6.01.2005

Vilvam and I

Thiruvannamallai, 3 hours from Chennai:

Its a bright sunny morning, the air fresh as ever as i walked up the stairs to a wayside Shiva shrine along Girivalam. My thoughts entertain me as i ascend up the steps looking at all the other people going about their business. A deep breath, wondering what the gods have in store for me today, still choosing to believe that i am the One, God's favourite child the world around me just does not seem to see it.


This is a small temple located on the Girivalam road dotted with saffron clad sanyasas. a pretty picture actually, bringing in a feeling that there is more to life than what really meets our eye. this temple hosts a Shiva linga, well decorated and silent, with oil lamps lighting up the little room it is placed in. i walked up the steps into the small chamber before the main sanctum sanctorum and closed my eyes while the priest recited the pearls of sanskrit words falling out with his well modulated breath, the sound reverberating within the inner walls of the room enhancing the ambience, his voice still ringing in my mind well after his prayers are through.

I opened my eyes to see the beauty of the linga as the flames danced in front of it revealing every aspect of its beauty in the light. He walked out and showed us the brass plate as we received the holy flames and took the holy ash, a blessing of Lord Shiva. I sat at the temple a good while, observing the puja in action, the decorations and all the little things scattered on the linga pitha.

Rudraksha beads lay scattered along the rim of the linga pitha, while sets of rudhrakha necklaces crown the linga, alternating with jasmine flowers and vilvam leaves. The vertical center of the linga is decorated with vermillion and turmeric paste enhancing itself in a silver plated background. Straight down in front of it lay few fruits all looking pretty similar. I asked in curiosity, to know that lord Shiva is associated strictly with Vilvam. After a long discussion on Shiva, temples, pujas, philosophy, life, faith, truth, action, karma, he finally gave me a Vilvam fruit as part and parcel of a larger paraphernalia to keep with me.

There on started my journey, to know Vilvam. It just didnt stop with being a fruit. it took on a position far superior that i tended to respect its very presence in my life. A support of sorts, that took away all the "dristy" or evil eyes from me. I sat every day watching it, wondering when it would get spoilt, if it ever would. I assumed it to be like any other fruit, a life, short life...before it got rotten. But strangely as he had rightly said, Vilvam never got spoilt.

Day after day, i watched, prayed and watched Vilvam, it turnes shades. It was a bright green when it showed up, looking fresh as ever. Now it had taken on a faint brown overcoat, yet not spoilt. It changes color, color that indicated how my life had gone by, it felt like i was surrounded by evil eyes all the time. It cleansed me, of all the gore in my life, as it turned brown every minute. My heart began to melt, watching it take on the load, that i had put myself through so thoughtlessly. Slowly i began to notice a thin coat of fungus form along its head. In desperation i gave it a coat of turmeric thinking Vilvam would not survive the attack. Interestingly Vilvam stayed on strong, brown with all my sins, but rid off the fungus that had managed to take root on its surface.

I still look at it every day, admiring the vermillion on its brow as i dress it, collared in fresh jasmine flowers. I walked to the shop to buy fresh flowers asking the flower seller which flowers were the best for Shiva puja. She was so confident "Shivan ku mallipuu than poduva, Vilvam venuma" (they put only jasmine flowers for Lord Shiva, would you like some Vilvam). I stopped to think. this lady is illiterate to the best of my knowledge, yet she knows a lot more than i do living in the same place. I chose not to take my faith for granted, infact question it and find out. What good use is my education if i am not taught every aspect of my life, religion and ritual included.

Maybe Vilvam is there for me in more ways than one. I just dont know it...

5 comments:

JC Joshi said...

The Hindu concept of ‘Truth’ - that which does not change with time - is well demonstrated by the Bilva or Bel fruit that does not spoil with time. And, the bilva leaf, a set of three leaves (as if indicating the Trinity) are easily accessible to the materially poorest among the poor, are also used for offering to the Shivalinga, that symbolically represents the Bholanath or Shiva the simple God…

Also, in appearance, the bilva fruit is shaped like our planet earth…
The planet earth was described by an American Astronaut - who saw it from a space ship on his way to the moon - as a ‘bluish green gem’, although it is generally called ‘the blue planet’. Perhaps originally it too was green, like most of the vegetation on earth even today… When fresh, the bilva fruit is shining green in appearance...

