Monday, October 31, 2005

The floating prayers

One of the neat things about Ganga & especially the Rishikesh is the tradition of sending lighted diya’s down the river. Throughout the day you find these riverside shops selling the small lamps. At nightfall, they light them up & send them floating downriver with a small prayer.

On some nights (and I have seen the pictures) thousands of these lamps are sent down the river & the sight of these things floating downriver is like a whole river of fire. Very impressive to say the least.

Things like these seem to have an innate “Indianness” about them. I mean a year from now if someone asks me to mention a peculiarly Indian custom, this would probably be one of them.

In Rishikesh, there are essentially two images that stick with me.
The first one was of this huge bull standing in the middle of the market. And it was REALLY huge. And looked so mean that almost the whole market had stopped, waiting till the bull ambled along. I was myself stuck right in front of it & was wondering how I would get across, when out walked a calf & started nuzzling the bull.

Here you had this forbearing, brooding sullen bull, which no one seemed to be willing to touch with a ten foot pole, & this calf was nuzzling his neck. My mind was flooded with all sorts of similes & metaphors & stuff, but in the end I just enjoyed the scene for what it was.

The second scene is that of the lit lamps being sent down the river. This young girl of about 14 years took a lit lamp & put it in the river, the second it left her hand, the flame extinguished. & the poor girl wanted to get back the lamp, but it was already drifting away. She looked back at her mom, but no one was looking at her then. So she silently turned back to her extinguished diya floating away in the darkening scene.

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