Sunday, March 11, 2007

Achan's Shashtipoorthi (Feb 2007)

The sixtieth birthday of an individual is called a shashtipoorthi and is a very important ceremony for hindus. On this day the person's children offer prayers for the well being of their parents and the parents get married again. This of course assumes that the parents are still together .. something that is not guaranteed in modern times. I will however excuse the learned sages on this point as, while throwing a few beads and looking at stars might give them a glimpse into the next few years, a few millennia is a long time to look ahead (the oldest veda was written at roughly 1200 BC).

This year was my father's shashtipoorthi. Father's actual birth date is a matter of huge debate in our family. What we know for sure is that he was born sometime in the year that India won her independence. He was born in a joint family with over a hundred members and keeping track of a hundred birthdays is no small matter. Moreover if they start celebrating birthdays, they would end up celebrating everyday. So he grew up never knowing what a birthday was. It was on the 10th of Feb 1951 that dad was sent to enrol in school. They asked him his birthday. He dint know what a birthday was and With all the wisdom of a four year old mind, he assumed that 'birthday' was the same as 'today' and so he said his birthday was feb 10th. Thus his birthday became feb 10th.

It so happened that dad and mom were visiting us in feb this year and so we decided to conduct father's shashtipoorti here in Hyderabad. The first thing was to get a priest. Sonu and I went down to a nearby temple and spoke to the person there. He was quite knowledgeable and after agreeing to hire him we had a very pleasant conversation fixing up the time. It was as follows.

priest : The best time to conduct prayers is from 4 to 6
Me : Wow, that's very convenient .. I thought it would be sometime in the morning.
priest : (giving me a strange look) .. It is in the morning
Me : What!! ... w . w .. why!!!!
priest : It's bhrama muhurtham .. when all the gods are out of heaven and roaming around in our world. If they see us offering prayers at this time, we will get twice the blessing
Me : No no no no no .. half the blessing should be more than enough.
Sonu : (pulling me away from there) "So that's settled, Nishant will come to the temple at 3 and pick you up.

I now understand why all hindu rituals have to start at wee hours of the morning. Someday I am going to do intense meditation, get an audience with the gods and ask them to move their sight seeing to a better time. To top it all I had to pick up the priest an hour before 4. With the bath taking and getting ready I decided it would be better to fore go sleep for the night. Dad and mom too had come round to the same view and we sat up on the night of feb 9th all set to not sleep at all. Talked and talked about my childhood and dad's childhood and mom's childhood. They say that you can talk and talk about these things. They are wrong. By midnight we were all out of stories. At 2:30 sonu woke me up and said I was snoring too loudly and the baby was waking up because of that. I would have muttered a few curses .. but what if any of the gods were out early .. not that I am scared of them .. heh heh!! I pulled myself out of bed, took a bath and went and picked up the priests.

They had already arranged all the stuff and at the dot of 4 they started the ceremony. I think we need to employ more priests in government offices. Since it was almost a redo of the wedding ceremony, both dad and mom had to sit. Seeing mom struggle to fold her legs under her I could see that it wasn't my fault I wasn't flexible. No sir .. it isn't the fault of the overeating sedentary lifestyle of mine. It isn't because I don't stretch or run .. it's the genes. When I get to heaven I'm going to get a good lawyer and I am going to sue my ancestors. two assumptions here ..1) I can find a lawyer in heaven 2) I go to heaven. As time progressed mom's discomfort grew and grew. Her face started to take on comic expressions. Just when she thought she couldn't do it anymore they asked mom and dad to get up. The ceremony was on in full swing. they had lit a fire and invoked all the gods and goddesses and after having offered prayers to please them dad and mom were to get married in their presence. One of the rituals was to pour a pot of water over the couple's head. The water was kept out the previous night and it was a particularly cold night. I could see dad and mom freeze as the water was poured. Mom later told me that the water even numbed the pain in her knees. Note to myself .. if I have a shashtipoorthi .. there will be no water pouring stuff. They exchanged garlands and dad gave mom a kiss too to top it off. The priest sat down and explained the significance of all the rituals he had done to us. It was a really nice feeling sitting there and listening to the person talk. Finally I dropped him back and dad and mom went over and visited the temple to close out the ceremony.


Pratibha said...

The whole ceremony was good...the best part was achan giving a kiss to amma :)

Sarada said...

nishanth...ur style of writin is wonderful...its so hilarious....i wanted to just read abt ur daughter and ended up readin all de articles.....ur really a gifted writer..

Hari said...

hehehe... that was one real hilarious write-up.

Anonymous said...

hey my dad's 60th birthday is this year too...