By: Vivek Shukla
As India got brand new and majestic Parliament Building on last Sunday, the all religion prayer before the Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated it proves a point that India will remain an inclusive country. A country where everyone will gets freedom to practise his/her religion.
Gandhiji may not be with us but the practice of all-faith prayer meetings have stood the test of time. There are some who have attended these meets for decades. Take the instance of Katsu Saan. The diminutive 85-year-old, Japanese by birth, is an integral part of all-faith meetings. She was first invited to one way back in 1969. She recites Buddhist prayers on all faith prayers, Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) and Martyr’s Day (January 30) at Rajghat and Tees January Road.
Katsu Saan came to India in 1959 to study Buddhism. In the process, she learnt both Hindi and Gandhian thought as well. “While exploring Buddhism here I started loving India deeply. That forced me to stay here for the rest of my life. I learnt Hindi and the life and times of Gandhiji from Kaka Kalalker [a social reformer and Gandhian] in Delhi,” she says.
Father George Soloman, a priest, has also participated in all-faith prayers umpteen number of times in various places. He recites from the Bible during the prayer meetings. “Very honestly, it gives great joy and happiness when you take part in all-faith prayers. It gives out a strong message that we all have to live together to make India a truly secular country. Gandhiji came to know about Christianity while he was in South Africa. There he met Christian missionary Joseph Doke, who wrote his first biography. He also learnt about the religion from CF Andrews, a teacher in Delhi’s St Stephen’s College,” he says. Originally hailing from Tamil Nadu, Father George Solomon has been living here in Delhi since 1989, says, “ I am part of the Brotherhood of the Ascended Christ society, which is also known as Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS). It was started in 1877 under the title of the Cambridge Mission. We had established St. Stephen’s college and hospital in capital. ”
Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar is head of the Jewish community in New Delhi; he is the secretary of the Judah Hyam Synagogue at Humayun Road.
“I have been reciting the Jewish prayers since 1985. I don’t think any other country in the world has anything similar to our all-religion prayers. Surely, only Gandhiji could think of such a gathering. When I reach the venue for the prayer, I feel very happy and there is a sense of fulfilment that I am sitting with scholars of other religions.”
Sanskrit scholar and newsreader in both AIR and Doordarshan, Baldev Anand Sagar is a senior member of the all-religion prayer group. Sagar recites shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita and Panchdev mantra, which is dedicated to five gods in Hinduism – Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu, Devi (Durga) and Surya. Panchdev mantra is a collection of five mantras and it should be chanted beginning with Ganesha and ending with Surya.
Songs of peace
With the passage of time, prayers of Jain, Baha’i, Parsi and Buddhist faiths were also included in the all-religion prayer meetings. The Baha’i prayer was introduced thanks to the efforts of noted Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande in 1985.
AK Merchant, who recites the Baha’i prayers, says: “The purpose of prayer in the Bahaʼi faith is to grow closer to God and to help better one’s own conduct and to request divine assistance.” Merchant is also associated with the Lotus Temple in the capital. He has also prayed with others when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pranab Mukherjee passed away.
A science teacher, Maqsood Ahmad, has been reading from the Quran from time to time at all-faith prayers. “The serene mood during all religion prayer cannot be described in words. One feels so good and connected to the Almighty while praying,” says Ahmad. He has also prayed when Vajpayee passed away.
Indu Jain, a teacher and motivational speaker and who has been reciting from the Jain scriptures, says, “I am really honoured that I have been part of the group of people who are invited to pray. Gandhiji was not a Jain. But he could be called one if one considers his actions and beliefs.”
According to her, the central tenet of Jainism is ahimsa (non-violence) and Gandhi’s philosophy rested upon it. He developed a method of political activism called satyagraha which was wholly based upon truth and non-violence. It has been translated as non-cooperation and passive resistance.
D Bagli, a priest from Parsi Anjuman in Delhi and Jaspal Singh, a music teacher from west Delhi were also there during the all-religion prayer held on the occasion of inauguration of new Parliament.