Gods own country

people in the upper reaches of Himachal Pradesh, near Manali, were summarily ordered by their multitude of gods to protect a swathe of land earmarked for a tourist resort at a somewhat bizarre ceremony. The reason was, from all accounts, that they inhabited that area, having presumably descended from their heavenly abode at some point of time, and would be thoroughly inconvenienced if ungodly hedonists descended on the place in packs to ski (a ski track was part of the proposed project), frolic and otherwise disport themselves in various unspeakable ways.

Having been sternly warned that any lacuna in protecting the land would invite divine retribution, the people of the area swore they would give their lives rather than give up the abode of their protectors. So far, so good. The only problem was that it later emerged that the principal spokesman of the earthling gods was a leader of a political party that may have been trying to torpedo the project because the government that was negotiating the project was in the control of the rival party. But this need not surprise us unduly.

The political machinations of celestial beings have been documented in detail in a number of epics. Homer's Iliad, for instance, is a testament to an assemblage of gods playing out their petty rivalries on the terrestrial stage through their favourite worshippers. Though, as with our current godlike leaders, favour could prove to be a very fickle thing indeed. Closer home, the Ramayana chronicles in detail the utterly egregious meddling on the part of Rama in the sibling rivalry between Sugriva and Bali, with fatal consequences for the latter. As for the pontiffs of the Roman Catholic church, the supreme spokesmen of the father, son and the holy ghost, the less said the better.

But that is just one part of the story. One does not have to ascend up the mountains further towards the heavens to espy divine intervention in earthly usufructs. All around us, we are witness in our quotidian lives to the spectacle of the most modest of shrines blossoming from their niches on pavements, and in marketplaces and shanties into the most imposing of edifices, occupying acres of land. Needless to say, since they are armed with the invisible, and invincible, shield of the Creator, mere mortals cannot presume so far as to question the sanctity of His abode.