When I passed my Matriculation with a very high First Class (my first and last!) my father suggested that I go on a Bharat yatra trip, with a close friend of mine who happened to be a Muslim, from one of the Nawabi Families of Hyderabad Deccan.
I had just completed 15 and he was around 17.
We worked on an itinerary which would take us to a number of places in fifteen days. And we decided to rough it out. Travel by other than Southern Railway was always at some great risk. But, the two of us were hefty, and we were brave enough to be brave!
Our first halt was at Puri, which was closest in our travel plan from Waltair. We got off, freshened ourselves at the rest room, and went out, planning to visit the Puri Jagannath Temple, and then the lovely beach washed by the blue Bay of Bengal, the most majestic of seas.
We reached the temple by walk, to be encountered by that breed of pandas (not the Australian variety) who promised to take us to places within the temple, which till then, they said, was not seen by another human being!
Warding off all of them, we entered the main temple precincts, and as were going ahead, a huge Panda accosted us and asked, 'Kiddhar jarare ho beta?' (Where are you going, son) 'Darshan ke liye' (For Darshan) I replied. Seeing my friend, Syed Ali, who was as fair as any Northern European, the keeper of the Gods replied, 'Hindu hoga tho ja saktha'. (You can go if you are a Hindu). Even today, I wonder what prompted me to retort back without batting an eyelid, 'Ye Kashmiri Pandit Hai' (He is a Kashmiri Pandit). The man's attitude changed totally. Thank God, he wasn't asked to strip! He called out to the priest from inside the sanctum, and gave some instructions with a machine gun rattle in Oriya, and within no time, the priest came rushing out with a plate bearing a coconut, some fruits, betel leaves, and invited my friend inside. I was not even asked to follow. But I did, and we saw the totem forms of Sri Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra in their tribal glory. My friend too, bowed his head to the Deities and after partaking of Prasad, came out. 'Andy! What have you done'? he asked. 'Nothing. I gave the Lord a Darshan of a Nawab' I replied.
I know when I die, I will rot in hell for having the desecrated a great Hindu shrine! But I have no regrets even today.
Down the years, I find I have not been alone in this 'heinous' act!
The famous Jesudas, a disciple of Chambai, under whom he trained for Carnatic music, is a Christian. Syrian or Catholic, I don't know. But his rendering of the Bhagavad Gita is just out of this world.
He and Chambai together had sung in the lovely temple of Guruvayoor, in praise of the Deity. And while the priests were initially reluctant to allow a non-Hindu to enter the sanctum, the Great Chambai led him in, the duo singing away to glory, only to be welcomed thereafter by the priests with Poorna Kumbham.
That for me is Hinduism and Hindutva.
Of course, for the Church, Jesudas became an 'outcaste' and I was told that the Church refused to baptize his child.
Soon after partition, Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan left for Pakistan, with the intention of settling down there. He was then invited by Radio Pakistan to come and sing the classical which the Maestro had composed. And the Master, true to his Gharana, started with a lovely, long Alaap, and competing this, started to render Saraswati Vandana. There were huge protests at this, as to how he could sing in praise of a Hindu Goddess, and from Pakistani soil. The Ustad retorted that for his tribe; Divinity was God, and that God has no barriers. And that as a musician, he had the right to sing what his heart felt like. And his heart wanted to sing in praise of the Goddess. He packed his bags and came back to India.
Around twenty years ago, or even less, Mid Day, the 'afternoon newspaper of Mumbai, (Bombay then) came out with a front-pager that the Chief Kartha at the famous Siddhi Vinayak temple, (with the surname of Patil), was a Muslim. Mid-Day is a paper owned by a Muslim. Writing about the Chief trustee and his religion was nothing but fanning communal trouble. Totally irresponsible piece of journalism. That man, when confronted by a section of the public, confirmed he was a Muslim, but he had been one even when he was inducted by the temple a decade earlier. 'Does the fact that I am one hurt the Divine?' he asked. Yet he was asked to leave, which he did weeping his heart out.
I wonder whether he desecrated the temple by his being there, or did we as Hindus, desecrate the Deity by our act?
