Religion and values

Here’s the story:

“Once upon a time, in the month of rainy season called ‘sawaan’, on the third day after the full moon falling, all the married girls celebrated the rains outdoors. They wore colorful sarees called ‘lahriya’ and swang from rustic jhoolas tied to the trees. A young girl, sister of seven elder brothers, also wanted to do the same, but she didn’t have the lahriya saree. So she went to her mother and asked for the saree. Her mother said that she didn’t have such a saree, but the girl’s sister-in-laws have and she might ask them.

The girl went to all the sister-in-laws one by one, in vain. None of them wanted to share their sarees with her. The youngest of the sister-in-law agreed to lend her the saree, but on, what could only be called, an eerie condition. If the saree colors get washed in rains or it gets tore anywhere, the sister-in-law will cut the girl’s throat and use the blood to color  the disfigured saree. The young girl agreed, happy to know she would get to wear the saree.

The luck not being on the girl’s side, when she went out to play with her friends, draped in the lahriya saree, it started raining heavily and in fear and confusion, her saree got caught in the swing and was torn. The young girl quickly dried and folded the disfigured saree and went to return it to her sister-in-law. The suspicious sister-in-law opened the saree, only to find it in ruins. Now she had to invoke the clause on the basis of which the saree was given. She went on a hunger strike and asked her husband, the girl’s brother, to kill the girl and fulfill the promise.

Meanwhile, this girl was married but not yet taken to her husband’s home. The time was ripe for her to go there. The brother, worried about his wife’s health, decided to escort the girl to her husband’s home and use this opportunity to kill her and color the saree. He did exactly that. The place where the girl was beheaded, in the jungles, a small flower plant grew. Everyone at her home thought that the girl has reached her husband’s place.

Later, when the dead girl’s husband’s family came inquiring about the girl, the truth came out. And when they tried to pull out the plant, where the girl had died, out came the Teej goddess.”

So, this is the story which is being told time and again across generations since a couple of centuries, if not longer, on the day of teej festival.

When I heard it, I had a lot of questions.

To begin with, why would we, as a society, keep such stories alive? Do we want to say tell our future generations that there was a time when people were more materialistic than now? Or do we want to tell them that violence was a part of everyday life or probably, it still is?

My teacher friends who have lived in different cultural societies such as japan, tell me that in those societies people don’t know how to steal because the concept doesn’t exist. So if there is an object lying on a bench of a park, you are just not supposed to pick it up unless it belongs to you. So people don’t steal, because the concept doesn’t exist.

In the same breadth, if we analyse this story, doesn’t it introduce the concept of killing and revenge to those who were otherwise ignorant of it? Why spread a virtue by introducing a vice? Why not instead, have a story where in the raining season, a young girl wanted to fill a tank of water, but the water would not go in that direction, so a goddess came to help her (if you insist to bring in the supernatural characters). Better still, the entire village supported her and together, they were successful in filling the tank which would store water for them in the dry season.

What values are we teaching ourselves and our future generations by these festivals and religious ceremonies? Or are we so busy and unconcerned and dumb, that we will merely play and act as told, without questioning or wondering?

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