This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Lata Jha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

For Your God And Mine: What Matters More, Religion, Ritual Or Belief?

More from Lata Jha

By Lata Jha:

I’m not religious in the ritualistic sense. I don’t believe in the conventional methods of praying, painstakingly arranging for offerings and then seeking blessings. I can count the number of times I’ve been to a temple in my life, and I don’t recall ever spending more than ten minutes there. If I’m not in the mood, I might not even fold my hands. And yet I’d like to think that I not only believe greatly in the powerful existence of my God but that I share a deep connect with Him.


Allow me to explain myself. By putting it as ‘my’ God, I’m only talking about my belief in the unique bond I think I share with the force who watches over me, a bond of the kind that no one else shares with Him. He knows me better than anyone else, and He seeks me out not just when I need Him, but also when I think I don’t but actually, I really do. He knows my moods, my secrets, my misgivings and my fears, as irrational as they may all be, without me ever having had to tell Him. Which is why I believe He’s mine. Just like He’s yours, and his, and hers. There is something special all of us share with Him in our own little ways, I feel. There is ample opportunity for each of us to develop an equation with our God, and indulge ourselves to believe that there is a little part of Him that is only ours. And that it’s going to remain so, no matter what.

Exactly since I believe I hold possession of a part of Him that’s meant only for me is why I don’t feel the need to participate in the worldly, ostentatious methods of seeking Him out. I don’t look down on those ways or the people who follow them; it’s just that I don’t get them. I don’t see why ‘Gods’ have to be named in the first place, and divided, or why there has to be the concept of the worship of one particular God in one household, and not another.

Why you would especially make laddoos for Ganesh and believe Mata Rani will help you combat every obstacle, but not find time to read the namaz, which is just as exhilarating and fulfilling an experience. After all, they are both accepted forms of worship. Why then would you condition yourself to believe in one and not in another? I am aware of the concept of family, religion and the idea of birth and belonging. But I don’t see why religion has to define our ideas of seeking and interacting with God. Either you develop a purely personal equation with Him that goes beyond worship and expensive paraphernalia, or you worship Him in every form that you know of.

Did He ever tell you He prefers Himself as Vishnu and not as Christ? Or vice versa? Or better still, did He ever tell His disciples that He shall be pleased only with material offerings? That milk, chadar, prasad or even fasts are things He lays down on the priority list? I’m not demeaning people who believe in, save and spend on these things. My mother fasts every Tuesday, and I don’t eat non vegetarian food myself on Mondays. We are all followers, and we do things we’ve been taught and told. What I don’t understand is who formulated these norms in the first place and why they should take precedence over faith and individual connect. And why religion and rituals should divide us and keep us from leading our lives the way we’d want to. Why, for instance, women are not allowed in mosques or at funerals, or why they are the ones in the family required to fast, but not enter temples while menstruating.

One could make peace with the trivialization and humanization (or rather, de-humanization) of every aspect of life. We’re all cynical about it, and it really doesn’t bother us beyond a point. But it hurts when this is extended to the force you look up to for everything. I visited Vaishno Devi about two years ago, and I swear to the God up there, I shall never go back. Like cattle, people swarm to take their chance. And the priests there are more like bodyguards around coquettish starlets who don’t want to be touched or groped. They ward you off like flies if you demand another fraction of a second with the deity. It’s ridiculous that something as pure and personal as prayer should find itself relegated to such shameless levels of the public domain. The frills end up making a much more lasting impact than the actual time you spend with your God. It’s more about what you offer, how much of it, what you wear, who you are and what restrictions you should be subjected to by self-designated authorities.

You can’t do certain things if you’re a female, or a male, for that matter, of a particular caste, or economic status. You can’t know your God by a name other than the one your family’s chosen centuries ago, and you certainly can’t separate religion from worship.

In the midst of all these shenanigans, I don’t know how much thought we give to the need for that connect with God. The connect that will see you through when you can’t afford the paraphernalia, and the connect that exists regardless of your demographic identity. I’m not too sure of the definitions and benefits of spiritual healing and all the fancy stuff those Godmen talk of. But I do feel that having faith in Him helps more than and regardless of everything else. And I don’t mean to decry rituals in any way. I’m well aware of the societal traditions we’re born with. You or me can’t just wake up one day and decide they don’t matter. I just feel rituals and traditions need not take precedence over faith and belief. They need not dictate our lives, and they should not act as divisive forces. He certainly didn’t intend it this way and I’m sure he feels suffocated by it sometimes. Give it a rest, guys.

