Navarathri and pooja veypu

I wake up to the sound of heavy rain hammering down. It is only six in the morning and still too early to get up and I go back to sleep. The rain continues and by the time I wake up eventually it is still going strong. The guys are meant to be laying the pipes today and they are waiting for a lull in the rain. After breakfast I sit out on the front porch sipping my steaming cup of hot tea and reading the papers. The atmosphere is cool and the sound of the rain is soothing. Occasionally the breeze blows the water drops onto where I’m sitting. I listen to some songs and enjoy the moment. The only other sound is that of the passing cars, buses and bikes.

The rain clears and the men start laying the pipes. Today we are completing our round of temple visits. There are two more to go. Syam comes in his new taxi, the first one that he owns and he is now his own boss. The first time that we met Syam was over ten years ago. Achan, amma, Kavitha and I had planned a trip to Ernakulam for a couple of days and our regular driver couldn’t make it and he sent Syam. As we were in no hurry to get to our destination that day, Syam stopped at every single temple on the way. That was the first time we had had a chance to see Ambalapuzha temple and taste their famous milk payasam. Next day he took us to Chottanikkara temple. He must have been only in his late twenties then, but knew all the ins and outs of the temple rituals. He explained to us about the proper procedures that we should be following when we visited temples. It was the first time that Kavitha had visited so many temples that she refused to ever travel with him again.

Our first stop today is the Kundara Illampalloor Devi temple. Syam drops us off at the back entrance and drives around to the front to wait for us. We walk to the ‘sarpa kavu’, where the snakes dwell and where the snake gods are worshipped. I can feel water drops and by the time we reach the back entrance, it starts raining heavily. We do not have an umbrella and the shelter is narrow. We are trapped and there is no sign of the rain abating. An elderly lady brings an umbrella and tells me to take amma to the sheltered area inside the temple. I do that and then come back to get the lady and take her to where amma is standing and we thank her. From here we can walk around without getting wet. The Goddess’s statue has no roof and she is exposed to the elements. If she can get wet looking after us, we can also get a little bit wet worshipping her. We walk to the sopanam to collect the prasadam from the poojari. Once again we go around the sculpture in all the wrong directions because of the rain. Syam says that it is not a problem, the gods will understand.

Our next stop is my mum’s family temple. Famiy temples run on the female side of the family and amma can trace her’s back to the time of my grandmother’s grandmother. Children are bringing their books and instrument cases all wrapped up to be left in front of Saraswati Devi for the next two days. Ayudha pooja is done during the last three days of Navarathri and today is the day when it starts. During our school days we used to put our school books in the prayer room at home on pooja veypu day and then you are only allowed to take it back on Vijayadeshami which is the last day of Navarathri. Amma was saying that Asha used to put her books in front of the gods and wouldn’t follow the rules but would take it out to study before the time was up.

As we were going around the temple, Amma tells me that a lady called Vilasini who is actually from Varakala and now lives in London is the main donor who paid to refurbish the temple. There is a notice on the wall with this information. I am curious now. If this lady lives in London and is from Varkala surely Murali must know her. Also she is now related to me. I ask the temple authorities for more information. They give me her phone number and son’s name.

Murali tells me that she lives in Croydon and actually came to our house the day before Kavitha’s wedding. Apart from Asha and her family I didn’t have any other family members at the wedding. I clearly remember this lady. She came with a friend. I had never seen them before and I remember wondering why two frail and very pleasant ladies had taken all this trouble to travel this far. She was sent by our foremothers to give Kavitha their blessings. It all makes sense and now I realise that we were not alone for the wedding but everyone was with us and had sent us their blessings.

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