Religious books in Hotel rooms

By GauravL 26 Comments

Going through my photo archives for a photo blog I plan to start, I remembered a thing which had struck me as weird during my travels in Kenya. Being interested in travel and wildlife, I have stayed a lot across hotels and resorts in India. Outside India I have been to Singapore, Bhutan and Kenya. But only in the resorts in Kenya did I find religious books in hotel rooms. I found the Bibles/Quran placed in the top drawers of the bedside table extremely funny, surprising and slightly unpalatable. I did some reading – here here and was surprised to find this being a norm in United states. I still cant understand the reasoning behind placing religious books in hotels – especially wildlife resorts like Serene Lodge in Maasai Mara (which had Quran as well as Bible I guess).

Serena Lodge in Maasai Mara

Funnily the top drawer often reserved for these religious books (based on my experience in Kenya) is the best place for keeping your condoms IMO (next to the books which are clearly anti contraceptive). Apart from that why would holidayers who cant spend a day without their scriptures travel without them? I suppose for people who are this religious, there would also be an emotional connection to one’s one set of scriptures and they wont feel the same way about some other copy (my presumption). In India most you find in Indian resorts are religious symbols like Om and Shree and even they are extremely rare (non existent in nature and wildlife resorts). Finding copies of Vedas or Bhagwat Gita in hotel rooms seems incredibly funny almost unimaginable to me. Even in the pretty catholic goa, none of hotels I have stayed in (even in Portuguese Goa) had bibles in rooms. Why would someone going to the top wildlife destination in the world spend time reading scriptures instead of enjoying the resort is something beyond my humble irreligious (and Indian) mind to fathom. I don’t necessarily put the blame of this practice on the evangelical zeal as many hotels claim to provide most popular religious scriptures.

This brings me to a larger point about lack of understanding of other cultures and histories (which Razib likes to point) in Indians (as well as all other cultures). If understanding of different cultures is so poor even in the internet age, during the age of exploration there would have been a far greater gap which is clearly visible in most colonial literature. This makes the criticism faced today by sincere western scholars like Asko Parpola and Sheldon Pollock (who do have understanding of the Indian culture) inevitable. Example of similar things are even visible when English speaking journalists from India make televised journeys into the hinterlands. Here I come to some questions for the readers.

How should people foreign to cultures they’re studying, view them? and Is the criticism of them as ignorant of culture and hence partial in their scholarship fair? (Despite them being scholars of lets say Sanskrit and History in Indian context)

What could be a logical explanation for the practice of keeping religious books in hotels (apart from evangelical zeal) ? Some people have made argument of loneliness and suicide but I find those extremely tenuous.

What are some of the other practices prevalent in foreign cultures that can be unfathomable to an outsider ?

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26 Replies to “Religious books in Hotel rooms”

  1. Bibles in hotels is nothing new. I think even some Indian hotels do it. Quran is something I have not heard of, but one can easily imagine it.
    This is all done by perhaps paying the hotels to keep these books . In Islamic countries perhaps there is even a law.
    many years back, I knew an Indian ship operated by SCI , no alcohol could be served as the ship was under lease from an Saudis I think, one condition of lease was that no alcohol. This was a passenger ship with numerous shipping staff on baord plus hundreds of passesngers on every voyage. So non-availability of alcohol would be a problem.
    Even in Britain in some HM Govt buildings held under an Islamic Bond, alcohol is not allowed
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3473543/The-building-used-house-members-Royal-Family-Sea-Lords-Admiralty-House-governed-SHARIA-LAW.html
    Some intolerant religious governments or agencies impose their conditions in all dealings with others; and others comply many times.
    Indian govt should not have taken any lease of any ship which has No Alcohol as one of the conditions – after all imbibing alcohol is not criminal under Indian law. Still for whatever raeson, GoI took the bait

    Plugging in religious conditions in purely secular dealings is done by many Muslim countries

  2. Dont understand what is so surprising or funny finding Bible/Koran in many hotels and other public spheres. Both of those religions are highly proselytizing/conversion oriented religions with a final goal of establishing global hegemony and dominance. So any direct or indirect propagation of their religious literature contributes to that goal. Just because hindus are inward looking and not conversion oriented, doesn’t mean other religions follow that procedure.

