Deity Installation Anniversary in J.C.Nagar, Bangalore
Yes, it's true that India has millions of deities. Every village, town and city across India possesses a unique diety. This unique diety is supposed to take care and protect the folks residing in that vicinity.
I don't know the names of all the dieties worshipped across India. Not just me, but I'm sure even the most pious hindu will also not know all the names of the deities.
Rama, Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Hanuman, Venkateshawara or Balaji, and Durga are some of the most popular gods which most of hindus are aware of.
While gowing up in India, I was often perplexed as to which deities I should pray. I assumed that deities would be angry with me if I did not utter their names during my quick two minutes prayer.
I once asked my grandmother about the huge number of female goddesses. My grandmother used to say "they all are sisters, each sister living in a different place to protect the people".
The deity which is unique to the village or town receives special attention and devotion from the folks residing in that village or town. Every year, the
deity is worshipped with special pujas and ceremonies for a couple of days. It is a way of thanking the deity for protecting the folks from diseases, drought and evil spirits.
It is a period of non-stop festivities for the folks during these special ceremonies.
I was at home in J.C.Nagar- an old neighbourhood in Bangalore, during the summer of 2006, and fortunately it was also the anniversary of the installation of Maheshwaramma deity in J.C.Nagar.
For three days, the temple wore a spendid look with lots of activities going from wee hours in the morning to evening. Instead of the usual one priest, the temple had five priests during the days of special celebrations.
At the time of sunset,colorful lights glittered the streets leading to the temple.The entrance of the temple was decked with thick strands of yellow
chrysanthemums and two banana trees were tied to either sides of the main door of the temple.
People thronged the temple to partake in numerous elaborate pujas.
I was visiting home after a couple of years, and I was eager to partake in all the pujas.
One of the roads near the temple was converted into a makeshift cooking area. Nearly a dozen cooks were busy involved in cooking for thousands of people.
As I was on a vacation in Bangalore, I usually got up very late in the mornings. But during the three days of festivities in the temple, my grandmother used to wake me up pretty early in the morning and we went to the temple with a basket containg puja items - a coconut,strings of jasmine flowers, incense sticks, a piece of camphor, turmeric and red kumkum powder.
Most of the women came to the temple dressed in saree-traditional dress of women smeared with yellow turmeric on their cheeks and a red bindi on their forehead.
People continuously came and went as they pleased. When toddlers cried their mothers would take them outside for a couple of minutes. Some people came to the temple only to offer puja items, and were on their way to office or school.
I sat for hours in the midst of the chaos and the chanting mantras. My mind was brimming with spiritual thoughts hearing to the sacred mantras. I was immensely fortunate to be in the temple during these pujas.
During the process of homa - worshipping the sacrificial fire, as the preist was slowly offering small sandalwood barks to the homam pit, the aromatic smoke from the raging fire surrounded me with positive energy.
Once the homam was over, the pit was cool. Devotees flocked to get some sacred ashes from the cooled pit, to take home to their friends and neighbors.
I also took some sacred ash to smear on my father's and mother's forehead.
As my grandmother and I stepped outside the temple, I saw people waiting in a huge queue, for the free lunch provided by the temple authorities. Rich and poor people sat side by side to savor the hot lunch.
Of course, my grandmother and I had the lunch - bisibelebath(medley of rice, vegetables and lentils), white rice with sambar(thick lentil sauce), and a mysore pak (sweet made of garbanzo flour and sugar) The modest lunch was heavenly.
"It is good that you have not forgotten your customs and traditions", my father quipped when I was explaining to him all the details of the ceremonies in the temple.
I guess my father was saying this because, I'm living in United States for past couple of years.
The fact is that my admiration for my religion and customs and culture has increased after coming to United States.
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Published on 12/21/06