Wednesday, February 16, 2005

traditions !

India is a country where a variety of ancient traditions are being observed, most of the time, rather blindly without modern insight. Some of the traditions, no doubt, look ridiculous in the eye of the modern man.


Let me give a couple of examples to underscore this point. K.P.S. Menon, the former Ambassador, had written about this in the Illustrated Weekly of India. It seems, he had once visited a Palghat Namboodiri family where a luncheon was arranged. While he sat on the floor in front of the plantain leaf, in a row, along with others, he saw a young Brahmin boy walk across carrying a pestle (vanake) and placing it in a corner of the hall. Being curious, Menon asked the guests sitting to his left and right, the purpose of keeping the pestle in the corner. He drew a blank but pursued his enquiry after lunch with some elderly persons.


The answer he got stunned him beyond belief. A venerable old Namboodiri Brahmin told Menon that in the early years of his youth, on such special occasions of lunch or dinner, just as salt is served, a small toothpick would also be kept on each leaf for the convenience of the guests in case of need. This had become a tradition, but with the passage of time they found it unnecessary to provide each one a toothpick. But, how about the tradition? So, as a symbolic act they placed a pestle which looked like the enlarged version of a toothpick, so to say, on behalf of everybody.


True, it is ridiculous but it is the tradition. I am sure, now they must have discarded this tradition totally, as irrelevant to the modern times. Apparently, they must have got the proper insight into their ancient traditions.


I could also give another example. There was a person who performed puja, offering Naivaidya, food items, to his personal deity (Manedevaru). Since the cat in his house came and nibbled at the naivaidya, thereby making it unfit for offering to the deity, he used to tie the cat to a nearby pole till his puja was over. This continued for many years until one day he died.


Following his death, the duty of performing the puja fell on his son and he too, without questioning the tradition, continued to tie the cat to the nearby pole while performing puja. If the cat is not around, he would go looking for it, bring it and tie it up thinking this was part of the ritual. Apparently, the son did not have any modern insight to the ancient tradition. It seems when the cat died he procured another cat to continue the tradition! He did not know that the old order changeth, or should change, yielding place to new.


I guess, Mahatma Gandhi will make a very good example as a person who had perfect insight into our ancient traditions. Consider the tools and ideas he used to mobilise the freedom fighters to drive away the British rulers. Immediately, I can think of just four of his ideas, though there may be many. The four ideas are: 1. Non-violence or Satyagraha (Non-resistance to the law enforcing authority). 2. The prayer meeting. 3. The Charaka (Spinning wheel). 4. Becoming a naked Fakir, to use the term used by Sir Winston Churchill to describe Gandhi. All these four ideas were derived, no doubt, from our own ancient traditions laid down in our sacred scriptures.

from: http://www.starofmysore.com

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