In the midst of all the celebrations lie a hundreds of explanations of why we do what we do. The beliefs of them all substantiating what has come down the generations for us to follow. In many cases we do it with the fear of the ire of the Powers that be in case the process was not followed to the ‘T’. Well, I am sure several of us wish to know the views of these Powers on each of the rituals (or let’s say processes) that are followed.
One of the stories I have heard since childhood has been of lights associated with the welcoming of Goddess Lakshmi. Yes, the more there are in your homes, the higher her chances of visiting you and of course, bestowing you with all the material wealth that you have desired (unbeknownst the fact that there are no limit to our desires). I have not necessarily tracked for each day of the month, but the electricity bills definitely show an upward trend for that particular month (beaten only by the peak summer air-conditioning in the Northern climes of our country) as each of us outdo the other in our desire to welcome the “green”- and by that I am not referring to environment-friendly.
Meanwhile, much later in life I was also told that the arrival of the Goddess is also symbolic of everything that was unwanted leaving one’s life. It’s the reason we indulge ourselves in cleaning our homes (wonder what most people do for the rest of the year if all the cleaning happens only around this festival). So there is the concept of spring cleaning, a form of which makes and appearance in India in this autumn month, thanks to the expectation of welcoming the Goddess. Of course, there is a new avatar of the spring version, much touted by the urban modern family- called the deep cleaning- a service much in demand to remove all that is undesirable, which the human eye can fathom and at many times (if you are susceptible to OCD), only imagine. But then there are those of us who being prone to this particular disorder are at it throughout the year- with or without the expectation of certain blessings being bestowed.
But did we know that the Goddess we all love to worship or consider it almost mandatory to – thanks to our expectations of all that she can bestow on us- is also one that is considered the most fickle-minded. Well, may be that is too strong a term to use- but it seems, she may on a whim decide to move on to (no pun intended) greener pastures. In fact, it was brought to my notice by a very learned man, that our Goddess in point actually sits on a lotus- and for those of us who ever tried putting some weight on it (filled as our childhood minds have been with the stories of surreal creatures who may have made them their homes), we do realize, it isn’t exactly the most stable of all bases that one may have experienced! Now that for once is a plausible explanation when one says that one’s house is a reflection of one’s personality, perhaps the same applies to the seat we choose too!
But what got me thinking on these lines was an innocent announcement of religious places opening up for worship after several months of being unavailable to the public thanks to the times and a certain virus we are all living in fear of. The newspapers accompanied the announcement with a photograph of devotees making do with a glimpse through locked doors of their beloved Gods locked up in isolation with the few who lived with them to take care of them and give them company. Used to the milling crowds, the Gods (or well, their idols or other representations), bereft of the smell, sweat and breath of their beloved ones unable to be touched and to be feeling the warmth of the bodies of milling crowds that they were used to, should be doing quite fine. Well at least they were not to be breathing with the masks that us mortals have now made part of life outside and (in some cases of external intrusion) inside our homes.
But think about the compromises us devotees are going to have to make. Being compelled to wear masks, and ensuring social distancing in the company of their favourite Gods, complaining about not being able to fully immerse themselves into their creator’s company. How would that be satisfying our urges to be one with our Gods (in our mind that is, not body). What with the mask et al, and the prohibition of any offerings or the sprinkling of the holy water (which I assume is a symbol of blessings from the Powers that be), would one have the satisfaction of having been heard, seen and blessed. What would this do to the efficacy of the worshippers’ visits- deprived as they have been for several months, blaming all that had gone wrong with their lives (and those of the non-believers) in the missing visits to the abodes of the Powers that be.
Of course, someone did clarify that devotees were not to worry since the masks were on them and not the idols! And that does come as a big relief to many. Social or unsocial, someone does need to help folks understand that it would not really make a difference to the Gods whether they were at a social distance, or a distance far enough to be at their homes. The Gods do deign to visit, or at least bless.. after all, the Powers that be are not confined to walls but to our minds and as much as we are children of our parents, the creators are very much aware of their creations that need to be taken care of, irrespective of the norms that a certain viral creation of his (?) may have caused us to be living with!