God and the priest

August 24, 2011

At dawn this morning, I was standing in front of the Raghavendra matth (religious centre), when the temple was opened, and I watched the priest:

rghvndra temple 240811

He brought a large vessel of water, and proceeded to ring the puja bell, and started washing down the various idols..Hanuman….Vishnu….

rghvndra temple 2 240811

No one was watching; the priest did his duties out of his own sense of devotion. What is the impulse, I wonder, that makes devotees perform these cleansing rituals on these representations of God? Is it the thought of indulging the gods, with very luxury that they would themselves like to have? But then, I do not think human beings bathe in honey, milk, curds and sandalwood paste, the way we bathe our gods. So why these rituals? I feel it might be better to spend this amount of time serving food to poor people…but I suppose each of us has a different way of looking at religious rites…and I was certainly impressed with the meticulous way in which the priest went about his duties.

Perhaps this is what true religion is…doing one’s duty, even when no one (except God, and in this case, an unknown observer) is watching.