  3. You dont know until you study them, see them in their own world, in their own view. For me, it was personal reasons to confront this reality. People here are just dumb, this dumbness in modern era is cultivated under guise of “sarva dharma sambhav”. First study them and ask, do you agree?. This “naiveness” is a political strategy of congress and left in India, they dont want people to read. It also is Hindu stupidity as well. Inwardly, never seeing the other person as a person shaped by ideas totally different . We are not all same. What we need is to create an academic discipline of readin abrahamic religion, their political consequences in present day. This should be one academic study that Modi govt can institute and create , legitimately study this.

  4. Bhagavad Gita was present in the bedside drawer at the LaLit Hotel in New Delhi when I was there last year. Don’t know what it means or whether it means anything. But just to say it is present in India.

  5. VV;
    “This is all done by perhaps paying the hotels to keep these books . In Islamic countries perhaps there is even a law.”
    Yes i get why it might be a case in Islamic countries – but for proudly secular USA – it seemed weird – churches might be paying hotels and the Trump case may just be their attempt at Sarva Dharma samabhav – but i particularly found it weird for the Top wildlife destination in the world – Masai mara. understandable with business/ other hotels i guess

    Mohan,
    interesting maybe indians are aping the west ? I just counted my stays at various hotels in India – over 75 places and i didnt find these books anywhere;

    Phyecon1;Pokerodu –
    Makes sense Americans not having other scriptures when majority are Christians – as i found for USA lots of hotels have most religious books – its not as if someone is going to look at a bible during vacation and decide – i need to try the path of Jesus/Mohammad or even Krishna with Gita. that’s what i wondered – maybe its just leftover of old custom when travelers ( missionaries and church ppl) wouldve wanted bibles in rooms.

    1. @GauravL
      \proudly secular USA\
      That shows a profound misunderstanding of secularism in the USA. In the US , Secularism only means separation of State and Religion i.e. no state admin decisions will not be dictated by religious books. Apart from that, as the americans say, everything is strictly cash. If you pay hotels to keep a copy of Gita and you pay them handsomely for that, there is nothing unsecular about it, as far as US Constitution is concerned. It is the hotel manager’s decision and he has to face the music of customer satisfaction and feedback. That is why airports have prayer rooms – to cater to their customers.

      If the US Prez says let Christian countries band togther against others , THAT will be non-secular

      1. “That shows a profound misunderstanding of secularism in the USA. In the US , Secularism only means separation of State and Religion i.e. no state admin decisions will not be dictated by religious books.”
        I know about US nature of secularism vs French model but this seemed a bit to in your face – if 70-80% hotels r doing it.
        Other point being this doesn’t seem very logical – but i guess even if one additional “Sheep” might be worth spending tens thousands of dollars for books i guess
        especially has it seems to have led to hotels hosting all religious books which I found very funny. – thats what struck me particularly funny

        1. May be what you say is when you reserve a hotel room as a special request remove all religious books from the room. Give thumbs down in internet rankings ; 1 star. That is the only thing businesses will take seriously in a consumer society.
          Or tear some pages or all from religious books and leave it for everyone to see
          The US is a very X-tian country especially in parts. In a Top Gear show, I think the trio once go through the US southern states and they have a banner ‘we are gay’ or something like that. In a petrol station, they narrowly avopided beaten up up by a mob.

