Temples for Muruga, Vinayaka, Droupadi Amman, Dharmaraja, Maari-Amman and Ayyanar or Saasta, can be regarded as the special features of Tamil Nadu. Besides these temples, we find also temples for village deities. The management of some of these temples has got disorganized for various reasons. But in recent times, bhajana matams have come into existence in almost every village. In a city like Madras, several bhajana groups are actively functioning. These bhajana matams and bhajana groups seem to have been well organized. These organizations may well extend their activities in other directions also and undertake services for the benefit of the community as a whole, by taking in willing workers qualified to render such services, but who may not be able to sing and participate in the bhajana activity proper.
For instance, let us take the case of persons who die as destitutes. Churches and mosques have been taking care of the dead bodies of Christian and Muslim destitutes and giving them burial in a proper manner as enjoined by their respective religion. But there is no agency to take care of the dead bodies of destitute Hindus and to dispose of them according to Hindu rites. Members of the bhajana groups can undertake this desirable social service. They can also render monetary help or personal service for the funeral of poor Hindus. The disposal of unclaimed Hindu dead bodies in jails and hospitals can also be attended to.
These bhajana groups or separate organizations formed for the specific purpose can minister to the religious needs of prisoners in jails and patients in hospitals. Permission has now been accorded for conducting religious classes inside jails by Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Hindus are not taking advantage of this concession, while others are. Steps must be taken to remedy this defect. Distribution of booklets and pamphlets containing the life and teachings of pious men or religious stories, the organization of kalakshepams, and the holding of discourses, can be undertaken for the benefits of the prisoners. If we are able to reform even one in a hundred by this means, it will be a great achievement for society. It will also create a healthy feeling in the prisoners that society has not neglected them.
For the benefit of patients who are obliged to remain in hospitals for long periods, voluntary organizations can arrange weekly poojas in some reputed temple and distribute the prasadam from this temple among the patients. They can also be given specially written pamphlets or booklets calculated to promote faith and devotion in their hearts. These patients, even if they eventually succumb to their ailments, will die with the name of God on their lips.
When a start is made in the above directions, we can take up the question of religious instruction in schools. India being a secular state by choice, religious instruction does not form part of the regular curriculum in state schools, though religion continues to be taught in Christian mission schools. The result is our children are unfortunately growing up in ignorance of our great religious traditions. If missionaries are finding a happy hunting ground in Hindu society for securing converts to their religion, we are ourselves to blame. If we put our house in order, and create a feeling that Vedic religion is not a neglected religion, but there are people to take care of it, then even those who have gone out of our fold, for a variety of reasons, will be induced to come back. Organizations for taking care of our religion, as indicated above, will be hedges protecting our religion from depredation. Our religion will thereby be strengthened and people will be able to practice it with self-respect.
When a marriage is celebrated in a house, all relations attend it. This is a desirable custom. Such assemblage of relations should take place in cases of death also. Under modern conditions, the expenditure involved in satisfying all the relations that attend a marriage will come to a sizable amount. It is this fear of expenditure that induces people to celebrate marriages in some out-of-the-way place. Every person who attends a marriage, be he a friend or relation, must consider it a social obligation to make a cash present. These cash presents will go a long way to lighten the burden of the person conducting the marriage. In these days, costly presents are made at marriages in which the contracting parties are either rich, influential or celebrities. The procedure should be reversed. The spirit of mutual co-operation, symbolized by cash presents, will have a healthy check on dowry, which now obeys the laws of supply and demand. A similar co-operative help in respect of funeral rites will also lighten the financial burden of persons and enable them to go through these rites with sraddha (devotion).
The service to religion and the system of mutual co-operation indicated by me will promote the happiness of all. You will also be rendering a service to the Mutt.
October 31, 1957