In a few days Assam will celebrate the creative and nurturing power of Mother Earth at the Kamakhya Devi Temple. The desire to cherish the earth and protect her is like the desire of a child that flies for succour to the womb that created her. Therefore when one works to protect this earth one is not being kind to another but to oneself because without the mother a child cannot survive. However celebrating this planet one day a year like the ‘Earth Day’ or rejoicing for a few days in the joy of her constructive power is not enough and will not save man from his own destruction. Such joyous affair has to be a solemnisation and not a fete and this understanding can come only with an opportunity to receive education. Although to understand and value this gift of the earth, one cannot simply parrot answers for environmental studies or throw parties in her honour; one needs enlightenment to value her magnanimity. One has to be enlightened enough to understand and value the gifts of creation and such enlightenment only comes with education which teaches one to search for answers and not simply memorize them.
A few months back six hundred answer scripts of class ten matriculation exam conducted by the Secondary Education Board of Assam (SEBA) were destroyed in a fire at a school. The Board believed that this was not their negligence but the work of miscreants. However, the unlucky students whose papers had got burnt, I’m sure went through tough decision-making for their future.
A few years back too, a vicious tragedy in Assam was what the world had witnessed, where again a fire had been the cause of destruction. The world had watched helplessly as the camera had focused on the charred remains of a home. The pain of a half burnt book-shelf; very visible on the faces of a family could not have been overlooked as people watched the tragedy on their television sets sitting in the comforts of their homes. It was obvious that those books could not have been of any great value for the world at large but for that family, they appeared as if they had been a source of hope.
Books are not only a source of knowledge but they are also capable of changing a mindset of individuals, a community and the world at large.
Books that broaden a belief system and make one question what one sees, need to be especially taken great care of because they furnish dull and accepting minds and set them free from confusion of inane persuasions of mob mentality.
However, in spite of many tragedies which time and again seem to have come and gone, the streams of illogical behaviour patterns are not observed to have been discontinued but in fact they continue in the name of faith.
Soon thousands, immature and mature in age, will gather in Assam for worship to bow down to a bleeding goddess. Here I am reminded of the words of a father who spoke to his young daughter when she aspired to becoming a nun, “While your mind is young, you’ll learn of things that will stay with you all through your life. Knowledge is one of the most important things in the world. It gives you freedom.”
-Through The Narrow Gate by Karen Armstrong.
Confusing myth and reality, beliefs many a times scale illogically. The Ma Kamakhya Devi Temple situated in the Nilachal hills of Gawahati, Assam, is believed to be the strongest Shakti Peeth of Goddess Durga. The mythological story shows an angry Shiva cutting up his wife into small pieces which get scattered in various places, whereby her reproductive flesh is believed to have been thrown in this particular location. The belief is that in this Assamese month of Ahaar –mid June, the Devi goes through her menstrual cycle. The red mud flowing along in the monsoon is believed to be the creative and nurturing power of the menses of Mother Earth. Ironically, there is no idol of a presiding deity here but worship is offered to a natural crevice in the rock that symbolises female genitalia. This rock is surrounded by a pool created by an underground spring. It is this natural flowing water during the rains, carrying the red mud, which is associated with the moist canal in women and menses.
This festive gathering has another attraction too, that of the Tantric Babas show casing their skills of heads in pits and so on, for public display.
Amidst all this showcasing there is one good thing that happens to the women over there. They get rest! During her menses, the temple of the Devi remains closed for three days like the traditional menstrual seclusion. So the women there too, take a holiday time from cooking or any other work at the farm and that certainly must be a great relief for them I’m sure.
I hear a whisper though, which keeps asking me a question. Is such worship logical? Well, someone may promptly answer that worship of such sort is never logical. Faith has to be illogical otherwise it is logical science; but then faith does work wonders. My practical mind reminds me though that faith is often a tool in the hands of the politicians and rulers with which they mercilessly whip the innocent common man.
However, the reiteration of the whisper makes me continue to wonder if Assam is in need of literature or red mud. Would it do better for Assam to meditate on the words of The Buddha and decide for herself her path of salvation?
But then, some choices can never be enforced; they have to be made by free will.
The Assam government though is making attempts to make people think. Many who due to poverty have been unable to get education are this year going to get free entrance into the first year at college. It is a very thoughtful and caring step taken by this State to offer young minds such an opportunity; minds that would otherwise remain locked in ignorance due to poverty.
The choice now will be made by the youth of Assam. Without any enforcement, they will now have to make use of their free will.