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. 

Photo courtesy: blogs.myspace.com


JC said...

Kali is depicted as the energy that resides at the heart of Shiva (Earth),,,while Kartikeya is depicted as the eldest son of Shiva, and Parvati (who is another form of Sati the original consort of Ardhnarishwar Shiva in the beginning, ie, the energy component of original earth), who is believably related with planet Venus that has irts essence housed in human throat as the leader of the lower body that houses essences of six planets, other than earth & moon, responsible for Maya that is illusion of the material world...

We are aware of being residents of our planet earth, that we generally take for granted, and believe it is meant only to be exploited (alongwith the air and water it holds, as 'tripurari' the lord of three worlds) for meeting all our material needs only till our temporary stay here lasts...

We are thus not normally conscious of the gravitational force that apparently sustains the earth in a particular though everchanging shape, that we are used to see from time to time,,, with innumerable beautiful though temporary life forms that in its turn the earth sustains in cycles thereof, for billions of years,,,and it is also thanks to the same panchtatva, or panchbhoota, and the gravitational forces concentrated at their centres that have apparently resulted in a variety of physical forms in apearances: of other planets and stars etc that apparently fill the infinite void of the universe (thanks to Maya or illusion?!)...

Thus the wise ancients cosidered all temporary forms as yogis, appeared thanks to fusion of components of the same unending energy and temporry physical forms,,, and thus called man as a puppet made out of earth (maati ka putla!) whose job it was to try to perform to its full potential, efficiency improving from 0% at birth to 100%, at the earliest, like Prahlad or Dhruv etc (when the sookshm form of Krishna the rep of Vishnu the Naadbindu / Gangadhar and Chandrashekhar Shiva the eternal form is realised)...

Rwitoja said...

LOvely post Kavitha,Loved the video on Kalipuja.

YOSEE said...

Nice to read about the uplifting experience you had on Diwali day, Kavitha.
Thanks for sharing the wonderful video too.

Bart said...

Lovely post indeed, Kavita, it did me think back to my own bloodstained footsteps in Kalighat, but also to that other Kali-temple in Kolkata, the Dakshinaswar Kali Mandir, and his famous enlightened pandita Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The next poetic meditation on Her from his hand is taken from 'Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna' by Lex Hixon:

Is there anyone in the universe,
among heavenly or earthly beings,
who can understand what Kali is?
The systems of all traditions
are powerless to describe Her.
Is Mother a feminine being
or greater than Being itself?

Chanting Her transforming Name --
empowers Lord Shiva,
Who is transcendent Knowledge,
to drink the negativity of all beings,
turning His Throat dark blue.
Without Her protection
such poison would be deadly,
even to the highest Divinity.

More than Creator and creation,
Mother is sheer Creativity
beyond the notion of duality.
Universe and Father-God
are thrilling glances
from Her seductive Eyes.
Always pregnant with ecstasy,
She gives birth to manifest Being
from Her Womb of primal Awareness,
nursing it tenderly at Her Breast,
then playfully consumes Her Child.
The world dissolves instantly
upon touching Her white Teeth,
attaining the realization
of Her brilliant Voidness.

The various Divine Forms
that manifest throughout history
take refuge at Her Lotus Feet.
The Essence of Divinity,
the Great Ground of Being,
lies in ecstatic absorption
beneath Her red-soled Feet.

Is Mother simply a Goddess?
Does She need a male consort
to protect or complete Her?
The cycle of birth and death
bows reverently before Her.
Is She simply naked
or is She naked Truth?
No veil can conceal Her.
Her naked radiance slays demons
not with weapons but with splendor.

If Mother is a conventional wife,
why is She dancing fiercely
on the breast of Shiva?
Her timeless play destroys
conventions and conceptions.
She is primal purity,
Her ecstatic lovers are purity.
Purity merges into purity,
with no remainder.

I am totally inebriated
by Her wine of timeless bliss.
The wine cup is Her Name --
Those drunk on ordinary wine
assume I am one of them.

