A conversation about a staunchly religious village – its pious preeminent priests, the legion of all-powerful politicians, a holy book so divine that no mortal can read, and the people of the village who live by it all.
Someone called Ranjin, I met from India told me this last year. I do not know how far this is true but I’ll share with you the conversation I had with him anyway (as much as I can remember).
Ranjin: Brother, do you know that there is a unique village in India called Injapuram? It has a population of about 500,000 people. It is a very stable village and everything is organised. They believe in a religion called Marasmas. They have a holy book which they believe is divine originated called Marashgi and worship a god called Devadassi. They have a religious head called the MaraGuru whose word is law. Even the village committee which is elected every 3 years by the village has to get his approval on important things.
Me: Wow! I’ve never heard of Marasmas before. Where can I get a copy of the Marashgi? I am into inter-religious studies.
Ranjin: Well, I’ll try to get a copy when I go back to India. It is difficult to find a translation of it in English as the religion is limited to the village. The original Marasghi is written in a language called Sanurdu – a mixture of Sanskrit and Urdu. In fact this language is no longer spoken anymore.
Me: Then how do the followers understand their holy book?
Ranjin: The Marasmis, followers of the Marasmas religion, depend on their priests for the understanding of their book. You see, the MaraGuru is the head of a religious order made up of priests. These priests are experts in the religion of Marasmas and are in charge of all religious affairs from rituals to daily living rules. All Maramis must follow everything that the priests say and whatever decrees that the MaraGuru may pronounce from time to time.
Me: You must say… what happens if a Maramis does not follow the decree? Ostracised or pay a penalty or do penance?
Ranjin: No, no. In Injapuram, all the village laws are derived from the Marashgi. They are religious laws. If you stay and live in the village, you are subjected to it. If you do not like it, you have to migrate to somewhere else. You can be punished if you break the religious law.
Me: Wow, a very religious village who takes Devadassi seriously. Can you give me an example of a punishment?
Ranjin: Blue and green is a holy color for the Marasmis as it represents heaven and earth. Every Thursday is their holy day where every Marasmis is obligated by law to wear only blue and green and drink only water until 9.00p.m. If anyone wears any other colour, it is not only a sin but an offence as well. It is considered an insult to Devadassi.
Me: Really!? And what happens?
Ranjin: The offender may be flogged in public, between 5 to 25 strokes depending on the frequency of the offence.
Me: For wearing the wrong colour?!?
Ranjin: No, my friend, for going against religious teachings.
Me: You mean, in all these years no one has ever questioned that practice?
Ranjin: Uh uh. These are village idiots. Furthermore, it would be suicidal to do so.
Me: Name calling is not nice! But yes, I suppose religion is a sensitive issue.
Ranjin: Yes, my friend, sensitive to the position of the Marasmas priests and the politicians. The status quo has worked for years, so why rock it?
Me: But tell me, doesn’t the village committee and the religious group run into problems with each other?
Ranjin: Well, it has happened several times but confined to small issues only. You cannot make it in the village politics if you do not agree with the MaraGuru. So because of this, the village politicians who make it are those who say that they will protect the religion of Marasmas.
Me: Oh, I see. So the politicians know how to read the holy book, the Marashgi?
Ranjin: I just told you – no one but only the MaraGuru and holy priests know how to read the holy book.
Me: But..but how can they protect something when they do not know the contents of the holy book???
Ranjin: The MaraGuru educates them. You see, the MaraGuru can read by inspiration. The messages from the book can keep expanding when he reads it. That is the divine power that he has.
Me: Wait a minute… how thick is the holy book?
Ranjin: Well… it’s about 500 pages.
Me: That’s all?!? That’s not a very thick book to read to understand the religion of Marasmas!
Ranjin: That’s where you are wrong. To be a Marasmis, you not only believe in the Marashgi but also all the holy inspirations of all the MaraGurus. This religion is claimed to be 850 years old. There has been many MaraGurus, and by now there is a huge library full of their holy writings.
Me: Wow, would take a lifetime to read!
Ranjin: Exactly! So, they just follow the experts. Furthermore, these are village idiots who cannot think beyond their own basic survival.
I hope this is just fiction!
Thank God, I am not in Injapuram but in wonderful thinking Malaysia!
LB: This post originally appears in the author’s blog.