By way of introduction: these days in India there is a degree of frankly puzzling talk by some politicians about the evils of religious conversions. There seems to be a growing (& encouraged) religious polarisation like I have never seen in my 37 years of knowing this great country.
At some point I’ll write about the apparent fear politicians have of people being converted to other religions – an issue that, to my mind, is resolutely personal.
But for now, on the cusp of Christmas, I choose rather to celebrate what seems to me to be a lovely moment of Indian religious fusion.
We are up in the chilly hills of Uttarakhand for a few days, and every morning I have been running through the forest up to a local hill-top shrine. The shrine is tiny, and all locked up for the winter.
I remove my running shoes and wander round, alone, and at peace. Today I even had a local dog for company, which was sweet.
There are little bells tied to every available surface of the shrine, and even on the trees – I think people offer them to the temple.
Many years ago I had visited another temple in Uttarkhand, which was equally festooned with little bells, and was told that people ask the gods for a favour or a blessing, and when their wish is granted they offer a bell in thanks.
So I imagine it’s something similar here.
But what struck me today was that with the red and green decorations on the walls of the temple – totally Xmas colours – and all the bells and the tinsel, it looked very Christmassy indeed.
And this made me very happy.
Very happy indeed.
I’d like to think that whatever deity presides over this tiny hill-top temple, up in the Himalayas, was wishing us all a very happy and blessed Christmas.