Sasi annan’s after death function

It is only coming up to 9 in the morning and yet the heat is quite intense. We are almost near our destination. Sasi annan’s death function prayers have just begun when we reach and we join our cousins. Once this is over we move on to the burial site. I find a shade and watch the rituals. Sanal plants a young coconut seedling on the burial mound and waters it. The priest completes the prayers for the day. I have my second breakfast of the day. The appams and vegetable curry are too good to refuse. Sanal insists that we stay for lunch. It will take a while for my two breakfasts to digest before I can even think about eating again. My cousins are all sitting around in small groups and catching up on the family news. I join them. Later on I find enough space to have lunch and we make our long journey back home. The heat is now stifling, but I am lucky as I am sitting where the shade is. The air con at full blast in the car is losing its battle against the afternoon sun.

My cousins drop me off at home by four. In a couple of hours we have to attend a function at our village Maha Vishnu temple. The temple festival started 3 days ago. We are providing the materials for the evening prayer tonight. After leaving our sandals in the car, we walk the short distance to the temple entrance. The lights are up, the stage is set and the drummers are getting ready. A young lady and her protégé are singing prayer songs which is amplified through loudspeakers.

The evening worship gets underway. As the drums, cymbals and bells reach crescendo the doors open and everyone strain to get the best view of the deity. The priest moves on to the satellite gods and temples and repeats the ritual. The women push ahead to get the blessings before they follow him to the next god and this continues till all the gods are worshipped. As I follow them, I find it difficult to keep pace, catch a view of the deities as the temple doors open and find myself chasing after the priest to get the fire lit camphor blessing. I wonder whether it actually makes a difference to experience all this or not or if our mere presence is enough? If you are visually impaired or hard of hearing or disabled and cannot keep up, does this mean the percentage of blessing will be reduced accordingly. A very stupid question I know, as gods do not show any preferences and I believe he/she is, or if not should be, the master of ‘equality and diversity’. The men hardly get a look in from what I can see, but they wait patiently on the outer circles for their turn. Well done guys, I am proud to say that the menfolk from my Perumpuzha are proper gentlemen.

The evening classical instrument concert is warming up. It is getting late. I notice a few girls and boys sitting around waiting patiently. They are dressed in their finest and the girls are proudly showing off their costume jewellery. They are all given lamps to carry and four men are carrying poles with spokes, the ends of which are covered in balls of cloth dipped in oil. The lamps are lit and we follow the procession to the sound of drums and circle the temple five times. The children do well, but the smaller ones tire slowly and their mums take over. I have been here a few times since the temple was renovated not too long ago, but this is the first time I have noticed the art work on the walls. It only covers two of the outer walls. The ten avatars of Vishnu cover one side and other gods the front entrance. They look a bit cartoonish but is colourful and charming. We collect our ‘prasadom’, give our ‘dakshinas’ and make our way home.

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