Oh My Goddess!

What perfume would you recommend for a Goddess?

No… this is not some clever way of soliciting gift ideas for my wife (Uma’devi’)!!  Please read on…

Yesterday, I was just about to wrap up my breakfast ritual of soggy cereal and chai and leave for work while Uma was wrapping up a phone call with my aunt in India.

She had this expression of shocked disbelief as she hung-up the phone!

“What happened? Everything Ok at home?”

“Oh my God!  You won’t believe what I just heard.”

“Tell me what happened… and don’t call me god!”

“Your aunt wants me to send a large bottle of ‘scentu’!!”

Sure… it is not often that aunt asks for anything to be sent from the US, but is it really THAT shocking?

“Absolutely… let’s send a good perfume”, I said.

“You don’t understand… your aunt asked for this perfume for the goddess!”

“What?? Ok… let me sit down”

Some background would be in order here…

Aunt lives in the village with my uncle. It’s a typical small village, in Andhra Pradesh (India) inhabited by middle class farming families. The main road that leads into the village is a muddy/slushy one that winds past thatched houses and some pucca (brick and mortar) houses as well. It also goes past multiple temples and a small lake – which stopped being the source of drinking water a few decades ago. Now the villagers buy potable water from the neighboring village. A typical small village in AP!

My aunt is a very religious person. She wakes up at 4:30AM and does an elaborate puja. Twice a week she fasts and does additional pujas. Unlike most of the village folk, she is literate enough to actually read through and chant the mantras in a sing song way. She has personally taken it upon herself to support the local Ramaalayam (Rama Temple). She has donated her time and money to support it. She has on occasion sought donations from us and others for specific temple needs (financial support for the pujari for e.g.). She is a loving and affectionate mother and a grandmother and is very close to us.

Now… back to the jaw-dropping phone conversation that Uma had with my aunt. It seems that the pujari (priest) of one of the temples in the village told aunt that after he ritualistically bathes the idol of the goddess and wraps her with the saree and adorns the idol with jewelry, he felt it would be good to spray some “Scentu” (perfume) on the idol. I am not sure exactly what prompted him to awaken to the realization that this was missing from the routine ritual.

I have seen some elaborate rituals in India (mostly on TV). The ritualistic bathing of the huge statue of Bahubali in Shravanabelagola in 1981 which I saw on TV was a very memorable one and the images are indelible in my mind!  So, I am not new to such religious rituals. It is possible that this ritual with the perfume may also be a similar one. It is just that neither Uma nor I had heard about this before.

My first reaction was to ask the pujari’s wife as to what would be a suitable perfume for the “goddess” <wink> <wink>. Uma said that my skeptical imagination was running wild!

I also consulted with that god of eternal knowledge – “Google”, about this question and mostly came up with links such as this: “GoddessLine” , which seem to be targeting gullible folks with perfumes named after assorted  exotic sounding goddesses.

I wonder if the pujari was considering the perfume as an alternative to the more traditional agarbathhi (incense)! If not, he certainly hasn’t thought through the olfactory overload caused by an unholy blend of “Chanel#5” & agarbatthi in the same room!  I loved the fact that the subtle smell of agarbatthi could transport (even) me  – like a Pavlovian dog, to the Poojas and rituals that we all grew up with and I would start salivating at the thought of yummy Prasadam that was sure to follow!

If this perfuming ritual catches on in the temples,  then in a few years,  when I walk into a Macy’s department store and the overly made-up blonde dressed in a lab coat (like Madam Curie) sprays Calvin Klein’s Obsession sample in my face (without asking for my permission) – it will spontaneously bring back visions of temple rituals and mouthwatering prasadam in my head!! Not a bad visual eh?

Author: Yash

I immigrated to the US in 1983 from India. I feel that I have been here long enough to not be called FOB (Fresh-off-the-Boat) by my kids. But I guess they seem to have some other standards which involve pronouncing words like "Vote" ,"Vending" and "Video" properly - which I guess I will never achieve (because of my 21 years in India) - so, I am going to pass myself as that Indian with an "exotic" accent!! My interests : WRITING - Just realized that most of my work so far has been Nostalgia-centric. I enjoy this genre and feel it's an un-ending well that I can draw from. As a matter of fact, this right here is fresh nostalgia for 10 years down the road!! (-: GOLF - I am terrible at it and it's a damn frustrating game, but I still love it ("painful pleasure"). One of these days I will actually take lessons so that I won't embarrass myself too much on the golf course. As long as there are golf courses around here (with low standards) that would allow me to play - I will play and enjoy golf!! STAND-UP - I have started dabbling (performing) in stand-up comedy recently and am loving the feedback I have been getting! I am going to attribute this newfound hobby to mid-life crisis! :-) (as an alternative to a toupee or a red sports car or a girlfriend-on-the-side!!). Here's clip of my very first performance on April 14th 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScMLgRAGyNs&feature=youtu.be MUSIC - I am a huge fan of Shakti (John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, Vinayakram, L.Shankar) as well as their later avatar - "Remember Shakti" (John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, Selva Ganesh, Mandolin Sreenivas, Shankar Mahadevan). Thoroughly enjoyed the two live concerts that I attended of this fusion group. I enjoy Hindustani and Carnatic classical instrumental music. YOUTUBE - YouTube has an unbelievable amount of entertainment from which you can draw your specific narrow niche!! In my case - these areas happen to be - street foods from various parts of the world, Indian classical music, debates about religion & belief, Indian Classical Music played by non Indian (e.g. Ukrainians doing wonderful Bharatanatyam, a French lady performing amazingly in a Carnatic Concert, a Chinese lady teaching Bharatanatyam in China etc.)

3 thoughts on “Oh My Goddess!”

  1. Practices change over time in many other areas of our lives. Our religious practices can also adapt with the changing times 🙂 I am impressed that the pujari in this little village is pioneering this change.

    1. Thanks a lot for your feedback on this topic. I agree with you that the Pujari is experimenting with change. I hope that he continues with this and graduates to other changes that will affect the community positively (knowing how influential such Priests are in small villages)

  2. Going through this funny account of the temple ritual I am prompted to seek clarification/signinicance of ‘sahasrakalashabhisekam’, the ‘abhishekam’, the head bath to the Balaaji diety with 1000 pots of milk, pots of curds, honey and finally with water !!!.on every Wednesday (as seen in SVBC
    TV channel) on every Wednesday between 7-7.30 AM. It results in
    deprivation of very enlighting talk on Geetha by Rev.Paripurnanda sarswathi ji, for many listeners like me, appears to be a wastage of valuable food stuff and results in stinky premises, if not cleaned properly.
    Can any spiritually enlightened authority logically explain the significance of this ritual? Will this in any way help the devotees
    to clean the minds and hearts of the “bhakthas” from selfishness, narrow mindedness and no concern for others etc.

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