This was how Asoka had envisioned it, during the birth of the Buddhist era. The pot signifies the constant presence of the cosmic ocean, undying and enriching, sustaining all of life that flourishes across this land. This principle never died and through these ages, it took shape in different ways across regions. Hinduism adopted the essence of this principle, and extended the philosophy of water cosmology not just into its temples and art forms but into is life style and ritual as well.
Temples boasted this principle along their walls. The Bhiti [walls] was an elaborate canvas that displayed great Gods in their iconic representations seated or standing within their niches. The tree of life has been depicted as an elaborate decorative pot oozing with the cosmic waters supporting all of life, life that was blessed by the divine parent Lord Shiva and Parvati. These pillared examples, depicted deities as well as architectural structures that rose out of this pot of cosmic water.
Ritual brings out this very same principle by representing all of divinity in the sacred waters of the pot that is the main deity, pulsating with life during the course of the ritual. The Kalasha, brimming with sacred water, capped by mango leaves, signifying the king of all trees, holds a coconut in the center which in reality holds water within itself, signifying the larger principle of the tree of life rising out of its natural cosmic waters.
These various representations of the tree of life, celebrate the miracle of life in Hindu mythology as the birth of Brahma in the center of tender lotus petals that bloom out of the navel of Lord Vishnu who floats in the cosmic ocean. This deep rooted law of life, curiously depicted by Lord Vishnu and Brahma is a representation of life as we see it in reality within the womb of the mother. The womb is the shell within which lies the cosmic waters, self generated miraculously by Shakti to house the unborn, the pulsating tree of life that is floats in this ocean, sustained by the lotus stem of the umbilical chord.
And then... the pot breaks, transitioning life from one realm into the next. The waters of the sacred Kalasha are sprinkled all over the house and its respective family members, as it soaks them in its divine blessings and transitions them to evolved living symbolically. In reality, the mother delivers her new born into this world transitioning it towards the next realm amidst much pain.
But all pots breaking may not result in happy endings, though they depict transition from one realm to a different realm. This is another journey to be done, another transition to be crossed. When life has come its full way, and all the waters of life drain out of the physical body, what remains behind is the corpse that awaits it final journey. Be it burial or be it cremation, the dead lie facing north/south and the final rites are performed.
Three rounds of circum-ambulation depict the transition of consciousness from one state to the next. With each round, a hole is punched into an unburnt earthen pot that releases this precious cosmic water that flows out gently around the dead, signifying the cosmic ocean at the center of which they lie asleep, awaiting to be woken up into the next realm. With the third hole punched, all of the cosmic waters are released, signifying the opening of the third eye of the dead for an enlightening journey ahead to the next world. With this life in our reality moves on and the pot now empty is broken to transition the soul to the next realm.
This journey doesn’t end here, for it is blessed with the glorious representation of the inner truth of the immortality of life, celebrating the journey of the soul in the presence of the trinity at this hour. A simple earthen clay pot carries much significance in the ritual representation of this transition of the soul, be it in the echoes of the sacred Asoka edicts or be it the loud cries of a mother in labor, life is born again.