P.S. I realise that I’ve referred to God as ‘Him’ and ‘His’ everywhere. I did that only for the sake of convenience; I do not believe or endorse that God or any supreme form is necessarily male.

You must be to comment.
  1. Sargam

    I completely agree with almost everything that you have to say.Rituals in my opinion are just a money making shallow scam not much different from the IPL. The same fanfare, the same ulterior motives. Too much noise, not nearly enough heart. I admire your unclouded and candid style of writing, but there are some points that I beg to differ on. First, Christ was the Son of God, not God. Even though he is the revered figure of Christianity.
    The form of worship I practice in life, I think, has much to do with my upbringing. Not irreverence to religions other than mine. Belonging to a Hindu household, every time I ring the temple bell, a feeling of complete clam washes over me. The smell of incense sticks, the cold marble beneath my feet, is sometimes enough to clear my mind. Please don’t think I belong to a deeply religious family though. Like you, I could count the number of times I have been to a temple. The most I think of God is maybe before an examination. It’s just that I was raised to identify with the clanging of the temple bell in a way I could never relate to folding my knees facing westward. Yes, we do what we have been told. Like everything else, I believe it requires balance. There is a certain comfort in tradition or routine. I have come to realise this only now, something my immature rebel former self forbade me to admit. I’m not saying that if someone seems fit to denounce or merely alter the traditions they were raised in, I would threaten them with pitchforks. I simply feel that the sheer reason that I was brought up as a Hindu, is reason enough to stay one all my life. I also believe that it is reason enough to become a Muslim or a Christian for the rest of my life.
    As you say He is yours, He is different for everybody. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
    As you rightly said, we live in a cynical, hypocrite world. I hope someday we realise that God resides within, the light inside much brighter than a hawan fire could ever be.

    1. Lata Jha

      Yes. I think we’re pretty much on the same page. And like you, my upbringing also gives me a certain sense of identity, warmth and belonging. I just believe these things can’t be altered one fine day. And you or me might not take it that seriously, but there will be people incensed at the thought. That is how the world is.

    2. Raj

      Son of a god would be a god too, right?
      Anyways, if you think it’s OK clanging bells and feeling calm , that’s your lookout. Just don’t use the Government to give you tax-breaks and subsidies. Religions should be classified under recreation and leisure organizations and they should pay taxes like everybody else.

  2. jack

    The author tries to think out of the box but is too afraid to make a statement or to hurt anyone’s feelings. Result: total confusion and crap.
    #Yes, you can just wake up someday and decide what matters to you and what doesn’t, no matter how you name it: religion , culture or rituals

  3. Lata Jha

    I’m glad you are that brave. Thank you for reading. 🙂

    1. wasif

      one has to be brave Lata….

  4. Raj

    I agree with Jack. Call a spade, a spade. Clearly you are anti-religion. So am I. I hate it when organized religion imposes itself upon me.
    Also this idea that some space daddy is out there watching over you, is not only delusional, but also creepy. And if you think god is trying to communicate with you, perhaps it’s time to see a psychiatrist

  5. Noor

    A query here.. the concept of offering chadars..which religious community exactly practices it?

    1. wasif

      The baraelvis here in pakistan do so..

  6. Noor

    Also, it’s a shame that women are not allowed in the mosques in India, and a few neighboring countries. There is no verse in The Holy Qur’an that prevents a woman from entering the mosque. Almost all the mosques in the west, the middle east and the rest rest of the world welcome women.

    1. wasif

      Thats true.. They can be allowed but……..foolish people here

  7. Jack

    Lata, why do you think your ‘belief’ in Him is somehow better or more justified than the ‘belief’ that Lord Ganesha will help you prosper provided he is fed enough Laddoos? You are asking did he ever told anyone what name he prefers, but do you yourself know whether He is out there or not?

    For me you are only trying to tell us that somehow your set of beliefs is better than the rest of the belief systems. You are asking some good questions, but I wonder if you genuinely don’t know the answers or not!

More from Lata Jha

Similar Posts

By Saumya Jyotsna

By Love Matters India

By Sunmati Ramesh

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below