What is a sin city? I have always asked this question to myself. Is it a place, where sins, as defined by religion, can be committed without fear of retribution from either God or Man? Or, it is a place where sins committed elsewhere can be cleaned. I shall discuss here both the types with one example each from the above two categories.
Sin City of First Type: The Las Vegas situated in the Nevada state of USA belongs to this kind. It is popularly known as the Sin City of USA, the Entertainment City of the West and now the Entertainment Capital of the World. Many Indians, on visit to or working in USA, are quite fond of the place, coming as they do from a spiritual country. Some of them frequent this place more than once. I knew nothing about Las Vegas city till I visited it in 2003 November with my family. I had, however, read from literature earlier that Nevada deserts were USA’s foremost site for testing nuclear weapons.
Years later, Nevada became a site for disposal of radioactive nuclear wastes. Two little known facts about this city of leisure and excesses are: It grew during World War II, shaped by a powerful military economy, from a hamlet of 8422 population in 1940 to what it is now, a modern neon mirage glittering desert city with a population of 5,83,756 (2014-2015 data). Second, for some years following World War II, the place was known for atomic tourism and the mushroom clouds (of atomic blasts) were part of city’s mystique.
During our presence at Las Vegas City, on the way to Grand Canyon of Arizona, we saw no signs or traces of its military past. Instead, we saw the neon glares of casinos, the erupting volcanoes rather than the morning mushroom clouds.
The Sin City is both celebrated and scorned as an oasis of gambling, night life and entertainment. The place’s primary attraction is gambling which is legal. The city has hosted countless gamblers, the regulars or the visitors like me who, once in a life time, may gamble for fun or experience. Gambling can be done using Slot Machines, Roulettes or cards.
Casino owners say that their casinos make money because there is solid mathematics behind the games, particularly the law of large numbers. There is no such thing as luck or the wheel of fortune. It is all mathematics. But this may not be the whole truth. This is a place where people get married for a day and then get divorced. You can have Dutch wedding, German wedding, French wedding, so on and so forth. One can also have different kinds of honeymoons. It depends on what budget one has and what desires one wants to fulfill. Las Vegas is not a place for only committing sins. It is a place for making adventures into the world of sins.
We stayed in MGM Grand of MGM resort for 2 days and 3 nights. I gambled for first time on the slot machines at MGM, Bellagio and Paris Paris, but mostly at MGM. I had a net profit of about 13 US$. My stakes, which could be varied, were in denominations of 10 cents, 20 cents or 50 cents. Stakes being low, losses were negligible. The most amusing thing during the game was the free drinks that were being served by the hostesses as long as you played.
At MGM resort, we saw the two lions which appear on screen in every MGM movie. But these lions were living and I remember having climbed to the first floor, very close to the cage, to get a real close look at them. I was thrilled. There was the Rain Forest adjoining it where we had our lunch. They gave us a free souvenir. We saw more than 6 resorts. Since our visit, more resorts have been added, I am given to understand.
I was enthralled and I remained spellbound when I saw for the first time the dancing musical fountain at Bellagio resort, and the life-like statues of Pharaohs, the Sphinx, etc. at the Luxor resort. We had got two free passes to the MGM resort discotheque. It was midnight when we went in. We were there only for an hour or so. There was nothing very unusual or spectacular in the place. However, we could not miss 2 or 3 female Indian aliens turning and twisting in full swing with their male counterparts. One great incentive, people from all over the world are drawn to USA, apart from the ease with which one can earn in dollars, currently the most liquid currency in the world, is personal freedom.
Sin City of Second Type: The places of the second kind which I know of are the very ancient cities of Varanasi or Benares, Haridwar, Gaya and Allahabad all situated on the banks of the sacred river Ganges, Ganga Maa/Maiya in the Land of Aryans or Arya-Varta. (Presently Varanasi and Allahabad are in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Haridwar is in Uttarakhand state and Gaya is in the state of Bihar).
Hindus, and possibly Jains, are enjoined to go and take dips in the perennially flowing and ever pure holy water of the sacred Ganges for washing away all their sins. A very simple procedure, indeed, for getting rid of impurities accumulated over a life time. In practice, it is easy only for people living not very far away. For the long-distance faithful, reaching those places was an extremely arduous task in the past. It involved long journeys. In terms of mobility, things are much better now-a-days.
We learn from Hindu mythology that the celestial Ganga was brought to earth from Akash (ether, sky, space) by sage Bhagiratha through the willing participation of goddess Ganga and Shiva, and therefore, Ganga is holy and so holy that you can throw into it garbage of any kind (including carcasses of animals and humans) and of any amount, and still the water remains pure. It is faith and the womb of faith can take in anything since it has no bounds.
As a child I have heard of persons who went to Gaya and Varanasi to wash away sins they had committed during their lives. Many never returned. But, this way of cleansing is a clever contrivance for the evils of society to die with a guilt-free conscience because according to Hinduism, the circumstance of one’s next birth is decided by what thoughts one entertains at the dying moment when the imperishable soul leaves the corporeal body.
The concept of sin comes from religion. It is basically the consequence of violation of man-made Law. There is no sin in nature. In Hindu religion, if one kills a cow (Go-Hatya) or a Braahmana (Brahma-Hatya), he is said to have committed a heinous crime or a sin. But there is no capital punishment. The person has to atone for the sin. Details of the expiation process, which is much more grueling than death itself, are given in Manu’s Law Book, the Manu Smriti or Manu Samhita. I have witnessed a punishment, when I was a student of 4th class, being undergone by a person who was guilty of having killed a calf.
By DR. SACHIDANAND DAS