Penance seems to be in the air .
It was good Fri Day on the 6th. Christian brethren in the twin cities have observed the day with prayers for peace and welfare of all the world.The devout trudged along the Via Dolorosa . towards the Calvary mount ( so to say ), dragging heavy wooden crosses along, suffering flagellation and painful nailing on to a crucifix, at the hands of the Centurions, even as their many other devout brethren, witnessed the sombre proceedings sympathetically with heavy hearts.The Passion Play was enacted realistically and with great fervor,at a number of venues in the twin cities. Easter celebrations are on cards on Sun Day, the maid says. Amen.
Thousands of devotees including old men, women and children participated in The Hanuman Birth Day Rally ( Sobha Yatra) in the twin cities from the Gowliguda Sri Ram Mandir to Tadban Hanuman Mandir in Secunderabad with great gusto, braving the scorching sun. When celebrating the legendary hero who as a child attempted to gobble up the attractive fruit, the Sun, one ought not to mind a few hours out in the hot sun. Praise be to them.
Hundreds of devotees in the Hesal village in Jharkhand walked over fire on Saturday the 7th, as a penance to Lord Shiva or Hanuman as per their choice, and to seek the wellbeing of their village and its inhabitants. The village is located about 40 kilometres from Ranchi, the state’s capital.The ritual, is reported to be in vogue since many decades in the past in the village and its neighborhood.
Hoping to achieve their ardent wishes the devotees made a vow, observed a rigorous fast for 48 hours and then walked coolly on glowing embers as a mark of sincere and ardent devotion to The Lord and in the hope that the Lord grants their respective wishes. Tathastu, Be it so.
In his classic movie about an autistic person’s poignant life, “Swathi Muthyam”, the great Telugu movie director K.Vishwanath, depicts a similar ritual observed by Muslims called “Gundam tokkatam” in Telugu, meaning treading the fire-pit.
The scene goes like this. While the devout are going about their respective ordeals, Kamala Hasan, playing the role of the autistic man, jumps into the fray, or rather fire, unannounced. making his own innocent wish that the shattered life of a hapless young widow and her young child, his friend, should turn around for the better. The way the lives of the couple and the child intertwine subsequently for all their collective good, makes the movie enjoyable and memorable.
I have read a charming description of this ritual, in a short story in a Telugu book of stories about the captivating lives of the Telugu muslims of Kavali and about his own childhood as one of them by Mohammad Khadeer Babu, a journalist. Its title , ” Darga Mitta Kathalu.”, means “Tales around to the Darga hill.” The author dedicates the book to his lovable dad. In his foreward, Mullapudi Ramana likens the upcoming (Vardhamana) writer to a steady, calm, pure and smiling, sixty feet high Vardhamana (Mahaveer) and expresses his difficulty in patting the talented young man’s back. May the young man come up still higher in life with the blessings of Almighty,,The Merciful.
Devotional and ritualistic self-infliction of pain is also common in festivals like Tai Pusam observed in Tamil Nadu and Sigapore and other places. I had been to Singapore, long years ago but, that was during the Christmas season. I roamed around in the Serangoon street and saw the Mariamman temple there. From the cofee table book I brought from there I see vivid images of the pain inflicted by the devotees on themselves by way of piercing their bodies with sharp objects .The way they pierce their bodies and the way they carry the heavy Kavadi for long distances, I find there is a distinct parallel between Taipusam and the Via Dolorosa at least as far as tge pain goes.
“Porlu Dandalu” is another ritual wherein the devout mostly ladies, suffer pain willingly, by way of rolling one’s self around a big temple in a clockwise manner a large number of times on hard rock and in hot sun for the fulfillment of a vow or a wish.
Yes, penance is omni-present in the air.
P.s ; I have written a recent post about the Chenna Kesava temple at Macherla. I find in the sun day supplement of eenadu’s Eenadu ( meaning today’s Eenadu, of course), a short feature about an ancient temple of Chenna Kesava at Markapur. The birth day and wedding of the deity are celebrated on, yes, again the thirteenth day of the bright fortnight of the first month of the Telugu calendar.
I remember my mom telling me, and, to my embarassment, to the missus even, stories about my toddlerhood exploits, while we stayed for a few years at Markapur, As I said, I was a toddler and still learning to speak. The land lady, a namesake of my mom, took a great liking to the cute kid and vice Versa. As per my mom, I would stray out into the unkempt backyard, pick up a wild blossom and take it proudly to the attractive landlady named Sundaramma,(beautiful mamma), offer it to her , and say, ” Chundalamma gaaloo, Idugo chamanti puvvu meeku.” meaning, Respected Ma’am, the beautiful, here is a chrysanthemum for you.
And the graceful lady, to my mom’s mirth, would say, ” Kesava! ( not my name, by any chance.- Versa), please deck it into my Jeda.” Jeda, you know, was her long plait of jet black hair.