Pi tells of his first visit to a Hindu temple. He describes with delight,
the rituals of worship, then goes on to explain the beliefs behind the
rituals. He takes pleasure in being religious, in being Hindu, but cautions
against fundamentalism using a parable about how Krishna vanishes when
milkmaids become possessive. He compares Hindus, specifically Hare Krishnas
(misunderstood to be “hairless Christians” by Pi’s foster mother), to
Christians because of their trust in love. And “Muslims, in the way they
see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion
to God, are hat-wearing Muslims.”
Chapter 16 speaks principally about Hinduism. However, many parallels between religions are brought out in the chapter. This religious syncretism is an ongoing theme throughout the novel, though Pi practices each religion in his own way. Subsequent chapters will focus on Catholicism (Christianity) and then Islam as Pi develops his own increasingly complex relationship with God.
Simplified definitions of Hindu concepts/terms from this chapter that may be unfamiliar to some readers follow: samskara - the Hindu series of sacraments to purify and perfect man
“foreheads carrying, variously signified, the same word - faith” - probably refers to tilaks, the shapes marked on the forehead as symbols of the divine, or bindi, dots made with kumkum (vermillion) used to signify female energy and marital status, worn to protect women and their husbands
murti - statues of deities
prasad - an offering, sometimes sweets or flowers that is returned to the offerer to eat or wear
atman - the universal inner spiritual force or soul
“Bank of Karma” - karma means “action” i.e. whatever you do,
and also the consequences, are your responsibility therefore your actions
in this life determine the nature of your next life
Pi continues his discussion of religion. While on vacation in Munnar, Pi notices there are three hills, each with a “Godhouse,” one Hindu temple, one mosque, and one Christian church. Hindu is the foundation for his first notion of faith and this faith leads him to “meet Jesus Christ.” Pi watches a priest from a distance and he is moved by the priest’s appearance of offering love and guidance. Timid and confused, Pi enters the church wondering which “murti” was supposed to represent the Catholic god.
The next day Pi goes into the rectory and meets Father Martin. The priest
explains that Christianity revolves around the belief that God sent His
Son to suffer and die for man’s sins, and then the Son was resurrected.
Pi tries intensely to understand this and makes several comparisons of
the stories of Hindu gods to the story of the Christian God. Over the
next few days Pi meets for tea again and again with Father Martin in attempt
to shed light on his confusion. Father Martin answers all of Pi’s questions
and objections with, “Love.” Eventually Pi understands the meaning of
love in the story of God’s Son and is inspired to run to Father Martin
to ask to be a Christian. With the priest’s blessing, Pi goes into the
church and prays to Christ. He then leaves and goes to the Hindu temple
to thank Lord Krishna for bringing Jesus into his life.
The irony of involving Krishna in being introduced to Christ is obvious. However, this does not seem incongruous to Pi. He is used to the many manifestations of one God due to his Hindu background. To him, another story does not conflict with his existing beliefs, but enhances them giving Pi yet another way to know God.
Cite this page:
Cassie, Donna L.. "TheBestNotes on Life of Pi".
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