“Please wait for a while, I have to pray to the deities. Oh……you may need to wait for more than a while, after all, it takes quite some time to pray to thousands of deities.” This is quoted from Indian best seller, “The White Tiger”. If this paragraph of teasing showed many people the great amount of Indian deities, the recent popular comedian movie “PK” directly introduced people into an amazing society of religions and divinities. However, PK caused great controversy in India as it criticized corrupt religious customs, and was even called the “most controversial movie in India” and “Charlie Hebdo of India”. According to report that PK would be released in China recently. In India, a country which almost all people are religious, the status of religions and deities is transcendent; this tradition has lasted for several thousand years, however, in this rapid developing era of India, many people have been rethinking the character religions played. A Chinese scholar said to reporter of Global Times that whether religion is working positively in the modernization of India is a controversial topic in Indian society, even though Indian prime minister Modi, a leader of Bharatiya Janata Party, is pro religious nationalism, as the depth of openness of India increases, religious secularization may be trendy.
Country with thousands temples
According to American Hollywood Reporter, Indian movie PK would be released in China. Based on a declaration, PK was directly imported from India by China Film Group Corporation and Huaxia Film Group Corporation, and it would be projected on over 3,500 screens in China with unspecified date. It is reported that relative agreement was signed in Beijing on Jan 30th.
“PK” is short for “Peekay”, meaning drunken man. This movie tells the story about a lost alien trying to find communication tools to go back home in India, the country with thick religious atmosphere. In the movie, “directed” by people, this alien seeks for help from deities, breaks into all sorts of religious organizations filling with hypocrisy and lies. Being confused, he starts to worship all deities, report to the police that “god doesn’t help as he was paid”, post “notice of missing God” everywhere, and try to reason with God……
Since it was released by the end of last year, PK has been constantly making new records, set an all-time high in the history of Bollywood box office. British media, the Guardian, claimed that this is the most successful religious criticizing movie in India. This movie aroused tremendous response in India, caused many Indian young people to rethink about the social issues and ethnic conflicts triggered by Indian religion; but there are also people besieging and smashing cinemas, claiming to defend the sacred religion. Once there was a popular rumor that Indian government wanted to ban this movie.
The dispute between the protagonist and “God” described in the movie puts people between tears and laughter, but the movie is not exaggerating about India having lots of Deities. India, with five thousand years of civilization, has believers of almost all religions in the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam and etc.. Despite Islam, Christian, Zoroastrianism and such were originated in exotic land, all other religions are “local specialties” of India. With all the religions and sects, some say India possesses over thirty million deities, some say billion.
In the present India, almost entire population is believer. Director of South Asian Institute of Shanghai Institutes for International studies, Mr. Dehua Wang told reporter of the Global Times that India is a multi-religious country with great population, and approximate 80% of its population believes in Hinduism. It is recorded that the three major deities of Hinduism are Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma; beneath them, there are Rama, Krishna, Hanuman and etc., all the deities add up to tens of thousands.
As there are more religions and more deities, so there are more temples and monasteries. India is the country of thousands temples. Hindu temples spread all over the streets; big ones are resplendent and magnificent with relieves and paintings; small ones are just simple niche for a statue of the deity. Some people just place a giant statue of a deity in the street. Besides, Islam Masjids and Sikh Shrines can be seen everywhere, even crowded together, so that every inch of land is protected by deities. In the beginning of the year, when a reporter of the Global Times worked in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu of India, he found a local over 200-meter street with 10 Hindu temples.
The Supreme of Deities
According to Swami Vivekananda, a latter-day Indian philosopher, the life-center of India is spirituality, religion is the dominant of note of the movement of nation’s life. The depth of Indian’s religious complex astonishes outsiders. Reporter of the Global Times learned that deities are involved in birth, senility, illness, death, and all basic necessities of life of Indian people. Hindus bring newborn babies to temples to be blessed, and spread ashes of the dead in the Ganges to be protected by the deities. Throughout their entire life, from naming the baby, to choosing a career and a marriage partner, Deities exert their influence.
Almost all Indians enshrine deity at home. Rich families have a room specially set for Deities, families not as rich would set up a shrine in the hall or by the hallway, poor people hang paintings of God on the wall or above their headboards. Every morning, Indian people worship deities before doing anything, light up an oil lamp, put their hands together and pray. Chinese cut the ribbon at an opening ceremony; Indian have light ceremony before conference, worship God before processing any agenda.
During Maha Kumbh Mela in Aallahabad, reporter saw gathering of thousands of people. Believers jump into the Ganges River to bath despite of the chilliness. Even though according to environmental protection standard, water of the Ganges is severe polluted, it doesn’t stop believers from jumping into the water and drinking, expecting their sin could be wash away. This scene always astonishes foreigners. Not only among people, a regional court had made a scene requesting help from sorcerer to catch ghost.
In Indian, many highly educated people would consult with astrologers when making major life decisions. Besides astrology, there are some superstitions regarding Indian traditional believes, as if you expect good luck by sticking Ganesha or Svatika on vehicles or doors. Many Indian people would reschedule important task if they met a black cat on the way; they would be gloomy all day if a mirror was broken. “These aren’t all superstitions.” Reporters of the Global Times always hear from some of their Indian friends, even senior manager of enterprise or college students.
American Business Insider has listed a series of “weird things that only happen in India”, one of them is, “Deity on the wall, no warries for urine and feces”. In the article, it says that open urination and defecation is a serious issue in India. British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC) columnist has written an article describing a family who stick painting of a deity on the wall to avoid people urinating there.