A couple of weeks ago, I was very disturbed to read in the Indian Express that Parvati Khan who was singing at Trayambakeshwar at Nashik, was first applauded by both priests and 'devotees;, but then when they learnt that she was a Muslim by marriage, had created a storm in the temple town.
Parvati Khan, a former Pop singer from the Caribbean, has been going around the twelve jyotirlingas in the country, and her halt at Nashik was the tenth, said she was on a peace mission that she had started on in 2002 for 'Ekta aur Insaniyat'.
This is what the Express has to say.
Temple loves Mata but can't stomach 'Khan'
Nashik, September 6: For the past five days, the Trimbakeshwar temple has echoed with the 'soothing voice' of former pop star Parvati Khan. Singing bhajans under the guise of Parvati Mata, she enthralled priests and devotees.
But the departure of the former pop singer'a Hindu, originally from the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, now married to a Muslim'has created a storm in the temple town, which only allows Hindus inside its premises.
Trimbakeshwar was Khan's 10th stop on her way to the 12 jyotirlingas (places of pilgrimage to Shiva) in the country. She is on a peace mission'started in 2002'for 'ekta aur insaniyat' (unity and humanity). After being heckled in Kashi and stoned in Hingoli, Marathwada, this time round, Khan took no chances.
Dropping their last name, the Khan family (husband Nadeem and son Jatin) stayed in Trimbakeshwar for five days. Every morning, Khan walked into the temple with her synthesizer and sang bhajans. Soon, news of the 'mata with a melodious voice' spread across the town and hundreds gathered to listen.
'She created such a beautiful atmosphere here,' gushes priest Upendra Shikhre, unaware of Khan's real identity. 'Her voice drew hundreds of devotees here every day, many more than the temple normally sees on an average day. The last five days were so serene.' But now, priest Ulhas Aaradi is a bitter man. 'If only we had known earlier...If people of Trimbakeshwar had known, they would have told her to get out.' Only Hindus are allowed in the temple.
Khan says she was expecting the opposition. 'I don't feel bad because I know that God is with me in every move I make. I am moving as a messenger of peace and my devotion to Shiva is the same as that for Allah and Jesus.'
From the days of Jimmy, Jimmy and Dil Deewana Ho Gaya in the '80s to her 'peace compositions', Khan has come a long way. She embarked on her pilgrimage after 'a famous Maharashtrian saint' told her that she should get the 'blessings of Lord Shiva' for her endeavour and visit the 12 jyotirlingas. She started with Somnath, ran into opposition in Kashi, entered Trimbakeshwar under an alias and is already planning her next trip to Kedarnath. '
For many like me, there can no bigger desecration than this!
I wonder! Do I have to be a Christian to sing the Psalms? Or a Hindu to recite names of Hindu Gods? Is that all religion teaches? Don't we have that freedom to go into any place of worship which our heart dictates, or are our Gods restricted, some within temples, some in mosques and some in churches? Who is it that we are binding within four stone walls?
Yet, I wonder what religion Shiva or Vishnu is, or for that matter, Allah or Jehovah.
If I can't find Him within, where else can He be bound?
Chinnanndi, that was indeed a very fascinating narration. I am inspired to add a few of my own thoughts in that vein.
Ruma and I attended a classical music program here in Dallas. It was a concert which had Zakir Hussain playing on the percussion. To say that he was just brilliant would be an understatement. There was one piece where he excelled himself. At the end of that piece the whole hall went absolutely and insanely wild. They not only applauded for minutes together, but some in the back rows started cat calls and loud whistles. When it all died out, Zakir Hussain grabbed the mike and very humbly made a request. He said that while he did appreciate all the applauses, he must request that there should not be any cheap cat calls or whistles. To my utter amazement he said, we should not bring this to a level of some pop concert, for him this was devotion and that stage was a temple of Saraswati to whom he was praying while he played!!!
I have also heard of another folk lore, which I do not know how much credence is due. It seems once in a year, Ustad Bismillah Khan takes a dip in the Ganges, wearing wet lungi, sits on top of a rock by the side of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, and plays his guts out to his heart's content. He claims, he needs to do that just to communicate with the Supreme, for his own personal good feeling!!
' Babu Dore