Major Dakshinamurti and the Farm House, Bengaluru
UG, as was his wont, decided to make this tiny room into his new abode. Accordingly it had been given a facelift with a fresh coat of paint and all the necessary repairs carried out to make it comfortable and convenient for his stay.
Great love and care had gone into making the tacky room sport an elegant look. Furnishings included a printed paper chart showcasing famous world currencies, fastidiously decorating the northern wall of the room. This symbolised the abode of the Hindu God of Wealth, Kubera, believed to be the resident of the northern heavens.
UG , picking on the greenback from the chart, merrily remarked, " Do you know that these days the US dollar has become a worthless currency? They call it the Banana Republic!"
It had been decided to perform a small ritual, 'pooja' to mark the occasion of UG's entry into the new abode. Priests had arrived to perform rituals. UG's presence made the occasion special and turned it into an opportunity to discover the ancient wisdom behind the Hindu 'Grihapravesam', the Eastern equivalent of 'house warming' ceremony.
The moment the priests began recitation of mantras or hymns, UG abandoned his chair and took a seat on the floor amongst us, squatting like an obedient school boy! He sat through the whole ritual silently.
Many people had gathered to witness the event. As the ceremony came to a close, someone in the assembly expressed the desire to know the meaning of the hymns chanted during the ceremony.
UG picked on a friendly soul, an adept in ritual as well as an exponent of the scriptures to help us know what the ceremony was all about. The kind gentleman explicated the significance of the Sanskrit hymns used during the ritual . Even UG listened intently.
This ancient ritual highlighted the timeless wisdom of sages from a bygone era that flowed mellifluously in the form of hymns paying rich tribute to all forms of life in the surroundings. The hymns addressed every creature that walked, crawled or flew in the environs. Even the vegetation was part of thanksgiving - the grass, the plants and the trees that stood on the plot before and after the house was built were accosted in the prayer!
The hymn typified a universal prayer sent out to all bipeds (द्विपदे), quadrupeds (चतुष्पदे) living and breathing on the holy ground, it was a prayer to the subterranean creatures living in burrows, beneath the ground and to creatures perching on trees or flying about in the air. Every life form was accosted with greatest of humility and supplication.
Hymns included solemn and sincere apologies, straight from the heart, making amends for loss of life or limbs of the young, near and dear ones of every life form on the plot. Forgiveness was sought from every spirit that had undergone suffering while digging the earth, uprooting the trees, generally for all suffering caused while making way for the new abode.
Furthermore, all creatures in the vicinity were now being formally informed, through the ritual, about the intention of the new resident to share the piece of earth and air that originally belonged to them. Prayers were being offered and entreaties were being made seeking permission and approval by every creature around to acquire and share the living space.
It was such a sombre and humbling experience to partake of this great wisdom that held every living form in such high esteem. We were momentarily transported to a different world, it deeply touched a chord in every heart. We could for the first time visualise the entire ecosystem and its varied dimensions being populated by a multitude of life forms.
We felt blessed that we had been audience to this great ritual and its rarest and most profound exposition on ecology. The purity and serenity of the sagely voice succinctly echoed the vastness, the greatness, the interconnectedness and the interdependence of life – in short, the hymn was a celebration of Life !
UG nodded his approval acknowledging the correctness of the interpretation of hymns and thanked the interpreter. Pointing to the abundant anthills that stood all around the farm house, suggesting large presence of snakes on the plot, he poignantly remarked,
“ We have no business to come and stay here! We are encroaching into their private space. In fact, we have no right to complain about them!
Normally snakes are peaceful and will never harm any humans. But if you are afraid, you will emit certain odours, they sense danger and will be the first to take action.
We humans have become such a threat to every living creature. Very rarely someone gets bitten by a snake but we become so paranoid that we thoughtlessly and mercilessly kill hundreds and thousands of snakes. They play a very big role in bringing about ecological balance. If there are no snakes, there will be no one to check the field rats, they will become abundant. The field rats will have a field day and finish off all our crops.
Strange that we do not realise this simple truth that every living form has a role and is essential for our own survival!"
Shortly after moving into the farmhouse, Major began encountering snakes right inside his kitchen and bedroom. UG's words to exercise caution and restraint and to treat the creatures gently had left its impact! He would sometimes fix his meal right under the supervision of a cobra crawled up on the kitchen platform!