{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Circle of God

Yesterday news channels were filled with two recent religious news. Sea water in Mumbai has turned sweet and in North India, Lord Ganesha and other porous deities are thirsty again. I still remember the first Milk Drinking event when I was in my hometown and everyone rushed to the temples and sewage turned white, the good ol' Ram-Rajya has come back, "jahan doodh ki nadiyaan behti thi". One of my aunt said to her relative, who claimed that Ganesha didn't drink when she offered milk, you need to offer from heart. I was really confused because I believed what my grandmother always used to say about god, "Bhaav ka bhookha, Bhaat ka naahi" (Hungry of devotion, not of rice). Sometimes I feel, believing in such miracles comes as an exercise in abidance, like the hereditary baggage of religion itself and at times I wonder the necessity of religion in our empty lives, what if there are no ceremonies when people are born or when they die, no godly sand bag to hit on, things like that.

Recently on my trip to Hampi, I saw a similar thing. Inside Virupaksha Temple, there is a circle curved out of stone and who so ever can encircle his/her hands around it, is considered Bhagyashaali (the fortunate one). When I went to see it, there was a group of women trying their luck with it. The first lady tried to cup her thumbs and index fingers to enclose the circle of divinity She did it like a magician, swiftly and thanked her gods. She was a clever lady (I think she cheated). The other ladies saw her as if she is goddess of 2 min fame and the craze to try it and be the auspicious one, gripped the other ladies. The next lady started to cup the stone circle but was not able to. Either two thumbs will move apart or the index fingers, the loose skin joining the thumb and fingers stretched out. She removed all her rings and tried again, hard as if she could squeeze the stone with two fingers.

Someone in the crowd whispered, pray to god, remember your deity. The lady who did it successfully, came to her and said your heart should be pure and should have devotion to god. Think nothing but god. Pray. The other lady closed her eyes and started praying. Her faced filled with helplessness, took deep breath with every chant to god. The ladies behind her started closing their eyes and started praying for their friend in despair. Little ones were just curious of the result. She opened her eyes with a godly grace and cupped her small palm again around the circle and tried desperately. Closed her eyes and called for god to save her. Some people standing nearby chuckled and the embarrassment grew. Now her face turned into despair as if her lord has left her.

Nevertheless in devotion, she lowered her head on the stone and thanked god again and moved away. May be next time the circle with shrink or her palms will expand or her heart will be purer. No other lady from that group touched the stone again, till the next group came by for their share of disappointment and luck. The circle carved in stone stood there, some people passed the test, some failed, it stood there as a mark, a ritual, a trial of humanity, a circle of endless conformity.


ventilatorblues said...

Nicely written! I dont know what to feel for such people, but my instinct (correct or not) is to pity them. How unfortunate their lives must be, I tell myself, that they have to rely so much on their faith. But then again, does that make my life more complicated or less? The safe answer ;) is - I dont know.

Alok said...

good observation. I am sorry I missed the trip :(

rituals do give people a sense of belonging to a community which isn't harmful in itself so long as you are not bound by it and is not dogmatic.

anurag said...

vb, same here, we dont know ! Sometimes, I am more afraid of logic than any god :)

alok, actually I do like rituals to some extent, I dont know why but I will not like to do away with them entirely even if they dont seem to serve any logical purpose.