Saturday, June 25, 2005

The religious mafia

Sometimes I feel the world will be a far better place without priests. As Osho says, they behave like a mafia. They have their own rules and regulations which we have to follow, else we will be sent to Hell through the nearest shortcut.
Here's one of their latest escapades. For reasons best known (only) to them, they tried to prevent a woman from perfoming the last rites of her mother. But she stood firm, and won. Ironically, the woman was a Brahmin - the same 'caste' to the priests belong.
Read ahead:

Woman performs last rites for her mother
Press Trust of India
Chennai, June 25

Breaking the rigid age-old traditions believed to have the sanction of holy scriptures, Rekha Harischandran, a woman belonging to an Iyengar family here has performed the religious rites of her dead mother, a task normally entrusted to the eldest son in a family.
‘‘I fulfilled the wishes of my mother, Viji Srinivasan, a well-known social worker. My family, including my father fully supported me,’’ she told PTI after performing today the last of the 13th day rituals that are performed in the immediate aftermath of the death of a person in a Hindu family.
Rekha, a costume designer, said a number of priests had told her that it was inappropriate for a woman to perform these rituals and they offered to perform the rites on her behalf if she gave the ‘‘darba’’ grass to them.
‘‘However, I did not agree to this,’’ said the only child of her parents.
Finally, a Non-Governmental organisation run by women called ‘‘Vishranthi’’, suggested that she get in touch with a priest, Govinda Sastrigal who told her that ’Srartha Kaandam’, a book which lays down the rules for various rituals, approved of either a son or a daughter performing the rites.
Asked whether the priests had acted in ignorance, she said ‘‘I think they are more afraid to take on any opposition. I think rituals are essential, but they have to be understood properly. But I want to say that women are permitted to do such things as the shastras (religious scriptures) provide for it,’’ she said.
Viji Srinivasan, who worked in organisations like UNICEF and the Ford Foundation, had taken ill and was admitted to a hospital in Bhopal. She died of fungal infection in both her lungs on June 13.