Thoughts on rites and rituals, and et ceteras....
Some reasons why I think we have all these rites and rituals:
The house will be full of people who each have hes own ideas of what should be done to a)give peace to the departed soul and b) will be the “proper” thing to do. The situation is great fun because so many of the ideas are at variance with one another. Thankfully, at least at my brother’s place, one person’s decision is respected. But normally, this would make for a lot of interesting situations. A set of given rites and rituals would–at least in part– obviate all such differences of “how things should be done”.
The relatives are often people who are not used to sitting idle, and therefore promptly start in on each other and use the occasion to settle several old scores (and begin new ones.) I have certainly seen this happen in several homes, where one would think that adults would behave like adults, restrained in the face of loss and sorrow. But no….so, giving each an allocated role, and a pre-determined task, would certainly give all of them something to do, and prevent much of the friction that could ensue. (Who is allocated what task and what role, of course, is often the source of more friction!)
Visitors, too, are better able to follow set timings to visit,and set things to do, when there is a pre-arranged set of rituals. Otherwise, one has the piquant situations of visitors who don’t know which days are “good” or “bad” to visit, and the even more funny situation (it happened here yesterday) of visitors who come over, don’t know when to leave, and stay for several hours as a result. (We gently eased out a couple of visitors four hours after their arrival, I am not joking.)
It is a pleasure to see my sister-in-law’s relatives calmly taking up whatever immediate job needs to be done, and just doing it and abiding by the decisions the designated decision-maker is taking. They never fuss….and it is so heartening to see them being a source of comfort to my sis in law, instead of the reverse situation I often see elsewhere.
We had a simple and dignified Arya Samaj ceremony this morning, and the priest told us how, in our culture, the soul is believed to be permanent, and it is the remains that have turned to ashes. And most important, my sis in law felt comforted and more at peace….and that IS the entire point of a “shanthi havan” or “sacred fire ritual for peace.”
We do need some ritual, I suppose, to give some sense of closure..though we couldn’t help thinking of both my father’s and brother’s irreverent remarks… like my father’s “Don’t light up incense sticks in front of my picture, just light up a good Benson and Hedges” and my brother’s, “If Dad knew what a bomb all these funeral rites were costing, he would just say, ‘Hey, I’ve decided not to die after all!’ “
I am planning, since I am on the net and the visitors seem not to require my presence just yet, to look at INW images, my usual source of comfort….and I snapped thisnice b&w scene of a drongo on a tree, at Mydenahalli….I keep thinking of the forests, and that gives me solace.
Today we took some food over to donate to some home for the destitute…and we were told politely at the first place that they had received a lot of food from a restaurant, and they couldn’t use it. We then went to a second place, and THEY had received the excess food from the first place! The third place, a home for youngsters between 18 and 28, finally did take the food, and then we went to the Marina, and immersed some of the ashes and some from the “havan”. It was rather a dirty scene, but yet the waves and the breeze and the sand gave my heart a lot of comfort. There was a sense of feeling that what had contained my brother was now one with the elements…