Today, India is a curious blend of ancient and modern, epitomised by the bhajan blasting from loudspeakers and the sadhu with his mobile phone.
More people are moving into towns and cities, and in rural areas the bull is succumbing to the tractor. Industrialisation is taking its toll. Many holy sites are strewn with litter, especially plastic bags, which pose a threat to wildlife.
Extensive deforestation and huge hydro-electric schemes have disrupted the flow of water in India’s sacred rivers, causing flash floods after the monsoon and dried-up beds in summer. Some Hindu organisations are voicing their concerns, raising ecological awareness as India runs the path of modernisation. Television and the film industry are having their impact, evident even in the smallest of villages. The younger generation often considers the West its new source of inspiration.
What is noticeable, though, is that material progress and technology never seem to quite work in India! The recently constructed dual carriageway from Delhi to Agra is more accurately described as “two parallel roads.” The driver continuously dodges cows, bicycles and tractors coming towards him on the wrong side of the road. Despite these anomalies – quite shocking to many Westerners – India somehow manages to maintain its sense of spirituality.
Many Hindus living outside India now have quite different lifestyles from their forefathers. Naturally, they tend to get up somewhat later in the day. The extended family is diminishing. Some remain strict about diet, whereas others adopt local eating habits. Unlike in India the temple has become a centre of social activity and an emblem of Hindu identity. Within the UK many multi-million complexes are being constructed in urban areas, replacing the old converted church-halls. Though these temples help Hindus maintain core spiritual practices, there are clear challenges in adjusting to rapidly changing lifestyles, and in applying to the modern context principles largely rooted in rural India .
The inner city in Puri
A typical indian lorry, complete with the distinctive artwork. India is a strange mixture of the traditional and the modern!
Urbanisation is devastating the environment in many parts of India. Welfare organisations and the government are now taking measures to prevent further pollution of natural resources. Taking part in a school project, these girls show off their eco-friendly handicrafts.
Many Hindus outside of India have now happily adopted a Western lifestyle, whilst they still practice their religion. Here, a young couple from London learn about meditation using beads.