A Simple Ritual that I enjoyed

I like rituals which are short, simple and easy-to-understand in terms their symbolism. Last Saturday, we performed one such ritual known as MAAVU VILAKKU which involves worshipping of a lamp completely edible. Yes, one can literally eat the lamp(minus the wicks) as PRASADA once the ritual is over. Let me give some details of the ritual: Rice is ground to a fine powder and mixed with jaggery, cardamom, cashew nuts and pure ghee made from cow’s milk. The entire mass forms a dough of moldable consistency, which is then molded to form a lamp of square shape. Cotton wicks dipped in ghee are then placed at all the 4 corners and ghee is poured inside the lamp.The lamp is lit ceremonially marking the beginning of the PUJA. The ritual ends after all 4 wicks get extinguished on their own. During the entire course of the ritual, which lasts for around 30 minutes, one is supposed to chant the names of the Lord – typically the name GOVINDA is chanted.
The significance of the ritual is simple to understand. The Tamil month PURATTASI is auspicious for the Lord Balaji of Tirumala. On the day the ritual is performed, which is typically on a saturday, the deity is supposed to visit our homes and give darshan in the form of Jyoti or Light for the sake of those devotees who are unable to make it to the holy Hills during this auspicious period.He gives darshan, accepts the offerings of the devotees, blesses them and goes back to Tirumala. When the last wick gets extinguished, it marks the end of the Lord’s journey back to His Hills. Towards the end of the ritual as the last wick is about to get extinguished, we offer a variety of items like milk,fruits,dahi, annam(rice with dal) etc.Once the lamp goes off, we offer AARTI to the Lord. The cotton wicks with the carbon deposits are carefully removed to make the edible portion clean. The rest of the stuff is thoroughly mixed with ghee in the lamp and is served to everyone in the house. What a simple and creative ritual! It is easy to perform and gets everyone involved in chanting the names of the God. The Jyoti represents the Lord and the lamp and its contents together constitute His delicious PRASADA.

This year we performed the ritual a week back on a saturday. The lamp was lit and we were waiting patiently for the light to subside as even as we were chanting GOVINDA. Towards the end, the last wick would just not go off even after a long wait. My wife kept offering whatever she had prepared and still the last embers of the fire on the wick was lingering and would not subside. Obviously, ghee was mysteriously finding its way to the 4th wick to keep the spark glowing for a long time. My wife was trying to recollect to see whether she missed out on some important offering to the Lord! She asked exasperatedly: What is the Lord waiting for? Did I miss something important? Finally I said: Did you offer……..to the Lord? I guess, this is what the Lord wants. She smiled, sat down and kept quiet. We had no choice but to wait till the light eventually subsided.

Can you guess What precisely I asked my wife to offer and by offering which the Lord seemed pleased and obliged? To find out, read the following story taken from our scripture Yogavasishta:

Once there lived a virtuous king who was mentally agitated and wanted freedom from worries.He approached a sage for advice. The sage advised him that he should renounce everything to find peace. Accordingly, he abandoned his kingdom,his palace, his country and even his wife and yet peace eluded him. The sage told him: That is not enough. Wealth, wife, kingdom, palace, country and relatives are not yours.You are merely a caretaker with a duty to take care of them. Renouncing these doesn’t mean total renunciation. How can you give up something that doesn’t belong to you and call it renouncement? Therefore, go, search for something that truly belongs to you and give it up. The king thought: okay, I will renounce the forest and this ashram that is everything to me and seek peace. Feeling good that he had really renounced everything, he got back to the sage again. The sage was still not convinced. As the story goes, the king then threw away all his belongings including his clothes and set them on fire.The sage was still unmoved.The king finally wanted to sacrifice his body with all the senses. The sage told him: The body is inert and dumb and you have nothing to do with it.The King was exasperated and asked: Pray tell what is the secret of renunciation. The sage replied: It is chitta, the mind, which causes all the confusion and which is also the cause of this SAMSARA, renouncing which one attains freedom from sorrow.This is what you need to renounce and offer to the God!

Now, you know what I told my wife to offer to the Lord when the lamp in our ritual was not getting extinguished.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very interesting anecdote

    • thanks.


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