Vows in the Soil

The footprints had been made into the soil with turmeric paste. The Gods were being invited. The shehnai-vadaks were calling out to the heavens creating the most blessed sounds. It seemed as if they were enjoying a duet with the mighty Goddess ganga who was hopping along a rythmic gait. Today she was not fierce. Today she was calm and happy, content to be a mother, gratified to love her children.

The banana leaves in the four directions ensured that no evil spirit would linger near. The smell of the wet soil infused with the smell from mango flowers. The sky resonated the celebration and reflected back a golden-orange. The sun was bidding farewell, smiling in all its deep-red glory, making way for the stars. To match the occasion, Ganga wore a golden-red dress too, shimmery and silky. The moon bowed from the horizon. He had been waiting for 28 nights to shine upon the ceremony, upon the ganges, upon the mandap with all his handsomeness.15b10-shehnai_player

The pandit poured ghee into the crackling fire to feast the gods and goddesses above and then, he summoned the bride and groom.

This was not the big fat Indian wedding; there were no huge beautiful tents and fancy chairs but there was a rugged threadbare carpet striped maroon and black. There were no posh cars parked around but perhaps some bicycles. The feast in the afternoon did not have ‘chhappan bhog’ but the best halwai from the village had come, serving jalebi and rabri in ‘kulhadds’. It was not the most expensive affair in the city but was happily paid by those who had been saving up for this their whole life. The celebrations were not pretentious, they were pure.

The bride had donned a rich red lehenga decorated with gota and was walking slowly towards the mandap, her payal singing anxiously. She had grown on the banks of the Ganges and had always trotted faster than the river but not today. Today she was neither as confident nor as sure. She felt only the shehnai understood her. Only the shehnai could convey what she could not, the joy of finding a new life and the sorrow of leaving the old one behind. She took small steps, ‘alta’ flowering in her feet, heena flowering in her hands.

The village girls however, stared shamelessly at the groom clad in a shining white dhoti. He singled her woman out as the chinks of her payal rhymed with his heartbeat each time her feet landed on the uneven soil. They had never seen each other before yet they believed in one thing; this was meant to happen, they were meant to embark on this godly journey together. She had prayed to find her ‘Shiva’ and the goddesses had answered. Sitting by the holy fire, his torso was sheathed with a very thin layer of sweat . His well-built, muscular hands and chest glistening. Finally, the bride was seated to the right of the boy. Every time the pandit asked them to hold each other’s hands, currents ran through their veins.

As they began to circle the fire, the pandit recited the holy vows but they made vows of their own. He vowed to make her the dream in every dream he will ever have. She vowed to love him with a gentle strength as Ganga loved her shores; supporting him, shaping him, inspiring him. He vowed to love her fiercely as he loved the fields he ploughed all day to keep them green; vowed to keep her full and abundant. They vowed to partake the adventures of making a family and of raising one too. He vowed to want her and worship her as the keeper of his family and she vowed to worship him as the keeper of her house. They vowed not just to grow with each other but toward each other. He would be her wind and she would sway with him like a pliable tree. He vowed to be tougher on the plough and ever more soft on her. He vowed to bear more calluses and more blood on his feet for her and she vowed to let her hands burn day and night over the ‘choolha’, all done with a contented smile. They vowed to love each other’s spirits and demons, fears and hopes. They promised over the soil in which they had grown up, a promise too divine to be broken.

The feast of the Gods was over, the job was well done. They smiled down at the mandap, satisfied to see two souls they had crafted for each other, vying to be the one true happiness of each other’s lives. The shehnai no longer sounded wistful. It blowed raag bhairavi out to the universe, to welcome a new dawn, a new day, an exciting beginning…

 

The article was sown by Ustad Bismillah Khan’s Raga Shankara (The Eternal Spirit)

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