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Nation As A Religion

While people should be free to celebrate their and other religions, as well as festivals, why does it require a public holiday?

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Shinto and Buddhism are the two main religions in Japan, with a shrine (Shinto) or temple (Buddhism) in every town, village or mountain.

Shinto is as old as Japan or Japanese culture, Buddhism was imported from India via China and Korea sometime in 6th Century BC. 

While most Shinto and Buddhist believers follow both faiths, what is surprising is, less than 50% of Japanese identify themselves as active members of any religious group.

In Japan you are free to practice any religion of your own choosing, but what stands out is that there are no national holidays to celebrate or acknowledge any single religion. Be it Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism. Japan does not have religious public holidays! 

While Christmas is celebrated as a universal public holiday in most of the developed and developing world, in Japan it is not a public holiday. Yes, despite many churches, catholic schools and over one percent of the population being Christians, Christmas is celebrated with fervour but not as a public holiday. 

Imagine not having public holidays for any religion in India! 

I am not suggesting we not celebrate our diverse festivals, culture and religious beliefs but asking why do we need a public holiday to do so? 

Of the 18 gazetted public holidays in India only three are national holidays (Republic Day, Independence Day, Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti) with the rest being classified as public holidays but are essentially religious holidays. 

While people should be free to celebrate their and other religions, as well as festivals, why does it require a public holiday? 

In a diverse country like India with its rich heritage, I believe our public holidays should be universal in nature and not appease, favour or celebrate a religious community or communities; whether a majority or a minority.

How about a public holiday for Greenery Day, Marine Day or Mountain Day? Imagine raising awareness of our precious but depleting natural resources among all Indians, irrespective of cast, culture or creed.  

How about a public holiday for Coming of Age Day, Children’s Day, Respect for the Aged Day, Labour Thanksgiving Day.  These should help to highlight the need to respect our fellow beings and the future of the nation (youth) while instilling a sense of ‘dignity of labour’.  In today’s modern India, with rising crime and rapes such values are being forgotten and need to be reinforced among our children. 

How about a public holiday for ‘Vernal Equinox Day’, ‘Autumnal Equinox Day’, ‘Health-Sports Day’, ‘Culture Day’ to celebrate the change in seasons, our health and our culture, irrespective of which part of the country one lives.

How about a public holiday for ‘Constitution Memorial Day’ along with our Independence Day and Republic Day? Rather than our holidays being just celebrations to mark occasions we would benefit from understanding and reflecting on the values our constitution provides.

The holidays I have suggested (in italics) are all national holidays in Japan. 

In most democratic countries, the religion vote bank plays a role in political fortunes, but not here in Japan.  

Come to think of it, in every country, however patriotic its people, religion and religious sects become a source of suspicion and division. Rather than unite the nation, the religious beliefs divide them. 

In Japan, I observe, ‘nation is the religion’ and ‘national pride’ its altar. 

In my opinion, it is national pride, respect for nature and fellow beings that sets Japan apart from other democratic countries in the world.

In India we need to rise above ‘religious public holidays’ and make them ‘truly national public holidays.’  

Let’s celebrate and believe in the diversity of India including protection of natural resources, environment and compassion for humanity.

Let’s have our nation ‘India’ (not some mythical name) as a new religion. 

After all, any religion is only a matter of belief!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Deepak Suri

Deepak is an avid traveller, a global brand expert and Int’l business manager living in Tokyo.

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