At a time when there are reports of hatred and intolerance from several parts of the country, the story of a Catholic organisation in Kerala – that aims to promote harmony – comes as a breath of fresh air. The Chavara Cultural Centre, the renowned Christian centre managed by the Catholic Church in the state, is celebrating Ramayana month.
In fact, they’ve been doing so every year for over a decade now, and also conduct several other programmes to promote interfaith harmony and friendship.
The Malayalam month of Karkidakom is celebrated as Ramayana month in Kerala, and Hindu devotees recite portions of the epic every day and finish the whole text in a month.
At Chavara it is an inter-religious gathering in which people of almost all religious faiths take part. This year the celebration was done on the first of Karkidakom.
A practicing Hindu recites certain portions of Ramayana on the day of the celebration. Nuns and priests of the Church, and people of other faiths like Islam, members of Jain and Sikh communities living in Kochi, and several others participate in the event. The message of the recited portions would be discussed among the people who have gathered, and there would be a debate too.
“We have been celebrating the Ramayana month for the past 12-13 years,” Chavara Centre director Fr Roby Kannanchira tells TNM.
“The message is that we are supporting your diverse faith, taking part in its celebrations, without losing our faith. We are here to be with you – this is the message we are giving to everyone,” he adds.
Stressing that all religions must be respected equally, Fr Roby Kannanchira further says, “There is no need to say that your religion is wrong to believe that my religion is right.”
The Centre was established in the memory of Kuriakose Elias Chavara. He was the founder of two mainstream Catholic Religious Institutes in India ‘Carmelites of Mary Immaculate’ and Congregation of the Mother of Carmel.
To promote inter-religious faith the centre is also celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr every year.
The Centre has also been celebrating Deepavali, Christmas, Easter and other festivals as a platform of the people of diverse faiths to come and communicate with each other. In all the celebrations people of different religions take part.
This year the special guest for the Ramayana month celebration was Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who was on a visit to the Centre. Hindu scholar P I Sankara Narayanan recited the Ramayana.
“Ours is more of an inter-religious Centre and has been evolved as a space for diverse thoughts over the years. We have red carpet welcome for people who are interested in inter-religious debates or activities,” Fr Roby added.