When we talk about India, the first thing we notice distinctly is the diversity in terms of languages, religions, food and everyday life and yet the harmony that makes us call it one country.
As Indians, we have always admired the varied flavours of the land, and appreciated our differences as a positive, and never as a roadblock.
As history stands as a witness, every conquest or invasion of any country has resulted in diluting the religious and cultural identity of the conquered nation.
A lack of identity and connect to their roots then makes it easier for the race to be ruled by the outside forces.
This however, did not hold true in case of India. The diverse cultures and religious identities of the land remained intact if not undiluted after many invasions from many conquerors.
Today, when the world and even our own country is struggling with intolerance and extremist views, maybe a deeper understanding of our own history can be the pathfinding light that can help us achieve greater peace and freedom as a society.
No place for intolerance
Firstly, there is no room for intolerance in India and any such motion would be nothing short of absurdity, as unlike the west, our religion is not about finding the greatest power of the universe, or god, but the eastern spirituality is more about self-enlightenment, achieving moksha, nirvana or heaven for oneself.
So, there is no comparison with the other’s belief.
My only aim is to improve myself and be the best version of my enlightened self; in doing so, where is the question of my quest being better or more accurate than the other?
Love of God
And secondly, on a personal level, religion in our everyday lives is not about protocols, rules or consequences thereof.
It is more about the traditions, the festivities, the food, the feasts and the celebrations. Simply put, God is not feared but loved and revered in all the religions.
We all distinctly remember the ambience of festivals from our childhood.
Whether it was the special prasadam or the sweets that were prepared for the day, or the way our house was decorated for the welcome of the goddesses. Our grandmothers and mothers told stories of the victory of good over evil, about many godly virtues, which were life lessons they imparted for our journey into the outside world and their way of ensuring righteousness of thoughts for the young minds.
Religion is happiness
For us, religion is more a part of our happiness and memories with our loved ones, than an escape or answer for all our problems and desires. And it is this feeling of belonging, love and happiness that we want to pass on to our children with every pooja, ritual, festival or prayer, that makes it an inseparable part of our lives.
We identify with the memories more than the faith.
We believe in the stories and fables our elders shared with such love and tenderness, that we never looked for any alternative truths or scientific or historic facts.
Curiosity builds faith
And if this is how everyone looks at their own religion, and that of the other, there is no room for dispute. All that is left then, is a curiosity.
Curiosity to know about their celebrations, about their feasts, their elders and the stories told to them in childhood and most of all, a curiosity to be a part of their journey.
All conflicts would then disappear and Santa would be welcomed with same love as goddess Lakshmi.
Praneeta Kochhar is a graduate (BA) in Philosophy. She defines herself as a ‘Student of life’ and tries to find a fresh perspective in everyday life experiences. Creative Writing is among her best attributes.
Pictures appearing here were taken by Abir Mahajan, son of Praneeta and Arjun living in Hamilton. Abir is five years of age.