Sunday, November 29, 2009

The commercialization of religion in Pushkar

We made a pit stop in Pushkar on our drive from Jaipur to my mom's hometown of Beawar. Pushkar is the king of pilgrimage sites in India for Hindus. It is believed that Lord Brahma performed penance here for 60,000 years to have a glimpse of Lord Vishnu, and it's the site of the most famous among the very few temples to Brahma in the world. Pushkar has also become an extremely popular destination for foreign tourists - there's such a huge presence of Israeli tourists that many signs are actually written in Hebrew! Honestly I don't really understand the attraction to foreigners.

Our experience in Pushkar reflected the commercialization of religion much more than any true spirituality. We were accosted from the moment we got out of our car and whisked down to the lakeside for a puja to pray for the long lives of our spouses. My parents, Jay and Tonia, and Kruti and I were split up and were each separately asked to make significant donations to buy food for all of the brahmins in the town in the name of ensuring long lives for each other. We all conceded because none of us wanted to risk the potential karmic effects of a lack of faith. But immediately after we were being coerced to donate more to ensure the peace and happiness of each of our deceased relatives. By the end I was certain these guys were being paid commissions on how much cash they could extract from the poor pilgrims. Anyway, I imagine the universe will sort it out.

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