From a young age, something I always found interesting was the difference between my culture from that of others around me. I would mostly compare my experiences with the anecdotes of my friends, many of whom practiced some sect of Christianity and attended church. One thing that I thought was noteworthy was the emphasis on shoes and either their removal before entering a place of worship or not.
Being Hindhu and growing up in a religious family, we attended the temple, or mandir, decently often. As we would enter, we were expected to remove our shoes and wash our hands before proceeding into the main prayer hall where the statues of deities stood and everybody paid their respects. This is the custom in all Indian temples and mosques around the world.
My mother grew up attending Catholic schools so we weren’t strangers to the customs at a traditional church either. There, the removal of shoes is not required nor enforced. This difference was something that stood out to me. This very basic and completely harmless difference in cultures is something that I love about religion. The multi-faceted and wide range of traditions ranging from the simplest to the most complex is what makes religion and the practice of different cultures so beautiful.
I wanted to capture this small element of my culture in a piece of mine. This piece done entirely in ink with accents of red and gold leafing, two colors that are dominant in Indian garb and decoration, is titled My Temple. It is a simple yet self-sufficient name, requiring no further explanation. I wanted to do this piece merely as a rendition of traditional temples in India rather than something deeply conceptual such as some of my other work. I wished to capture the simplicity of the ideals of the Hindu religion: respect, and grounded devotion.
Removing shoes outside of a temple before entering is both a symbolic and conscious desire to leave behind the outer world and dirt before entering the house of the lord. The same goes for any home. Hindus remove their shoes before entering their own homes and the homes of friends, family, neighbors, and loved ones. Seeing as shoes carry the dirt and germs from the outside world, we make sure that we do not bring it into any place of living with us. The thought is that we want to treat the temple as we would treat our own homes.
In other traditions where shoes are allowed in places of worship, their reasonings are completely sound as well. Providing means of hygiene, sanitary purpose, and modesty, reasons for wearing shoes also stand. Wearing shoes inside of places of worship for other cultures by no means a lack of importance and respect. Rather, it is a beautiful thing that emphasizes how so many types of people with so many beliefs, and ways of living exist in our world. We oftentimes forget to accept diversity and equity with open arms but it is an essential aspect of building a better world for ourselves and our future.
As always, if anything that I discussed in this post stands out or if any questions arise please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.
Looking forward to next Sunday!