Sunday, May 4, 2014

Of Gods and Goddesses

Today had a visit from our landlord, a good man, who in the course of other conversation, asked who our family deity was. And I told him that we worshipped all deities. Indeed he could see for himself that my puja room held a Vishnu and a Krishna and a Shiva and a Devi and . . . . lots more. But he was not satisfied. He insisted- you must have an ishtadevathai (favourite God)- all of us have one. . . I could see that he wanted ONE answer from me,  so I told him Shiva. He nodded in appreciation and told me that his was Lakshmi- Narasimha.

And then he told me, See, when you dig for water in a well, if you dig in the same place, even if you have to dig longer, you will ultimately get water. This saves you the bigger effort of digging in 3-4 different places. Same is the things with Gods. If you pray consistently to one God, you get more results.
I smiled, and agreed with the well-digging logic wholeheartedly. But after he left, I mulled upon that logic.

My principle is to not put all my eggs into one basket, I guess. When I pray, I pray to ALL my Gods. Starting from when I was a kid, to now when I'm the mother of a kid, from the mundane to the profound,  . I have changed allegiances, made joint petitions, I have prayed to Gods of a different religion as well, with as much faith as I did to my Hindu Gods. . . .  but never have I been consistently faithful to only one God. Some prayers were granted easily, some not, and some after a long wait, but ultimately, He/She has answered most of  my prayers. And if there has been a delay, I believe that He/She has a bigger plan for me.

The God of my childhood prayers used to be the Sundareswara in the local temple. The temple used to be the one I went most often to, and He was my fave deity, all through school and college, but even then, during exams, Saraswati used to occupy prominence.. .
When I went to University, Sundareswaran  changed avatar to Sreekantwesara, the deity at the temple in Calicut that I most often went to. And then there was Kadampuzha Bhagavathy, how can I forget Her?

Calicut University was in Malappuram district, and this temple used to be an hour's bus journey away. But the deity was a powerful one. . . The story I grew up on goes back to the days when Shiva and Parvathy were wandering as Kiratas ( tribals/hunters) . In the course of their wanderings, Parvathy developed a thirst, and wanted water. They searched some way, but couldn't find a water source. Parvathy was thirsty beyond words by now and  looked appealingly at Shiva. Shiva told her to wait there, and went hither and thither, but could still not find a river or lake or brook or spring anywhere nearby. He came back and reported to Parvathy that there was not a drop of water to be found anywhere near. A disconsolate Parvathy sank down to the ground and said she couldn't take another step till she had some water. She looked beseechingly at her husband. At this, Shiva the kaadan (forester) strung his bow and aimed his ambu (arrow)  into the ground. Lo and behold a puzha (mountain stream) gushed out. . he cupped the delicious water and gave it to Parvathy, who quenched her thirst happily. Belief has it that this place is where the Kadampuzha ( kaadan+ambu+puzha) temple is located.  The deity is Parvathy as Vanadurga. And the lore goes that here - since this is where Shiva overcame the impossible and got water for his beloved at her asking- if you ask the goddess for your heart's desire, she will prevail upon Shiva to grant it. . . The main offering here is breaking of coconuts- muttarakkal. The deity is a small idol on the ground and there is a wedge'opening in the floor in front of Her. The priest breaks the coconut and lets the water flow into the earth below,  symbolically quenching the Goddess' thirst all over again, and pleasing her. Hundreds of coconuts are broken here every day, but all that water miraculously disappears into the earth. The priests also have their way of reading the coconuts. At times, the nut does not break into 2 halves or is a nut gone bad, in which case it means that there is an obstacle to your request. To get the Goddess to overcome this obstacle, you are directed to go and get another coconut  and break it again. .  People come there in droves, to break coconuts for multiple reasons- marks, job, marriage, house, kid, overseas posting, tackling enmities. .. you can break a coconut for a non -Hindu friend too, ( you have to give the name and reason for the offering)  tho' they are not allowed into the temple.
Needless to say, along with the rest of my classmates, this was a Goddess that was visited very frequently during the 3 odd years I spend there, doing first my Masters in English Literature, and then my Masters in Business Administration.
There is another legend also, around another main offering- poomoodal- of the Kadampuzha  temple. Since Arjuna got the Pashupatastra from Shiva and Parvathy here, with which ultimately he prevailed over his enemies , the Kauravas, this legend is the reason why so many people come there for resolution of their shatrudosham ( harm from enemies). Booking for this offering however, are closed temporarily, since this has been booked for some years in advance.
Last year, during one of our trips to Calicut, when we'd been there, the temple was being renovated and we could not enter inside, nor could we break coconuts.  The Goddess has her moods, and only if she wishes it, do you get to meet her and offer her coconut water to appease her thirst. . . 


Swati Sharma said...


Hope you are doing well :) Just wanted to share details about a campaign by Johnson's Baby called 'Share the Language of Love'. Since its based on a noble cause and you write on various aspects of parenting, thought that this may be of interest to you...

Writing to you here, since I couldn't find your email id. Would be great if you can share your email id, so that I can write to you with more information about the campaign. Look forward to hearing from you soon.

Swati Sharma
The PRactice

Deepa said...

Thanks for the info !! I love the stories behind the origins of our temples. I hope I will be able to visit it sometime :)

Just Like That said...

Swati: mailed you. :-)

Deepa: Glad you found it helpful. Hope you get to make a visit soon. :-)