To read part one, click here
Alarms set on mobiles rang at 6. After brushing, we rushed to the old man whom we had made an appointment on previous day. He asked an assistant to guide us to do the rituals in sea. He led us to the seashore. Rameshwaram is famous for sea with no waves. Water is absolutely still.
This seaside is addressed as agnitheertham. Priest made me and my husband to tie our clothes together and we took a dip in the sea. I found it hard to walk through the water since there was too many dresses dumped in sea. It is also a practice.
After bath, we sat around our guide. He helped us to do offerings to our ancestors who had normal or abnormal deaths. Again we went to sea with three balls of rice and a few ingredients and left it in the sea. It is believed that ancestors would come and have their share of rice balls. The guide said he needs Rs 150 per head.
In view of the fact that he is poojari, my family didn’t bargain though I had no support with their view. He didn’t charge me and my hubby as ours was a package. Once the rituals near sea were over, we waited in the queue for taking bath in theerthas inside the temple. There were 22 holy tanks in temple.
We had to take a ticket of Rs.25 per head for the holy bath. They’d tie a paper band on our hand. Masses of people, all soaked and dirty, waited near each well. There were at least two officials near each tank to (actually I must say) give a blow on our face with water.
Notice boards warned devotees not to give any additional charges to officials near wells. But those words were not taken seriously. We’d see guides taking dozens of people near officials and they had special treatment (which is a whole bucket of water poured smoothly on their head). These guides were paid extra money and in turn they’d give a percent to temple-folks too.
A person standing next to a well demanded Rs 10 to collect a few drops in a bottle and Rs 70 to get individual baths. My uncle, who accompanied us, had an intention to collect theertham (holy water) in bottles and present it to my grandmother. However, the ‘cost’ of theertham made him to pull back his wish. Queue was tiresome. Long hours of waiting before each theertham made us tedious.
Lord Rama was famous for patience. I prayed him to offer me fortitude to stay calm. As soon as the holy baths were over, we got out of the temple and had a quick pray or I must name it an apology to Lord for not visiting his shrine. The inner courtyard of the temple (where the shrine was located) was completely crowded. Again, there are tickets to get inside without waiting. The more you pay, the nearer you’d reach and pray. I opposed that idea of ‘pay and pray’. My family agreed though they wanted us to reach back to the priest quickly.
We changed our wet clothes and were ready before the head priest. His house sucks! I had sometimes felt that Bhakthi and cleanliness are too extremes. Even if the head priest had all typical decorations of a perfect poojari including rudraksha ornaments and designs on body with sandal pastes, his assistant’s costume was worse than the beggar I’d see in front of my office. I am sure he had not taken bath for past two days. His shirt, without two or three buttons, was torn.
Pooja started. Its name was Uma-Maheshwara Pooja. Before entering the pooja room, priest warned us, “Brahmins there will ask you for dhakshina (tip). You can give it later if you wish, but not now.” Four North-Indian Brahmins were sitting next to the corners of homa-khundam (platform where fire is lighted to do pooja). During pooja, they are passing comments, actions, checking messages over phone and so on.
After Shiva pooja, it is Parvathi pooja. A lady sat in front of us. We had to chant hymns considering her as Goddess Parvathi. We had to walk around her, pay her dhakshina and in the end she would give as a few flowers as blessing.
Then the priest declared pooja is over. He gave the list of dhakshina (I like to call it tip) for each human being who participated in it. Also, we were asked to pay a small amount for a Brahmin’s meal. All these are supposed to be holy deeds.
We dumped our old clothes in the sea. That second itself, there were people to carry it away. These clothes will be dried to sell in open markets. My family was happy because everything ended well. We had a heavy lunch seeing that we ate nothing since morning. The moment our car started, I slept.
Indeed, it was a great journey. Sincerely speaking, I did not feel any bhakthi neither inside that temple nor during rituals. I did for the contentment of my family.
The only moment I could sense a heavenly bliss was on Pamban Bridge. Powerful wind and panoramic view, the point where oceans met! I stood on top of it, in between two water sources that weaved many civilizations… Godly!