The gurgling and overpowering sound of the Ganges permeates the fresh & clean air. Far away you can see the trees swaying to the tune of the water. Bells ringing, people chanting; it almost seems like the mighty river rules both man and nature.
While the river rules the land, it’s here where religion and faith seem to converge. The natives of the land seem to worship the river and make religion their business. Old women fervently chanting at the Ganga Puja, foreigners dressed in yellow and orange, bedecked with Rudraksh beads seem to be under some spell. It’s hard to say if this spell can be called faith or religion. It almost seems like people here have surrendered to a power. The purity of the water & the power of the river has left all spellbound.
Religion has become the livelihood of the people here. Pious music, ornaments, religious books, incense sticks all sold in the name of religion. Millions throng to this city from faraway lands, in the name of what? Faith or religion or is it to see the pious India? (Traditionally known as the land of snake charmers).
The concoction of faith and religion is at its concentrated best in Rishikesh. It’s hard to decipher where one ends and the other begins. While religion seems to be more commercial, faith seems to be the spiritual undercurrent that governs all.
Sitting at the banks, when the cold water touches my feet and the bells in the temple chime, I begin to decipher the difference between faith and religion. I begin to understand that faith is beyond the realms of reasoning. Faith is like the river Ganga- no one knows precisely when and where it originates from and where it ends. The only overpowering truth is that it exists and is a driving force.
Faith is the river itself and religion, devotion, divinity are the paraphernalia which are nothing but manmade, superficial and commercial entrapments. At the heart of it all resides the belief and the faith that is as pure and as natural is the river. It has no religion and has no reason for its existence.