Even in our lifetimes we see religions, religious beliefs and rituals emerging, almost overnight, on planetary time scale.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak is said to be the man behind the reformation of Ganesh Chaturthi as a public event. Mumbai today is inalienably aligned with Ganesh pooja. Ganesh has effectively emerged as the ruling deity. [Was one installed at the inauguration of the Indira Gandhi International Airport at Delhi?]
We had never taken notice of Ganesh pooja at Hyderabad in the fifties and sixties but now it is a major festival and the source of the largest procession there.
Jagannath Rath Yatra has been well known at Ahmedabad [following in grandeur the Odisha festival]. But for the first time this festival was celebrated at Vadodara with much fanfare this year.
Muslims did not take out large processions for Eid-e-Meelad-un-Nabi, the birthday of Mohammed, until recent times. Now – perhaps following its declaration as a public holiday during the V P Singh government – it has become a major public festival and their second largest procession after Muharram.
Babasaheb Ambedkar has virtually become the deity of our Dalit brethren within a few decades. By and large India has come to pay tribute to this constitutionalist respect worthy of a holy guru.
It clearly appears that religions are a form of our identity expression, our self-assertion, and historically bear proof to the rising and falling fates of communities and peoples.