College Essay on Indian Cultural Heritage

“Pray to God before your test!” is one of the most repeated phrases that my mother would say to me before I went to school. I would always wonder, “Why do we have to pray to an idol?” It never transpired to me that having a spiritual connection with a God or a higher power would help me get through struggles and even help me develop as a person.

It is important to have this connection, and is something that reflects who I am today. The values I believe in are primarily from my culture, which is Indian. Being born in India made my parents adopt these values and pass them on to me. In India, religion is a huge part of everyday life. My grandparents would go to temple almost every day, and make sure to conduct religious ceremonies for the Gods and Goddesses. Of course, I would always pray because I knew it was the right thing to do.

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Mostly, I would pray for a good day or if I wanted something materialistic or for my test score to be high. I never understood the mental reason that people pray. When we learn about Hinduism in school, it always seems like people pray just for the sake of praying. We learn that if we are good, we will have good karma and hopefully have a good afterlife. It almost seems selfish that people pray just because they want a good life.

Shouldn’t we pray for others, or just pray because it makes us feel good? The gods in our culture did so; they were altruistic, and forgiving. But when someone did wrong, there were harsh consequences. After I lived in India for about a year, I moved to various places. It was from Barbados to Delaware, to Virginia, to New York. Wherever I would go, my culture would follow. I remember starting Classical Indian dance from when I was five, and Classical Indian music.

At first I thought it was strenuous and not easy to follow, I wanted to do ballet, or any other American dance. After a while I realized that you could learn much from these arts because they not only helped me learn how to dance, but it also helped me learn about my culture and values. The number one rule was that your teacher or guru is God. You must respect them at all times. Growing up in a strict environment was challenging but it helped me become a good person. There were many differences between my friends in school, and me.

My parents certainly taught me good habits and helped me develop good thoughts. Religion was a necessity but I grew to get very bored of it and was not seeing any positive gains from it. I would always pray to God, asking him for a good grade on a test. The next day I would end up with a grade that made me cry. I realized that maybe there is no point in praying and doing so much. I gave up and stopped praying for a while.

After a while of no religion, my father gave me a talk one day, and he told me that having a spiritual connection with someone, no matter what religion follow, is very important for you. It helps you to grow and always know that there is a higher power above you that is always watching and will be there for you. Soon I came to see that we do not pray because we want things, or we want to achieve good karma. That is certainly part of it, but the other part is that we have a connection to a God that makes us feel like we are loved, and that someone is constantly watching over you. It is important to have this feeling in you.

I started praying more after that, and not just for myself. I casually would talk to this “superior power” in the evenings and thank him for all the good he has done in my life. I saw that there are people that are less fortunate than we are today, and I thanked him for that. If I ever felt down, I would talk to him. Religion and culture has become part of my life.

Without it, I would not know who I am today. It has helped me become a person that sees life in a bigger view, not just about myself. I still do not go to the temple regularly, or pray to God everyday, yet I know that someone is there to talk to and believe in.