(66) The day I was convinced of Disney's religiosity at the Minakshi Temple, Madurai, South India

Madurai Third Indian Expedition - Journey to Places Related to Buddha

Travels to Buddhist sites in India and Sri Lanka (66)
The day I was convinced of Disney's religiosity at the Minakshi Temple, Madurai, South India

After realizing the might of the Chola dynasty that invaded Sri Lanka in Thanjavur, I headed to my next destination, Madurai.

From the airport in this city, I headed to Delhi to begin my tour of Buddhist sites, but first I decided to stop by the Minakshi Amman Temple, one of the most representative Hindu temples in South India.

We came to the vicinity of the Minakshi Temple. The atmosphere is typical of India. The gate tower can be seen at the back of the front of the photo. It is decorated with a lot of colorful decorations, mainly in blue.

This structure stretches high into the sky and is truly a Hindu architecture typical of South India.

The temple has very strict baggage regulations regarding entry, and all cameras and smartphones must be checked in. Therefore, unfortunately, there are no photos from this point forward.


As you can see in this picture, the Minakshi Temple is indeed a huge temple. It takes a lot of time just to go around the site.

I then had to wait in line to visit the main deity of this temple. Normally, only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple, but since I was with my guide, I was allowed to go there.

But this waiting line was incredible. The line stretched from the main temple hall to the outside, and then along the main hall to the far outdoors.

I thought, inappropriately, that this waiting line looked like a Disney attraction, but I would later learn that I was not mistaken.

After waiting outside for nearly 30 minutes, we finally entered the main hall, but there was a huge line ahead of us.


We continued to wait from here in the fenced-off aisle. Moreover, when I looked closely, I found that there were fast lanes for donors and others in addition to our line, so it was a very Disney-like atmosphere.


Further into the hall, one enters a dimly lit area lined with columns with huge, horrifying carvings. It was like Indiana Jones. As I stood in line, I was impressed by the way the temple is designed to heighten the anticipation of meeting the principal image even while waiting in line. I felt the same way at the Tangyabur, but it is true that the more you wait and wait and wait and wait, the more you appreciate it because it is so difficult to see the main image.

As a result, I waited a total of 90 minutes before reaching the room where the principal image was enshrined. The guide did not expect such a long line. It seems that Indian pilgrims are becoming more and more passionate these days, and this may be the reason for the long lines. And as usual, there was a frenzy of Indian people near the main statue. It was a scene like an explosion of energy that had been stored up after a long wait.

But still, Hindu temples in India are highly entertaining. I felt this in India in August. I would like to share my experience of that time with you.(5) Feel the theme park of the gods at the Mansa Devi Temple in Haridwar - an immersive experience into the Hindu worldview."In an article in

Near the altar of the Mansa Devi temple in Haridwar, a holy place on the Ganges River in northern India

Finally, we came to the center of the temple. The route is all one-way. Along this route, there are altars of gods and goddesses. At each one, a Brahmin (religious person) is present to receive offerings and donations, and in return, we are marked on our foreheads and prayed to.

It is not like a Japanese temple, where there is a large main hall and the principal image is in the back. Instead, the procession is a procession of people walking in order from one altar to the next, each time making a request to the gods.

As is well known in Japan, India is a polytheistic world. There are innumerable gods. Each god has his or her own specialties, such as luck in money, business, study, healing of illness, safe delivery, love, and so on.

The Mansa Devi Temple enshrines a variety of deities with different specialties, and if you walk along the route in order, you can pray for all kinds of wishes. As I walked along the path, I was impressed by the structure of the temple.

Of course, as the name "Mansa Devi Temple" suggests, the main deity of this temple is "Mansa Devi," a goddess who grants wishes of all kinds. It is no wonder that many pilgrims come here for the goddess.

However, one of the major attractions of this area is the altar of various gods enshrined along the path in sequence. This is because it is human nature, no matter how old or modern, that the more one prays and the more often one prays, the more likely one feels that one's wish will come true and the more grateful one feels. This is not a matter of logic. This is a feeling that we in Japan can understand.

Thus, they go around the altars along the worship route, giving offerings and money each time, and receiving signs and prayers from the Brahmins. The process is repeated many times along the route. The sight of these enthusiastic pilgrims pushing and shoving each other to be the first to receive blessings from the Brahmins in the enclosed space of the temple, filled with smoke and heat, is a truly unique sight. It was a very different space, a sacred space far removed from everyday life. This place is special. It was a space that made me feel that way.

But at the same time, I think. This place is just like a "theme park of the gods".

In other words, this is a Hindu space where various deities gather under the single theme of Hinduism, and altars are set up according to their respective rituals. In this special world, pilgrims offer their prayers according to a formula. This temple offers the experience of immersion in the Hindu worldview.

The space cut off from the outside world, the long waiting lines, the system of visiting altars one by one along the route, these may have something in common with the theme parks we go to. The signs and spells from the Brahmins could also be described as a truly experiential attraction.

It may seem inappropriate to use the words "theme park" or "attraction" to describe a sacred place of faith. But religion is not only religion. Religion is not only about being rigid and ascetic. Religion is not only about what is staid and ascetic, but also about the various elements that attract many people to it. Every religion has an entertaining aspect. This was also true of the puja I saw last night.

