Updated: December 27, 2018 10:30:02 am
Hong Kong-based author Bhakti Mathur started her literary career her Amma, Tell Me series of children’s books about Indian festivals. She recently released Amma, Take Me to the Dargah of Salim Chishti, a part of the Amma, Take me series, which includes Tirupati and the Golden Temple as well. She talks about the joys of travel and introducing children to places of worship.
What makes the Dargah of Salim Chishti special?
The Dargah of Salim Chishti holds a special place in my heart. I was a little girl when I first visited the mausoleum many years ago and have made countless trips since then, making wishes by tying threads on the exquisite latticed windows of the dargah. It’s a place that transports me to another world. Maybe it’s the beauty of the single-storey marble mausoleum that stands out like a pearl in a sea of red sandstone or the sound of the azaan coming from the Jama Masjid calling the faithful to prayer or the melodious notes of the qawali that the musicians sing in praise of Salim Chishti, sitting in front of the Dargah. But the most important reason the tomb is special is that I feel the pervasive presence of the great Sufi saint and his blessings emanating from his final resting place.
Why is it important to introduce children to historical monuments and places of worship in India?
As a mother, I have been dealing with questions about different religions as my two children (10 and 8 years) have been visiting different places of worship as a part of their school curriculum. The ‘Amma Take Me’ series (published by Penguin Random House India) is an attempt to answer these questions. Written as a travelogue of sorts, the series touches upon our major religions, their history and mythology through the conversations of a mother and her two children as they visit India’s important places of worship. The series has three books so far on the Golden Temple, Tirupati and the Dargah of Salim Chishti.
History and travel are two great teachers. History tells us about who we are and where we come from. It teaches us lessons and inspires us. And what could be a better way to learn about our heritage than travelling to these wonderful monuments? It’s so much more interesting for children to be able to see, smell and get a sense of a place by visiting it, rather than just reading about it. It’s fun and learning happens only when children are having fun.
The world is so polarised today. Visiting a temple, a church or a mosque is a great way to show children that all religions give the same message, the message of love and tolerance. There is a wealth of knowledge left by the ancient seers who founded these religions, be it Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam or Christianity. It’s important for children to grow up respecting different religions. It’s a way to make them grow up to be sensitive and empathetic.
Could you give us your list of five places of worship that kids must visit in India?
The Golden Temple, Amritsar
The beauty and simplicity of the temple is breathtaking. What I loved most was seeing people do seva or selfless service. From the time you deposit your shoes at a ‘shoe counter’ at the entrance of the gurudwara, which is kept spotlessly clean by volunteers, to being served food at the langar cooked by the volunteers, to watching people clean the sarovar around the temple. And the Karah Prasad you get is delicious.
Sri Venkateshwara Temple, Tirupati
To see the power of devotion and belief on display. Thousands of devotees from all parts of the country wait for hours every day to get a glimpse of their beloved Venkateshwara just for a few seconds, resplendent, dressed as a bridegroom. To watch people tonsure their hair selflessly. And to eat the famous Tirupati ladoos that you get as prasad.
The Sai Baba Temple at Shirdi
To learn about the life of a great living saint, Sai Baba, the way he lived and the message he left behind.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa
To see the exquisite architecture of one of the oldest churches in India. To learn about the life of the great saint, Francis Xavier, who practiced love and selflessness and whose mortal remains are housed in the church.
And, of course, the Dargah of Salim Chishti, Fatehpur Sikri.
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