Saturday, November 6, 2010

Puja Chronicles: questions in the mind ...

There is a strange custom among some Hindu households that perform the worship of goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, on the day of the festival of lights. Before prayers are offered to Lakshmi, an idol made from mud, accompanied by the urine of a cow are taken outside the entrance of the household. Prayers are offered to this strange goddess, goddess Alakshmi and is requested to leave the household. Children of the household, beat bamboo sticks on kulo (an instrument used in villages for husking paddy/rice)1 with all their might so that the bamboo sticks are broken. They sing a couplet in a completely out-of-tune format :
alakshmi biday hou / ghorer lakshmi ghore eso 
alakshmi go away / lakshmi of the household please return.

- a prayer in earnest by the adults, sung by innocents.

I was always intrigued by this phenomenon. Why do the rituals demand a prayer to the one who is unwelcome, a prayer to the one who is associated with filth and misery, a prayer to the one of misfortune? Deification of the negative forces is not uncommon in Hindu mythology. But why pray to it, before the prayer to the goddess of wealth and prosperity is performed? 


Halloween has always seemed ominous to a child, feeding on Hollywood interpretations of it. This year as K_ marked out the eyes, the nose and the mouth on the pumpkin, I looked on and thought, why the pumpkin is made to look dreadful on Halloween? (Either way, it is dreadful for all those who dislike its appearance on dinner tables in different culinary versions) Or, to cave in the question - why is Halloween thought to be dreadful at all? Why do kids dress up (and yes, some adults dress up too) in something sinister and hop around the neighbourhood asking for 'Trick or treat!' ? Why celebrate something that evokes fear in the minds? Why is the Little Miss Muffet of the household so excited to see A_ carving out the pumpkin so that it gains that fearful dimension? 
Halloween at home

1 'kulo' is defined as "winnowing fan; a bamboo winnowing fan; a multipurpose household implement; a  
    sacred adjunct to almost all folk rituals and ceremonies in Bengal" in 
    the The Quilts of India.. Nov. 5 2010.

To be contd.