It is not easy for a wave to negotiate its way through a vibrant ocean.
As the Bandh eased out into the evening, I went to Ramana Kendra in Alamelumangapuram. Today is Sani-Pradosham (Saturday and a Pradosham), doubly holy….The special worship at Ramana Kendra had just finished…I bathed in the compassionate glance of Sri Ramana, took some Prasaadam and stepped out.
It is the Aruvathu-Moovar day. The day the sixty three Naayanmaar icons from Kapaleeshwarar temple go out on a procession….Part of the Panguni festival….And I had not bargained for the ocean that I walked into.
It was a dam-burst of people!
God only knows how many thousand people thronged Mylapore today. There were people all over, and it was sheer magic to be able to move at all – and move one did. Just couldn’t believe that it was the evening of a Bandh day. As I reached the corner of the Kapali temple tank, I became one with the sea….Cops were stationed in strategic structures – helping the crowds move around. ‘Missing person’ announcements were being aired over the loudspeakers….The Kapalishwara temple gopurams, shimmering with electric lights, rose majestically into the evening sky. And up above the world so high, a near full moon beamed on the crowds below….The procession of icons was perhaps over….But you wouldn’t know it, looking at the crowds that overflowed the streets…..
How does one even start to describe the ambience…Men, women and children – creating criss-crossing currents of mass movements….A combination of surrender and survival-instinct enabled one to get into the right current so that one moved in the direction one wanted to…Beyond a certain point, I gave up. The sea of people seemed impossible to weave through. I had walked the length of the road in front of temple….There was just no way I would be able to enter the temple….
I surfed a few waves, and joined a returning current, deciding to go to Ramakrishna Mission’s ‘Universal temple’, if I could…Armed with a little free will, submitting to fate, I walked….What a walk! Hawkers all along the way…Selling all kinds of festival goodies….The whiff of fresh chips being fried in oil…All manners of eats – Puffed rice, dates, coconuts, sweets….Platform shops selling simple toys of all kinds – little fire-engines, animals, hand-held shimmering fans….’kwality walls’ ice creams….and amidst all this, people were distributing biscuits, pongal, tamarind rice etc to one and all….Water stalls…..And thousands of people….No way for even a bicycle to be driven….In all this hustle-bustle, one felt no apprehension. The crowd had its own intelligence. Like an ocean with a mind….One and all deftly avoided stepping on and crushing the alms-seeking, cod-piece clad person lying right in the middle of the road, chanting “Govindo! Govindo!”…Families somehow trying to stay together as they walk, holding on to each other’s shoulders, dresses….
I managed to reach Ramakrishna Mission…People were sitting all over the place in the front courtyard….Families just sitting….eating….chatting….I could imagine Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna) beaming with delight seeing the pilgrims….and surely the sight of the Aruvatti-Moovar icon procession would have sent him into deep Samadhi….
Leaving my chappals in the footwear stand, I walked up the steps….The evening Arati of Sri Ramakrishna was on….
Thakur was dressed in pink. Like the gowns of a convocation ceremony….A brahmachari was waving the lights, the whisk etc, as the Arati song filled the hall…”Aarati tumhaar…jaya jaya aarati tumhaar….siva siva Aarati tumhaar…..”….The Bengali song composed by Swami Vivekananda, sung by Sanyaasis and Brahmacharis of the Mission – full throated sonorous voices….The worshipping Brahmachari, holding a pink full-blown lotus, touching different parts of Thakur, and finally, placing it delicately, in the interlocked hands that Thakur holds on his lap, as he sits in Padmasan….Brahmacharis with tufts, sanyaasis in ochre…and Thakur! What holiness!
It was past 7pm…
Stepping out, one looked up at the moon lighting up the night sky. Feeling ever so blessed, one took a deep breath, became a wave and walked back into the ocean….