When I first moved to India, in the Fall last year, I had completely forgotten of how religious a country India was; not necessarily spiritual, but religious. Over the last few months, I have been walking around the city, amazed by the level of reverence and emphasis placed on “god”. I am a believer of god myself, but when you see pictures and idols of god planted in trees on the streets, it takes the idea of god, to a whole new level.
It is strange to think that Mumbai, the mega metropolis, consumed by materialism and modernity, has such a religious streak to it. And it’s interesting to note that of all the gods that I see in the trees, all of them are Hindu gods. I have yet to find a symbol or relic from Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Islam (all fervently practiced religions in India). I do not wish to get too much into the psychological nuances of religion, as perceived and practiced in India. However, I think the Indian psychoanalyst Kakar (1982) helps explain the phenomena of a grave emphasis on religion in the following words: “There is a God for every psychic season, a myth for every hidden wish and a legend for every concealed anxiety.” There are indeed, and I will explain more below.
Most of these holy images/ idols are fastened or dwell within the Banyan or People tree, both of which are considered to be sacred in Hinduism:
I wanted to share how much of an influence the gods/goddesses have on every aspect of an individual’s life. To give you a practical example, if a student was starting a new semester at school or embarking on her first year at University, then a pooja or Hindu ritual is conducted to the Goddess Saraswati (the goddess of the arts and literature) in order to bring forth abundance of intellect and wisdom upon the student. No wonder there are various types of gods rooted all around the city, perhaps a blatant reminder to the mere mortals of god’s place in one’s life.
And this is the most interesting of them all. Images of the Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva being juxtaposed against a mural of Daisy Duck, a true depiction of East meets West:
Once again, Incredible Mumbai, I say!
You will be walking down the streets of Mumbai, be it the poshest area of the city or the most down trodden, and you will be sure to find a make shift altar, either in a tree or a wall. Like poverty and corruption, the blatant reminder of religion is one thing you cannot escape or over look in Mumbai.