On 16 July 2022, a video of S Senthilkumar, a Member of Parliament (MP) from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), representing Dharmapuri Parliamentary constituency of Tamil Nadu, went viral. In that, he was seen shouting angrily at the assembled Government officials over a bhoomi pooja for a road construction work.
He was seen asking why a Christian priest and a Muslim Imam along with atheists were not asked to come and be represented in their own way at the function and why there was sectarianism. He also was seen telling that such 'RSS way' of doing things could not be tolerated in the Dravidian rule.
At the superficial level this may look correct and hyper-secular. But once one sees in detail, the argument is shallow and reeks of hypocrisy that characterises Dravidianist politics.
Hindu bhoomi pooja is based on the axiom that the Bhoomi or the Earth is a living entity that is to be venerated. This is a stand that resonates with a sound line of scientific thinking. It has ecological values at its core.
Any disturbance to the Earth for the sake of humanity needs to be kept at minimum and the humans apologise to Mother Earth. In fact, every Hindu who grows up traditionally, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, is taught to say the following shloka before putting her feet on the ground after waking up:
समुद्रवसने देवि पर्वतस्तनमण्डले ।
विष्णुपत्नि नमस्तुभ्यं पादस्पर्शं क्षमस्वमे ॥
Samudra-Vasane Devi Parvata-Stana-Mannddale
Vissnnu-Patni Namas-Tubhyam Paada-Sparsham Kssamasva-Me
She who wears the ocean as her garments and for whom the mountains form the bosom, that consort of the all-pervading universal Divine (Vishnu), please forgive and bear with me for stepping on you.
This Vedic imagery of Mother Earth wearing the oceans, a very Vedic image, is also part and parcel of the famous hymn for Mother Tamil composed by Manonmaniam Sundranar, as pointed out Sri Sankaranarayanan (Jataayu) a scholar of classic Tamil and Sanskrit.
This 'Tamil Thai Vazhthu' (Hailing Mother Tamil) is the official invocation in every Government function in Tamil Nadu under the very same ‘Dravidianist’ rule.
This is because the Vedic Sanatana nature of Indian culture is an existential reality. Despite the artificial construction of Dravidianism, when one has to go to authentic Tamil values, then he or she naturally falls back on to the very same Sanatana Dharma.
The Bhumi Sukta of Atharva Veda is perhaps the earliest ecological declaration of humanity. Even though the awareness of the sacred connected aspect of nature - the web of life- have been felt by all natural religionists throughout the world, the Hindus have, and hence India has, the privilege of first putting into words the awareness of our species' indebtedness to nature.
Today, with concepts like the Gaia hypothesis, modern science does not see the sacredising nature as against secularism. It does not necessitate an extra-cosmic God. The inherent divinity of nature is very much scientific. Any person with basic human civilisational sensibility, who has comprehension of ecology, would understand that the Hindu bhoomi pooja, which is Vedic and in tune with ecological values, does not violate secularism.
What about the atheists?
If one has cultural literacy in Tamil, then he or she would know that right in the era of Sangam literature, even those who deny the existence of a God could attend Vedic ceremonies and the pure aesthetic dynamics of Vedic ceremony would make them feel the Divine.
In fact, a Vedic ceremony does not demand a belief from any person. It only imparts the sense of Divine which is based on the principle of co-creation – a very important value needed in the modern context of ecological sensitivity.
Pari Padal, that speaks of the Vedic Yajna, speaks how Vishnu is the very process itself and how witnessing that even those who adhere to a materialist worldview feel the Divine.
At the same time, asking a Christian or an Islamic priest to conduct a bhoomi pooja would be either violating secularism or asking them to abandon their core belief system or both.
Unlike Hindu Dharma that sees the Nature as inherently divine, Christian and Islamic beliefs demand an extra-cosmic personal creator. So, if one brings in a Christian priest and a Muslim Imam they not only cannot consider the Earth divine but rather at best their prayers may be thanksgiving to the creator-gods for the supremacy of humanity over nature – which is not only anti-secular and anti-science but also anti-ecological.
One can be sure that the current planetary crisis definitely makes the spiritual savants in these religions rethink their beliefs and reorient themselves more towards the Divine being immanent in all nature rather than being a monopolistic god -a projection of human megalomania- who sits above the heavens and judges the humans a species that live in a limited wink on an Earth which itself is in an insignificant speck of the universe.
In the cosmic context such a god looks incredible. When this realisation comes and theological adjustments are made, then the priests of all religions can be invited to witness the bhoomi pooja, which is a unique Hindu way of honouring the planet.
One cannot and should not rule out the ability of human spirituality to develop such rituals in their own religious contexts but unfortunately that time has not come yet. Acceptance of Hindu bhoomi pooja can actually be a proper way of accelerating such evolution, rather than indulgence of competitive tokenism which can only be detrimental to the collective evolution of all religions towards an enlightened spirituality.
Barely three years after India's independence, a great Parsi born scholar of Indian culture and world history made an important prediction.
But a great truth is enshrined in the statement that India is the land of Hinduism. If we forget this truth and seek to create a country with all psychological and metaphysical and spiritual colour of Hinduism wiped off, we shall seriously thwart India’s growth and make the nation either a mediocrity or a monstrosity instead of a light to the whole world.K D Sethna, Revivalism and Secularism, Mother India, 14-Oct-1950
What the nation witnessed in the video of the DMK MP humiliating the conductor of pooja and threatening the government official, is exactly that – a demonstration of mediocrity and monstrosity.
But be assured, Tamil culture, which is part and parcel of Sanatana Dharma, is against this perversity, and is always a light unto the world with its rituals of revering Mother Earth and lighting of Hindu ceremonial lamps.
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