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When idolatry makes you blind...

Today, Monday August 28, most of Gurgaon schools are closed. Not because of a heat wave, of heavy rain, of a pollution peak, or of an election, not even because it’s time for the annual bath of the elephant-headed God. No. It’s because a crazy fanatic, self-proclaimed God, is going on trial for rape. So why close the schools? Because his fans are protesting mind you! He was found guilty on Friday of two rapes – and the riots following the news have caused the death of 30 to 40 people – and he is expecting his sentence today.

India,gurus,worshipping,yoga,hinduism,baba ramdev,amma,controversies,rapes,sri sri ravi shankar,bapuji,modi,PatanjaliThis 50 year old man, Ram Rahim, is the head of a sect, Dera Sacha Sauda, based in Haryana and especially present in the North (Haryana, Punjab and Delhi) – it claims to have 60 million followers. People have been blaming him for his poor sense of style and love of jewels which earned him the nickname of “guru of bling”. But most importantly, in addition to dozens of rapes, he might be responsible for the assassination of a journalist who investigated it in 2002, and the castration of 400 of his advisers. On the other hand, his sect runs hospitals and schools, and takes care of supporting his fans living in poverty. Which perhaps explains why even his female groupies are still defending him.

This country is a little bit crazy!

But you could argue that Madona also has fans who idolize her and would be ready to die for her, so why not worship big fat hairy guys??

Here are some other living gurus who are superstars in India but also outside:

India,gurus,worshipping,yoga,hinduism,baba ramdev,amma,controversies,rapes,sri sri ravi shankar,bapuji,modi,PatanjaliBaba Ramdev – A yoga master who launched the brand of so-called Ayurvedic consumer products Patanjali (successfully marketed as cheap but quality stuff), an empire that today has a turnover of more than $1.6 billion.

India,gurus,worshipping,yoga,hinduism,baba ramdev,amma,controversies,rapes,sri sri ravi shankar,bapuji,modi,PatanjaliAmma (‘mother’) or Mata Amritanandamayi The Saint who heals people by hugging them. Make love not war – even though her hugs are nothing sexual. Her fortune is estimated at close to $3 billion (see NYTimes article).

India,gurus,worshipping,yoga,hinduism,baba ramdev,amma,controversies,rapes,sri sri ravi shankar,bapuji,modi,PatanjaliSri Sri Ravi Shankar (not to be confused with the musician) Known for his philosophy of Art of Living, he is believed to have 300 million followers in 151 countries. His fortune is estimated at nearly $2 billion.

India,gurus,worshipping,yoga,hinduism,baba ramdev,amma,controversies,rapes,sri sri ravi shankar,bapuji,modi,PatanjaliBapuji or Asaram Bapu I had actually never heard of him before (and neither had I head of Ram Rahim) but apparently he is one of the wealthiest, and controversial gurus in India. He has been in jail since 2013 for rape, still awaiting trial.

India,gurus,worshipping,yoga,hinduism,baba ramdev,amma,controversies,rapes,sri sri ravi shankar,bapuji,modi,PatanjaliSathya Sai Baba The guru to the supposedly magical powers died in 2011. He was also accused of rape to several times, without having ever been judged.

It should therefore be noted that: Hinduism is a fertile ground for the worship of gurus; most of them also have trouble with sexuality – possibly due to the fact that they often advocate celibacy, and are in fact unable to resist their urges (but it will be the subject of another article); and the Prime Minister, Modi, often scratches their backs.


Every occasion is good to make some noise!

A conversation between my Hindi teacher (yes I am trying again!) and I:

  • Her: Make a sentence with “I am…”
  • Me: main thoda thakee hoon (I am a little tired).
  • Her: Oh no! What happened?
  • Me: Navratri… 
  • Her: Oh you’re fasting?? (1)
  • Me: No man I’m not fasting, they are playing drums all night!! (2)

(1) Navratri is the festival where the different avatars of Goddess Durga is worshipped for NINE nights (one night for each incarnation). A lot of people observe fast, as a way to pay gratitude to the Goddess. “Navratri fasting may have religious origins but there is scientific reason backing the same. The festival occurs twice a year, each time when the season is at the brink of change: from winter to summer and again when the air starts to get a bit chilly. Coincidentally, this is also the time when our immunity is low and it is advisable to eat light and nutritious food. The fasting rules, thus, suggest that one should abstain from meat, alcohol, grains, common salt and anything that is processed. Onion and garlic are avoided while fasting as these are known to generate a lot of heat in the body while grains are hard to digest. From an Ayurvedic perspective, these foods attract and absorb negative energies and should be avoided during a seasonal change.” (source)

Oh wait! Then I AM fasting! Because I have been quite sick (maybe due to the weather change?) for the past 4 days. And to give some rest to my digestive system and let my energy focus on healing (see how I talk! what India does to you!), I have been on a liquid diet (juices and soups).

(2) This festival is also known for its dances. And now for its noise. As they play drums every day, from 9 to 11 PM in the temple near my building. I think I will go have a look tonight instead of just banging my head on the wall! 





God bless the Sun!

Last night there was yet another party in the streets. Walking home, along Juhu Beach, it was like going against the tide of human waves. Tiring. When you live in India, there are days you get to realize that there are really really a lot of people in this country... Those are the days you wonder if they never get tired of their religious histrionics... It never stops!


People should feel free to express themselves I know, but I am less convinced when the noise under my windows prevents me from sleeping... At the same time I must say the dog that "watches" the open garbage pit at the foot of my building and barks at the donkeys every night at 3 also prevents me from sleeping!

Anyway, no one asks for my opinion regarding festivals, their frequency and their level of nuisance! Adapt or die (or leave!)…


So yesterday it was Chhath Puja. A festival in honor of the God Sun (Surya). In short (apparently the rules are not the same everywhere, and it is mainly a North Indian festival), the devotees must fast for two days and on the morning of the second day, they make their offerings to the rising Sun.


Last night when I left office, people had started settling in to camp on the beach like that:

India,festival,hindu festival,hinduism,religion,Juhu beach,chhath puja,Surya,sun 

And this morning the scene was something like this (while I was sleeping): 

India,festival,hindu festival,hinduism,religion,Juhu beach,chhath puja,Surya,sun

India,festival,hindu festival,hinduism,religion,Juhu beach,chhath puja,Surya,sun

“Under a canopy of sugar cane sticks, clay elephants containing earthen lamps, and containers full of the offerings are placed. There the fire god is worshipped. The offerings characteristically consist of deep-fried and sweet rolls of stone ground wheat flour, grapefruit, whole coconuts, bananas, and grains of lentils. During the puja, these items are contained in small, semicircular pans woven out of bamboo strips called soop.”


More info here:

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