Saturday, October 25, 2014

SATYANARAYANA PUJA- from Khattar Kaka of Hari Mohan Jha

SATYANARAYANA PUJA Sipping lassi, Vikatakavi Uncle was in an ecstatic state. I went over to him and said, “Uncle, today there’s Satyanarayana Puja at “Really? I hope in the name of satyam, truth, puja of asatyam, untruth, is not going on, son,” Uncle asked. I plugged my ears and said, “Ramarama! Uncle, you shouldn’t be making fun of god like this.” “You’re the one who is ridiculing god,” Uncle said, smilingly. “How?” “Look at the puja method. How sixteen kinds of puja are being performed? “First the god is invited and offered a seat. ‘Please come here. Come and take your seat.’ Then water to wash the feet and face. Offer light refreshments. Water to bathe. New clothes. Offer flowers, garland, sandal, incense sticks, camphor and other aromatic things. Then, many kinds of naivedyam, offering of “Then the god is addressed like this - ‘Tuck in many kinds of sweets such as pindi vantalau, payasam cooked with sugar and pure ghee’. “The lucky ones who would tuck them in, of course, are different. Yet, ludicrously even betel leaf and areca nut are kept in front of the idol. ‘I am offering pan, spiced with camphor and cloves. Accept it with love and make my happiness grow.’ “At the end, they stand up, give arathi, lighted camphor worship, and clang the bell metal announcing people to disperse. ‘Now the puja is over. Now feel satisfied. Now you may go home. Forgive if a mistake has occurred.’ “Arey! What is this farce? And what are the objects of such worship? Worn down tiny little black stones of the size of gulabjam or blue berries!” “Narmadeswaram and Salagram are the symbols of Siva and Vishnu, Uncle said smiling, “Are! Narmadeswara means ‘...’ means ‘god of fun and frolic’. Thanks to puja of Salagram, in this big village, this entertainment has been arranged for so many people. Besides, there’s distribution of laddu of huge quantity. This farce is cheaper than a cinema. There’s no need to purchase a ticket. And at the end, they give prasad too. This is more solemn than the games children play because elders and even the old people participate in the puja. Further, it doesn’t occur to anyone that something funny is going on here. Girls play dressing up a doll as a bride. You play god making him a guest as though Salagram is your daughter’s father-in-law.” “What is that about, Uncle?” “Observe carefully. You do the same things in the puja that are done when the bridegroom arrives with his father. Offer a seat first. Then hand over water. Then follow bath, refreshments, garland of flowers, sandal, and food with the sweetmeats, pan, and cloths and at the end urging forgiveness for mistakes, if any. There’s just one difference. The Salagram is bathed with a little quantity of water. The food offered remains intact. In the name of cloth, even a cotton strand would do. In one hour, the bell is rung off bidding people goodbye. ‘Please go home.’ If the groom’s father is told ‘you may go now’ what would happen? It would be disastrous, wouldn’t it be? But god is not the groom’s father. Samdhee means ‘a person of equal intelligence’. If the god has the same intelligence as the householder, then god alone should protect us.” “But along with the puja, a story also is told, isn’t it?” I asked. “Yes, if the puja is a play, the story, a novel. The spectators are given a treat to the eye and the ear.” “Uncle, there must be some profound meaning in the story?” Uncles picked up Satyanarayana Vratha story and said, “Then listen to the gist of this story which the priest will recite tonight after blowing the conch. Once upon a time, in Naimisa forest, a conference was held for the benefit of the world, the purpose of which was to divine an easy route to remove the misery and pain of mankind with least expense and time and labour. “Suta, who presided over the conference said, ‘Once in Vaikunta, Narada too asked Vishnu the same question - “That means, ‘People on the earth are suffering a lot. Please tell an easy way to help them, Swamy’. “Then the most munificent god revealed this - “That means, people would be rid of all their sufferings if they perform Satyanarayan puja traditionally’. “That’s not all. The god also told the method of the puja and the account of prasad as well! “That means ‘Prepare Prasad with bananas, ghee, milk, sugar, wheat flour. If wheat flour is not available, rice flour will do. And if there’s no sugar, use jaggery.’ God is kind. So kind that he didn’t forget to tell the substitutes if wheat flour and sugar are not available. “After spending a life time, Bhagawan Buddha found ashtanga marga, the eight fold path, as a relief for the sufferings. That must be reckoned as a path strewn with difficulties compared to Satyanarayana Puja which solved the problem in a trice and showed mishtannna path which is so easy- ‘Everyone has to take prasad with love. There must be programmes of music and dance. Food must be served to the friends and relatives along with the ‘If it’s done like this, man would be rid of all troubles and would attain “There cannot be an easier method than this,” Uncle said. I said, “But...” Uncle said, “Four proofs have been given in reply this ‘but’- to silence the critics. These strengthen the belief in the mind of the devotees. And they would be inspired to perform the puja.” Uncle leafed through the pages of the story book and said, “The first story is about a poor Brahmin of Kasi. God is kindness personified. He saw the Brahmin begging and said,- “Satyananarayana, who is another form of Vishnu, would fulfil all desires. So you worship him. ‘Perform his vrata, which is par excellence.’ “That day itself, the Brahmin got lot of money. He performed the puja. When he found puja yielding profit, he began to perform puja every month. ‘He was rid of all sorrow, sins and possessed every single means of pleasure. Finally, he attained salvation too which was difficult even for the yogis Finding that I was looking at Uncle in disbelief, he resumed. “In Kasi, there’s no count of Brahmin beggars. Why then did the god bestow his kind benevolence on only that Brahmin? And what did he advise him? Not to revolt but to perform his puja. Let that pass. How come there are hordes of beggars there despite knowing very well the path to get rid of penury? Why can’t those miserable people have the sense to know that they should borrow if need be and collect ghee, sugar, and other ingredients for performing puja once? They would surely have mouthful of sugar, ghee everyday thereafter, wouldn’t they?” “Uncle, are these stories all of the same kind?” “Of course, they are. I call this propaganda. Listen to this. A woodcutter performed puja. Then the wood he sold fetched twice as much! “Later on because of the puja, he acquired wealth, son, heaven, et al. Likewise, Angadhwaja, a king also performed the puja. He also got everything. ‘Because of the power of the puja, he acquired wealth and a son. He enjoyed all the pleasures of this world and left for Satya Lok.’ “Hey! What’s all this but publicity? It’s as though a broker or an insurance agent is talking.” “They all sound like fairly tales meant for the kids, don’t they?” I said. “Indeed. There’s one story which is captivating though. That story to an extent reveals the nature of your Satyanarayana Swamy,” Uncle said. “Is it the story of Leelavathi-Kalavathi?” I asked. “Yes. You might have heard it.” I piped up. “I haven’t. In any case, it’ll be great fun to hear it from you.” “Then, listen to it. A merchant performed puja. Then, ‘...’ “His wife conceived. Due to Satyanarayana’s grace, a beautiful girl was born. She was named ‘Kalavathi’. The merchant vowed that he would again perform puja at her marriage time. But unfortunately, the poor fellow forgot about it. The god was angry and cursed him – “You play games with me, do you? You vowed to perform the puja and didn’t. Look at what I can do. Let untold sufferings be yours,” he cursed. “Listen to the next part of the story. The merchant went with his son-in-law over to another kingdom for business. There was a theft in the palace of that king, Chandraketu. As ordained by god, the thieves left the booty at where the merchant and his son-in-law were lodged. The soldiers recovered the booty and arrested the two. The king relieved them of all their money and sent them to the prison. They both sobbed and pleaded, but, ‘No one cared to hear them due to the maya of Satyanarayana.’” “Such a thing would cast aspersion on the character and nature of God, won’t it, Uncle?” “How does it matter if the god is besmirched so long as the bags of the disciples are filled with prasad? What else is needed? If the god is not depicted like this, would people be afraid of god? And if they are not scared, why would they offer puja ingredients? Don’t take Satyanarayana for an ordinary god. He’s no less than the police inspector. Cry or laugh, but you must pay up what is due to