Sects - Fossilised Faith !

Most religions and new sects are only successful if they speak to the "modern man" in colloquial language and talk about topics that matter "here and now".  If they don't do that, there is no reason for the masses to follow them or even believe that this new version of the divine message has anything for them.  As time goes by, what is the "current norm" becomes an established "ritual" and the expected norms of behaviour become formalized in a way everyone is expected to behave.  If the sect is to grow, there will be some congregational aspect to it, encouraging current members to bring in new members to grow the group.  No group can "grow" unless it looks "cool" in some aspect or another.

Why would anyone join what looks "out-of-step" with society or community ?  Ofcourse, the community you have may be small, and it may be set aside from society at large, but, within that particular community, you would have to be cool to attract people to you.  So for example, we may consider "Goth" to be an extreme look and not consider it main stream.  Yet, there are enough young people who consider it "cool" enough to defy their parents and society to dress in extreme shades of black and white.  In religious terms, this would make "Goths" a sect of sorts.  If they survived long enough and managed to convince enough people to join them, they could even become mainstream !  So all new religions and sects have something that "attracts" its members to make them join.

Sects usually have charismatic leaders who are very lucid and articulate.  They often have an aura of "otherness" which attracts people to them.  Unless they have these and other wonderful characteristics, how can they help their sect grow ?  Usually such leaders provide cohesion and "we are a family" feeling that makes the sect grow.  Only successful sects, who keep choosing the right kind of leaders to lead and grow them, generation after generation, survive beyond the original charismatic leader.  Once they have an established growth behind them, sects usually start to "fossilise".

We all want to preserve that which is "best".  Best in terms of clothes, food, music, art, thoughts, philosophy, architecture etc.  Sects are no different.  They preserve whatever was best at the time of their most impressive growth period.  They will often revert to the language of the founder or the most charismatic leader(s) to try and recapture the "glory years".  Manner of dress, conduct, conversation, language, grammar etc at the time of its peak is considered to be the "best time" and to recapture that, sects fossilise that period as the "ideal" for everything.

So for example, Armenian was the popular language of commerce at the time of Jesus.  As Jesus never preached beyond the Jewish tribes, we won't know if he spoke Aramaic or Greek or Hebrew or another dialect of the region.  What we know is, the original church papers were compiled in Aramaic and Greek because that was the language of new followers outside Israel.  To communicate with the cosmopolitan crowd of Alexandria and Phoenicians and Greeks, the leaders had to use whatever language worked for their new followers.  When leadership shifted to Rome, they started to use the lingua franca of the empire in order to communicate effectively with the maximum number of people.  If they kept to a dialect of Hebrew, they would have had a very limited audience indeed !

Over time, the expansion of the sect was standardised by following the template of their establishment in Rome.  Others who felt they had templates that suited them best split away into Greek and Armenian Orthodox churches.  Each church teaches in the language that was used at the time of its "glory years" – Aramaic, Greek and Latin.  Language, fashion and trends moved on, but having fossilised their behavior to a specific period of time, sects stopped and kept using language, mode of dress, forms of address etc to a very specific period in time.  Soon, what was the colloquial language, easy to approach and easy to understand, became archaic and soon, "ancient".  Its now become so ancient, some of the terms in church Latin are lost in mists of time and they can only be understood in context of the church and nothing else.  


European Reformation broke that mould and established a new "norm" of language, structure, ritual and iconography.  Over time, this has become just as fossilised as the Roman Church they broke away from !  Most people still quote the Bible from King James, assuming it to be the "word of God", not realising God or Jesus never spoke English !

Apply this to Pushti Marg -
Though the sect was established by Shri Vallabhacharyaji, it was made powerful and popular by Shri Gusaiji.  As a result clothes, language and form of seva that have become popular is from Shri Gusaiji's time and not from Shri Vallabh's.  Shri Gusaiji moved to Vraj and employed local people to serve in the temple.  As a result the most common language in the temple was Vrajbhasha - language of the people of Vraj.  Due to its proximity to the capital of the Mughal empire, Sikri and Agra, there were plenty of visitors from the capital to the temple.  They obviously wore the most fashionable clothes and jewels of their time.  Hence, the fashion of clothes and jewels used in the temple changed from purely Indian to a combination of Indian, Persian and Mongol.  Same thing applied to food, music, forms of address, manners, pomp and ceremony used at the temple.

When ShriNathji moved to Rajasthan, the sect adopted Rajasthani mode of living.  The temple structure changed from traditional Hindu temple design to a totally different one in the form of a mansion - Haveli.  This changed the concept of what a temple should look like and how it should be organised.  Instead of a traditional arrangement of inner sanctum and adjoining halls, topped by spires and domes, the new temple was constructed like a Rajasthani mansion, with rooms and halls arranged around courtyards.  Crucially, there were to be no spires or domes in the new architecture !  Rajasthanis love tie-dye and so that was introduced as a new material in the wardrobe of Thakorji.  Rajasthanis also love to paint horses and elephants outside their walls.  This was also added to the tradition of the sect.

Ofcourse, being human we can "justify" anything and make everything seem plausible or reasonable.  So all these changes and deviations from the original were explained away in ways that sounded sensible and logical.  Each time a great leader appeared in the sect, aspects of his characteristics, modes of seva he introduced, were added to the set format of seva fossilised in Gusaiji's time. 


Pushti Marg is still evolving and now there is a new craze of using marble, white marble, in conspicuous amounts in the havelis.  Design of the new havelis is more like a "hall" than a mansion.  In new buildings, courtyards are avoided and everything is covered over to make sure the entire interior can be "air conditioned", after all, that's the new "cool" !  However, old modes of behaviour between priests and people is maintained.  Even clothes of the priests hark back to Mughal times.  Scent and sounds coming from the inner sanctum still reminds us of our original roots.  If we peel back the layers of all that surrounds us in a haveli, we can see the evidence of things we have fossilised from different eras of history in our modern Pushti Marg.



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