17 October 2009

a beautiful ending to a wondrous holiday

as evening fell, the firecrackers gave way to multicolored fireworks, on the streets, in people’s yards, just like the 4th of july, filling the air with that wonderful firework smell and with the brightest of colors.
and at my office, we held a puja, a religious ceremony for the holiday. a table was set up, with a white tablecloth, embroidered in colored patterns that looked like the exploding fireworks. around the table were plates with ceremonial foods like sweets, bananas, and dried fruits and nuts. on the table were a number of items. a small lit candle, small decorated boxes filled with clove and cardamom, flowers garlands, and most importantly, 5 deities, each made of brass, sitting on a pedestal, and each about 5 inches tall. they were ganesh, the elephant-headed remover of obstacles, lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, sarasvati, the goddess of wisdom, nandi, a bull representing shiva, baby krishna, and buddha. there were 6 of us in the office, including baby tara, who recently turned 1.
the ceremony went as follows: one at a time, we each washed each deity by pouring water over their heads twice. the first time we used water with sandlewood oil, and the second time was water with perfume oil. one of us poured the sandlewood water on ganesh, then each of us in turn did the same, then we moved on to the other deities, washing them one at a time. then we repeated the whole thing with the perfumed water. this took a few minutes, and it was done in peaceful silence.
once the deities were washed, we each placed a beautiful tiny flower garland around each deity, and we clothed baby krishna, putting a lovely robe on the little statue.
then we anointed each deity with 4 holy substances. in turn, we each applied one of the substances to all the deities, then we moved onto the next substances and we each applied that one. the substances were sandlewood powder, turmeric powder, red tikka powder, and grains of rice.
each time each of us visited each deity was a special moment which began and ended with a namaste, bringing the hands together in prayer position. i said little mantras to each deity, said hello to each one, and thanked each one for their presence.
after the ceremony, i led the group in a meditation where we saw the deities and their appreciation for our devotion, and dedicated the peacefulness of the moment to the happiness of all beings, and wished for a year of love, peace and prosperity for all.
then we were each presented with a blank book, put a couple celebratory diwali stickers in them, and dabbed a dot of the sandlewood, turmeric and red tikka powder on the first page of the book. then we wrote whatever came to mind; our wishes for the new year.
we followed with a celebration where we took prasadam, which just means that we ate together with a devotional and spiritual attitude towards the food. there were yummy doughnut type things, another kind of fried sweet dough, potato chips and peanuts, and bananas.
we all felt very peaceful, very calm and blissful, and full of joy. it was a beautiful and meaningful ceremony, rosh hashanah and 4th of july rolled into 1, and i was honored to be a part of it. it really made my day, and between last night’s wedding extravaganza and tonight’s puja ceremony, i really feel that my first diwali in india was meaningful and special.

and at the end, we took our books home, everyone got one of the little boxes filled with cloves and cardamom, and the group presented me with the baby krishna, and his robe, garland and pedestal to keep. the gift really touched me and i will treasure it. and i LOVE baby krishna! he loves butter, is a little mischievous, grows up to be a musician and a lover of women, and especially a lover of his one true mate, radha. i feel very close to krishna, especially now that i’ve found my radha, my heather, my wife.
i hope everyone had a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. may all beings attain happiness and the causes of happiness, and be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

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