him. Otherwise, he’ll foist a case on you, commit you to the jail and inflict pain “How can there be affection for such a god?” “Hey, where there’s no fear, there can’t be affection. Ordinary people perform puja more out of fear than affection. If they are convinced that nothing will come or go because of Salagram, then they will take it straight to the Salagram River and throw it away. Things in the world don’t work on account of kindness and affection. That’s why Satyanarayana is converted into an embodiment of revenge.” “How did the merchant and his son-in-law come out of it all?” I asked. “That part is even more interesting. The mother and daughter who stayed at home came to know that their husbands were languishing in the prison. One night, Kalawathi returned home late. ‘Where were you until so late in night?’ asked the mother-in-law. Kalawathi replied that she was delayed by Satyanarayana puja. The moment she heard this, she remembered her vow. Without a moment’s delay, she performed the puja and prayed to god - ‘Forgive the crime of my husband and my son-in-law.’ “The god was satisfied and appeared in king Chandraketu’s dream and said ‘Return the money to the merchants and let them go. Else, I’ll destroy your kingdom, your wife and children and the rest.’ “Hey, how could he be a god? He could pass off for an evil Saniswara though. He would think nothing short of complete ruination of anyone who crossed his path. What would poor Chandraketu do? He paid the merchants two times their money and said, ‘O! Revered souls, now do me the favour of returning to your homes. Let me live in peace.’ “Uncle, what was the mistake of Chandraketu that god should be so angry “He must have suddenly remembered that Kalavati’s youth was withering away and that her husband must have been imprisoned by the evil king. It didn’t occur to him that all this happened due to his maya. Hey, son! How much time does it take the mighty and the chameleon to change colours?” Uncle smiled and continued. “There was this Ugradeva Sastry. One day he rushed to his wife to throttle her just because there was a slight delay in serving food to him. But when she came opposite him with hot, hot puris, he was immensely pleased and adorned her neck with a necklace. Next day, there was excess salt in pappu. He instantly snatched the necklace from her. To me, this god is no better than Ugradeva Sastry. ‘Display anger for one moment and joy, the next.’ In anger he got the merchant arrested and got him released being pleased with his wife Kalawati. Not like a god but like a dictatorial feudal lord.” Uncle took a little snuff and resumed. “The story has not ended yet. When the merchant got his cargo loaded on the ship and was returning, god appeared before him in the form of a mendicant and asked him, ‘What is there in the ship?’ The merchant grew suspicious. He didn’t know who he was. Why was he asking about the cargo? He wondered and wanted to get rid of him by saying something. ‘The cargo in the ship is loaded with hay and the like,’ he said. God waited for an opportunity like this, didn’t he? He added a sentence to what the merchant said. ‘...’ ‘May your words come true!’ Then what? The entire cargo turned into hay. The merchant was inconsolable. God watched all this, merrily as though saying, ‘This is my power. Scoundrel, you wanted to deceive me, didn’t you? Now enjoy the punishment.’ “Look at this. Why did he go there in disguise, concealing his true identity? What was this if not deception? And how the merchant not telling the truth to a stranger in self defence can be called deception! Is this what god should do? Is this god’s justice? All right. The merchant promised – ‘Be kind to me. From now on I’ll worship you to the fullest extent.’ “Then god was pleased and returned the goods to him. This god proved himself to a notch above the sales tax officer.” “So, anyhow he returned home safely, didn’t he?” I asked. “Not so soon! The story is not over yet! When Kalawathi received the news at home, she ran towards the river to meet her husband. In her haste, she forgot to take god’s prasad. “What else? God again turned a police inspector. ‘He was overcome with anger and drowned her husband, his wealth and the goods in the river. Kalawathi swooned and fell down. Her parents began to cry aloud. Then once again god heckled and said, ‘O! You have come running to meet your husband, leaving my prasad behind, to insult me, haven’t you? Now hear this. Until you go and eat prasad, your husband would stay drowned in the river like this.’ What choice did Kalawati have? She ran home, ate prasad, and returned after satisfying the god’s whim.” Uncle cut the nuts and said, “Tell me this. Why should god be so envious of a young woman who was stressed out and who went in haste to meet her long lost husband? Such competitive attitude is seen among the villains in cinemas. Why in god? Actually he should be happy that Kalawati worshipped her husband more than the god. But he turned a competitor. Finally Kalawathi went to Satya Lok where that god is stationed. I don’t know how she put up with him there. As for me, I’m terrified to hear the name Satyanarayana.” “Uncle, why are there four stories in Satyanarayana puja where one would have sufficed?” “It’s with a view to force people of all classes to perform the puja that a representative has been taken from each of the four varnas - Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya, Sudra. A poor Brahmin became rich. A king got a son. A Vysya got a daughter. A woodcutter got plenty of profit. This is the gist of all these stories. Such things happen routinely day and night all around us, puja or no puja. When Lilawati conceives, what’s so special about that incident? What puja has this Abdul Miyan performed that he has a dozen children? And Chowdary’s wife hasn’t conceived even though she has got the story recited every month. Would monthly menstrual activity cease because of monthly puja? Poor Sharma! He has been blowing the conch all his life. He couldn’t even have a proper roof over his house. On the other hand, thanks to black marketing, Varala Setty has built a three- storied house. Why hasn’t your Satyanarayana seized all his money as “Do you mean that there is no satyam, truth, in Satyanarayana story?” “Think for a while. From start to the finish, Satyanarayana appears like one who is greedy, self-centred, and villainous. He has been depicted as worse than a human being. In fact, he has been reduced to the status of a monkey, which often threatens and flicks off the fruit and later returns it merrily. How could devotion and not disgust be generated about such a god?” I said, “But it has been said that the result of puja would be indeed great, Uncle replied, “True. ‘...’ (One who performs puja will acquire wealth. He’ll win everywhere.) What I ask is very simple. If both the contestants perform puja, who would win? The story says that the desire of the person who performs puja will be fulfilled. “Whether the desire of the householder who performs the puja will be fulfilled or not is not known but the priest’s desire will be certainly fulfilled forthwith. Because the scholar who wrote this story didn’t forget to write this- ‘After hearing this story till the end, everyone must make an offering to the “If the Brahmin is not given his due, even Brahma would turn against you.” “Do you mean to say that the story has been created only to fleece the householders of their money and get prasad?” “What else? ‘If you allow your ear to be pierced, you’ll get jaggery’ is how the children are enticed. Similarly, the householder is enticed. ‘Distribution of jaggery and banana mixed in milk will beget a son.’ The list is long. Then what? Innocent people will clamour to do this, much like the children falling for a fake watch sold for ten paise. How can anyone be saved from falling prey to fake things? Even if they are told the truth, would they care? Likewise, what can be said of people who fill a pot with milk and mix banana and jaggery in that and expect a son or a daughter or heaven in return? The country is known for herd mentality. That’s why in this country adulterers grow wealthy while the adherents of the truth live in utter poverty.” “Uncle, what is the solution?” Uncle said in a tone of finality, “If possible, worship the real Satyadeva. Wherever untruth, injustice, deceit, gambling, corruption, black marketing, conspiracy to defeat the truth exist, go there and blow the conch of truth. Awaken the people. Lead the society towards the truth. That’s the true satyavratha. That’s worship of satya. If that kind of worship begins, then heaven will descend on the earth. Then nothing would be unavailable. (When the truth is worshipped, there’s nothing in the world which cannot English version: by Chandrahas Originally Harimohan Jha has written in Maithili, translataed in Hindi. ***

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