The center of Hindu religious life is the home, and although in most cases people do simple acts of worship, certain occasions call for more elaborate worship. This photo shows my landlord,, Uma Shankar Pandey, performing a fire sacrifice on Vijaya Dashami, the climactic day of the Durga Puja. This sort of fire sacrifice (here done by placing ghee-soaked grain in the fire) has its roots in the Brahmana literature over 2500 years ago.
|This was taken just before the rite began, and all the components are visible--the tray with the ghee-soaked grain, burning incense, and a steel pot containing either milk or (if I remember right) yogurt. All of these things and more are used as offerings in the course of the ritual.|
|This shows the end of this rite (you can see that the bin is filled with ash and wood). The family's priest is preparing a bunch of little clay lamps for the rite's closing ceremony, part of which will include an arati or waving of lights. Although it is difficult to see, part of the contents on the tray at his feet includes some banknotes for his fee (purified and sanctified by virtue of being part of the ritual).|
|Somavati Amavasya (new moon on Monday, which
is considered doubly auspicious. People came in droves to Haridwar to
bathe in the Ganges on this day.
The fully clothed people bending over are searching for valuables that have been put into the water by the bathers.
Haridwar, Jan. 2005
|Here's a close-up of one of the temples,
showing the activity at the ghat. in the right foreground one can see
the plastic jugs that will be filled with Ganges water to take home.
Haridwar, Jan. 2005
|Although I like this picture of the
motorcycle, the real focus here is the tree behind it. One of the
things people do on a Somavati Amavasya is to wind a spool (or spools) of
thread around the trunk of a pipal tree (which is associated with Shiva).
Since during the winding people walk around the tree many times (always
clockwise), this counts as multiple acts of worship.
Haridwar, January 2005
|Here's a close-up at the Asthi Ghat, where
cremains get ritually immersed in the Ganges. The shaven-headed man at
left is doing this ceremony, assisted by his hereditary priest; the two men
in the center are looking for valuables that are given as offerings for the
dead. On festival days such as a Somavati Amavasya, larger crowds mean
Haridwar, Jan. 2005
|Local people are intensely conscious of the
ritual calendar, and the way that particular festival days can provide
increased pilgrim traffic, and thus the potential for greater earnings.
This little trio of statues is on the old path to the Chandi Devi temple,
and was normally completely untended. This picture was taken on Chandi
Chaudasa, the festival day for Chandi Devi. The festival meant that
large crowds would be going up to the temple, and the person who controlled
this site had decorated the images with uncommon care (even putting upside
down flower blossoms on the points of the trident), in a bid to receive
patronage from those passing by.
Hardwar, October 1989
|The full moon in the month of March is the festival of Holi, which is what scholars of religion describe as a "festival of reversal." During the morning of Holi, all social rules of polite behavior are suspended, and people spend most of their time throwing colored powder and water on each other. Some of these powders are incredibly indelible, and for weeks afterward one sees people whose skins have a greenish or purplish hue. This was a comparatively mild day for me. In modern times the license with Holi (drinking, destruction of property, sexual harassment) has led many people to celebrate it quietly at home, and not to go out until the cosmic order is "restored" that afternoon.|
|Here's a shot of a band during a parade on the festival of Shivaratri in February 1990. Such bands are a common element in Hindu festival life, and are often hired for weddings, processions, and just about any public "function." The bulk of a band's repertoire usually consists of tunes from the latest films (any Indian popular film has at least 10 songs and a couple of dance routines).|
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Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 23 December 2003