Tags: rites


A few trees that are entwined with Hinduism...

As I wandered around the kalyANa mantapam (festivity venue) at Chromepet, it struck me that there are so many trees that are inextricably entwined with Hindu rituals and customs...and I was lucky to be able to photograph some of them, right there. I am giving the Tamizh names and the link to the Wikipaedia entries about them, too.

One is the

pArijAtha or "pavazha malli" (literally, "coral jasmine" maram (maram is tree is Tamizh).


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In this photograph, taken before the varalakshmi pUjA, you can see both banana trees and mango leaves for sale, to decorate the goddess' mantapams in people's homes.

IMG_0183 Banana trees and mango leaves to decorate

It's a great pity that our strong links to trees seem to be getting diluted these days...and we seem to think of them not as living beings, complementing our lives, but hindrances to "development", especially to the faster flow of motorized traffic!

Ayushya hOmam...and drishti parihAram....


Wiki entry about our community, the Iyers


"On the child's birthday, a ritual is performed to ensure longevity. This ritual is known as Ayushya Homam. This ceremony is held on the child's birthday reckoned as per the Tamil calendar based on the position of the nakshatras or stars and not the Gregorian calendar.[109] The child's first birthday is the most important."

Here are a few snaps from KTB's Ayush hOmam (it was neither her birth-star date nor her date of birth, we just had it on a Sunday, that's all!)

click here to see some pics ...if you have the time and inclination

The guests gather to bless us with sanctified rice being thrown as a form of benison:

Then they gather for the "poorNa Ahuthi" or the making of all sorts of offerings to agni, the Fire God, to bear as a messenger to the Gods in Heaven:

After we came home, a friend insisted that the "evil eye" had to be averted from the little one, and she performed her version of this rite,the

drishti dOsha parihAra

which is very different from what my family would do:

I simply cannot believe in this rite. If I have invited our friends for a celebration, I cannot understand how such an "evil eye" or negative energy will be brought around the child, and how doing this kind of ritual will "remove" it. I hate the very idea that someone (in this case, friends of ours!) will "cast an evil eye" upon the baby, and find it very distasteful. This is as if I am saying that my friends are capable of being envious and jealous! Yes, perhaps if we had taken the baby out in a public space, I *might* agree that she might have attracted negative or jealous thoughts...but I cannot admit the idea that my own friends will direct such thoughts at her at an occasion to celebrate her turning one. If I believe this, I might as well not have such a celebration at all, because then I believe something less than the best of my own friends.

And also, how will the act of "windmilling" fistfuls of salt around the child (which is what we do) or burning one's fingers over a flame, to get a little soot to mark the baby's forehead, take away this negativity, if it does exist?

And.... when we say that we do not believe in a certain ritual (especially when the father is from a very different culture) , some people insist on foisting their beliefs upon us, and insist on us doing the ritual, or doing it themselves. Since it seemed so important to them, DnA agreed to let it be done, but I certainly wish that others would not insist on doing what they think fit, but let us stick to what we want to do... I am glad DnA are so accomodating!


Incredible, the way technology allowed us, sitting in the porch of a house in St Louis, to watch, live, the annual ceremony for my brother...we saw the puja, the food being served on plantain leaves, several of the guests stepped over and said hello, and they were able to see Eli, too....

How can the human mind, which has wrought such technology that's for the common good, also think of murder,terror, and other bestialities?

Love lost in the details....

"How many people will be having dinner?" (Remember, the idlis we bought from the nearby restaurant ran out yesterday morning because eight extra people showed up.)

"Is there anyone else who needs to be informed? Goodness, I nearly left out that cousin in Mumbai...and his wife had open-heart surgery last week and I was supposed to call and find out how she was doing, too...."

"Please do come in (who on earth is this, is this my sis-in-law's official colleague, or someone who knew her dad earlier?)....yes...it was all rather unexpected..."

"No, I have not asked my sis in law what she wants to do about the ceremonies (you insensitive person, let her get over crying first), I really can't tell you what will happen, or when..."

"Bedding....do we have enough pillows?"

"Make the list of the various kitchen items that are required...where are the milk coupons? Is there someone to just go and get enough milk to provide coffee for all the visitors?"

"Hello...yes, this is A's sister here....yes, thank you for your condolences (you have been on the phone talking about your own illness for twenty minutes, lady, can you release the line, you seem to have known my brother when he was about sixteen...I do value your reminiscences, but they are upsetting me and I don't want to hear about your "uterus operation" and why it is preventing you from visiting, right now...) I am so glad you called; keep us in your prayers..."

"We DID try and take him to the hospital, and no, he was NOT ill...."

"Hold on, I'll pay the pall-bearers and the pundit, but why is he charging us SO much?"

"Did you get the death certificate? It has to be xeroxed umpteen number of times...."

"That aunt won't eat anything made with onions in it, and the other gentleman wants hot water..."

"Oh, it doesn't matter that so-and-so didn't come to see A. People keep away for different reasons..."

And then everything comes to a complete halt as I see my brother's writing: it says "Funti", which was his own Orrible Pet Name for my daughter, and her telephone number next to it....

The tears fall inside my eyelids, inside my heart. My voice doesn't waver. I don't break down. I am the strong person, I am the one who can cope, the one who can manage, the one in control.

It's necessary also to keep every guest in the house reasonably happy; I don't want any arguments or ill-feeling erupting or even festering quietly.

He just went off, my laughing, sardonic-sense-of-humour brother, he's left us to deal with this mess of how to conduct the death ceremonies, which he had no faith in, with a bunch of relatives he used to laugh at...

Crying inside is tougher than crying outside.

A death

We got the news late yesterday evening, and went across early this morning.

The man was 70 plus. He had been keeping good health; he went to play golf and felt ill....and didn't even make it to the hospital from the golf course.

The no-longer-the-man was stretched out on a refrigerated casket. Rites were performed which made no sense to me, because I firmly believe that what was dear to the family left on Saturday evening. Now it's only the empty shell that is being subjected to rites.

But the family was inconsolable. The wife yelled, "ask them not to take him away". I felt,oh my goodness,lady, don't cry now....the "husband" in that body went away two days ago. What's left HAS to be taken away and destroyed, before it decomposes. The flesh without the spirit is just...dross.

Do the prescribed rites give comfort to the family? If they do, that's all right. But today I saw the family being agonized afresh by rituals which did NOT comfort them at all. There was NO dignity to some of those rituals.

There were crowds of people. How many of them were there from genuine sorrow? How many to watch? And to mark their attendance? I heard two people quietly discussing how the lady would not like to live with either son because "she doesn't get along with the daughter-in-laws". Felt like telling them to stop...but they had a right to say what they felt like, so I kept quiet.

I was most uncomfortable, because to me, the fact of the man's dying without illness, without suffering, was a good thing. I would have been lynched if I had expressed that thought, though. So I kept quiet.

Life is SO chaotic...death even more so.

How am I going to take it if such a loss happens to me? Will I be philosophical?

Don't know.