How are you doing? Today morning was just like any other typical morning. Woke up, bathed and was getting ready for office when one of my neighbors said that the postman had delivered some posts yesterday when I was out of home. So fine, I went and got them. One of them was addressed to me which I tore it off immediately as it wasn’t of real use. The next one I saw was addressed to my mother and it was from Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam (TTD, as many people call it).
For people who don’t know about TTD, Tirupathi is considered to be one of the most sacred places in my state (Andhra Pradesh) and in fact, my country (India). People from all over the world visit here to offer prayers to Lord Balaji. It is considered to be a very powerful God by most of the Hindus and it is said that if one prays here with a pure heart, his or her wishes are fulfilled.
Quite ironically though, I have lived in Andhra Pradesh from 17 years and haven’t visited this place even once! Never really got a chance. Anyway, coming back to where I deviated from. At first, I just put that letter away as it wasn’t addressed to me. But the envelope had on it in big bold letters : “Blessings from the lord” or something like that. Being a lover of sweets and with the expectation that the envelope could contain some prasad, I decided to open the envelope. By the way, “Prasad” is something that is offered in temples to devotees. Generally some sweets that have to be consumed. They are treated to be holy. 🙂
Inside the envelope, there were some set of papers, a letter addressed to my mother, another smaller envelope and some pamphlet with some weird photographs. I just started reading the letter and was simply amazed at the content. The letter spoke about how important donations on the name of god are and how one will be blessed if he/she donates money to god. Pretty smart in that they addressed it to my mother. Generally, Indian women are considered to be more religious and god fearing/loving. While they claimed to use our donations for giving food to the poor, but still, the way they asked for money seemed a little weird to me.. The letter spoke about different packages, yeah you got it right, “Packages”, that can be opted for by devotees for donating money to god. Some of those packages were something like
- half day sponsor — 10,500 Indian Rupees
- 1 full day sponsor — 21500 Indian Rupees
- 2 days sponsor — 43000 Indian Rupees
- and so on…
- 7 days sponsor — 150,500 Indian Rupees
And as if this wasn’t sufficient, the letter also spoke about the holiness of cow and how one could gain God’s blessing by shelling out money for the care taking of cow(s). As per Hindu religion, all the gods reside in a cow and so a cow is considered to be holy. The letter read: “All the deities dwell in the body of a cow. Therefore the cow itself is holier as the deities“. Then the cow-packages were listed as follows:
- Care taking of a cow for 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months for Rs. 1500, 3000, 4500, 9000 respectively in that order.
- Care taking of a cow for 1 year — 18500 Indian rupees
- 1 year 2 cows — 37000 Indian Rupees
- 1 year 10 cows!! — 185,000 Indian Rupees!!!!
Packages??? Are you kidding me? Is this some 5 days 6 nights holiday package or what!!
Then they also offered to provide some publicity to the people who donated more than 10,500 rupees by asking them to send their photograph so that it could be posted in their websites and periodicals. Doesn’t this sound something like asking for sponsors for a college cultural event? “Give us some money and we’ll put your logo on our posters blah-blah….” :-/
If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the below images. I scanned the brochure that was sent. “Annadanam” means donation of food. “Gauseva” means service to cow.
And guess what, the letter also offered devotees to send out their prayers to the Lord via post. Check out the pic below. This was printed on the back side of the above paper.
You can see the words, “Please offer your prayers to the supreme lord” followed by three empty lines to be filled by whatever the person wants to worship. Then followed by “Please accept my prayers”. And then of course, one has the option of tax exemption under section 80g. Looks more like an insurance company or investment bank than a temple to me because quite frankly, it is generally these insurance companies or investment banks that send out brochures and offers to people asking them to shell out their money in return for tax exemptions and “blessings”.
I’m not against any gods or religions or religious beliefs. I, myself am a believer of God (to some extent at least). But the thing I hate is this business under the name of God and sending out promotional offers or publicity stunts to people. In a land filled with god-fearing people (as opposed to god-loving people), it only takes one small letter like this to create a sort of fear in the minds of people that if they don’t donate their already scarce money, may be they might not be blessed by this entity called God. The recent bollywood movie, “Oh my God” is probably the best movie bollywood has ever produced. It is a remake of the hollywood movie “The man who sued God”. It clearly shows how God is being used as a tool to make more profits and also to compel people in shelling out their money on God under the name of “Devotion” by some self-proclaimed “messengers of gods”.
I hope people stop using God as a profit making tool and pray to Him not by throwing away their limited savings but by directly helping out the needy.
P.S. If you are in any way offended by this post, I can’t help it. Only thing I can say is I’m sorry.