Wayside worship venues draw people, symbolize religious harmony
BANGALORE, India -- Catholic shrines located alongside Hindu temples in the slums of Karnataka state are common sights, symbols of religious harmony to some.
One such site is in Frazer Town, an area of Bangalore, the state capital. The Catholic shrine, dedicated to St. Anthony, shares a wall with a temple that honors Durga, a Hindu [G]oddess.
The two worship venues have separate entrances and are open around the clock. Vendors, business people, slum dwellers, street children and students frequent them.
Jimmy Mathew, who travels around Karnataka as regional manager of Caritas India, the Catholic church’s national social service agency, says Christian shrines and Hindu temples coexist in several towns in the state. “They are very good means of promoting religious harmony,” said the Catholic layman.
The special prayers to St. Anthony held on Tuesdays attract about 500 people from various religions. Neither shrine nor temple has official sanction from church or Hindu bodies. Neither facility has priests to conduct rituals or lead prayers.
This does not bother Arokya Mary, a 27-year-old Catholic who visits the Frazer Town shrine daily. It “is a place to pray,” said Mary who lives in a nearby slum. In fact, the lack of “rigid” religious rules is what attracts her to the shrine, she added.
A trust comprising Hindus, Christians and Muslims manages the shrine and temple, which sit on the side of a busy road.
A marble plaque on the shrine wall says a woman named Theresa Mary built it on June 13, 1980. The shrine committee then built the temple later, said M. Krishnan, who has been associated with the structure from the beginning.
“I am a Hindu, but I am a daily visitor to the church,” Krishnan said. The retired postmaster recalled that about 30 years ago, shanty people placed a small statue of St. Anthony at the spot where the shrine now sits.
Krishnan believes churches and temples should be part of people’s daily lives, not centers for priestly domination. “People know how to pray. Let them pray the way they want,” he said, adding that “simple people” who want “easy access to God” visit the wayside religious sites.
-- UCA News