Today I wake up, earlier than usual, way earlier. I warm up some pure coconut oil and massage it on my hair until my hair is practically dripping of oil. I put my hair up into a messy bun and start of cleaning my home- one room at a time. Cleaning my home is not in my schedule for today, yet I go ahead with it. After brooming and mopping my whole home, I make myself some coffee and sit out on my balcony with my mug! Then I rush around my kitchen and put together an elaborate breakfast for my husband, daughter and myself. Now it is almost 9 AM by the time I bathe and get dressed. I choose to wear something red and fancy and work it up with some nice earrings and rings.
Now that I am all dressed up and ready, I go into my prayer room and start decorating my altar with some roses and jasmines. I put some oil lamps and candles to light up space and then light some incense for good aroma. The aroma of flowers and the incense is simply mind-blowing. Then I place three things in front of the altar, my Parker Pen to depict Knowledge (for Goddess Saraswathi), A Silver coin to depict wealth (for Goddess Lakshmi) and a kitchen knife to depict strength (for Goddess Parvathi). Today is the 9th day of Navaratri festival and it is the day for Ayudha Pooja. It means- a praying ritual for all the weapons- in this context, all the materialistic things that enable us to attain knowledge, wealth and strength.
Our ancestors knew that Knowledge is Wealth is Strength is Knowledge- and the cycle goes on and on. They knew that we need to celebrate these three qualities that are the base for human life on earth. Thus the Navaratri festival and the Ayudha Pooja ritual.
So when I am sitting in from of my altar and meditating, I think back at my morning routine today. It is completely different from my usual, wake up late- have coffee- bathe and get dressed with whatever and rush to office without even having breakfast! Whenever my mom calls, she asks me, “Do you have time to even clean your home?” and I say, “Ma, let me be. I have scheduled cleaning for Sundays.” And that would amaze her. She would say, “How will the goddess bless you with prosperity if you cannot keep your home clean?”
What is the connection?- I would think. All of these superstitions is what has kept us from developing ourselves as well as our country. If keeping the house clean is all it takes, the whole of India should be the most prosperous country in the world! But it isn’t. Most of us have to work two shifts to keep up with the inflation and cost of living! Praying to goddess Saraswathi hasn’t eradicated illiteracy, praying to goddess Lakshmi hasn’t eradicated poverty and praying to goddess Parvathi hasn’t stopped our women from getting molested, harassed and raped! So what is the purpose anyway?
My education and exposure to the world have given me the power of rational thinking! Even so, on an “Auspicious” day like this, my body and mind completely go to cruise control and I automatically start to follow a routine that my parents and the society have instilled in me. As I grew up, I watched the same thing happen to my mom and I am pretty sure it was the same case with her mother too!
It is like that amazing dialogue in the movie “Angels and Demons” which goes, “Science and religion are not at odds. It is just that, there are a few things about religion that science is too young to understand.” (or something along those lines!)
This is just one such thing that my education and rational thinking don’t seem to understand. And it doesn’t bother me either. So this Navaratri festival, I am going to celebrate with all my heart. Today, I am going to celebrate the strength that lies in women and I am going to celebrate myself for being a woman. Today, I am going to let my daughter see me prepare our home and ourselves for the festival just like I saw my mom and she saw hers do.
One day, when my daughter is old enough to understand and starts to think for herself, I am going to tell her that knowledge and rational thinking is great but sometimes culture and traditions are what keeps you connected to your roots. And staying connected to your roots is very important.
After all, when Spirituality is matured enough to celebrate Knowledge, why can’t Education be smart enough to understand and accept Spirituality?