Saturday, 20 October 2018

Essay on Religion as a Business in India for UPSC

Essay on Religion as a Business in India for UPSC

Religion as a Business in India for UPSC
Religion is no more limited to a way of life, a faith or a philosophy. It has far extended its domains from just a disciplined path of life to eye-snatching extravagant ceremonies and further to someone's luscious business doings. Today it is very much more than a set of beliefs pursued as a means of bringing holistic piety in a person. Religion, so to say, has now become a trade, a profession and a handsome source for some people's employment.

Nevertheless the fact that we have heard about the interaction between religion and business throughout history when one influenced and affected one another, today's is a different ball game altogether. Notably a considerable number of people have set up aashrams, matths and deras in India with a view to amassing huge lump sums of money from their gullible devotees. It is said that in India, the religious organizations not only operate as business organizations, but their business model has now seen diversification of activities to retain the loyalty of their followers and to attract new devotees. Religion verily plays a pivotal role in Indian society and culture and considerably influences its businesses and the economy.

It will be too parochial to confine the business of religion to the Indian subcontinent. Throughout the world, religion has been branded as one of the highest carriers of business and economy to the state. In the United States, the Organized Religion Industry (O.R.I.) is considered too big to send swirling down the economy's drain." Author Martha Woodroof writes about the O.R.I. in America, "For an industry of which the major American branch (Christianity) uses as its mission statement the anti-materialist words of a poor carpenter, the O.R.I. has done all right in the rapacious fray known as the American economy.” It is clear from such words that how large a contributor to the state economy is the business industry called religion, take anywhere in the globe.

Be any religion, in todays age of late capitalism everyone is surrounded by a halo of business-making driven by the sole avaricious desire of minting pennies. It is known fact that the religion called Judaism "outlines requirements of accurate weights and measurements in commerce, as well as prohibitions on monetary deception, verbal deception and misrepresentation." It is scarcely credible that the Islamic halal products comprise a US 2 trillion dollar business industry. Furthermore, the Jewish dietary Kashrut system has recommended food products which have sale values of 165 billion US dollars annually. 

In India, religious business ceremonies are common sights. A Hindu is always seen setting off with a thing only after dedicating the beginning to the Gods, for their blessings matter the most. Some of the very common business events that comprise of the most coveted religious ceremonies are opening of new offices and breaking of ground for new facilities. A muhurat or the finale of a business-related religious ceremony is one to reckon with and never to be missed on any account. 

Max Weber, the most renowned German sociologist and philosopher was one of the first in modern times to observe the interplay between religion and the market place. He believed that components of the Christian Protestant theology were catalytic and elemental in the emergence of entrepreneurial activities. In his book ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism' (1905), Weber posits the most enigmatic question, "what explains the peculiar circumstance of a drive to the accumulation of wealth conjoined to an absence of interest in the worldly pleasures which it can purchase?" Weber then argues that this kind of a novel outlook is a distinctively moral one, demanding in fact unusual self-discipline. He indeed believed that the process of rational organization of capitalism in the West, the first of its kind, was derived from religious sources. A disciplined labor force and the regularized investment of capital are implicit elements of a rational organization of capitalism. And the religious industry has today these elements working together to built it up as a proper business establishment driving the state economy. 

Facts astonish everyone. In the name of religion startling activities are being carried out that further help in bringing high business yields. The Tirupati and other South Indian temples have traditions of collecting hair from their devotees which when traded in the market costs anywhere between Rs. 5,000 and the European markets. In the age of the ubiquitous internet service, today entrepreneurs have also started distribution of temple prasad online for devotees who are not able to visit the shrines. The online Prasad website, which does over 200 bookings daily, has a network of around 50 temples across India and charges Rs. 501 to deliver prasad anywhere in the country in 7 — 10 days. Again there's another venture known as the Vedic Vaani that runs a business by offering items related to all the religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc. There's also a website, ProudUmmah dealing with items and pilgrimages of the Muslims. The Tirumala Tirupati temple and the most popular Vaishno Devi temple each is known to collect Rs. 5000 crore as donations annually, while a few hundred of mediocre temples collect an annual lump sum of around 20000 crores in donations. A capitalist would certainly drool out his tongue at such amounts. 

Founders of the religions could never have imagined then what a fate mankind could actually carve out of a pious instrument called religion. There's no more to the old definition that people actually read out in the texts, about "religion." This again proves the extent to which capitalism can actually penetrate given its organizational tactics and investments and not the least, usage of the internet.

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