Most of us have been following many rituals from our childhood without even knowing the reasons for following them. We follow rituals because our forefathers handed them over to our parents or elders and we inherited them.
A ritual is an action determined by tradition more than any other reason. It may or may not have any religious connotation. It could be like fasting during solar or lunar eclipses or even during certain festivals amongst some religious groups. Rituals go beyond religion too.
I am aware of some rituals, which are followed by individuals cutting across different faiths in India. It is like determining the auspicious time to inaugurate a new venture. Even the date and time to admit a child to a school. This gets more entrenched as it turns out to be lucky for some in their actions.
I have nothing against rituals. In my view it is each individual’s personal preference. What I am against is when a society tries to impose its rituals on everyone irrespective of their personal preferences. We recently had some controversies when the highest court of the land ordered that men and women have equal right to visit religious places. I fully support this view.
I cannot understand how religion can prevent a man or a woman to visit a religious place of his or her choice. I am aware that some religions prohibit women to enter religious places. I am against such religious dictates too. No religion should prevent a human being to enter a religious place of their choice.
I do agree that sometimes rituals were designed to discipline human beings. For eg., washing of hands before having a meal may be considered a ritual but it is more for hygiene rather than a ritual. Similarly washing of legs before entering a place of worship may have been prescribed more for hygiene than for ritualistic belief.
On the other hand, women not being allowed to a funeral ground to pay their last respects to their elders may be a ritual with no scientific basis. I am not even questioning anyone’s right to follow a ritual. What I am against is making it compulsory for someone against their wishes.
Every ritual will have a story. Many of the rituals may also have a scientific reason behind it. So, it may be unfair to say that all rituals are blind faith. My belief is that every human being is capable of making a choice. If the individual chooses to follow a ritual, so be it. If they do not want to follow it, let us respect that too.
As in the photo above, I learnt pranayama almost five decades back, but considered it a ritual those days as a child, while now I think it is a good breathing exercise for my wellness.
Every one of us learn rituals from our family, friends or society. Even organisations have rituals, which get embedded in the minds of their employees over time. Let us allow the individual to have the liberty to choose their rituals. No individual, family, community or organisation has a right to impose it on the individual.
Let human beings individually choose their rituals and not the other way around.
S Ramesh Shankar
1st September 2018