Happy Lakshmi Puja!
Today is Lakshmi Puja for us Assamese. Or, as we like to say, Lokkhi Puja. In fact, it is a double whammy for us since Kati Bihu also falls today. Kati Bihu is a relatively solemn and low-key event, unlike the other two rumbustious Bihus, Bhogali (harvest festival) and Rongali (spring festival). This day, we light a single diya under the tulsi plant and seek blessings for a good crop.
I have always had a love-hate relationship with God. I remember running to the Puja room at my grandparents place during cricket matches and praying fervently for India’s win. All nine of us cousins would prostrate in front of the idols and ask God to make the opposing side lose horrendously. During those days, there would be frequent power cuts, and while we didn’t mind it going off during study hours in the evening, we would be driven crazy if there was a power cut in the middle of a cricket match. We would then create a ruckus and gallivant around the courtyard furiously to burn the restless energy within us. My younger uncle found out an inimitable way of keeping us quiet and controlled.
“You want the power to come back?” he would ask.
“YES!” we would all answer in unison.
“Then sit down cross-legged, close your eyes and send your prayers silently to God. Ask him to return electricity to our house. Only if you are absolutely sincere with your prayers, shall God listen to you.”
And we would do that. Silence would pervade through the household as we sat down on the floor, praying quietly. My aunts must have thanked my uncle gratefully as they got on with their chores, undisturbed.
But like I said, I have had some amazing conversations with God. On one hand, I would be bribing Him with promises of offering diyas/flowers/what-nots, and on the other hand, I would be threatening Him with dire consequences such as “I shall not speak to you ever again!” Yeah, God knows me quite well by now.
Coming back to Lakshmi Puja, I remember the way Ma used to carry out the rituals in our home. After all the preparations were done, she would recite the ‘Lokkhi pasali’ in a lyrical manner and I would be ready with a hundred questions. The ‘pasali’ essentially listed out, amongst others, what virtues a lady had to hold as per Goddess Lakshmi. “What does that mean?”, “Why did Lakshmi Devi say like that?” The questions would be endless and although one should not pause while reciting the ‘pasali’, Ma took out time to answer after bowing her head to the Goddess before and after every pause. Soon, I learnt to read and write and replaced my mom at the Puja, chanting the very same words she used to utter.
But then, I am not very good at remembering all the rituals or the steps required to perform the Puja on my own, in my own household. I guess I depended too much on my mom. Maybe this time I should rely on the ‘Lakshmi Pooja Pack’ that contains everything for the Puja, right from the basic materials to an audio CD. Maybe that would ensure that I don’t look lost in front of my husband and in-laws.
My reasons for praying have increasingly become less selfish since the time I became a wife and a mother. While earlier I used to pray for the train/bus to be on time, or my house to be protected against thieves (I am a paranoid person), nowadays I find myself wishing well for my family, my sister's family, my sisters-in-law's family and so on. Still selfish, and yet the range has expanded. And now, given the worsening condition of the environment and the state of wildlife, I shall be praying for betterment of their lives, for sure.
I hope this Lakshmi Puja, God (and Goddesses) forgive(s) me for all the threatening messages that I had issued against Him/Her. But since we are friends, I am sure in no time the whole cycle of prayers-bribe-threats-forgiveness will start all over again!
(This post was written for Womens Web and Cycle Pure Agarbathies Your Reason to Pray contest)