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?