A vast majority of Indian television viewers and others following news websites would have been astounded to learn that the learned judges of the Supreme Court spent over an hour on Friday listening to two lawyers spar on the question of whether the Sanskrit shlokas from the hymn,Venkatesa Suprabhatam, can be recited to wake up Lord Vishnu at the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
This is the same temple whose secret chambers were directed by the court to be opened in June 2011, and where the authorities discovered a massive hoard of Roman coins, idols made of pure gold and studded with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, and tonnes of jewellery, together estimated in value at over Rs one lakh crore.
Interesting as that find was, the present news item presents equally rich possibilities to the imagination. One can be certain that this news item will fill some in the Indian educated middle-class with outrage.
Those who are resolutely secular and similarly devout believers will, predictably, object that such matters of faith (recondite faith, one might say in this case) should never come under the jurisdiction of the courts.
The rationalists will be hyper-ventilating, fuming at the idiocy and superstition of the Hindus, mumbling that it is precisely these maddening events which explain why India continues to be a developing nation.
And one can be quite certain that there will be others in the Indian middle-class who will be amused and will simultaneously deplore the fact that the highest court of the land has to squander its valuable time on such frivolous matters.
It’s not as if India is bereft of weighty problems, from the “cultural cleansing” that has been promised by the country’s culture minister to the immense and catastrophic destruction of communities and landscapes as a consequence of climate change.
As colonial officials were fond of saying, the Hindu readily, indeed constitutionally, by the very nature of his being, falls into obscurantism.