'Punya' In The Age Of Pandemic: Why Our Dharmacharyas Should Actively Encourage Families Adopting Children Orphaned By Covid-19
There is a need for leaders of various Hindu 'sampradayas' to express their support for such adoption and encourage it.
In the absence of such an endorsement, there is a danger that over-enthusiastic exhibitionists impose their views as the view of the 'shastras'.
Today, India has a great number of children who have lost both their parents to Covid-19. This is a humanitarian crisis.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly and proactively come forward to help these children. Through ‘PM CARES', a corpus of Rs 10 lakh would be created for each child and once the child reaches 18 there will be monthly financial support for next five years after which at 23, he or she will get the corpus amount in a lumpsum for personal and professional use. There are also schemes to take care of educational needs of the children.
But there are limits to what the state can do.
The children need a family and India has a low formal adoption rate.
India has an informal adoption system. The formal adoption system through the adoption centres etc. is not used much. Rather, adoptions mostly take place through the extended family network and also the community networks. But with jatis having become stagnant pools of negativity and families becoming more and more self-centered, this informal system of adoption may be developing cracks.
At the same time, vulnerable children are facing threats from NGOs with vested interests (from conversions to fleecing money in the name of charity). There are child-trafficking networks waiting for opportunities. Girl children are particularly vulnerable.
A country like India cannot depend on institutions of the state and secular agencies alone for adoption. Especially when it is reeling under a pandemic. We cannot allow orphans to become victims of yet another humanitarian tragedy. The curse will be upon us if we allow that to happen. It will be upon the nation. We cannot afford that.
At the limit of the state's healing touch, the care of Dharma should begin.
Unfortunately, however, an incident that happened recently showed a worrisome trend.
A Hindu, Sri Vaishnavaite writer from Tamil Nadu wrote on his social media account that he recommended adopting a child orphaned by Covid-19 to his friend when his friend expressed his intendion to adopt a girl child less than or equal to two years. He was vehemently attacked by a mob of neo-net-orthodoxy-exhibitionists. He was accused of being treacherous to the Brahmin community itself. Even his account was reported and locked. This is a worrying new trend coming up in social media in recent times – a syndrome of orthodoxy exhibitionism.
Fortunately, Hindu Dharma is greater and more profound than the limited imagination of those suffering from orthodoxy-exhibitionist syndrome. But this syndrome, even if that of a fringe, could do quite a significant damage to the society and nation. Even if this brigade stops one traditional Hindu couple from adopting a Covid-orphaned child, the probability of that child getting trafficked or ending up in some not-so lovable orphanage increases.
Today, the festival for Periyaazhwar, also known as Vishnu-Chithan starts at the sacred Sri Villiputhur the birth place of Aandal – possibly the greatest poetess of spiritual literature humanity has ever seen. Periyazhwar discovered Aandal as a radiant child in the Nandavanam he had made for Vishnu. He did not consult the shastras or pandits. He did not hesitate. He accepted the child as a sacred blessing from Vishnu.
Today, we stand blessed by that act.
There are many more such great seers in Hinduism who have been found as orphans and adopted by the parents. Oral tradition speaks of Tamil poetess Avvai also as an abandoned child adopted by a couple who discovered her.
In the past, Dharmacharyas have made decisions that have in hindsight made us feel proud and not-so proud. There was a time when leaders of orthodoxy in this country vouched for the shastric validity of untouchability, opposed temple entry, opposed widow-remarriage, girls going to school and supported child marriage.
Then the Dharmacharyas of this nation assembled at Udupi and in one voice declared that there was no place for untouchability in our shastras. Today there are many schools for girls run by traditional the Maths.
Now, here is a great opportunity for the Dharmacharyas to guide the society and by a single statement save the lives and better the future of thousands of Indian children orphaned by Covid-19. What can be more Dharmic than such a deed?
The girl child you adopt can be a great blessing on humanity. Those whom the Hindu society considers as traditional custodians of Dharma, the Dharmacharyas, if not all at least some of them, who may belong to various sampradayas, should come forward and declare that those who adopt a girl child orphaned by the pandemic in their family would be as blessed as a family adapting Aandal, Godha Devi herself and that such punya would sustain the family for generations.
We pray to our Dharmacharyas that they will do this for Dharma and Rashtra.
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