These days, I write. I write a great many things all the time. I churn out didactic discourses in copious numbers about abundant topics for my bread-and-butter clients. One subject amongst numerous others that I wrote on last week was Shivaratri. While writing, I couldn’t help but remember how disastrous my one effort of observing this great ritual had been!
Let’s start with a couple of lines about Shivaratri lest you miss the importance of the occasion. Shiva drank the poison that came out of the churning of the sea, but instead of swallowing it, he magnanimously held it in his throat which in turn became blue from the effect. Shivaratri celebrates this grand sacrifice of Shiva.
Another legend says that Lord Shiva married the beautiful Devi Parvati on this auspicious day. Thus the union of the two greatest forces happened on this day – Shakti and Shiva.
Now, I grew up in an area where there were a lot of expatriates from a certain state, and this made my first impression of Shivaratri as this one occasion where they, without, and I mean absolutely without fail would play a song…Fulouri bina chatni kaise bani! Now, intriguing to my ten-ish mind was what did the good Lord Shiva had to do with Fuluri, and did he, by any chance, miss having it with the chatni?
These, unfortunately, were left in a pretty unanswered state, as neither did I see my grandmother observe this, nor my mother (she never really did believe in fasting oneself to attain glory on the other side of the world.)
By the time I was about to get married, I had discovered that women, married and unmarried, en masse observed this nightlong revelry of a fast just to get hitched to a husband like Shiva. Please don’t ask me what sterling qualities he possessed as a husband…I know not. The good soul Amish’s description of Shiva’s love happened much much later when I had all but given up on the idea of Love for the sake of love ala Raina. All I knew about their passionate conjugal life then, was that when his wife passed away (for want of a better word) - he got into a terrible rage and danced like a madman, with her body. Imagine that! Will I want to have a husband who decided to show his passion and allegiance post my death via a dance performance??? I was very, very unsure.
So, on a day before the great ritual, my to-be husband paid a visit to our house, and casually mentioned that his sister was a great one for observing the same. My do-gooder mother immediately trying to instill a sense of religious observances in me, insisted that I followed suit! What horror! Not being able to eat square meals a whole day is still okay when you have munchies to fall back on… But this???
The next day of the Shivaratri dawned bright and clear and I realized the eternal truth much to my chagrin. The Eternal Truth was- that the day you are supposed to fast, every f-----ing moment will be ‘like tortuous, man!’ (In my daughter’s language). You will be as starved as a gourmand in the Gobi desert.
The day of horror wasn’t over yet! Ma and my grandmother, suddenly awoken to their responsibilities of “training” me suitably- ordered that I need to go to a nearby temple and pour some water on the Shivalinga chaperoned duly by my cousin, a cheeky 5 year younger than me, Pinki. We jaunted merrily to the temple. I saw bejeweled, bedecked women with platters in their hands, waiting to bathe the Lord in anxious reverence!
Upon reaching we elicited some very curious responses. The matronly ladies were scandalized, the younger pretty ones in ornate chiffon salwar kurtas frowned disdainfully and the priest disappointedly scowled at us. And pray why??? We were decidedly unsuitably dressed! Pinki in a cotton dungaree and I, in what was the pretty high fashion at that time- culottes.
We promptly left the temple, having failed to bathe the Lord who was about to grant me eternal marital bliss and glory. Since we had been miserable failures, quickly treated our sad souls to some piping hot Utthapam and Chutney. Strangely ma and my grandmother, who were till then egging me on, had a hearty laugh on my account and had this shameful tale to recount to all those who dropped in for months-on-end. Needless to say, I despised it!
Having a terribly failed attempt at observing the Shivaratri, let me assure you that I am an absolutely great admirer of people who show this kind of tenacity. I realized that I must have offended the good Lord in a terribly deep manner, as it never yielded the desired result. There always remained a chasm and a gulf of areas to work upon between the KPI and the KRA s of my marriage!
Having said all this let me reassure you that, I am deeply religious and have great faith in the Omnipotent, maybe just not in a conventional manner.
How do you perceive this observance? Ever tried observing one? Come regale us…
Love and light