Shri Ramakrishna Sharanam
Aum Namo Narayanaya
For many Tongaat or North Coast residents who read the blog last week, some sort of curiosity reared its head with regards to the festivities that I named that occur over the Easter weekend. Many asked the question as to why I did not make mention of the Brake Village Kavady which is the biggest Panguni Uthiram Kavady in the Southern Hemisphere. With well over 20 000 well wishers, spectators and devotees as well as approximately 1000 kavadies bringing Tongaat to a virtual standstill - I figured that being the patriot I am, especially for my town of birth, it deserved an entire blog for itself. For those who have not experienced it as yet, it is worth your consideration during next year’s holiday plans to KwaZulu-Natal.
For as long as I can remember, residents of Tongaat dare not venture out during Easter... lest they miss this mela or mass gathering in the name of prayer, culture and festivity. The streets were jammed with devotees clad in yellow and orange -all adorning a sense of faith and devotion- sublime and focused on pleasing the eternally beautiful and valiant Lord Muruga as He leads the procession on His majestic chariot exotically decorated with handpicked marigolds drawn by hundreds of bhaktas chanting at the top of their voices (as if it were their last life breath) "Harooooo Haraaaaa" along the 1,5km route to the Temple. There is no place for the casual pedestrian as every inch of space en-route is swallowed by the tens of thousands of onlookers along the way. This spectacular parade of kavadies adorned with lush marigolds and new cloth looks like a sea of yellow water... with the dancing vels and mayils (peacock feathers) giving the effect of choppy waves... will tease the emotions of even of the most resilient heart.
This, dear brothers and sisters, is the beauty of Hindu dharma and all its associated practices. The realised sages who initiated these festivities and rituals etc, made it relevant to all. Even the ignorant onlookers can benefit from the ritual. As Swami Vivekananda said: "Our duty is to encourage everyone in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive at the same time to make the ideal as near as possible to the truth". That is, at which ever level a man may be, we much encourage him, not dissuade him from that level to reach as high as he can to the truth.
What is the idea that we derive by being an onlooker at this festival? From where I was standing, I was able to catch a panoramic view of the procession which was in the following order. At the front was the few hundred devotees pulling the main deity in the chariot. This was followed by the huge sea of kavadies.
The sea of kavadies represents the ocean of samsara. We are born in the world due to our past actions or karmas. When we acquire a body, with it comes bondages which brings pain - physical and emotional. To remove these, many devotees undertake vows and carry the kavady to ask God to help them remove their ailments and sufferings. Caught up in this net of maya, we fail to recognise that the human birth is also a life-line to break away from the cycle of bondage. Yet in ignorance, and caught up with attachment to this life, we cannot see further to the freedom that lies ahead.
The chariot with the Lord enshrined - is the highest truth or ideal of God realisation. A hundred or so devotees compared to a thousand at the rear only emphasises how the mass prefer to indulge the senses and remain in the ocean of samsara while only a few make the concerted effort to swim in the ocean of eternal bliss.
Upon analysis... if we look closer... we would find that those devotees who are pulling the chariot essentially only place their hand on the rope - little or no effort is needed in moving the chariot. They enjoy their time immersed in the glory of God’s name. Yet if you look at the rear, we find devotees yoked with a kavady, bearing needles and pins, and restricted with movement within the framework of the kavadies. But these conditions are the incubator to develop and ripen your devotion to God. As Master Shri Ramakrishna said: "The cover of the mango is purely there to ensure that the delicious inside of the mango ripens, thereafter it is discarded".
In the same manner, taking this birth, all the trials and tribulations are the skin of the mango - it helps you to cultivate devotion and love for God. Once that is achieved, we are ready to leave the ocean of samsara and join the ocean of ananda.
Therein in lays the secret dear friends: the application of the viveka or discriminative faculty. Do we want to continue to perpetuate the cycle of bondage? If not we must translate the bhakti that we derive from these various rituals into a motion for freedom. Utilise the bhakti to churn the mind and heart to reveal the divinity that we are.
Let us make the migration from the rear to the front, to the highest position with the Lord - free of obstacles, pain and suffering. If whatever we have done in our past results in our present, it only makes sense then that what we do now will determine our future. Hence, we can boldly say that our destiny is in our hands.
Although extremely difficult due to the strong influences of maya... muster the strength to steer clear of adharmic activity. Live a life that projects honesty, love, selflessness, compassion, integrity and peace. This is your VIP pass to an existence of total peace and eternal bliss.
May Lord Muruga help us reach the highest truth, is my sincere prayer.
With love and prayers always