Wednesday, April 16, 2008

GOD's Sojourn

Annual Sojourn

The act of going from one place to another is one of the wishful characteristics of the living beings. For all of us, the compulsive traveling for living though often tiring is to be ritually done. However, the lucky ones do have annual pleasure trips. People with reaches, more from western world go crazy for such pleasure trips often throwing conventions and responsibilities to the wind. Indians used to have annual trips in a unique way and for dignified purpose. It was mostly to links to the roots.

Annual Trips

My grandfather had a small saving from his lost world and used it fro his annual trips to Lord Jagnnath, Puri. The convention runs through our family down the line. Many make annual trips to Tirupati, Sirdi or some sacred places of their choices. Basic idea of such pilgrimage is, as I understand, the self is to melt with pinch of salt and ego is to evaporate while standing is to evaporate while standing in a long serpentine queue or among a large congregation of people, that levels everybody in front of the Lord and evokes ecstasy in reminding the roos.

In social domain, with reference to India, the patterns of annual trips keep changing as the time flows on. In traditional patriarchal family system before a lady (married) used to go for a sojourn with her parents and peers. For such journey there used to be a well defined family rules. Though maintenance of these rules are sometimes painful, still the lady was eagerly looking for the arrival of her brother who would negotiate with in-laws for such an annual trip that would reconnect her to the root and recharge her. Now such tradition is on its way out.

At the outset of atomization of family system, apart of joint family used to stay in town/city he away from the rest of the family usually rooted in rural India. After kids’ annual examinations, the splinter family returned fro a sojourn in the village to spend summer vacation. Grandparents were looking eagerly for the trips of grand children. And the kids used to have a time to rejoice with. More importantly they had opportunities to explore the roots. Now such visits are also on its way out for several reasons: splinter groups have preferred to settle permanently away in cities leading to massive urbanization; second generation being mesmerized by idiot boxes sees rural India dull and grey; being heavily burdened with academic rigour they are forbidden of sweet summer vacation.

Lords’ choices

Gods and Goddesses are even eager to meet earthly people and make annual visits and stay with for a short period. For each God/Goddess a visiting day is marked in panjika the annual schedules. People welcome the visits with fervour, spend time with God narrating the happiness and sorrows they have met in the last year, piously beg for blessings for the coming year and finally bid goodbye with a request for the next visit.

The unique such annual trip fondly known as Ratha yatra the car festival at Puri, is of Mahaprabhu the Lord Jagnnatha. He drives through the bada-danda the great road, along with his elder brother Balabhadra Mahaprabhu and the sister Maa Subhadra to their aunty’s house – the Gundichha temple for a short stay. Amidst the journey people hug and eulogize Him, narrate their hearts and even some chides Him for his indifference to the plight of people. The intimacy among people and the God and above all God’s eagerness to reach out people are the hallmarks of Ratha Yatra. We also observe such annual visits of Ganesh Maharaj, Maa Durga, Maa Laxmi and several others. But the changes that have crept in questions the logic of such observations, and are baffling.


Offlate, the spirituality of such observations is hugely questioned. Leave aside spirituality, the other intended positive aspects like cultural, social, environmental gains are predominantly obfuscated. Humble prayers and heartfelt spirituality have taken back seats at the outrageous celebrations with blaring music, un-mindful consumption of electricity, irresponsible processions and unnecessary social flare ups. It’s a big question who needs all these celebrations or what has encouraged organizers to adopt all these or what has lead people to accept or silently bear with all these. Social scientists have been certainly on their job on these issues. However, some of the bizarre scenes of such sojourns do catch attention of commoners and yield agony only.

Stuck in Demand –Supply Chain

One such scene I came across while traveling in city bus no. 226 from Secunderabad to Lingampally. After crossing Kukatpally the bus caught speed thanks to wide road and comparatively thin traffic. This segment of the route is dotted with a large number of nomads making brisk business of several catchy stuffs. Social issue concern with such nomads is certainly matter of serious study. Here I’ll limit myself to their role with the topic I’m engaged with here now.

These nomads have wonderful business instincts and they gear up to make business to cash on seasonal demands and Ganesh Maharaj’s visit to this city – of … bads and … pallys Technology rather than tradition has become handy to meet the demand of a large number of idols. Pre-cast moulds are used to make idols in plaster-of-parish. Nearly a month before Ganesh Puja, one can find thousands of Ganesh idols in different sizes lined up at the both sides of Kukatpally-Lingampally road. Some of these are sold and left idols are piled up irreligiously at questionable places to the vagaries of weather as well as stray animals. Cost benefit analysis has guided these sellers to abandon the unsold idols. Lord is stuck in the mud of demand-and-supply. Where is sensitivity of the worshippers?

Childhood imagery of making Lord Ganesh in our court-yard with straw, clay and natural colors flashed on. Sculptor reverently carving out fabulous figure of Lord Ganesh and kids surrounding him fondly watching and claying their hands in making their idols – are the scenes of the foregone era.

Through the bus window I again looked at these abandoned idols and hummed the hymn:

Bakratunda Mahakaya Surjyakoti Samprabha
Nirbighna Kurume Deba Sarbakaryeshu Sarbad.

Lord - who can vanquish your agony of year long waiting for possible customer? Shouldn’t you decide to stop your sojourns for such insensitivity?

Hrushikesha Mohanty
April 2008