C. R. Nataraja Sastry is the head priest of Kancheepuram’s Kamakshi Temple. The teach-savvy 63-year-old is using the power of social media to bridge religious differences and create awareness about communal harmony.
Sastry joined the social media platform Facebook in 2011. Today, he has more than 5,000 friends and 1,800 followers.
“While I started out by listening to people’s grievances and pondering over social subjects, even offering prayers for some, I wanted to do something more. I wanted to make use of the platform,” Sastry told The News Minute.
This desire to use social media for good led him to organise an informal gathering of people from different faiths in 2015. Calling it ‘Facebook Sangamam,’ Sastry organised a day of varied activities and events, including spiritual discourses and job fairs.
Image Source: Facebook
Over 300 people from Kancheepuram participated in the day-long event, which was guided by the principle of inclusiveness.
Buoyed by the positive response, Sastry has now planned yet another ‘Facebook Sangamam.’ Scheduled for the 10th of July, the half-day event will include a prayer session, a general knowledge quiz, a discourse on spirituality and religion as well as a Carnatic concert. The event will end with a Kerala-style feast.
Sastry lay particular emphasis on the free-flowing nature of the discussion which will see a lively exchange of ideas from people of different faiths: ““We have had Muslim enthusiasts of Kamakshi Amman and also Hindu devotees who wouldn’t bat an eye to bow down with respect in a Dargah. No matter what the means of belief in their spiritual journey, their destination is the same,” he explains.
Speaking to The Times of India, Sastry highlighted the importance of people visiting temples, churches and mosques: “There is no magic behind these buildings, but these are places where one can attain peace. Whether you are a Hindu, Christian or a Muslim, we are all humans and we have to live like brothers and sisters.”
“I have a great sense of compassion for my fellow beings. It may extend to every creature in the world,” he says.
“We should take positive things from religious texts,” he sums up succinctly.