Not everyone will encounter
the dazzling darkness
called Goddess Kali.
Not everyone can consciously receive
the infinite treasure of Her Nature.
The foolish mind refuses
to perceive and accept
that She alone exists.
Even the noble Lord Shiva,
most enlightened of beings,
can barely catch a glimpse
of Her flashing crimson Feet.

The wealth of world-emperors
and the richness of Paradise
are but abject poverty
to those who meditate on Her.
To swim in a single Glance
from Her three Cosmic Eyes
is to be immersed
in an ocean of ecstasy.

Not even Shiva, prince of yogis,
can focus upon Her dancing Feet
without falling into trance.
Yet the worthless lover
who sings this mad song
aspires to conscious union with Her
during waking, dream, and deep sleep.

JC said...

Hi Bart, Nice words from Lex Hixon!
But words cnnot describe a realisatin...

As 'Kali' and human life too is symbolic, "If Mother is a conventional wife,
why is She dancing fiercely
on the breast of Shiva?" could perhaps be better visualised with reference to a volcano that's in the process of eruption when lava flows out of its crater, ie, Kali's mouth, like its protuding red tongue, and flows over the surface of earth ('chest of Shiva')...

JC said...

Having said that, 'I'might as well point out that ancient Yogis or scientists realised human form made from essences of the selected members of our solar system (Mahashhiva), of which earth (Gangadhar Shiva)is realised as the most important member or the central figure whose essence was indicated in human beings at the Ajna chakra ('third eye' level in an inert state, and thus needing activation for 'enlightenment') while the active part, that has essence of moon, is realised located in the Shiva's/ human brain, called 'sahastra-dhaara' or 'sahasrara chakra'...

The story of Neelkantha Shiva holding halahal, or the deadlliest poison, in His throat thanks to amrit provided by Ma Parvati indicates the planet Venus (that cotinues to hold poison in its atmosphere) as the referrred 'throat' of Mahashiva...

JC said...

The scientists in the 'west' in the present also have come to know of Sun as the active central figure in our solar system, and one would note that its essence, the white colour, was indicated by knowledgeable yogis at the solar plexus, ie, the middle of the human form, wheras the highest pedestal in the human head was given to yellow colour the superior most or guru,,,both colours being associated with goddess of knowledge, Saraswati...and, of course, blue is naturally associated with poison because of its observed natural effect on human body when it is consumed,,,and in the stories the colour is associated with Kartikeya (peacock being indicated his vehicle), and also with Neelambar Krishna (the one who wears blue dress), and so also reflected by one of the panchbhootas, the 'sky'...

JC said...

Scientists have also realised our Solar system to be housed towards the outer periphery of our big sized Milky Way Galaxy, one of the innumerable Giant-Wheel-like galaxies (of innymerable stars and planets etc each) that apparently fill the infinite sized ever expanding dark void, or space, existing alone, or in clusters or super clustrs thereof...

Comparatively speaking thus, among all stars our sun is an average star and, compared to it our earth is virtually negligible in size, virtualy a dot (infinite with referrence to its model, man!), or Nadbindu, of the mythology who is unborn and unending, or SHIVA, the oppodite of 'visha' the poison!

JC said...

The large distances involved in the universe is generally indicated by the fact that the unit for measuring distances is reckoned in terms of Light-Years, ie, the distance travelled by light in one year, traveling @ 299.792 (or about 300 000) Km per second,,,and as per some estimates the universe could be 156 Billion Light-years Wide!

And, the sunlight takes about 8 minutes to reach our planet earth and therefore the location in which it appears to us at a given point n time is in fact the location where the sun was 8 minutes ago! And, the distant star, from which the light reaches us in many light-years might in fact in the mean time have ceased to exist (thus what we get to see is not the particular star but, so to say, its apparition or ghost, or bhoot in Hindi, while Shiva is also called Bhootnath!)...