Holy Cow !
It is always interesting how we blindly follow our elders. In most of the circumstance, we don't understand the need or necessity of the rituals but still follow it, obediently and unquestioningly. Now, I've always been a rebel and most of the times, I used to rebel just for the sake of it, though I have outgrown the habit and I'm a bit more focussed in my rebellion and now, almost inevitably choose the Hindu rituals as my targets, because my family try to force me to participate in rituals they don't know about.
My sister's house's Grihapravesham took place on Sunday. As per the custom, we perform aarthi to a cow and get it to come inside the house. We also noticed a street dog trying to get in (I later found out that the dog was roaming around the empty site first and then the half-finished house, so in a sense, it was the first ever resident of the house ! ). Almost inevitably, it was shooed away.
I was upset, seriously. I felt sorry for the dog. I have no reservations against worshipping the cow, but I really do have serious concerns when the worship isn't universal. Cow may be sacred, but equally sacred is the dog. Don't the upanishads say God is everywhere - "Eko devah sarvabhootheshu goodah, sarvavyaapi sarvabhoothaantharaathmaa" ? When we worship a cow, what do we worship ? The cow itself, or the perceived sacredness of the cow ? Now, since the divine is supposedly present everywhere, how come a dog is unworshippable, and is actually considered dirty ? There is also a ban on cow slaughter ... I wonder why ? Everytime I take an antibiotic, I kill millions of bacteria in my system (even useful ones). And don't tell me that bacteria are not sacred. If a cow can be considered sacred, spiritually speaking, a single bacterium is also equally sacred. I can take this argument to more ridiculous lengths, but I think there is a lot of absurdity that has seeped into the rituals.
And there's more. The band of vaadyaars aka purohits aka pandits (there were around 5 of them, most of them oldies, with beards) started chanting the vedas, most of which I don't know. But, when they started chanting the purushasooktham, I'm curious. I wonder what the relevance of chanting purushasooktham to a Grihapravesham ceremony ... not that it is a shooting offense, but I don't see the relevance, unless of course, they chant the same vedic verses for everything. They also skipped the last few verses of vishnusooktham ... The chanting itself was another comedy. Vedic chanting is supposed to be measured, with proper incantations, and stresses at right places. It is not supposed to be a Formula 1 race, but it actually turned out to be exactly that. One of them didn't know most of the vedas, another did, but was chanting at top gear most of the time. Others used books ... So, what the hell (should I rather say, what the heaven ?) were they trying to achieve ? One reason may be that, Sunday, April 30th being an "auspicious day", they had many such functions to perform, so they were trying to speed up things. Give me a break, I've been watching them ever since I learnt to recite a few upanishads, and I know most of the vaadyaars don't chant properly, skip things in the middle, and come to think of it, don't even know the meaning of what they chant. The last point may not stand scientific proof, but I've asked the meaning of Gayathri Manthram from a lot of people, and most don't know. And how else shall I interpret the recitation of purushasooktham in a Grihapravesham ceremony ?
I can go on more, but let that be a different post !