Those of you who woke up early to watch the President’s Colours being conferred upon the Indian Naval Academy (INA), Ezhimala on its completion of 50 years this morning would have noticed an interesting and unique part of the ceremony.

I’m talking about the part where the flag was laid on the altar of drums, and leaders from the four major faiths in India, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, and Christianity, stood before it, reciting the prayers of their faith before passing the mic to the next leader to do the same.

Sarva Dharma Sthal

This is called ‘Sarva Dharma Sthal’ and inculcates a feeling of unity and secularism in the Armed Forces.

If you talk to anyone serving or who has served in the Indian Armed Forces, they will tell you in no uncertain terms that religion is a personal matter, and the Armed Forces cares more about national unity and brotherhood than how a person worships.

While only the four majority religions were represented at the ceremony at INA this morning, it must be noted that the concept of Sarva Dharma Sthal extends to all religions practised in India.

How it works

Leaders from various religions stand shoulder-to-shoulder. One by one, they recite prayers and blessings from their faith, before passing the mic on to the next leader, who does the same.

During this entire process, all the armed forces personnel present remove their headgear in respect (except Sikhs, for whom the turban is an integral part of showing respect to the Gurus), and replace it once the prayers are done.

It is indeed a beautiful sight to see everyone coming together to pray as INDIANS, and not as factions of individual religions.

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Why only the Armed Forces?

This is a practice carried out in all armed forces establishments across India, especially during an important ceremony.

Since seeking the blessings of the Almighty on an important occasion is important to several people and boosts morale, the Armed Forces makes sure to call representatives of as many religions as possible to lead the prayers.

I feel this is something we need to inculcate even in civilian life.

I studied in a school that was staunchly Hindu, one can even say Brahminical, and my college environment was a complete U-turn- strictly Protestant.

Despite having students from at least 4 to 5 faiths studying in there, these institutions were quite rigid in their prayers.

My school used to make us recite slokas at Assembly every day, punctuated by *one* Christian prayer on one day of the week, and my college stuck to only Christian prayers.

Discouraging Communalism

I feel if educational institutions and work environments that wish to hold prayer services choose the route of Sarva Dharma Sthal over focusing on just 1 or 2 religions, it inculcates a feeling of unity and brotherhood in its students and employees.

India is reeling under communal tension, and what we need now is to understand that we are more than Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Muslim, etc.- we are Indians, who should stop fighting each other to satisfy the ego of our community or religion.

In this respect, let us take a cue from the Armed Forces, and see what beautiful results it will bring.

Image Credits: Google Images

Sources: Doordarshan

Find the author online at: @samyukthanair_

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