Know five important things before visiting to any religious place in India
If you are looking for a spiritual retreat, there truly is no place like India. With half a dozen major religions and several dozen sects, India is God’s chosen country. Religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism were born here and every city and town is home to numerous temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras of every kind. On this soul-stirring journey, remembering these five essentials will ensure you don’t tread on anybody’s feet and feelings!
- Research the place and make sure there are no restrictions on entry: Some places of worship are strictly for the followers of the faith or are open only to men and no outsiders are allowed inside the premises. Researching a site in advance will ensure you don’t come back disappointed. A few of these are all Zoroastrian temples (open only to born Parsis), Jagannath Puri (open only to Hindus and Sikhs) and Sabrimala (not open to women).
- Never wear shoes inside religious premises: All religious places are considered sacred and any kind of footwear is a complete no no. So, it is best to observe where others are leaving their shoes and do accordingly. Even if it a small place and there is no one around, leave your footwear outside the boundary. You may also be required to wash you feet and hands before entering. It is allowed in most Churches though.
- Cover your head: People in India cover their heads, as a sign of respect for the Almighty, when they enter most holy places. This is done using a scarf or a dupatta or a special topi but never a cap or a hat. So, keep a scarf handy and watch what others are doing before entering. In case of any doubt, it is better to cover your head anyways.
- Avoid clicking pictures of a deity or religious symbols and books: Clicking photographs of deities, books or other religious symbols inside sanctum sanctorum are usually not allowed. This is followed to ensure there is never any disrespect shown to them as well as to protect old idols from damage by flash lights. So, do ask the priests or volunteers before going camera crazy. You can take as many snaps of the outside as you like though!
- Dress appropriately: Though there are no rules for an appropriate dress, but make sure your legs and torso are properly covered and you can easily sit down. In most places you will need to kneel before the deity, or sit on the floor for meditation, or to sit down to partake the langar (holy food).
Though this covers most of the essentials, the traditions vary from place to place. It is best to be observant and see how natives pray and what things they take care of. Or better option will be to have a knowledgeable acquaintance or guide who will not only tell you what to do but may also be able to explain the significance of and story behind each little tradition.