Driving the collective conscience through a colossus

There’s a feeling of void as I write this, for what had been an integral part of life for over two months is now a beautiful, forever etched memory that may or may not repeat for me the same way. What the world saw as a ritualistic anointment ceremony of a 39 feet tall colossus at Dharmasthala, was in fact for me a phenomenon that opened new horizons of understandings on a number of levels.

Everyone comprehends the importance of a large scale religious ceremony on the level of religious importance, and to some extent the level of spiritual. However, the intricate factors noticeable at these instances that collectively form the social conscience of the country often go overlooked. No matter how condemned or how questioned on media levels the religious aspects in India would be, the fact remains that NOTHING drives the collective conscience of the nation as much as our religious roots. This ceremony, for me, was just another testimony of that.

A larger-than-life celebration of the sacrificial ideals of Jainism attracted people from all communities of the area, which is not a new thing for any sort of Indian festivities. What does distinguish this one is the notion that ideals of Jainism have always had the reputation for being extreme in nature, sometimes highly unconventional for a ‘normal’ society. After all, it is not every day that you’d see over 50 sky-clad men revered with utmost regard, with zero consideration towards the fact that they do not fit in to the everyday norms of the society whatsoever. It is natural that Jains revere them, but the same extent of consideration received from other communities who make attempts at understanding what ascetics stand for in Jainism, why they lead a life of such extreme discomfort; and how they deserve to be treated is evidence that the ability to respect all religions comes to us as naturally as breathing.

Executing an event of this scale in the contemporary context is hands down impossible if it is just one community doing it all. It only worked because thousands of people, young and old, came together with an impression that it all belongs to us, owing to which 10 days of grandeur unfolded at Dharmasthala in such smooth and precise manner.

Religion and spirituality are anything but old school, considering the ways the current generation has adapted and implemented them. The 3D projection show that accompanied the anointment ceremony justified that traditional roots are just as capable of fostering innovation and modernity as any other factor. The generation craves to remain in touch with what has shaped our being through ages, as opposed to the outward notion that modernization is directing them the other way. It was all young people who ensured all regulations, religious and otherwise, were upheld to perfection throughout the ceremony.

Community events as large as this one are no short of a boon for social well being in India. The extent of coming together of diversities it takes to pull it off is just the right way to keep a social system intact. There’s a highly loved and revered leader, a pious religious community and a magnanimous metaphysical symbol carved out in stone that collectively brought together lakhs of people to perfectly coordinate in one direction, even though they all hardly knew each other. The colossus has, in fact, played the role of directing the positive collective conscience of the humankind in the area ever since it was envisioned. Over 50 years later, it hasn’t moved a tinge but has hauled the best of spiritual orientation in people around the state. It is nothing but incredible how much impact a religiously oriented symbol can have on the holistic well being of a system.

I’m thankful to the level of lack of words for expression. The anointment, which I read somewhere as ‘a pageant fit for the Gods alone’ shall happen next 12 years later, and who knows what that one would look like. For now, despite the sense of void that its all over, I cannot refrain from feeling that deep sense of gratitude that I was lucky enough to be a close part of this.

Featured image by Rathan Barady

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