As Rafale jets joined the Indian Air Force, a sarva dharma prarthana or a multi-faith prayer was held during their induction ceremony. The prayer performed by the religious teachers is a unique feature of many important ceremonies of India’s armed forces, particularly the Army.
Armed forces across the world have had the tradition of priests who accompany the troops. In India, the tradition of having military chaplains who were ministers accompanying the troops in the British era was carried forward even after the independence. Initially, religious teachers from various faiths were recruited by individual units of the Army but, over the years, the process was institutionalised.
The Institute of National Integration of the Army was established in Pune in 1984 where training of religious teachers for the Army is conducted. The Recruit Religious Teachers for the Army are selected through a separate process, undergo training at the INI, and are commissioned as Junior Commissioned Officers with designations like Pundits, Maulavis, Priests, Monks or Granthis.
A very unique feature of almost all the Army units in India, where troops are stationed or trained, is a place called the sarva dharma sthal, which is a place of worship for all religions and faiths. The religious teachers posted are with the Army units as per the composition of individual units and are in-charge of these sarva dharma sthal. Along with being a place where everyone can worship, these sarva dharma sthal are also a symbol of harmony.
A batch of 30 recruit religious teachers were commissioned as Junior Commissioned Officers on Saturday after a passing out parade was held at the Institute of National Integration. Brigadier Samir Salunke, Commandant of the Institute, reviewed the parade and congratulated the commissioned JCOs for the successful completion of the pre-commissioning training that incorporates subjects related to national integration, behaviour and social sciences, spiritualism, yoga, psychological counseling and stress management.
The duties of selected candidates in Indian Army Recruitment 2018 include attending funerals, ministering to the sick in hospitals, reading prayers with the convalescents, visiting soldiers undergoing sentence. It also includes giving special religious instructions to the children and enlisted boys besides attending generally to the religious institutions and welfare of the Officers, Soldiers and their families.
The role of religious teachers in the army has been evolved with the ages. From humble beginnings as just spiritual leaders, they now face the task of assisting with multiple demands, right from spiritual intelligence to care-giving and counselling.