Thursday, August 6, 2009

Changing the sacred thread

"Malakara" shouts a guy who sits in front of the agni homa. A scared fire that burns which is used for pooja with a desire. Agni Homa is used to enhance the effects of japa. Agni is said to be the mediator between humans and gods. A small brick square wall is built and small well cut dry wood mostly from mango tree is used for buring. Mostly ghee is used to enhance the fire. A Hindu dictionary on Homa says: "A sacred ceremony in which the Gods are offered oblations through the medium of fire in a sanctified fire pit, homakunda, usually made of earthen bricks."

This guy in front of the fire pouring ghee into the fire at every interval when he finishes a wonderfully recited Sanskrit rhymed poetic verse. He pours the ghee into the fire with a rather extravagant hand moment and raises his voice at the climax of it all. He looks no older than 45, with a big beard and a spectacle which is hanging on his nose almost at the edge of it. In between the mantras he recites he does give out a boyish smile and says something humours to keep all of us rather awake. The place we had been was a secluded places, away from the busy city. The time seemed to have stopped long before here. The building appeared very old and so was the setup for pooja. We were asked to wear something called "Dharba" which is nothing but dry leaves (dry grass) twisted to wear on your fingers.

I was in a Hindu ceremony, to change my "poonal" or "genevara" they call in kannada. My mom woke me up 7 in the morning. Every year in the year of "sravan", we have to change the scared thread, that we wear across of our body. Any brahmin hindu will know this, as it is a rather laborious procedure, not just wearing the new one; and removing the old one. "Malakara" means to wear the thread like a "mala" ( mala is a garland that is given as respect in cermonies to important people present.) Wearing the scared thread in malakara, was to do some rituals and say some mantras.

The pontiff now shouts, "Sabya", which means to get back the thread in the initial position. The pontiff signs each and every action we are to perform. As I sit with my sleepish eyes closing at different intervals. Suddenly the pontiff shouts, take tulsi in your right hand. My eyes open with alarming shiftiness. The pontiff's subordinates distribute tulsi. Then there comes something which looks like curd. We are asked to hold it on our right palm. The pontiff says some sacred lines and asks us to swallow the white mass before the our teeth can touch it. It was sour and was curd mixed with half cooked rice.

Then comes the biggest task of all the above, to open the poonal from its closed state to the open state. If not done in a certain way, missing one thread here and there will land you in a pickle with the thread all tied haphazard. Then to get it to the open state, you will need to out source it to someone. Luckily I could open it and helped my brother too. Then comes the mantra, which brings lot of smile to my face.

"! Yagnopaveetham paramam pavithram prajapatheryasahajam purasthad Aayushyamagryam prathimuncha shubram yagnopaveetham balamasthu thejah!!"

That means wear the new thread. Married guys are to wear two threads, hence to repeat this mantra again. Then comes the mantra to remove the old thread. The procedure ends with giving the pontiff dakshna, and also buring dry leaves. These leaves are nothing like a normal leaf; very long and very small. It looks like dry grass, a special grass I should say. We did have upma and tea after all this. I have never tasted such a nice upma before. I felt something in me that reinstated who I was and where I belonged to. There are somethings which we are brought up doing, which has not only become a part of you, but defines whom you are and where you belong.


Abby Quijano said...

wow, tradition at it's best. i wish we had little rituals like that.

LAN said...

I am not totally traditional; but functions like this make me feel i am still traditional!! :) :)