The dance of ecstasy in divine embrace

The average panditji performs puja as a part of their job, with offerings and mechanical movements that displays their years of practice into the ritualistic worship of the divine. Corruption has been seen far and wide and nothing gets done without a few notes into their plate of offerings. The lack of divine love is very visible at temples where priests do not allow devotees a closer view of the shrine until money does the talking. And hence faith tends to die its natural death because the keepers of the faith have now begun to sell the treasure they have preserved for so long.

All this changes when we visit the pandals of Kali puja. The thick air of corruption is pierced with the divine arrow of trance. This trance takes us back into the wild intriguing world of Ma Kali. The clay idols model her presence in her divine feminine form and the kalash with the coconut define her iconic presence. The curiosities that are offered along with it give a hint into a world beyond our imagination.

The crowd slowly gathered for the evening arti to the Goddess kali. There within the pandal she stood in her three forms, Kali Ma of kalighat, Kali Ma of Dakhineshwar and Kali Ma of Tarapith. I drifted into this beautiful world and took a seat at the feet of the Goddess, realizing suddenly that I had no plans to leave in a hurry.

The sun dipped behind the clouds to wake up the night sky and the stage where this celebration would soon commence. The priest lit up the divine light to the Goddess and started with the offerings. In the divine world, the smoke of chillum rose into the air and the sacred syllables of divine chant were slowly heard echo through the heavens. The Goddess is alive, her feet adorned with anklets gracefully descended to the floor as she stepped into this wild world to perform her dance. In rhythmic movement she moved herself, her disheveled hair dancing to her tunes as she raised the dust around herself. In the cremation ground she rules and the lights of the fires dot the floor where she dances and blesses the dead in their last journey home. Bhaktas give up their lives in divine love, sacred blood turns the bali peetha into red and fire forms the path to the world of eternal divinity. Ma Kali brings life to the night with her rhythm, her trance, her intoxicating presence.

Back in our world, the drum beats echoed through the floor as the priests alight their positions on the stage. The Dholak thundered through the pandaal and the drunken fervor raised the intensity of divine intoxication. The rhythm soared and with it the priests went into a trance. Ma Kali's arti began that evening with the joy of celebrating her presence and her victory over all evil. The rhythm thundered on and everyone present there danced to the beat, a wild dance of love and devotion as the priests proceeded with the arti. My feet tapped the floor as I clapped following the beats and my heart danced into the night with the three mothers.

It is the best Kali Ma arti ever! The beats grew stronger and faster and the priests held up the fire, dancing in divine trance as they showed the great mother the flame. Fire was followed by the fan, choury, shankha, mud pots with food offering, sindhur and divine beauty articles in a soop, sweets, bananas, and finally dhoop. The priest moved with the beat, in complete devotion making each offering with love. His steps followed that of the divine mother, his body turned into an expression of divine love and he could no longer contain himself. In divine trance he danced on with the mother culminating the arti into an art of love and divine intoxication.

The evening came to an end and the drumming subsided making us realizing how deafening this trance really was. Kali Ma worship came to a close as man and divinity slowly came out of their spiritual trance.


Memoirs of a Diwali evening - From glittering gold to drunken fervor.

Light and fire crackers rise into the sky on 2 occasions, during Diwali and during Karthikey Deepam. On the evening of Karthikey Deepam, here are a few memories of Diwali this year...

The silence of the afternoon broke with the first sounds of fireworks that lit up the evening. It was another Diwali and the evening looked exactly the same, that of Chennai didn't differ much from that of Kolkata. And yet there was a pulse in the Kolkata air that made a slight but significant difference to my outlook of Diwali this year.

The evening was glittering gold with the brilliance of bright light glowing out of the ghee and oil lamp that was lit up to awaken the Goddess Lakshmi and welcome her into our home as our sacred guest for the evening. To add to this glitter were the tiny lights that hung down like a curtain of light all over our apartment. There was light everywhere, as fire crackers began to spring up into the night sky and shimmered the darkness away. Goddess Lakhsmi had arrived in all her finery, in her brilliance bringing the light of a thousand suns now expressed in colorful fire crackers, diyas, candles and strings of lights hanging down our walls. The power of gold and prosperity could be sensed everywhere and could be seen dotting the otherwise dark cityscape.

Worship commenced, as the lamps were lit, and we broke into song praising the goddess for her generosity. Every sign of prosperity was expressed in offering and experienced, good food, delicious sweets, new clothes were the highlight with the profound moment of thanks giving to the Goddess for blessing us with comfort this far. And then the crackers rolled out. While old fire cracker styles gave way to new colorful glitter that sparkled across the dark sky we watched in awe looking at the spectacles of light and the creativity involved in their make based on the entertainment quotient. I wonder how many people looked at this fire crackers as a fun element and how many realized this is the symbolism of the beauty of goddess Lakshmi, shining in all her beauty with every light that formed streaks across the night sky.  

And then the sounds slowly died away. That of the fire crackers was now replaced by the rhythmic beat of the drums and the Shankh. This was the pulse of Kolkata, strangely missing in the buzzing city of Chennai. The Arti for Goddess Kali, the mother of the night had now begun.

At midnight we crawled down to the closest pandaal we could find. There within her home she shined in the flood light, her blue aura covered the stage as her red hands raised the sickle getting ready to strike. This was a completely different experience. The drums resounded, and the crowd went berserk, dancing in a trance making no difference between the people who bounced around in drunken hysteria. My heart jumped too, as my prayer of the evening had been answered. I finally managed to get to the scene of spiritual high. But I wished this was at Kalighat.

Blessed with the darshan of the great Mother, Ma Kali, I watched the crowd praise her calling out her name. I sat straight backed on my chair looking up to her, while my heart jumped around with the same fervor. Tonight was my night, my moment with Goddess Kali and no one could take this experience away. The drums beat in my ears, the smoke rose into the air, the diya light grew bigger and I danced in my heart.

The power of light continued to glow within the safe haven of my home while the brilliant goddess of the night, Ma Kali danced to her victory in my heart, killing the darkness of my ignorance within my being. All the Goddesses have come to us, all of them were invited to this beautiful night. While Ma Saraswati and Ma Lakshmi resided at home, within the warmth of ordered living, Kali danced the night out, in her wilderness, in her form as Chamunda and I was there to feel her presence around me.

To the great goddess, the divine mother, I bow and worship thee enjoying the thrill of thy sacred dance of victory. 

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