“The construction of a temple, Buddhist or Hindu, was an important political act, indeed as much an act of war as it was an act of peace,” says John Keay in his book, India: a History. Religion has always been inextricably intertwined with politics. Christianity would probably have been wiped out from the face of the earth unless it had succeeded in enlisting Emperor Constantine’s devotion. One of the first things Constantine did after embracing his new Faith was to construct a huge church in Constantinople, his new capital. He also constructed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the place where Jesus’ tomb was/is believed to have been.
All powerful kings and emperors built enormous churches, temples or other places of worship. Most of the fabulous temples in India were constructed by powerful rulers in the ancient days. The purpose was not so much worship of god(s) as proclamation or exhibition of worldly power. Heavenly gods and earthly kings have joined hands for various purposes throughout the history of mankind. The churches and the temples stood bearing witness to the various conspiracies.
|Akshardham Temple, Delhi|
In a recent article, the renowned Malayalam novelist, M Mukundan, wrote about the innumerable threats he received when he had expressed his view that the Akshardham Temple on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi reminded him more of a Bollywood movie set than a place of worship. The fact remains that the temple, which charges a hefty entrance fee, offers more infotainment and brainwashing than inspires spirituality of any sort. The temple is a blatant display of power, an impressive exhibition of the political clout of a community of people. The threats hurled at Mukundan were symbols of the multi-dimensional invincibility of religion.
When Aurangazeb or any other such puerile-minded ruler demolished certain places of worship or replaced them with others, they were in fact asserting their earthly power rather than bringing spiritual solace to their people. When some of our contemporary political leaders mimicked the ancient ashwamedha ritual in order to consolidate a demolition squad of frenzied devotees in Ayodhya a few years ago, what they were actually trying to do was to become present day Aurangazebs proclaiming the power and glory of their religion, and through the religion, of themselves. The show is still on though the actors have changed their seats.
Spirituality is a matter of the heart. It is well-nigh impossible to attain spiritual states of mind in places that obscenely display splendour and affluence. But who is concerned about spirituality?