I was born in Hungary into a not too religiously Catholic family. I was baptised at my grandmother’s insistence and loved religious studies (that mainly consisted of study of Jesus and no other religions were actually mentioned) in primary school, although I have to admit it was mainly because of the pretty stickers and mini-pictures of icons that the nun who taught us distributed amongst the children who paid attention. I was one of the few who received these because I always loved stories. Good old days.
Hungary is not big on ‘exotic’ religions. If you are a Mormon, you count as an alien. One is expected to be an atheist or belong to one of the well known, good old forms of Christianity. You can be a Catholic – Greek or Roman. You can be a Protestant. Even a Baptist or a Methodist. But Jehovah’s Witnesses are frowned upon by everyone other than the witnesses themselves, and the few Mormons who have reached Hungary to preach and convert are mostly looked upon as comic relief. I actually like them because they are very polite and take the effort of learning our language in order to be able to preach, but I wouldn’t prod that sect with a two-meter-long pole. (A saying we have here, meaning I don’t want anything to do with it.) What I want to say is, when people are asked about other religions – like, not-Christian stuff – they first list the Muslims and Jews, and only then do they remember Far Eastern stuff. You know, Buddhism and whatever the “Harekrishnas” believe in.
So, you might ask, how did I get into Hinduism in such a monotheistic environment? I like to say it was fate. That it called to me and the gods led me down the rabbit hole. They are very good at finding the way for us when they want us to do something, as I have learned later on.
Anyway, you know the Nataraj statue? The Dancing Shiva? Yes. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Powerful, enigmatic, magnetic. I always loved that statue but never knew what it was. It popped up in movies and video games; remember Disney’s Aladdin PC game? The Genie’s lair had similar statues in it. Yes, after 20+ years I still remember, that’s how much I loved it!
Now, one day in History class we opened the textbook and there it was! That statue! Written under it the vital information of what, or rather, who it actually was! I was so happy! After class, I ran to the school library and got all the books I could find on mythology. And I read and read and just gobbled up everything there was to know about Lord Shiva. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much – Hungary just came out of Soviet rule so esoteric or occult books were still very rare, and even then, Hinduism was so obscure that the few mythology books that existed haven’t bothered to go into big details. Still, it was enough for me to start worshiping Him.
My mom was chill about it, she was never big on monotheism anyway. My dad, on the other hand, might still be a bit upset about my transition after all these years. I had a perfectly useful god just on the doorstep, why do I have to worship such a strange, four armed, three-eyed thing? Then, my granny doesn’t really understand the concept that there are many gods other than The God of the church. So when she asks whether I believe in God I say yes, and that’s enough for her peace of mind and I don’t have to lie, nor do I have to try and explain myself. Win-win.
Since then, I have seen what I have seen and experienced what I experienced and my belief, no, my trust in Shiva has multiplied manyfold. I worship Him daily and have a deep, unchanging love for him that I could not feel for anyone else, be it a Hindu, Christian or any other Pagan god. Only the Norse Trickster Loki comes close but I don’t worship him and he’s an entirely different cup of tea anyway.
Well, in a nutshell, that’s it! This is how I got into Hinduism: through Shiva. He called, I came, and I love Him.
©Katalin Patnaik 2019