The other day, I saw a tree. It was a tree unlike any other. Its branches did not reach out for the sky. It did not attempt to bear fruit. It stood there, proud and unyielding–an outsider who neither demanded praise nor attention.
I finally get up and get changed. Not that I had any interest in getting ready. I put on some casual pants and a shirt that I didn’t care much for. The thundered roared outside. I didn’t use to like rain much – but ever since my very first Chopda Pujan at Sri Mariamman Temple, I have a new found respect for rain. Mariamman – or Mother Mari – is the Rain Mother. She is a pre-Vedic Tamil folk goddess. In agricultural societies, abundance was contingent on adequate rainfall. Without rain, crops cannot grow healthy and strong.
Beginnings and endings are two sides of the same coin. As Shradh ends, Navratri begins. As the ancestors return to Pitru Loka, Hindus begin their worship of the Goddess Durga. During Navratri (nine nights), devotees venerate the divine femininity which gives birth to all creation. She is ‘Ma’, the Universal Mother. The festival is celebrated in the bright half of the Hindu calendar month Ashvin.
We have a responsibility towards our ancestors. To receive an inheritance is not merely about property and assets, but also comes with a corresponding spiritual legacy that includes their vocation, their belief system, and their way of life.
I’ve been a minority my whole life. In Singapore, I’m Indian. In India, I’m Singaporean. In Britain, I’m Asian. In Japan, I’m a gaigokujin. Foreigner. The essence of who I am is truly lost in all the labels that people keep giving me. I went to the National Gallery in Singapore last weekend, and the docent told me – ‘Enjoy the rest of your stay here’. No, the comment did not annoy me. To be honest, I thought it was quite amusing. Our preconceived notions about who and what people are can be startlingly different from the truth.
One footstep led to the next and before I knew it, I was in front of Sri Mariamman Temple. I felt a strange indescribable sense of deja vu as I gazed at the gopuram of Singapore’s oldest Hindu Temple. I have been here before. I know this place. Its soul reverberates with mine as though the two were one and the same.
On this day of Pratipada Shradhha, I honour your memory and the life you lived on earth. You passed away a decade before I was born, but your teachings have come down to me through the stories and photographs of those who knew you before you even had a granddaughter.
This year, Shradh runs from 13 Sept to 28 Sept 2019. It is believed that during this time, ancestors visit earth in their subtle form to bless their descendants. The kin offer food, money and other gifts to the ancestors as a sign of respect.
In Hinduism, the fortnight of Shradh is the time during which one pays homage to one’s ancestors. We have a responsibility to our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents as they brought us into this world. Their genes are part of our body system and their mental traits influence our thinking.
Samsara, karma and moksha are three concepts that make up some of the main tenets of Hinduism. Samsara is the belief that all living beings are bound to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. The temporary body – which is born and must die – is the vehicle for the eternal soul. Humans – and other living beings – will continue to participate in this cycle of death and rebirth till moksha or liberation from the cycle of life and death. Moksha is seen by many as the ultimate spiritual goal in Hinduism. As to how one can reach moksha liberation – there are disagreements, even amongst Hindus (and Buddhists) as to how to reach this goal.