Irrelevance of Certain Rituals

Here is a funny story on how rituals lose their original significance.

There was a certain orthodox Brahmin family who had the tradition of performing puja daily in their house taking help from a professional priest. The priest would religiously come every day and the preparations for the puja would take place meticulously with the involvement of all members of the family. The priest would dictate every small detail to be taken care before the start of the puja. He would also ensure that things are done in the right sequence. For instance, the following sequence was meticulously followed as part of preparation for the ritual:

– First a pattern (Rangoli) was made using rice flour

-Then a plate filled with flowers & fruits was kept on Rangoli at the centre as offerings to the God

-Tulsi leaves & coloured rice (akshatai) was also prepared  in a small plate

– Next a jar/jug full of water was  kept ready as the medium for purification

– The Gods & Goddesses were nicely decorated with flowers, kumkum & turmeric

– Incense was lit up to purify air

– Water, Milk and Payasam in separate glasses were also kept ready as offerings

– Camphor was kept ready for the final ‘Aarti’

– Last but not the least, the priest would take a huge basket made of cane and meticulously use it as a cover on their domestic cat to keep the pet quiet and away from all the puja ingredients including, of course, milk.

Having completed all operations in a sequence, the priest would call out for every one to assemble for performing puja. The assembled family members would religiously repeat whatever mantras were recited by the priest and finally perform grand ‘aarti’ which would bring the puja to completion.

This went on for 3  generations. As it turned out, a new generation of priest took over from the old for continuing with the family ritual. Although he knew each and every step of the puja quite well, he missed out on one critical step. That was the very last act in the above sequence of steps – he didn’t feel the need to keep the domestic cat covered under a basket merely because there was no cat around.. The new generation family head, who happened to know every step of the ritual, immediately took objection to this act of omission and said:  “How come you have forgotten an important part of our family ritual”?  To his amusement, the astonished priest was told that covering the pet cat with a basket was after all an important family tradition and could not be dispensed with even if it meant that a new cat had to be procured for the purpose! The poor priest had no choice but to continue with the  old tradition in the family!

While the story may be an exaggeration, the basic point being driven should not be missed. Even today, I am sure there are several family traditions and rituals which are being practiced without really understanding the practical significance to the modern times. Consider, for example, the recent festival known as the ‘Thread Ceremony” (referred to as AVANI AVITTAM in Tamil). As part of the ceremony, we are supposed to do ‘japa’ of a certain mantra (KAMOKARTHIT  MANYURA KARSHIT) 108 times. I was told by some one knowledgeable in these matters that this ‘mantra japa is meant to be an atonement. Atonement for what, one may wonder. He said it is an atonement for committing the sin of studying vedas during the prohibited period of the year. To elaborate, in the ancient times this festival marked the beginning of the period for initiating studies of vedas. The studies would go on for just 6 months since the study of vedas for the remaining 6 months of the year is prohibited. Therefore, the mantra KAMOKARSHIT mantra is chanted 108 TIMES to neutralize the sin of  studying vedas during the prohibited period, in case some one has committed such a sin. One can now clearly see how irrelevant this particular ritual is in the modern time!!

Published in: on August 5, 2012 at 3:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. good read. yes, there are many we certainly do now which don’t matter anymore. keep blogging please. your site makes good reading.

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