For those who want to know, I took this photograph in Orccha, Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Idols, and forms of the great God, Shiva, lying in the midst of rubble and the trees. Exactly, in a sense, how it should be. Shiva, the God of destruction, is much more than that. He is, in a sense, God of the cycle of life, of nature, of the mysteries of nature.
Unlike Pan, he did not die. Yet, in the sanctimonious manner in which he is worshipped these days, he may as well be dead.
Yet, as usual, I get ahead of myself. Like Bertie Wooster, I need to back pedal just a bit.
The idea of God and religion, in many a way, define us. These ideas play a great role in defining who we are, how we act and how we react.
Yet, as a wise teacher once told me, we have never seen God. What we see, are depictions of our notions of God.
So, where did it begin? What was my own journey?
When I was about 8 years old, my family returned from England, we were staying with my grand parents until we found our own place. I chummed up with a lady, who was a devotee of the Hindu God, Krishna. Krishna is an avtaar of Vishnu, the second of the triumvirate of Hindu Gods.I used to help her dress him up, and would take part in all the rituals.
When I was about 10, I was shifted to boarding school in the hills. This was run by the Irish Christian missionaries, those of proud Roman Catholic stock. One of them tried to convert us, and I very nearly did.
In college, I discovered Carlos Castaneda, hallucinogens, and the memories of the great starry skies that I used to see in the hills, became an even greater sense of wonder. What lay beyond, I asked? Then, I discovered Schrodinger, and the mysteries of the universe extended to the atoms.
In my early twenties, I discovered photography, and when I saw the light twinkling on a leaf, I sort of understood the first lines of Blake’s “The Auguries of Innocence”.
Later, in my late twenties, I discovered Shiva, and started following Shiva. I also became – thanks to the bakery trade I was in – how religion dictates what we eat and when we eat. I also started to observe the absolute hypocrisy in the manner in which many of us behave.
Then, I came upon a quote by, I think, Samuel Butler, in which he essentially stated that the only animal that does not know how to enjoy life – is man. And, I came upon another, by a forgotten author who argued that to call a certain behaviour ‘bestial’ is unfair to the beasts and animals. After all, they gather together at the pond to drink water.
We, not only do we poison the water, but we also devise ingenious ways to poison each other.
This is when I switched to atheism, and I read Richard Dawkins. While I bought his arguments with respect to organised religion, I did not buy his arguments in which he denied God. While a theist cannot conclusively prove that there is God, likewise, an atheist cannot prove that there is no God.
We all want our God to be the One God. It is about power and money. And, sex.
I switched to agnosticism, but this did not fit too well on my skin. It was too much like sitting on a fence, I thought. And those who sit on the fence, don’t realise that the boards of the fence can sneak their way into the crack between the two halves of your bum. This, I am sure, can hurt.
When I was out of the corporate world, and rediscovered photography, I also rediscovered nature, and our environment. Of course, much of what business/ corporate/ political leaders say about sustainability, is all bunk. They just want you to show them the money. Toby was never so right!
So, I rediscovered Shiva, I rediscovered Pan, and I rediscovered nature.
That is when I decided to call myself a pagan of sorts.
Yes, in the original, a pagan is one who does not follow one of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Jewishness, and Islam.
There is a world beyond them.
There is also a world beyond Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and all other such organised religions.
All major religions started with a sense of wonder, of mystery, of oneness with the world and with nature. This is where, I believe, the truth lies.
If this is what makes me a pagan, then so be it.
It’s been a long and twisted road to perdition, but it’s been worth it.
And now, we march on..