          I am not surprised 70-80% hotels have the book

        2. You can see Trump in White House seat surrounded by Christian evangelicals praying for him – all touching each other. That comes close to non secular thing, but the US constitution will interpret it as US presidents personal habit which does not impinge on state decisions.
          US Seculars are not as neurotic as India seculars

          The US did not go through French revolution where thousands of churchmen were killed in cold blood in primitive ways , and where distrust of religion is a sine qua non of n intellectual

        3. OTOH, the US has quietly bent to Islamic sensibilities. I think in the US Supreme Court, there is a frieze of Great Lawgivers in the world – one such exibit was Prophet Mohammed i.e. a statue. It has been removed during Obama time

          1. Going thro the news surrounding it, it looks like some Muslim groups wanted Mohammed’s face sandblasted in line with islamicn injunctions, but was turned down by supreme court. So I stand corrceted

  6. pokerodu?.
    you are not everyone, so cant imagine being everyone else. everyone is different, a simple reason might work for you but will never work for someone. Religion is not one strategy, its many. Who goes for vacations and stays at hotels?. Not just those going for joy. People trying to have a break from the vicissitudes of life and many more. I had people come to see and get someone to pray to jesus when a family member was in ICU for example.She didnt survive and it didnt work. But if the person was alive, what would the impact be?. And since people believe in sarva dharma sambhav, they did pray. Or they take people on vacation to church. And they did pray and so did I to pray. In order for something to work, it doesnt have to work always, it needs to work only once, on a few and work on others in different ways. You should just watch some missionary seminaries on Youtube on how detailed they are in studying Hinduism etc. It is like evolution or say in stock markets or butterfly effect in general, small changes over long periods of time makes a big difference. Thats the strategy. If it didnt make any sense, it wouldnt exist.

    You can merrily reject all of this, but this is the strategy.

  7. Went to a small clinic in Chennai a few years back, it was run by an Urdu-speaking Muslim.

    Noticed 2-3 books on the waiting room table, all of them were about Islam, one of them was comparing Islam with Christianity or Hinduism (not sure which one exactly) and another book had ‘Islam’ and ‘truth’ in the title.

    Kinda felt weird to find such books in a clinic’s waiting room, but then again, the average Muslim here is super-strict about religion, so it wasn’t really that surprising either.

  8. you guys should read the gideon’s bible as i tried a few years back in a hotel room in chennai. the first few pages were very similar to what the muslims say…..

  9. Interesting tidbit, I once sat with a guy who lead the supply chain operations for Gideons international that plans, prints and distribute bible(s) across the world. This is a massive enterprise with operations across the world and he said they distribute them for free for the people who are interested in reading the bible and raises money through various voluntary donations predominantly in North America.

  10. I guess that’s why Hindus Needed a Gita Press like innovation to counter this.
    Extremely fascinating history of the Gita press

  11. Here is the extent of their operations,

    Through ShareWord Global and in partnership with local religious groups, Gideons International in Canada distributed 1.1 million printed copies of scripture. The regions of South Asia and Latin America each received 27% of the internationally distributed materials followed by the former Soviet Union (19%), China (16%), Africa (7%), and USA (4%). India alone received 176,810 Bibles and 125,000 faith magazines in F2018, working to fulfill the 250,000 Bible requests from the country. Gideons distributed scripture in China for the first time after receiving permission from the government. The charity provided 54,000 bibles and 103,333 faith magazines in Chinese.

  12. If you watch the link I send, in one of them, the missionary compares with coca cola branding. Of how it is known and available in remotest corners of world.

  13. yes , thats the one, his group is active in India, there are many on twitter online who track some of this. In one of them, they speak to an ex ambassador of India to USA, who helped facilitate visas for this apparently. etc.

    1. very nefarious i did listen to parts of it
      i guess RSS & Gharwapsi has an utmost important role to play. Atleast there must be level playing field

  14. Push and push back in my view, only that is the solution till it reaches an equilibrium. But we are far from doing it. Andhra under ysr had a free run and now under jagan as well. You can see youtube clips of these. One of them went into Tirupati to preach and engage in blasphemy. Apparently was let in by secular leaders. If you are really interested, Under congress period, Bush started this evangelical push, something called joshua project. Tehelka used to do a lot of investigation into this in 2000’s. Mind you Bjp was nowhere in power. Infact, vijay prashad pointed to this in some of his articles as well. Who is a marxist intellectual. Bjp brought down tehelka instead of trying to have a consensus view on this.

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