Embodied Worship | Harmonist

(Harmonist) – Embodied Worship | Harmonist

by Harmonist staff

By Anne Petry, originally published by Hinduism Today.

Several years ago, by sheer chance, I saw a picture of an old, skinny, wrinkly person wearing a simple printed black and white cloth and with tattoos on her legs, arms and face. I remember I stayed astonished in front this portrait, not only because of the full body tattoo, but because somehow through this photo I could feel the devotion and the faith this individual seemed to have for her God.

After some research, I discovered that the woman in the picture belonged to the Ramnami Samaj community, a religious movement inside Hinduism that worships Lord Ram. Because they belong to one of the lowest castes, in past times they were banished from temples. And this is why they decided to turn their bodies into their own temples by tattooing all over the name of their God, Ram. This was not meant as a protest against upper castes nor to take any revenge. It was just a way to respond to not being able to go into temples. Ram was inside their hearts and minds as well as on their bodies; the tattoos reminded them always of their Lord. They could pray to Him no matter where they were, no matter what time it was and regardless of any exclusionary rule.

What a radical and incredible way to step up for their beliefs, isn’t it? At that time, it was clear for me: I had to meet those people who were not afraid to change their body appearance in order to claim their devotion.

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