There are hundreds of places of worship: shivalas (Shiv temples), mosques, kovils, pagodas, etc., in this little country of ours. By belief and by habit people pray for protection from wrongdoings, for jobs, for health, safety, love, spouse desertion, children, after spouse desertion and so on, with the hope that God listens and takes care.
In many cultures people have an affinity to a divinity. Many a time we have heard stories of people praying ardently in times of distress, and their prayers answered. Even when prayers go unanswered people do not lose faith all of a sudden. On the contrary many become more serious in praying with the belief that their prayers will keep them away from the devil and close to God. Trust in God persists generally though there is manifestation of cynicism or detachment in certain sectors of the Mauritian society.
We celebrated Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. The occasion was also marked by attendance at church services, the setting up of the Christmas tree, with or without the Nativity scenes or crèches :a stable with livestock and Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus in the manger; the three wise men; the shepherds and their sheep; the angels; and the Star of Bethlehem to perpetuate the religiosity of the fete.
People of disparate cultures kneel down before statutes of Mary for grace. One old lady told me: “li nu mama li ecoute nu …li montre nu bon sime”. (Mary is the universal Mother who listens to us and shows us the right path). People pray to Mary, invoking her power and grace in search of a cure or to get through disturbed moments. There is hardly a village or town where we cannot find a place of worship with a statue of mother Mary and a lighted candle indicaking the prayer or thanksgiving of someone.
On a very different note, another easily accessible place of worship is the “Kalimaye” or the Goddess Kali Maa temples found across the island. The faithful solicit Her grace for comfort, protection, health, help, and everything that you can ask a mother. She is depicted as the One with endless power. She protects from fear those who invoke her. Throughout the day one can find people coming in to the Kalimaye with folded palms, whispering some mantras, gazing intently at Kali Maa as if in conversation with Her and moving on. Others bring offerings of items such as flowers and fruits for the prayers.
There are numerous examples to show the ubiquity of prayers. The place and the manner in which we pray is linked to our religion, upbringing and cultural heritage.
I come to the famous quote: “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find ; knock and the door will be opened to you.” And say that if you believe ,no proof is necessary ; if you don’t , no proof is sufficient.
We can even look at the issue from a different perspective and consider God as creative instead of the Creator. Praying along this line would be meditation, as a way of trying to understand faults, mistakes, wrongdoings and to improve. I sincerely believe that faith and science share a common ground of intellectual inquiry. Doctors are convinced that prayers significantly improve a patient’s health.
There is power in prayer. Let’s pray the way we know for a better 2016 and as Swami Vivekananda puts it:
“Go on! To pray for something is better than nothing.”
* Published in print edition on 31 December 2015