People do ask God is everywhere, then why build temples? Why attempt to contain that endless force within the walls of a sanctum when it could as well be felt and revered just anywhere?
There’s a point alright. But a lot of times in India we undergo the sort of experiences related to God and religion that shape our being, which make us believe that keeping God domain agnostic would deprive us off our very ethos. After all, the religious institutions that centre on an idol are surprisingly most times a catalyst of the society, influencing changes and epiphanies on a number of levels – especially personal for the ones that seek extraordinary experiences.
It dawns on us hard as the events of the season unfold at Dharmasthala; or perhaps we should just call it events – for they’re hardly season specific. The most recent one for that matter, the fair which took place for four days from the 20th of April to the 23rd, was an extravagant affair that attracted thousands of devotees to the shrine, but for the centre it was just another routine affair that happens every other day.
Dharmasthala hosts a fair, a ceremony, a gathering, a this and a that every other day with literally thousands of people flowing in and out of the centre every single moment. Somehow, the endearing kind of chaos thus created results in an ambiance that is ecstatic and enlightening at the same time. And had we adhered by the idea of keeping the omnipresent God not ‘confined’ to temples, there was so much that a social conscience would have missed out on.
Picture the kind of energy accumulated at the temple premises through the righteous (natural or forced, doesn’t matter) mindsets of people that arrive for a spiritual experience here, every single day without an exception. Contemplate the kind of aura formed with all the eventfulness whose purpose is sheer metaphysical – something that the entire crowd does not completely comprehend but doesn’t question one bit either. Visualise all the mental connotations that people formulate in their mind as they watch the chariot being pulled from the temple to the Annappa betta – the one entity seated within the chariot is seen in a thousand subjective ways, but all of them pure and all of them true. How incredible is it to simply be seated at a corner as the events and emotions unfold, and witness the glorious ambiance that is confidently unparalleled elsewhere. Watch, as one man watches the chariot with a dumbstruck expression and another prays frantically. Watch as one exerts all his physical energy in making the chariot move and another leads the way with a torch, heralding its coming.
One needn’t be a creepily spiritual person to comprehend this. Temples in India play more than the role of religious institutions, and it is pretty evident everywhere. Especially in places like Dharmasthala, which is a larger-than-life religious destination fostering the confluence of faiths, the existence of a higher conscience is much easier to experience. It doesn’t matter if it is God or the people – the conscience acts by sustaining a system, elevating thoughts and even motivating incredible events in ways that no other force can.
The next time you come to Dharmasthala, or visit any large religious institution for that matter, or be a part of a great religious gathering, make an effort to notice the pattern. The fact that a temple, a chariot and an idol are capable of way more than any material aspect will surely awe you. Notice how, as people draw the chariot, the chariot draws their collective mindset and inspires strangers to coordinate to perfection. Not to sound atheist – but even if God never existed, the superfluity of religion is still worth it if seen from this perspective. That realization will awe you too, in a good way; because one way or another, we are all a part of the great spiritual realm that has since ages sustained the existence of humankind. Dharmasthala somehow is a major fountainhead for that epiphany.