In today’s India, fancy hotels locate next to ghetto; Shiva temples stand in modern software park; millionaire and destitute, classic and modern coexist in harmony. At the same time, different religions live in India with their true color, although they intersect, their fusion is not in complete harmony, it is more like mixing water with oil, they are tighter but don’t blend. Nevertheless, shadow from mid-century still flashes in the India constraint by religions.
Facing so many deities, complex religious rituals and religions’ all-pervasive influence in people’s life, there are some rethinking in India in recent years. “PK” is one of them. As a matter of effect, in the leading actor of “PK”, Aamir Khan’s another classic, “3 idiots”, there is a plot taunting deities: when a student offers 100 rupees to a deity, praying for passing the exam, the main character says that this little money was not even enough to bribe a cop, how can it be enough to quest descending of a God?
2012年，印度也有一部类似影片曾经引发讨论，电影名为《偶滴神啊》(Oh My God，简称OMG)。影片通过一个小店主向神发起诉讼的故事，揭露了神汉以“神的代言人”名义招摇撞骗的丑陋行径。
In 2012, there was a similar movie given rise to much discussion. The movie is called “Oh My God” (short for OMG). Through a story about a small business owner suing God, the movie exposes the ugly true of a sorcerer cheating and lying as “representative of Deity”.
According to Indian Today, encouraged by “PK” and “OMG”, the two movies question the existence of deities, the social status of religion and mass looting in the name of religion, a senior police office of Indian security police force established a trust organization namely “PK-OMG” to encourage rational thinking, against superstition.
Actually, throughout the history, India has never stopped trying to reform. For example, Mahatma Gandhi has tried to carry on reform, hoping the lowest caste of caste system, Dalit could be treated fairly. He called them son of God. However, Gandhi was assassinated by Hindu extremist.
Since the independence of India, National Congress, the old political party poses as defender of secularism, strongly promoting separation of Politics and religion; however, changing custom is not easy. Even though, the slogan of secularism has been shouted for over half century, religious life for Muslim, Sikhs and Jains hasn’t really been affected. Life for regular people is still all about religion.
In fact, diversity and tolerance is the specialty of Indian religion and culture. Because of its tolerance and diversity, religious tradition of India is very hard to change. Even though British had ruled India colony for hundreds of years, it wasn’t able to change a little of India. India is like an unsolvable circle, no matter how hard you push it, its core remains the same, and ready to revert to circle like experiencing a reincarnation.
What frustrates Indian elites is that, even though they are all descendants of deities, different Indian religions had a hard time getting along and have deep grievances in the history. Temples carry people’s lofty expectation, but they also sustain many religious conflict. As the hatred between religions grows, many politicians see opportunities. Every time during political campaign, they agitate religious superiority, or even plot religious conflicts. In September 2013, before the political campaign of five Pradesh, the Indian Pradesh with great population, Uttar Pradesh suddenly broke out religious conflict, caused death of nearly a hundred people. Statistics collected by Indian ministry of internal affairs showed that between January and September of 2013, there were 451 religious conflicts broke out in India.
Place hope on Modi
A reporter of the Global Times has consulted an Indian scholar regarding the issue of Indian religions and traditions, he thought it was hard to clearly analyze such a complicate issue as the development of many religions itself is complex and paradoxical. For instance, in the history of India, the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, Mahavira of Jainism, and Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, all have lived in the world as reformists of society and culture, became deities as their followers and believers formed religion. Lord Shakyamuni actually was against idolization, but which of his followers in the later generation know the statue of Buddha that they worship occurred against the Lord Buddha’s will?
Chinese expert in Indian issues, Feng Qian spoke to a reporter of the Global Times that during his discussion with Indian scholars, he often heard about introspection in the effect of religion in Indian modernization. Some scholars considered that the Hindu proposition of reincarnation over emphasizes spiritual life, causes Hindus’ lack of material pursuit in real life, which further leads to lack of endogenous power for domestic economy. The influence of Hindu caste system is also inveteracy, interfering with the mobility of social classes, which is negative to the long term development of democratic system. Nevertheless, the main stream of Indian scholars is that tradition of religious diversity is the fountain of national soft power and cohesion, the ideology of reincarnation is beneficial to form a peaceful and tolerant social mentality.
Feng Qian expressed that in recent years, thanks to Indian government taking economic growth as priority which has downplayed the religious disagreement, the influence of materialism in Indian society, especially in the younger generation, has been gradually increased. This tendency becomes clearer as Modi took the office. Modi has said that building bathroom is more important than building temple. The meaning behind this sentence is that Indian people should put more attention into economic growth and devotion to material. As a devout Hindu, along with emphasizing economic development, Modi also takes actions to preserve Indian religious tradition, because he doesn’t want some Hindu traditions to interfere with economic development.
Dehua Wang told the reporter of the Global Times that whether religion is beneficial to the modernization of India is a controversial topic in India. One faction proposes to carry out religious revolution oriented to secularization. The other is more conventional, proposing to return to Hinduism tradition; it believes that caste system is effective in maintaining the stability of Indian society, provides hope to middle and lower class, and succeeds in avoiding violent revolution. Although the present Prime Minister Modi consists with nationalistic-leaning, as the deep development of India’s openness, the secularization of religion may be the trend.
Base on the observation of the reporter of the Global Times, presently, the younger generation of India favors Prime Minister Modi, considers him being able to lead India to a new level. Up to now, Modi has been lenient to PK. Even though he hasn’t given any compliment, he didn’t criticize or ban it publicly, which may be a positive signal.