A Ticketless Spectacle

(Author’s Note: to Shimla Kalibari)

Ashte jeno oi choron pai.* —  Sebak Shree Probod Chandra Mukhopadyay

Sthan diyo Ma abhoy pode. ** — Sebak Shree Durgadas Mukhopadyay 1324

Invocation to the Goddess by Hindu saints.

Inscriptions heralding Ma Kali
on the white marbled footsteps of the Kali temple
in Kali residence -– Kalibari.

DEVOTEES ARE REQUESTED
NOT TO OFFER “COCONUT”
BEWARE OF PICK POKETERS
Please keep your
Bag & Baggage
In your Own Custody

Invocation to the devotees by ‘KALIBARI COMMITTEE’.
Inscriptions heralding the devout’s safety
on white-marbled pillars of the Kali temple
in Kali’s residence –- Kalibari.

The red bordered gates
concealing the murti opens,
and the devotees
beware of God
get a glimpse
of the Goddess Herself.
During this darshan
their lips move
muttering ‘Ma’
in monosyllables.
They pray with their eyes open in bewilderment.
Some pray for promotions;
some pray for good health;
others, for forgiveness.
They’re lucky to have arrived
during the time for aarti.
The naguni begins the nangra.
The percussion collides
with the gong of ghantis.
The noise overpower the purohit’s chant
which only the Ma can hear.
He dances his scenes
reciting the singsong mantras
accompanied by the specified props —

aainabastrochamorghonta,
panisankhapanchpradip, and phool.

The madness of the noisy music
puts one devotee, tattooed ‘Ram’
across her arms, in a trance.
She shakes her head vigorously.
Even more vigorously.
The dupatta customized
to cover her head
(and preserve her modesty)
too shakes and gives away.
To a foreigner, she breaks into an impromptu jig;
to a believer, she has touched divinity.
The beat slows down.
The sankhadhoni prevails
and the trumpet
of a prehistoric elephant
travels millions of years
to reach our ears.
The beat stops.
Shantir jol is sprinkled
on the bowed heads
in the prevailing silence.
We return to morto
after a brief getaway
to an incensed swarga.

Om shantiom shantiom shanti –

the priest’s voice,
now meant for mortals,
is finally heard.
And the ticketless spectacle ends.

Glossary:

*May I receive Your blessing solemnly.
**May You give me shelter in troubled times.
murti: In Hinduism, a murti typically refers to an image that expresses a Divine Spirit (murta).
darshan: a  Sanskrit term meaning “sight” (in the sense of an instance of seeing or beholding); a vision, apparition, or glimpse.
aarti: a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities.
naguna: The opening piece played in the nangra at the beginning of an aarti.
nangra: a percussion intrument accompanying the aarti
ghanti: an sonorous instrument accompanying the aarti
aaina : small mirror used during the aarti ceremony
bastro: pieces of cloth used during the aarti ceremony
ghanta: a bell representing the divine primordial sound.
panisankha: special conch shell used by Sri Krishna
panchpradip: five incense sticks put together for worship
phool: flower
dupatta: a length of material worn as a scarf or head covering, typically with a salwar, by women from the Indian subcontinent
sankhadhoni : conch shell
Shantir jol: water from the holy river for the Hindus, Ganges , which is sprinkled at the devotees at the end of the aarti ceremony
morto: Earth; one of the three lokas or worlds.
swarga: set of heavenly worlds located on and above Mt. Meru . It is a Heaven here which the righteous live in, a paradise before their next reincarnation. One of the three lokas or worlds.
Om shanti:  The mantras chanted at the end of aarti. ” Om ” is the symbol of the Hindu (Vedic Religion). It is believed to be a sound of the whole cosmic manifestation. And Shanti is the “Peace”. ‘Om Shanti’ means peace for the all humankind, peace for all living and non living beings, peace for the universe, peace for each and every things in this whole cosmic
manifestation.

[Souradeep Roy is a third year student of English literature studying at the Scottish Church College, Kolkata. Involved in Bengali Group Theatre for the last eight years under the tutelage of the late thespian Rama Prasad Banik, Roy writes “to question my existence.”]

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