(Written on: 13 August 2009 – during the trip)
I am right now at Haranahalli in Karnataka, 200 km from Bangalore. This is the ancestral village of my father- in-law. We reached here today morning via car, started from Bangalore around 0600 am, arrived 1130 am – after a small breakfast stop on way.
We have come here to witness a religious ocassion, which happens in a place called Amanhalla, few miles from Haranahalli. The villagers from 28 villages in his area perform a puja every year on the banks of a small stream which is considered very sacred. Uniqueness of this puja is that it’s performed without any idol, the stream is considered the deity. Since no particular deity is being worshipped people from all faiths and casts get together to participate in this puja.
Homa (sacred fire offerings) is setup on the banks of the river and final part of puja is perfomed by steping into the stream. In this step the head priest, a lady and few other folks enter the river chanting the sacred hymns, give offerrings to the river : flowers, colors , rice and clothes. The lady performs main parts of the final ritual and at the end they say that the goddess enters the body of the lady.
I saw that the lady started behaving as if something has taken over her body, she started to dip her body in the water and came back out multiple times. Priest and other people who were with her helped her come out of the river and during that time they were also asking her questions – which they belive the goddess is answering through the lady.
As she was coming out of the river other ladies gathered to worship her and take her blessings and soon the ritual was over. People took a final look at the homa and climbed the stairs towards the area in which community lunch was being served to all.
The story of this ritual goes as fellows….
800 years ago, a Muslim boy of the region liked a Hindu girl. She used to go to the river bank every morning to perform puja and the boy used to follow her. On one such day, to avoid the boy, she went and hid in a “deep ditch” in the stream, planning to come out when the boy left. The boy kept waiting and the girl died in the ditch. Villagers believe that after a few days of that incident, the girl re-emerged as a lake a few miles away. And so she was given the status of “devi” (goddess). Since then, every year, the villagers perform the puja on the river banks – where the final offerings are put into the “ditch” in which she had hidden.
Personally I am an atheist and don’t believe in existence of any super natural forces. But I am enjoying being a part of this ocassion, as its given me a chance to come close to rural India. This part of India is still green, non-polluted, people here are simple & hospitable. And of course I am already dying with hunger while I wait for my turn to eat. The food smells yummy…