|The Himalayas - from Lonely Planet
The other day, I was at a friend’s
place when the cry of two women rose in the air. It was from a house a few
doors down. When I reached there along with my friend, quite a few people had
already gathered. The two women – a mother and daughter – who wailed explained
the cause of their grief. They believed that one particular woman, whom they
mentioned by name, was doing black magic against them because of which they
were facing disasters one after another. The latest disaster was the daughter’s
failure in her graduation examination.
One of the men who had come hearing
the wailing told the mother and daughter rather bluntly that what they needed
was psychiatric help. “You believe in such balderdash as black magic [koodotram,
in Malayalam]?” He turned to the daughter and said, “You flunked because you
didn’t study. Instead, you were loitering with your boyfriend.” He went away in
My friend told me, as we walked back,
that the mother was doing black magic herself against the woman whom she had
accused. “This woman performs such things as Shatru Samhara Puja – ritual
for eliminating the enemy – in many temples. She won’t do it here in the
nearest two temples because that is where her enemy is supposedly performing her
black magic. The gods in these temples will have a problem about which devotee
to please. So these two women go to different gods.”
I was quite astounded to hear such
things. “We call it Prabuddha Keralam – Enlightened Kerala,” I said.
“Enlightenment shies away from the
thresholds of religions,” my friend who is an active Communist said.
“There are a lot of people who find
enlightenment from religions,” I said. I told him that I was currently reading
a book titled The Journey Home written by an ascetic, Radhanath Swamy,
who found enlightenment in the holy places of the Himalayas.
I have a sympathetic view of
religion, unlike my Communist friend though I am not a believer. I know a lot
of people for whom life would be utterly meaningless without their religion. If
religion helps people lead meaningful lives and practice goodness, I will only
encourage them to be religious. But the misuse of religion, which is what a lot
of people do especially nowadays, is one of the most wicked sins as far as I am
“Radhanath Swamy was an American Jew,”
I told my friend. “He left America at the age of 19 in search of meaning which
he found in the freezing folds of the Himalayas where he met ascetics who
guided him in their own ways.” It’s the same religion that made Radhanath a
saintly ascetic that is making these two women practice black magic. That is
one of the many ironies of religions.