13 March 2014

Image

 .
Mostly this week’s Report is dedicated to covering the most detailed ritual I have ever attended, but first I’ll share a little bit of this and that around here.    I was taking the Valley Road bus and some critter banged into the side of my head, crawled down my neck, on top of my dress and sat by my knee.  A big grasshopper, photo above.  My new camera turned the freak-out moment into a fun memory (thanks, Cousin Ashley, for the camera lesson).
 .
*  *  *
 .
GUTSY GUESTS –   We have a sweet-faced young couple here from Canada (she is a very pretty flight attendant).  They like chicken and had never had fresh organic chicken and were eager to help.  I thought they might pluck one.   When I got home, I found out they had each done a whack job!  Man!  I’m impressed. They were also impressed.   Happily the roosters were still young enough to be fairly tender.  Yum.
 .
*  *  *
 .
WISH I’D HAD MY CAMERA –  Today there was a toad sitting on top of a coconut by the pond.   The scene was framed with leaves from the living fence.  I have no idea what that toad was thinking about.
 .
*  *  *
 .
FEEDBACK FROM LAST WEEK
 .
A cousin said the “clean bucket” for fermenting the coconut oil didn’t look all that clean in my photo.  She was right, but it was clean on the inside.   She also said it sounded like a lot of work – she just doesn’t know how yummy the cheese is.
 .
And my Indian lady friends were all excited about seeing the photos from the Day 10 ceremony.  They have never seen it, because women don’t get to go.    Surprise, surprise.
 .
And with that we will go on to …
.
DAY THIRTEEN of the SANATAN HINDU FUNERAL
.
Image
.
The pit for ceremonial fire (hawan) is dug, bordered with feedbag mats, and then decorated with powders (turmeric, flour and the red one for the married woman’s hair-part), and with flowers (marigold and hibiscus).   The pundit sits on a fine mat, on the south side, facing north.

.

Image

On the opposite side a banana leaf is laid out with 4 pairs of leaves –  4 piper leaves (see 12 September 2013 post) closer to the pundit  and 4 jackfruit leaves behind them.

.

Image

To the pundit’s left, on the west side, a piece of banana leaf is laid with 3 nutmeg seeds, and a “lota” (vase).    He goes through a number of steps preparing the lota, which represents the Vedas (Scriptures).

.

Image

Now you can see yellow string around the nutmegs, and ghee (clarified butter) in the lota.

.

Image

There were many steps between these pictures.  The close male relatives were given the koos grass to sit on.  A yellow string was stretched out across them.  Mango firewood was brought.   Nutmegs were put on the piper leaves.  Now the men are gathering handfuls of torn flowers and spices and even coins when the pundit tells them.  (If I understood Hindi, I might know why.)

.

Image

Each man is given a little ring of koos grass.  Later on, the eldest son is given a second one for his other hand.

.

Image

The firewood is moved and coals are brought.  The men pour ghee onto the coals.

.

Image

Here is the part of the ceremony I always noticed and never understood.  The eldest son forms a little loaf of  a rice mixture with his right hand and tips it over his thumb onto the jackfruit leaf.  He does this again for every jackfruit leaf.    According to my friend, this represents (and I quote carefully) “I don’t know!”  She finally adds,  “But it is called pind पिन्द and it is being offered for the person who died.”

.

Image

The pundit makes circles of white string and tosses them to the eldest son who put them around each nutmeg.

.

Image

One of the loaves is cut into 3 pieces, and a piece is added to each of the others.   Then the loaves are decorated with yogurt, ghee, water and honey.   Flowers are added.  Camphor pieces are added and lit.

.

Image

All of the rice offering is rolled up in the cloth, and then a basin is brought for milk, which is blessed with flowers, spices, and lots of ghee.

.

Image

The eldest son pours the milk handful by handful into another basin.  He does this facing north, west, south and east.

.

Image

The pundit puts yellow string around a mature coconut.   The coconut represents Ganesh, the elephant headed deity.

.

Image

Then slowly, slowly the ceremonial fire gets laid.  Burning squares of camphor are put in the bottom of the pit.  Pieces of dry mango wood have their ends dipped in ghee and are laid carefully inside.   (This is where my camera battery gave out,  dangnabbit,)    Finally there is a burning lattice in the pit.  The coconut is laid into the fire.    The roof of the temporary shed is opened and the ceremony, the funeral, is now complete.   The family then treats all the guests to another magnificent vegetarian meal.

.

The roots of this ceremony go back nearly five thousand years, so to me, the funeral is like a little pine cone on a giant redwood of human ritual.

.

Image

.
Advertisements

2 thoughts on “13 March 2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s