed, dogs are sterilised. There is some resistance, particularly from the Baridars, but on the whole, everybody applauds. The successful transformation of Vaishno Devi sets Jagmohan think again: Could Hinduism be also reformed? He again quotes Sri Aurobindo: “Hindu religion appears to me as a cathedral temple, half in ruins, while in the mass, crumbling or badly outworn in places, but a cathedral temple in which service is still done to the Unseen”. After a rather longish, but impeccable definition of Hinduism, Jagmohan spells out the way to do it: a takeover of temples, which are often badly kept and neglected; a renovation of historic sites such as Kurukshetra, which gave to the world the imperishable Gita; and a revival of the core values of Hinduism which see the Divinity in every man and his being part of the Whole: One in All and All in One. Overall, this is a good book, which makes very valid points: that not only the physical India — even the sacred India — as represented by Vaishno Devi (before clean-up), or Varanasi, is an appalling mess. But it’s also its institutions, its politicians, its very social foundations, that are eaten-up by a cancer only a reformed Hinduism will be able to cure. A Hinduism that rids itself of its superstitions, its outdated caste system, its apathy, lack of courage and vision. Moreover, the means that will be used to reform Hinduism are not in conflict with other religions. Thus, it would be the whole of India which would be uplifted.On the down side, Jagmohan’s style tends to be a bit rambling and he seems at times to be writing a diary rather than a book. One can also find fault with his optimism: Hindus do not appear interested at the moment in reform, and the pace at which westernisation is taking hold of India is frightening. This said, we will not change this world unless we attempt to do so and this book gives a good road map to it.— fgautier26@gmail.com


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