About the change in its outer colour with time, when one observes a flame, the hottest flame is seen as white. And, it ranges down to blue, yellow and red, as it cools down. And, a star also is categorised in ‘red stage’ when it has cooled down and nears its end… Red is generally used as a sign of ‘Stop’ for traffic, or danger (Red tongue of Kali, or the flame of a volcano outside the crater). Some ripe juicy fruits, viz., Blackberry, are black or dark purple in appearance… Majority of the fruits in trees are green when these are raw. Some turn yellow/ orange when they ripen, while some turn red/ brown… Even after they are detached from the trees, they continue to change their outer appearance…

A poet from Bengal said, to the effect, “An ordinary gourd turned me into a Vairagi!” For, in India, variety of gourds are cultivated for making musical instruments, from ‘Ektara’, the single stringed one that is used by the Vairagis or the detached ones, to ‘Sitar’, literally the hundred stringed one that helped musicians, viz., Pandit Ravi Shankar, and many others, to link the East and the West through music…

There are earth shaped gourds that have coloured lines running from top to bottom, that appear as if these would have inspired the early cartographers to mark Longitudes on the world maps!

In North India, although most of the flowers, viz., jasmine, are offered plucked directly from the plants to the deities, Parijat or Harsingar (literally the ornament of Har or Shiva) is considered as the only flower (having white petals with vermillion coloured lower end) that can be picked from the ground and offered to Shiva’s idol. The Parijat tree is believed to be one of the products that surfaced as a result of the ‘Samudramanthan’, and was then planted in Indra’s Nandanvan…

abhilash warrier said...

Kavi, I really understand what you see and experience with the vilvam. You see yourself in it. But, I think, you can be rest assured that once lord shiva is with you as an escort, no harm will ever come to you.

He'll always be with you as an escort.

JC Joshi, why don't you try writing a book on "Concepts in Hinduism"? You have a lot to share with ignorant readers like me. Only one request is please write with feeling, not academically as if you are teaching the readers...

You have given me awesome concepts and knowledge of our religion. Keep writing.

JC Joshi said...

I am thankful to Shri Abhilash for appreciating my efforts in communicating the ‘Truth’ of the all important formless Creator - who can’t be described in words - and His illusory creation of forms that everyone sees from his own perspective only. Thus words are necessarily used, but any number could be insufficient...

As I said elsewhere also, having similar frequency is essential in any fruitful communication. The only advantage of writing is that one can express one’s ideas without interruption in the middle. However, the disadvantage is that appreciation or criticism comes only thereafter, and then one is required to do damage control, if any required, and eventually that might lead to chaos even!

When one talks face to face, one has the advantage of reading the body language of the listener too, to know if one is being comprehended or not. If one sees that the listener is yawning or not paying any attention, one could pull him up, stop, or use words that could elicit his attention. I can now appreciate the problem our school teachers would have felt while dealing with students of varying interests and level/ capacity of understanding!

Shri Abhilash made me recall a personal experience related to communication without the use of words, i.e., through music. It was a Sitar recital programme by Pandit Ravi Shankar, in a hall in New Delhi many years ago. In the very early stages of rendition, when environment was just being built up, the player abruptly stopped! As if from sleep, the audience woke up to the reality when the Tabla player tilted the Tabla towards the audience and innocently said, “Broken!” And, as a replacement Tabla was not readily available, Panditji in the meanwhile kept the audience entertained with the variety of his experience of playing before large audience in the USA. He said that the American audience appreciated his performance of any rendition only at the end, with thunderous applause!

As one ofout of many interesting examples, he said that in India, contrary to the West, a player gets addicted to appreciation from the public, i.e., “Wah! Wah!” after every note he plays. Thus the quality of rendition depends on interaction between the player and the public. When the public is appreciative, the player attempts to present his best! As it wasn’t coming from the American public, he sought it from the Tabla player who accompanied him, who nodded his head in appreciation as he played. He said that the next day, in the newspaper, the critic reported that the Tabla player on many occasions asked the sitar player to stop, however, Ravi Shankar didn’t stop and continued to play for long!

I have been trying to understand the real import of 'Hindu Philosophy' for over two decades now - primarily for my own pleasure and I am yet to reach it completely... It is either by coincidence or by design that I came across Ms Kavita's blog and couldn't resist expressing some of my viewpoints at the present stage itself...

vimanonym said...

Hey Jo,
Way to go...one question..do u support the concept of agreeing to disagree?
my opinion is that you do write some good stuff...but sometimes get carried away...thats again still my opinion and you may still say wat you write is the gospel truth...you have a right to that!

JC Joshi said...

I thought I had made it very clear that each one is at liberty to one's own stream of thought, which apparently aren't in an individual's control as they enter one's mind like guests who land up without invitation from multiple directions. Others might not agree when one expresses it to them or to any one individual. 'Life is like that!'

It is like a seller offering his goods - the buyer buys whatever suits him, if he has a choice and there is a competitive market, and so on... Cutting it short, the ancients called this world a market where only lies are sold!
One was therefore advised to look for the 'light within' a person, or the essence, i.e., the central idea in a thought.