*Story Inspired by the Theer festival*
◊ – words with the mark are explained below the images
Idly◊ was whistling away in the kitchen. The aroma of sambhar◊ wafted throughout the house. Filter kaapi◊ was the befitting beverage for that morning. Big golden silk borders adorned the mamas◊ and mamis◊ of the house alike, simplicity was reserved for another day. Tiny tots who were adorned with Srichoornam◊ ran in as time tickers, giving constant updates. All cousins had gathered under their grandfather’s house, it was ‘thaerottam’ or the car festival which was taking place in Triplicane◊ Parthasarathy temple.
“Keshavaa!”voice called out “Come here”
“Keshav Chittappaa◊! Thata◊ is calling you!” the little messenger screamed at the top of his voice as he rushed across the house
“Thata?” A deep voice responded briskly “Tell me”
“Keshu. Can we leave?” He said pulling his walking stick
“Thata! You have tied the panchakacham◊ very well” he said, “you are as always splendid young man” reaching his hand out to the Septuagenarian. He was someone whom you just have to respect, he commanded that out of people. His grandfather was beaming with pride as the entire family of the old couple, his four sons and four daughters and the next two generations made their way through the crowd.
They went all the way near the thaer, and prostrated in front of the Lord. It was grandeur all around, The decoration around the Thaer was a league apart. The pagoda like top had cloth draped with srichoornam. Dwarakabalaka◊, Yali◊, and horses surrounded the Lord, while few men also made their way up. Among them were the pandits,◊ nadaswaram◊ and mirdamgam◊ players, playing exclusively to entertain the Lord. The lower half had many idols of the Lord was intricately carved in. The entire structure was supported by large wheels, taller than an average standing man. Streets had a festive look, they were washed clean, with large kolams◊ decorating every inch of tar road. It was a sight to behold. Keshav however looked around nonchalantly.
The procession started with the hymns being recited by the panchakacham clad pandits. Everyone prostrated before them marking their respects. Following them were fleets of photographers weaving in and out of the crowd. The finally chains of people aligned themselves clinging on to the chains dragging the thear. Behind the scenes was always something that was missed. A rod will give a tug to push the Thaer, three men will climb upon one wheel and pressure them to propel the thaer forward. It was undeniably focused team effort. To conclude it all would be a yet group of pandits who recited the vedas.
Keshav stared at the whole scene, his face was expressionless. “Grandeur – but why? Did the God ask for all this? If he is prevalent in everything, this is all meaningless. There is no peace in doing these, they distract us from praying” His troubled mind was never put to a rest. These thoughts kept coming back to him throughout the procession.
As the night fell over the tired streets, grandfather’s mind was fixating on Keshav and his disturbed . He went over to engage him in a conversation. “Does Perumal need this grandeur? He has everything doesn’t he? Same case at Tirumala◊. Did the Lord ask for these?” Keshav spoke fast, unable to hold the questions with himself any longer. Thata took a deep breathe, I’m happy that you are asking the right questions. Thoughtful indeed. Kesu, these do not concern the Lord the least is the fact.”
Keshav opened his mouth, his grandfather held up his hand to silence him and continued
“With that said, why do we have these elaborate ceremonies? These ceremonies help us tune the mind, in fact so much of sastram◊ is to tune the mind. Why do we need to tune the mind should be your next question. Mind gives yo u ultimate control over the self, a great man is one who mastered the mind. To get there we can choose from the nine forms of devotion, Do know them?”
“Oh yes Thata! Listening, chanting, singing, archana◊, prayer, then like deva dasis◊, thinking Lord to be a friend, serving his feet and finally self-surrender. I remember them, but how do these help?”
“Devotion compels you to involve yourself. The drums, the beats, the agarbathhis◊, the abhisheka◊, the alankara◊, the slokas◊, the ithiasas, the puranas are the varied triggers for the different minds. Once they involve themselves into devotion it helps to spread positivity. Stay with me, “he paused , “The arrangement today, Hymns were sung even before the procession would start, leading the crowd through and through. While they dragged the car, they were shouting Govinda◊ Govinda and finally, vedas◊ were recited by a another group of pandits. These calm the atmosphere, spreading the positive vibe. That vibe can be felt when you visit a temple, when you stand in the pooja room, that calming vibe is set afloat. It is harnessing that positivity. Positive affirmation, harnessing that cosmic energy, and to be there one must be satisfied. Their wounds should have healed and they must believe in a greater source of power to keep them grounded.
As for grandeur – Rest assured God never asked for this sort of celebrations, we human would have would have come up with it to break the monotony of life, thus taking care of battling the stress factor. Then to admire the work of artists, what more does the artist want than appreciation and respect. Carpenters, Kolam artists, Painters, Dancers, Musicians, Bhajan Goshtis◊, cooks, the list is endless. This makes people happy, accepted and respected in that society. Society becomes a well-rounded one, people with diverse occupations well rewarded.”