By | Devdutt Pattanaik | Indian Author
What makes a temple successful: success being measured as the number of people who worship there. There are numerous temples in India. Some temples are more popular than others, even if they are located in faraway mountains, in the middle of deserts, and you have to travel many kilometres to get there.
The cynic will say good marketing, or just habit. The faithful will say the popular ones are those where wishes are fulfilled. So, you have “Ichha Purti” temples or the temples that grant your wishes. It could be a Shiva, or Vishnu, or Devi, or Ganesh, or Murugan temple – any temple that satisfies your wishes typically is where people go. The wishes may range from peace of mind, to a child, to a job, to winning an election. Crowds increase when the ‘wish-fulfilling power’ is at its height, usually based on astrological configurations.
When a wish is fulfilled, people go back to the temple hoping to get another wish fulfilled. This is called repeat order. Any business in life is successful, when it gets repeat orders. Let’s say there is a shop which sells all the things you want. You went there for the first time, because you wanted to buy, say, ten rare fruits. The shopkeeper gave you the ten rare fruits.
Next time you want them, you will go back to the same shop. In fact, when you go back repeatedly, the shopkeeper is very happy because he has repeated the order with you, therefore, he might even give you a discount and this will make you value the shop even more and its keeper further. He makes money, your wishes are fulfilled. When you keep getting satisfied by these repeat orders, you also tell other people about these temples: your uncle and your aunt, and your friend, and your niece, your nephew, your husband, your wife and your child. This is called referral. With all temples, we see these two concepts, one is called a repeat order and the second is called a referral.
When we satisfy the wishes of people we become popular, we get repeat orders and we get referrals and get more and more people coming to us to satisfy their wishes that contributes to our success. To be successful, we speak of customer delight. Hindu gods know the value of devotee delight which results in repeat visits and referrals. The unique thing about Hindu temples is that they are voluntary. You are not obliged to go to a Hindu temple. As a Christian, you may be obliged to go to a church; as a Muslim, you are obliged to read the Namaz and go to the mosque. But in Hinduism, there are no obligations, you go to temples, when you want, if you want, if you feel, you get positive energy or your wishes are fulfilled, or you get some other benefit from the temple.
Otherwise, you do not go. It is generally not incumbent for you to go to any Hindu temple, it is voluntary. In other words, this is a free market, there are no obligations, nobody holds you back. So success is purely voluntary, faith in the power of the deity to delight the devotee.