Acknowledging, understanding and respecting Hindu customs
SANDRA L BLOOD
In this widely-diversified nation called Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) embracing multi: ethnicity, cuisine, nationalities, tongued (manner of speaking), education, entertainment, etiquette, and religion, from very young observed is an array of behaviours which create a multi-cultural tapestry.
Culture – our practices/mores/habits – speaks to who a people are distinctively, and what they do. Whether understood, liked, loved, believed, appreciated, familiar with, agreed upon, accepted or not, the reality is, culture is here; can reform – get worse or better – but will never die. The problem lies in whether or not the culture is good or bad to self and/or society, and by extension, the world.
One could say that good and bad are relative. What’s pleasing to me, may not be to you. “It works for me so to hell with you. This is how we do or say ‘it’.” Hence the reason why, many sectors of society advocate that it’s always better to stay within the confines of ‘our own’ culture.
But, how do we sell culture? How do we encourage the respect of culture? How do we develop healthy culture? For, it is said and also believed that culture dies hard, as to break customs can be a tough call and undertaking when trying to shift a paradigm.
The odd thing is, subcultures tend to be easier/easily formed, and this is so because, to do anything less than good doesn’t require much conscious thinking or depth of rationalisation unless deliberately planning to do less-than. Worse yet, to keep what many believe to be ‘peace’, the sub-practices are simply left alone.
In the article (Pride of Hindu Community…a gift of peace to T&T) I wrote for the most-recent Divali/Dewali celebrations (on November 14), the words poojas/pujas, temples, murtis were mentioned, but some other areas of education are noteworthy to help us understand and respect Hindu customs.
In this piece why footwear is to be removed before entering a place of worship and Jhandis are touched on.
Removal of footwear before entering temples
Hygiene: Footwear carry dust, dirt and germs from the streets. Proper tradition requires the hands and feet/legs to be washed before entering any temple (dharmik sthal) – the Lord’s House. Hindus maintain strict cleanliness and sanitation of their surroundings, hence the reason one will frequently observe many of their neighbours constantly washing down their yards.
An intelligent view: Hindus and non-Hindus who are mindful of proper hygiene, it is viewed as a lack of common sense to wear dirty shoes in a place where people sit on the floor to pray, eat or for other activities.
Cosmic energy: Going into temples is the best way to cleanse your body and soul. Cosmic energy from the cosmos, is swirling around given points of energies meet within the place that arise out of the continuous practice of rituals, prayers or meditation at the same time in the temple or place o worship. The person entering, becomes a conductor of said cosmic energy into the particular place, and when the cosmic energy enters the person, drastic changes can be caused in the person’s physical and astral body if the person does not pass out the energy to the ground. The human body needs to earth the cosmic current, which is why it is suggest that walking barefoot on dewed grass or ground early in the morning to reconnect with the earth energy, releasing negative energy to the ground. In contrast, to ensure negative energy does not enter the body, footwear should be used in places of negative energy like crematoriums, graveyards, etc.
Respect for God: The only footwear allowed inside a temple is the Khadau/paduka. Hindus follow the oldest scriptures of Hinduism and the oldest layers of Sanskrit literature, which is the language of Veda from the Vedic culture. This language and religion were practiced by the settlers in India in the late 19th Century. Practicing Hindus firmly affirm that one does not merely learn to worship God, but to respect and learn to worship his paraphernalia, temple, nature, creation and servants. When you enter a temple/house of God/God’s Kingdom, one must clearly understand that you enter to worship owing to your relationship with God and therefore, must not make it dirty.
Most are familiar with pooja/puja – the worship ritual that offers devotional homage and prayer to deities to honour or host a guest, or to celebrate an event spiritually. This is usually followed by the putting up or changing of Jhandis (flags), accordingly. Jhandis are of different colours, and bear significant meanings.