The temperatures have dropped, and we are in the last few days of enjoying the green foliage around us. Some trees have their leaves turning red, yellow, and orange, presenting a breathtaking sight. They look even more resplendent under the canopy of the blue sky.
I stepped out to the yard to capture this beauty in my lens. Autumn, with its various shades and hues, fascinates me, so it has become customary to click a few pictures during this season. But this day was a little different.
This time of the year is linked with the festive season in India, and fond reminiscences came pouring in. It was Vijayadashami (Dussehra), the day which marks the end of a festival dedicated to the Goddess Durga. I was taken back to many, many years down memory lane as I remembered how I felt sad when the celebrations came to an end. A similar feeling descended upon me.
Durga Puja has always had a special place in my heart. Hopping from one puja pandal to another was what we did in India. It was great fun and a visual treat to see the deities being decorated in creative ways. The mind was at peace as devotional music and the chanting of mantras filled the ears.
The triumph of good over evil is the premise of Durga Puja. The goddess, seated on a lion with a trident piercing into the demon Mahishasur, is a symbol of feminine strength and indomitable energy. As a child, I had a train of thoughts going on in my mind as my gaze was transfixed with gratitude for the divine. I admired Goddess Durga’s courage, and what also transpired was the appreciation of her role as an affectionate mother. Legend says that she makes a visit to planet Earth every year. Bundling up her four children Ganesh, Kartikeya, Saraswati, and Lakshmi and coming to shower her blessings on her devotees felt like such a loving gesture.
There were stories that I had heard and believed in with sincere faith. One funny anecdote that I particularly liked was about Ganesh and Kartikeya being asked by their parents Shiva and Parvati to race around the world three times. While Kartikeya decided to go on this tiresome mission, Ganesha circled around his parents thrice and told them that since they meant the world to him, going around them was equal to circling the world. Isn’t his intelligence and smartness commendable?
My state of Assam celebrates Lakshmi Puja on the fifth day after Vijayadashami. So when I was little, I wondered: Did goddess Lakshmi stay back for a few extra days, or did she leave Earth with her mother and her siblings to return again?
This year Lakshmi Puja falls on Sunday, October 9. She is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Upon calling my mother, I got to know about her plans to celebrate. Goddess Lakshmi is believed to be fond of coconut. Ma, like every year, will prepare coconut delicacies among other things. Seeing her zest for life, I am inspired to do my share!
Any mythology can be overwhelming, and how can it not be complex when we cannot fathom many facts that are at its core? Yet there are interesting stories that keep us mesmerized.
My brother and I did not question the authenticity of the mythological stories that were narrated to us. The thought never crossed our minds for doing so. There was a positive side to this acceptance because the tales strengthened our belief in the divine. Our parents succeeded in imparting to us the lesson that we had to put in our very sincere best in every step of life and leave the rest to the Almighty.
Now in a couple of weeks, the stage will be set for Diwali. The sparkle and brightness of lamps will illuminate our homes. The greatness of Diwali lies in its uniqueness. Although it is a major festival of the Hindus, it has its secular flavor by embracing Jains, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs in a warm embrace.
As we age, our customs, traditions, and beliefs become even dearer to us. Simple acts that may not have seemed important when we were younger now assume great significance. What drives us is the conviction that we need to preserve these treasures for posterity.
Our roots define who we are, and I seek to keep my identity intact. In whatever way I can, I strive to pass on the knowledge to my child, who was not born in India, nurturing the hope that he will pass on the legacy to a generation much younger!
Very poetic and well written as always, Rashmi. I would suggest that you put together a collection of these short and beautiful writings. Publish them as many great writers did. I’m convinced readers of the world will enjoy them as immensely as I do. Keep it up.
Thank you so much Dr. Isma. Your kind encouragement means a lot 🙏