The Holy dip

 If it were that easy we could soon achieve a sinless society. Without meaning to offend the religious susceptibilities of millions, I would like to ask believers in bathing as a religious ritual a few questions: Why is the sin-cleansing limited to specific times e.g. the Kumbh Mela or place like Har-ki-Paudi in Hardwar and why not for all times? Why is it that the Sarovar of the Harimandir (Golden Temple) specifically marked out for soul and body cleansing? Since childhood I have heard Sikhs recite:

Guru Ram Das Sarovar Nahatey
Sab utrey paap karraatey
Bathe in the pool dug by Guru Ram Das
And cleanse yourself of all sins you have committed.
Surely a shower or a few lotas of water splashed on your body with soap is more cleansing than a few dip in water with no soap!

There is no logic behind the Hindu-Sikh fetish for Snan or Ishnaan. Nevertheless, men and women gather in hundreds of thousands on special occasions to take this quick and easy path to salvation. It is special occasion for Sadhus of different akhaaras to foregather and extort money from the gullible. In their rivalry they often come to blows against each other. There are stampedes and dozens of men, women & children are trampled to death. Isn’t it time for thinking Indians to raise their voices and question the continuance of such meaningless rituals?

II. Myth & Reality

There are many words whose meanings we vaguely know but rarely bother to find out what they actually stand for. One of those words is genes. I thought it was just another word for “in one’s blood”. A concept which was drilled into out heads since our days in school is that we Indians belong to five racial groups: Adivasis, Dravidans, Aryans, Mangols & Semites. I am a little more enlightened after reading Invasion of the Genes, Genetic Heritage of India by B S Ahloowalisa (Eloquent Books). The author did his Doctorate from the University of Chicago and worked for the Agriculture and Food Department in Dublin. He was also with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Food & Agriculture organisation (FAO) of the UN. He has made his home in Vienna (Austria).

I admit I was reluctant to read his book as I thought the subject was beyond my comprehension. However, the word ‘genes’ in the title made me curious to know what the word really meant. I was in for a very pleasant surprise as he not only explained it in simple, lucid terms with diagrams to illustrate it but at the end of every chapter gives a glossary of difficult words and their meanings. It read like a precisely written high school text book. I went through it without any difficulty and learnt much.

Another myth he rubbishes is the nation of the origin of life on earth drilled into out minds by teachers of religion. Human beings were not created by churing of the oceans nor by a God who created all creatures within six days before taking a break on Subbath. It was, as Darwin has proved, with species of fish coming on dry land and evolving into reptiles, birds, mammals and humans. We are in fact descended from monkeys.

Innumerable invaders

And finally, he tells us that there is no such thing as a pure race anywhere in the world. There has been so much inter-makingling through conquests and trading that introduced new genes in every country. India had innumerable invaders who came without women. They mated with local women, reared offspring of mixed races.

The latest arrivals in India were Europeans, Portuguese, Dutch, French and English. The earlier immigrants came without their women and were quick to adapt themselves to life-styles of Indian Rajahs and Nawabs. They acquired harems of Indian women and concubines and bred dozens of children. David Ochterlony, the first British Resident in the court of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar had 13 Indian wives, who bore him dozens of children. His assistant William Fraser had over half-a-dozen wives and mistresses and “as many children as the Shah of Persia”. Maharajah Ranjit Singh had over 30 Europeans to train his soldiers. At his instance they married Indian women so that he could be sure of their staying in his service.

Dr Ahloowalia’s book is an eye-opener. It removes a lot of cobwebs spun in our minds by religious bigots. If I had my way, I would make it compulsory reading in all High schools.

III. Nobel for Santa

Santa was seen standing in the middle of his acre of land under the scorching heat of the sun at mid-day. His friend Banta asked him: “O Sante! what are you doing at this hour in your farm?
“I have applied for the Nobel Prize,” replied Santa.
“What has this to do with the Prize?”
Banta replied: “It says that the Prize is awarded to somebody outstanding in his field.”

(Contributed by Dilsher Singh, Calgary (Canada)

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