As long as such things actually exist, we cannot ignore them. I think it is beneficial for us to know that this aspect also exists in religion. Especially in this day and age when we value scientific and rational thinking. For modern people who cannot help but analyze everything, it is not a waste to know what role religion plays for people. To dismiss religion as mere superstition or something old-fashioned and archaic is, in my opinion, to dismiss human history and culture itself.

In fact, all the Indians who visit here seem to be enjoying themselves. It is obvious that this is a very attractive place for them. I was impressed by their open and happy faces.

(5) Feel the theme park of the gods at the Mansa Devi Temple in Haridwar - an immersive experience into the Hindu worldview.".

This experience of the Haridwar came as a great surprise to me, but at that time I had not yet read anything about Disney. Therefore, this was only my hunch.

However, after returning from the second India-Sri Lanka expedition, I read a lot of books about Disney.

And finally, here at the Minakshi Temple, I was convinced.

'Hinduism is not Disney-esque, Disney is religious!'And.

In other words, Hinduism is not Disneyesque. In the first place, Disney borrows various things from religion.

I used the word "entertainment" earlier, but this "entertainment" is not the exclusive domain of modern entertainment. Rather, I believe it exists in traditional religions.

How about festivals, for example? In every world, ancient and modern, festivals are somehow related to religion. However, people may have enjoyed the pleasure of festivals more than the religiosity of the festivals themselves.

Or how about music, dance, and performing arts? Music and dance are essential to religious ceremonies. Religious dramas in which stories of myths and saints are performed have also been performed in various religions. People enjoyed them.

More importantly, religion has also played a major role in business and finance. Religions spreading around the world had their bases in various parts of the world and functioned as places where people gathered. In India and Sri Lanka, there are large temples in merchant centers, where a wide variety of people gather. For more on this, see.⒂Why Buddhism spread so rapidly in India: the birth of a great power distancing itself from Brahmanism and the rise of an emerging merchant class."I also talked a little bit about this in my article on

Many studies have also shown that religious orders were engaged in the financial business. This is no exception for Buddhist orders. In fact, they were linked to local economic activities. One might have the image that "religion = poverty," but this is only one aspect of religion. To think only of "religion = poverty" is, in fact, evidence that one has already been influenced by some religion or ideology at that point in time. (See also.Nakamura, Gen: The Selected Works of Nakamura Gen, Vol. 18, The Social Thought of Primitive Buddhism.and by Gregory Schopen.Monastic Life in India During the Rise of Mahayana Buddhism.(See "etc.")

Furthermore, religious orders also had the function of calling on the rich to donate more and redistribute it in some form to the people. If the call was made by human beings, they did not care about it, but if it was made by God, they were often compelled to obey.

But, as we have seen, the business world has taken away everything I have talked about so far.

Festivals are no longer the exclusive domain of religion. Festivals and events are easily held almost every day somewhere.

What about music, dance, and theater? The maturity of these in the business should no longer need to be said. Of course, their value as traditional performing arts and their advanced skills may be recognized. However, I believe that nowadays many people will pay a lot of money to see their favorite artists and entertainers.

Furthermore, temples in towns and villages were the sites of entertainment and amusement in the past, when there was no Internet or means of transportation and no variety of entertainment as there is today. Naturally, temples have lost that role as well.

In terms of commerce and finance, there is no way to win against the giant conglomerates of the capitalist world.

When you think about it this way, the existence of Disney is truly frightening. Disney has swept the world with its overwhelming capital power, cutting-edge technology, and imagination. I believe that the driving force behind this success has been the "religious element. Disney has skillfully utilized the "methods of attracting and mobilizing people" that existing religions have maintained. As I have said many times, Hinduism is not Disney-like, but Disney is religious.

To learn more about the religious and artistic nature of Disney, read Masako Notoji's bookThe Holy Land of Disneyland."and Christopher FinchThe Art of Disney."are the best manuals available. I am sure that you will be astonished when you read them.

And again, I wonder what meaning we monks have in a religious world deprived of such entertainment.

In India, Hinduism itself is a powerful entertainment and is certainly much more powerful than Disney. Our guide told us that in India, Disney is perceived as something for urban children and not a threat to Hinduism's position.

But what about Buddhism in Japan? It is true that Buddhism in Japan has its own attractions, such as pilgrimages, visits to temples, and power spots. However, this is only at the level of a limited number of temples. Each individual temple should think about what it should do. What is the meaning of their existence? What can we do in the face of overwhelming entertainment by Disney and others? What we monks have to fight against is this powerful business society itself.

I myself have given a lot of thought to the previous trip to Sri Lanka and this trip to the Buddhist sites in India. For me personally, the key is to do my duties and rituals as a monk without seeking for entertainment. You may think, "What's so obvious?" But I believe that the key lies in that obviousness. Even if other temples take away our strengths, we should make use of our own strengths. Temples always have their own charm. I believe that we monks ourselves feel this the most.

Entertainment" is only one element within the larger framework of religion. It is not everything. There is no doubt that there is more to Japanese acceptance of Buddhism than entertainment. Of course, this is true in India as well. I would like to emphasize the importance of this. I cannot go into details in this article, but I strongly felt that during my trip to India.

However, I would like to add one last thing. I have talked about entertainment, and I know that some may argue that it is inappropriate to put religion and entertainment side by side. That opinion is valid. There is no doubt that religion is an important part of a person's life. Therefore, I have no intention of saying that religion is nothing more than entertainment. I am only interpreting it from the perspective that it has such elements.

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