Theyyam -The Enigmatic Ritual

Meaning God, Theyyam is God’s dance rich with piety, rituals, and folklores. Believed to have been originated more than 1500 years ago, it is rooted in ancient Dravidian culture. Native to the northern parts of Kerala, Theyyam is still a predominant practice of piety in those regions. Theyyam is a religiously ritual art and simultaneously a Godly dance form. Men (mostly) from specific cast groups of the region assume the form of God and become Theyyam. The tradition is handed down from generations after generations in those families. Even from a very young age grooming begins to be a Theyyam.

For an outsider it is difficult to comprehend the meaning and depth of Theyyam. Yet, the trance of Theyyam astounds you to the core. What a normal spectator perceives as a colorful art form, a believer embraces as tangible God in trance. One such anciently mythical and divinely flamboyant religious ritual form is Theyyam.

Madurai Meenakshi Temple

The most prominent location in Madurai city in Tamil Nadu state, India revolves around The Meenakshi temple. Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple was built by King Kulasekara Pandya (1190-1216 CE). The historical structure has been attracting devotees and tourists in thousands over the years.

It is dedicated to Meenakshi, an incarnation of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareshwar, an incarnation of Shiva.

Madurai airport is hardly 10 KM away and visiting this historically amazing place is a memorable experience.

Treasure hunt

Time is up for a Mahmud Ghazni or an East India Company to get rooted in Kerala. The invaluable assets unearthed from Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple in Thiruvanathapuram should awaken all the modern Ghazni’s from deep slumber. We have read and studies about greedy kings who led their army all the way into the heart of India to loot and fill their belly. Maybe this temple in Kerala wasn’t an easy prey in their eye though much of what is discovered now must have been hidden during that time as well.

In any case, now, what matters is a treasure worth more than 1 lakh crore is out there. As soon as the news spread, the curiosity to know the details is skyrocketing and so is the anxiety of the temple authorities and the local government to safeguard the invaluable assets. Whatever is in there, worth more than the face value of the material given the fact that they belong to different centuries and have religious have.

However, what remains to be seen now is how are and how long are they going to keep such things protected! Different arguments have already come up and the one that seems to win is that all what is there is to be there only. In other words, the existence of this treasure is to be considered nonexistent in effect. So?

Death after Darshan

As if the plethora of natural calamities taking its toll on human lives and property is not enough, we make the situation worse with inadequate and improper safety measures at crucial venues. Stampedes taking the lives of innocent pilgrims at religious places in India are not anymore rare news. The past one decade has witnessed nearly 1000 lives choking and breathing their last, including those who died at Sabarimala shrine.

On March 4, 2010, nearly 63 people were killed and 15 injured at Kripalu Maharaj’s Ashram at Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh.  On September 30, 2008, more than 200 devotees were killed and over 60 injured in a stampede at Chamunda Devi temple in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur. On August 3, 2008 over 150 people, mainly women and children lost their lives, and hundreds were injured at the Hindu temple of Naina Devi in Himachal Pradesh.The stampede at Mandhar Devi temple in Maharashtra in January 2005, claimed 340 lives.

What is going wrong at these places? You never can point your fingers at the hapless pilgrims who throng from different parts of the country and are clueless about the region and situation. Even if the tragedy is accidently triggered by them – undue hurry to go back after darshan or halting where they aren’t supposed to, breaking coconuts or leaving pooja articles where people walk, prohibited parking of vehicle etc ring death knell – they cannot be called the cuprites though they could do well in being diligent in such places.

Had the authorities, be it from the police or shrine, been more sensible, responsible and proactive and a little farsighted several of such tragedies could be easily shunned.

Ganpati Bappa Morya

It s that time of the year those who love Mumbai love to be there. Of course the metro always has one reason or another to attract crowd to its bosom. But it is the season of devotion; a time to welcome Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed God amid pomp and gaiety to their homes.

Idols of all shapes and sizes of Lord Ganesh are seen almost everywhere and feel of “Ganpati Bappa Morya” is felt every nook and corner of the city. Of course the piety to this God is not patented by mumbaikers alone. but they seem to have a spiritually special reason to celebrate it. Though Ganesh Chaturthi, marking the birth of popular Hindu God, is celebrated all over India, its festivities are most elaborate in Maharashtra and parts of Western India.

The festival will end on Anant Chaturdashi (September 22) when Ganesh idols will be immersed with fanfare in water bodies. the vociferous procession chanting mantras, singing songs and dancing in celebration is an occasion that you don’t like to miss.

Approximately 6000 idols of Ganesha are commissioned for Ganesha Chaturthi in Mumbai alone. That speaks volumes about the devotion and the ardor with which the people celebrate this event. However, the aftermath of this extreme devotion is heart rendering at the immersion sites in the days to follow. It is a disgrace to the city, pollution of environment and more seriously it is sacrilegious to see the bits and pieces of the very ‘God’ you just immersed. Despite debates year after year, the practice doesn’t seem slow down a bit. One wonders what the Gods might be thinking about all these

‘Mourn the dead’

Mourn the dead

As far as possible we refrain from attending funerals. Some of us can hardly stand the sorrowful sight. It is really heart rendering to look on a group of people crying over the lifeless body of their deceased one. Of course, we all well understand what they are going through for the simple reason that we too have gone through these grief-stricken time once or even more in our life. Up until the lifeless body is rested in its final resting place, we see several sorrowful faces eyes welling up with tears. As the days pass the intensity is reduced, memories fade, frequency of visiting the tomb lessened – if cremated, smiles return and normalcy regained. Depending on your belief system you have different ways and days of mourning the dead, Islam gives such opportunity on the 3rd, 7th, 11th and 40th day, for christens it happens on the 7th and 40th day, while the Hindu beliefs call for these practices on the 7th, 9th, 10th and 11th days. The practices vary from religion to religion and these days don’t indicate that the ceremonies or prayers are reserved only for these particular days.

With all the due respect to the dead and not wanting to hurt the sentiments of any, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give a thought to the way we ‘mourn the dead’. Are we really mourning the dead on these days? Even as I type this up, a Shamiyana is being built to ‘mourn the dead’ right across my home. Tomorrow is the 40th day after the demise of our neighbor. Number of people gathering is slowly swelling up so that they can arrange the home and surroundings and more importantly begin to prepare the food to be served tomorrow. For a new comer to this area, this home in question would give the impression that there is a marriage or feast tomorrow. I wonder if this is the same happening in all such ceremonies. The disposition of the people on such occasions evidently proves that mourning dead need not always mean to be sitting around with a gloomy face. And why should one if we believe in the life after death or life in spiritual world?