Saturday, July 25, 2009
Do you think you have a problem paying for new holiday clothing? Count your blessings. Farmers in Eastern India have a funny way to pray for rain, according to Reuters News. In the farms around Banke Bazaar, in Bihar State, the farmers have asked their unmarried daughters to plough the fields naked in an attempt to embarrass the rain gods into putting out. (rain!)
Reuters News reports as follows about the prayer services in Banke Bazaar.
"Witnesses said the naked girls in Bihar state plowed the fields and chanted ancient hymns after sunset to invoke the gods. They said elderly village women helped the girls drag the plows.
"They (villagers) believe their acts would get the weather gods badly embarrassed, who in turn would ensure bumper crops by sending rains," Upendra Kumar, a village council official, said from Bihar's remote Banke Bazaar town."
How many parents have told their kids, "No way are you leaving this house dressed like that!" ?
In Banke Bazaar they have the perfect excuse.
"It's OK pop. I'm going to pray for rain."
On a more serious note, the idea of a Greater Power is not something I have a problem with. But getting naked for one of a multitude of deities is very problematic. It would make a lot more sense to focus on the underlying aspect of divine generosity. Giving charity has traditionally been a way of "testing G-d." Praying for rain and underscoring one's prayers with acts of generosity to the needy is a way of saying to G-d, "I am being generous with my limited means. You who have everything can surely bless us with rain."
Responding with prayer, personal and communal resolutions of devotion and betterment can leave lasting benefits that bring the community together in a crisis and help some of the harder hit people in the afflicted area. Embarrassing the women of the town doesn't seem to serve any rational purpose.
What about the farm workers. When rain does come, do they share enough in the abundance?
After I extracted the expected chuckles from this odd story, I thought of America's economic troubles. How rational are we in our response to economic difficulties? We are transfixed by the Dow Jones numbers and the economic indexes but are do we really act in a way that benefits workers? We ship jobs out of the country and wink at illegal immigration and then we wonder why anxious and hard pressed workers aren't shopping and creating more jobs. What about workers who cripple their employers with demands that a licenced electrician be called in to change a light bulb and who cripple the company with long strikes? Why do they not see the company's welfare as being tied up with their own?
And while we are on the subject of going naked, here in the west we don't even bother praying for rain. It is scientifically proven that the best clothing with which to stay cool is light coloured or white fabric that is loose fitting. Tight synthetics and loads of exposed skin leads to sunburn and is far less efficient at cooling a person down. while we are at it, we could sell more textiles with fashions that make scientific sense.
I can not look at the silliness of sending one's daughters out naked to pray for rain without seeing it as a carnival mirror reflection of our own folly. In getting away in our modern rationalism from the idea of a Prime Cause, are we not in the functional sense similar to those with many gods?
Indians who plough naked in Banke Bazaar could trade their odd form of audacity for a challenge not to the gods but to themselves. Until the rains come to the parched soil of Bihar, there are ways with G-d's help for the community to work together and suffer less. An atheist would see the wisdom of such an approach on a rational level. An agnostic could concede that much is unseen in a world over which we have limited control. Most believers in G-d would be happy to work together with people of good will and different persuasions to relieve the drought in Bihar and any other trouble spot.
The young women of Bihar have certainly called attention to the difficulties faced by their community. If there is a charity that is assisting them in their times of difficulty, I would like to know about it. If anyone could tell me of a relief fund for Bihar drought victims, I will pass the information on to my readers. My e-mail address is [email protected] The people of Banke Bazaar definately have gotten my attention. Sphere: Related Content