I mean happy Jewish New Year! We did a CTRL-ALT-DEL a little early this evening to celebrate Rosh Hashanah! (Yep, Jewish months begin at sunset!) This morning as I wished my Jewish colleague new year, I was surprised to know that their "Ten days of repentance" festival beginning today coincides with our Navratri. Also they will be celebrating Yum Kippur (which I knew only as a war!) next week as we observe Saraswathi Puja. This Saraswathi connection sent my pulses racing. Why?!
Its widely accepted that the world religions can be roughly grouped into three categories. (a) The Dharmic religions of India like Brahmanism (later Hinduism), Buddhism, Jainism and the recent Sikhism (b) The Middle eastern religions like Judaism, Zorastranism (our own Parsi's), Christianity and Islam. (c) The Pagan religions of the Mediterranean like the Roman, Greek and Egyptian religions. Ofcourse there are other smaller quasi cults/religions. Besides Christianity is as much a pagan religion as its the Church of the Christ.
Judaism should naturally interest us since both Hinduism and Judaism are more a way of life than religions. Besides 'India' and 'Palestine/Arabia' are the only places today where one can claim his/her Motherland to be his/her spiritual homeland as well. Last month I read an article by Khalid Ahmed in the Daily Times (Pakistan) where he wondered whether the Hindu God 'Brahma' and the Jewish 'Abraham' were the same.
Khalid Ahmed's linguistic analysis included stuff like 'Abrahm' is 'Brahma' with 'a' moving to the front, Brahma's wife 'Saraswathi' sounds like Abraham's wife 'Sarah' and our mythological first man 'Manuh' is like 'Nuh' or 'Noah of the floods'. The book I'm reading these days ("India, a History" - John Keay) also mentions how Indian and Palestinian mythological histories start with the 'Great Floods' and culminate in 'The Great War'.
It turns out that Jewish boys accept religious responsibilities after B'nai Mitzvah just as we do after Upanayanam. They also wear a sacred cloth (not the shawl) on their chest similar to our 'Poonal'. Just as Jewish boys cannot render 'Thorah' and other religious scriptures before they become Bar Mitzvah, we cannot render the vedas before we become Brahmacharis. They trace their ancestory to the 12 houses viz the House of David, Benjamin etc. We trace ours to the Gothra Rishis.
Jews follow a solar cum lunar calendar, so do we. They fast several days a year, so do we. They perform religious rituals on the death anniversaries of their ancestors, so do we. They have a festival of Lights which occurs in late Fall or early spring. Our festivals of Light Deepavali and the Karthigai Deepam occur roughly about the same time. They have a day of repentance every year to atone for not fulfilling everyday religious obligations. Exactly what we do at 'Avani Avittam'.
As a side note, I have always wondered why Tamils celebrate Deepavali with much fanfare. The Naragasuran myth must have obviously come from the Brahmanical Puranas of the north. When Tamils do not give a damn about Ram Navami and Krishna Jayanthi, will they fall over themselves to celebrate a supposed event in Krishna's life? And also why crackers? Afterall crackers are also burst at funerals? Is it because Mahavira attained Mahapari Nirvana on that day? Considering that Jainism (Samanam) was one of the predominant religions of the Tamils, I would not bet against Deepavali (atleast in Tamil country) being a Jain festival.
And finally, one of the most serene movements in my life was when I sat alone in front of the Buddha Statue at the famous 'wooden arch' cave at Ellora. I followed it with a visit to what I consider the greatest temple ever made, the Kailasnath temple or the famous cave 16. I dream of visiting Angkor Wat, Kailash Manasarovar, the Wailing wall, St Peter's basilica and Anuradhapura some day. Hmm..in the past few weeks I have been to the Santa Monica church, the Malibu and Iskcon temples and am waiting for my friend to take me to a synagogue. Well, thats a start, isn't it?