September 18, 2009

Mahalaya - in the digital age

Mahalaya -- celebrated on the day of the last new moon before Durga Puja -- is when many of us in India perform tarpan : a solemn act of remembrance of our ancestors. Those who have the inclination and the time perform this on the banks of Ganga, the Hooghly or any other river that they consider sacred.

In view of the pressures of time, many of us prefer to remember our ancestors in the privacy of our homes but in this age of the Internet, I thought that it would be a good idea to dedicate this post to my ancestors without whom I would not have been here.

"শ্মশান অনলে দগ্ধসি পরিত্যক্তোসি বান্ধবৈঃ।
ইদং নীরং, ইদংক্ষীরং অত্র স্নাহি ইদং পিব।।
আকাশস্থ নিরালম্ব বায়ুভূত নিরাশ্রয়।
অত্র স্নাত্বা, ইদং পীত্বা স্নাত্বা, পীত্বা সুখি ভব।।" -

smashan anale daghdhosi,
parityaktosi bandhaboih ,
idam neeram, idam kheeram atra snahi idam peebo .
akashastha niralomba bayuvuta nirashrayo,
atra snatwa idam peetwa ,
snatwa peetwa sukhi vaba

meaning ,roughly,

you are burned in a fire at smashan,
you are deserted by relatives/friends
here is water & here is milk ,
take a bath & drink the milk.
You are floating in the sky,
with no support , no shelter ,
you are dissolved in air -
come bathe here , drink this,
by bathing & drinking be happy.

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