Most human beings are god fearing. They believe in the holy spirit and each religion has its own way of offering their prayers. Each religion, according to its beliefs, have set certain rules and modes of offering prayers. Like Christians have their own way of offering prayers, muslims do it by presenting a shawl to the holy tomb. Hindus, who believe in idol worship also have their own way of offering prayers – a symbol of showing that you are devoted.
But as Hinduism boasts of crores of deities, the form of prayers too differ and are subjected to change depending on the local beliefs. It might be surprising to know that certain deities are offered ‘prasad’ (an offering of food) made of pure vegetables and pure ghee, some other deities who come under ‘hinduism’ need
sacrificies in the form of a lamb / chicken etc. All of this is guided by beliefs and so called traditions.
Even though one religion has crores of deities, only a select few get the honor of being ‘celebrity deity’. In India, holy places like ‘Tirupati’, ‘ Sai baba Shirdi’, ‘ ‘Vaishnodevi’, ‘ Lal Baug cha Raja , ‘ Dagdu Seth Ganapati , ‘Mahalaxmi from Kolhapur’ etc are the deities to name a few which can be mapped as the most popular deities amongst followers. There is an interesting pattern of devotion that exists in these popular holy places. Lord Tirupati is the most sought after deity in terms of number of people visiting. People wait there for queue which can span to one or two days even, to get a glimpse of the god. A new trend is to ‘book’ the time of your prayer in advance and visit the temple. Several centres which offers such services are making a good business of it.
This trend of sorts is now spreading to other deities which are frequented by such a large number of populace. Whilst visiting these believers shower the god ( and the associated trusts) with huge amount of money and other valuable accessories. A gold crown for the ganapati, a golden traditional cap for Shri Sai Baba, interior of the temple made of silver and what not. These are the kind of offerings the ‘strong believers’ in the deity offer. There is a certain rat race to gift glamorous items to the lord just as a publicity gimmick. These attention seeking followers don’t do it with ‘heart’, but they do it with full ‘money and political power’. One who grants these heavy duty items to the idol and its trusts is a loyal believer –whereas one who goes with a pure feeling of devotion sans any costly accessory is a mundane visitor. One can clearly see commercialization of religion and religious values which are being exploited by the political will power.
The other factor deciding the popularity of the deity is the amount of time a mundane visitor takes to get ‘darshan’ of the lord. Two days to see the lord means the deity is popular amongst the masses. To avoid such time consuming practices, a newer fashion is to set up a replica of a certain popular temple in other parts of the country and world – to decentralize the crowd??? Its like creating a chain of temples. Isn’t this another business of sorts?
Another pattern of unusual devotion is the crazy loyalty of the people of South India towards the South Indian heroes. Names like Rajnikant, Chiranjeevi, MGR are equivalent to almighty and temples to worship them are built. It is indeed a ritual for the true south Indian movie fan to worship these ‘lords’ along with other regular gods. A procession carrying the movie reel of a Rajnikanth movie, to creating a larger than life statues of these stars is no new practice for the people down south. This epidemic spreads across all the places in the world where a true south Indian fan lives.
Few are the places where one can satisfy oneself with the whole hearted emotion of devotional offerings. With the kind of religious practices going around, one can certainly find himself lost into these ‘patterns of devotion’.