Recently I had a chance to visit a small Vaishnavite (a sect under Hinduism) holy place in Uttar Pradesh, India. I was a guest of a known Vaishnavite devotee there. I enjoyed my hard earned holidays for a couple of days by sleeping and reading the books as internet connectivity was extremely poor to keep me in touch with the world outside. Television was also a big ‘no’. The foods served were strictly vegetarian which I did not mind for few a few days.

My host was found to be perpetually busy in all sorts of activities related to his idol worship. I found his life to be highly regimented and ritualistic. The informal talks were also about the religion and worship. To him, his idol (Krishna) was the true God and the persons who do not conform to his idol worship will go to hell after death. In one of Kirton (singing devotional song collectively) sessions, I was asked to attend. I stayed there for a few minutes. The lead singer of Kirton literally admonished me for not wearing Konthi (sacred beads) around my neck. Konthi is the symbol of a Vaishnavite. It was fruitless to respond to the brain washed man.

Even as I was preparing to leave the place, my host compelled me to hear his probochon (holy words) explaining with diagrams about how many lakhs (hundred thousands) of births (as animals, serpents and monkeys etc.) we had to take before taking birth as a human being. The different steps I need to take to avoid going to hell were also explained. At that point I was off course remembering ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’. The small Vaishnavite community of the place was cordial and peaceful otherwise with some fair skinned devotees also.

The conviction (can we call it ‘Iman’?) of my host about the best-ness of his way of idol worship for all human beings was really disturbing. Fortunately they don’t have means, strategy and organisation to impose their religious conviction on others. Even an atheist like me had to utter ‘Thank God’ on that count.

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