Mother Teresa and Indian Tradition of Charity


Mother Teresa has been declared a saint. Whole of Kolkata celebrated. India also felt happy. Mother has worked selflessly treating poor, destitute and helpless. She has picked up sick from the roadside and treated them. Mother has many admirers and a few critics. Mother has never cared for either praise or abuse. Her motive was to work for the poor and serve god. She did that diligently. 

Mother has put India and Kolkata on the world consciousness. Albeit, as a hopeless hellhole.  Original denizens of Bengal, basked in reflected glory but did very little to solve the problem of poverty, disease and diability. In the process of eulogising work of mother, it also often comes up how rich Indians do not have a tradition of charity. It may be true many billionaires in the west have made significant and public donation to causes of humanity. India has recently adopted western style democracy. Till very recently, India used to be extremely poor country. Although with economic reform poverty is getting reduced, India still has a very large number of very poor people. In this context, probably we see and cling to wealth more compared to our western counterparts.

Still as the charitable work goes, can we really forget about Rama Krishna Mission, Bharat Sevashrama, ISKON, Saibaba, Isha Foundation, Amritha Foundation, Radha Soami sect along with many others? Many of these organisations do enormous body of work without coming into limelight. Many provide primary education,  treat sick free of cost, feed hungry men, women and children, provide disaster relief. Akshay Patra foundation feeds one million children everyday as part of mid day meal scheme. Many organisations do not have deep financial support base of missionaries of charity. Indians themselves being poor  cannot support organisations that help them. 

India has adopted Western style democracy only sixty years before. Earlier education, healthcare, and taking care of poor and the needy used to come under domain of local rulers – kings, nawabs, zamindars etc. Around a place of religious significance, a temple or a mosque, there will be school / pathshala, charitable dispensary, and mid day meal program. Money for these activities used to come from royal treasury. Yes system has degenerated as India goes through transition, but practice of charity was ingrained in Indian ethos. Sikh gurdwaras still run langar daily to feed the hungry without any discrimination. A tradition continuing since creation of the panth.


Finally, mother was cannonised not for her selfless charity. She was declared a saint for performing miracles. When miracles are performed by Sai Baba, India rationalists attack him as a fraud.  When mother is claimed to have performed miracle, we go ga ga and rejoice her sainthood. Track record of Sai Baba for running philanthropic work is no less commendable.
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