God’s own country, has got another God. And on Sunday, its followers held their first convention to honour their deity – a mouse with a yellow body suit, a red cape and superhero-style red underwear worn on the outside.
The mock religion of Dinkoism was started in 2008 by rationalists in Kerala who were perturbed at the strength of organised religions, which, they felt, had led to rising intolerance and the weakening of rational thought. They adopted as their deity a character called Dinkan from a comic series in a children’s magazine that had been popular in Kerala for nearly three decades until it wound up in 2012.
Like another mock religion of Pastafarianism, which has the Flying Spaghetti Monster as its deity, and a colander as religious headgear, Dinkoism has all the trappings of the organised religions it parodies – a holy book, devotional songs, priests, faith healers, symbols and even a militant arm to counter attacks from other religions. The idea is to expose the absurdity of most religious beliefs through exaggeration.
Test of faith
Dinkoism has flourished online since its inception. But it faced its biggest test of faith on Sunday during its first Mega Dinkan Religious Convention held in the northern Kerala city of Kozhikode. The question was: Would its online followers translate into followers on the ground? Would they really make a pilgrimage to the convention venue?
As it turns out, there was no cause for worry. Followers turned up in hordes, and many had to be turned away since the hall hosting the convention at Manichira Maidan was too small to accommodate everyone. “We expected only a few hundred people,” said Sojan Joseph, a member of the convention’s organising committee. “But to our surprise thousands flocked the Sports Council Hall throwing the arrangements haywire. Many had to return for want of space.”
A Times of India report on the event put the number of those present at 500.
Joseph, a filmmaker, said the turnout was a vindication of the relevance of Dinkoism at a time the world was riven by conflicts and strife linked to religion. He said he felt that Dinkoism could offset the rising religious fanaticism and intolerance in the country.
Dinkoists got a boost when Kozhikode district collector Prashanth Nair endorsed it. The Indian Administrative Service officer said no worldly cause or vice had led to the scale of death and destruction that has been wrought in the name of God over the centuries.
Nair told Scroll.in since it was difficult to respond to the current climate of intolerance in a dignified manner as it didn't permit logical argument, Dinkoism was a good way to express the absurdity of blind religious belief. It did this by caricaturing the vocabulary, rituals and iconography used by established religions.
“Dinkoism is a religion where you learn to take things lightly and become tolerant to things that you don’t appreciate otherwise,” said Nair. “Dinkoists use humour to send the message. Humour is something that everybody appreciates. Therefore, it makes sense to promote this religion.”
At the convention, Dinkoists took potshots at the politics of religion by demanding minority status for Dinkoism, free or subsidised land to build places of worship, and the right to run educational institutions (with capitation fees, of course). It was also decided that Dinkoism would be registered as a religion and soon float a political party.
More seriously, Dinkoists resolved to fight for gender justice and the protection of the environment. It concluded with Dinkoists vowing to organise similar gatherings in other districts in order to attract more people into the fold.
The holy book of Dinkoists is Balamangalam, the children’s magazine that carried the comic series from 1983 to 2012. Created by writer N Somashekharan and artist Baby, the series was published by the Kottayam-based Mangalam group of publications.
The hero of the series is Dinkan, a mouse who lives in a forest called Pankila. Dinkan got his superhero powers after aliens abducted him and conducted some experiments on him. The mouse uses his special powers to help those in distress – he comes to the rescue of every creature who calls out his name aloud.
Dinkoism has followers around the world. In the US, Dinkoists have established a chapter in Chicago. In a mock documentary, Amy Watson, a member of the Chicago chapter, explains what Dinkoism is about and describes it as the most woman-friendly religion in the world.
Besides Balamangalam, Dinkoists have another holy book called the Dinkapuranam. Here, Dinkoists attempt to use science to counter superstitious beliefs and the irrational teachings of other religions.
One follower went so far as to get a special licence plate in the name of Lord Dinkan for his car, a photo of which he put up on Facebook. Parthasarathy paid the California motor vehicles department $48 for his bespoke plate. He said he hoped that Lord Dinkan's blessings will make 2016 a very auspicious year that will bring him and his family health, wealth and happiness.
Dinkoists believe the world was created when Dinkan got bored with eating cassava and laughed out loud. That laugh apparently created time and space. Dinkan does not demand prayers or offerings but his followers have created an array of songs to lampoon other religions. Of course, most of these are parodies of popular devotional melodies.
Dinkoists are especially outspoken against godmen and practices like faith healing, polygamy, child marriage, patriarchy and oppression of women never mind the fact that that Dinkan is a male deity following in the patriarchal tradition of most major world religions.
Dinkoists are likely to see their first miracle soon – a resurrection.
A spokesman for the Mangalam group of publications said that looking at the popularity of Dinkan, the publishers had decided to revive the children’s magazine Balamangalam shortly. In its rebirth, Dinkan will be its main feature.