Fading out of Puratassi essence and symbols.
Govinden pooja in the month of Puratassi has its root in South India where other Puratassi festivals are celebrated between mid-September to mid-October. This festival in Mauritius dates back over more than half a century. Please correct me if I am mistaken. In the year 1980s there was an eagerness to spread such celebration even outside temples and each and every religious groups across the country made it part of their dharma to make it one of the most important celebration to honour Lord Maha Vishnu. The observance of Purattasi has also been transmitted by participation, from parents to their children and I am one of this illustration. At home, we celebrate Govinden since the past 45 years.
At that time, Govinden was celebrated with religious fervour and strong bhakti was seen and felt in the eyes of bhaktans. Today, a few may also miss the start of Viratham (fasting) on account that it is too long period and hence, inconvenient. People lack the vigorous attitude which was cultivated years back.
There is no doubt that the efficaciousness of this celebration is being reviewed constantly by many socio-religious groups who have no spiritual knowledge about Govinden. Fasting and abstention from consuming non-vegetarian foods are becoming optional and its meritorious effects are being questioned by some ignorant and even discouraged by other Hindu-Tamil sect.
The symbols used in Purattasi period of worship have been generally handed down from generation to generation mainly through involvement and participation. Unfortunately, over the past years I could see a gradual decline in the following form:
- No ‘Vishnu Namam’ is borne on the forehead by devotees during Govinden pooja. The V or U shape on our forehead is a strong symbol of Lord Vishnu. The Namam is a vertical shape with two vertically converging white stripes joining at a point met by a red vertical stripe.
- The left-side white stripe represents Lord Brahma, creating lives.
- The right-side white stripe represents Lord Shiva resolving and dissolving lives.
- And the centre red stripe represents Lord Vishnu himself protecting lives.
- Nowadays, devotees contradictorily wear holy ash during Govinden pooja, which is usually used to honour Shiva. My point is that Govinden pooja is a Vaishnava celebration and it should be celebrated in a Vaishnava way.
- No Thulasi Theertam is served during celebrations to end your fasting day. The Thulasi plant which is also posed next to the Maha Villakku (Big Oil Lamps) is missing.
- There is an exaggeration of fancy and unwanted artificial decorations which has no meaning to Lord Vishnu. These works satisfy the ego of the builders only. It is for the eyes only. The effort is also on the folkloric dance and music vibes and not much on its meaning. Similarly, the focus while dancing is on the audience rather than on the holy and respected Maha Villakku or Lord Vishnu while circumbulating.
- The sound and vibration of Shankh(Conch) blown at the start of pooja is totally unheard in temples. Lord Vishnu usually hold it in the form of weapon. As per holy scriptures by the command of Lord Vishnu the deities such as the Moon, Sun and Varun are stationed at the base of the shankh, the deity Prajapati on its surface and all the places of pilgrimage like Ganga and Saraswati in its front portion. Yet another specialty of shankhis that the vibrations emanating on blowing it destroys the disease-causing germs in the atmosphere.
- The Kambam light and scintillating Villakku which usually remain lit from 6pm to 6am over the next day is extincted during midnight because the organisers or devotees may have no spiritual matter to sustain the celebration overnight.
- Chanting of special hymn and mantra which usually send immense positive energy into the environment as well as churning devotee’s mind and heart is lacking. Recital of Vishnu Sahasranama is rare. The ‘Sattumurai’ which is the recitation of Tamil Prabandham of the Alvars are unknown to the great majority. Those who know the Nalayira prabandhan in Tamil would recite it; but because the new generation of devotees are not taught which would have given them the opportunity to recite hymns in Tamil language.
Today, I am writing these few lines with a heavy heart because the unaware wants to lead those who are aware; the unknown are leading the known and the unknowledgeable are leading us into further darkness. Very often we forget the very basics to honour Lord Vishnu. In the Bhagavad-Gita the Supreme Lord says:
yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
tadatmanam srjamy aham (4:7).
This means, ‘Whenever and wherever, there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend myself.
I conclude by reaffirming that proper Vaishnava religious rituals for the celebration of Purattasi, forms the foundation of our real essence. If we keep on missing or skipping these fundamentals, there is no essence in the celebration of Govinden.
Aum Namo Narayana!
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