In a clear sign of advancing senility, I clean forgot about some photographs that I had taken on the 20th of last month when I had gone to attend the 13th day ceremonies following the death of my cousin at Thane.
The practice in my community is that we mourn for 12 days and finally bid the soul goodbye on the 13th day with a homam performed at home. A Homam is a ritual where offerings are made into a sacred fire. The root word of the Homam is ‘ha’ which means ‘offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ in Sanskrit. In northern regions of India it is called havan and in southern India it is called homam, but the meaning and the procedure is same everywhere. Homam is performed in almost every significant event or ceremony of a Hindu household life. It is an important religious and spiritual practice among Hindus. There are different kinds of homam depending on the purpose and the presiding deity of the homam.
Agnidev or Fire God is the deity in this particular ceremony. Herbs, twigs, fruits, grains and ghee are offered into fire chanting appropriate mantras. The smoke that comes out of the fire is spread far and wide. This purifies the atmosphere. At the end everyone circumambulates the fire and offer obeisance. The dust of burnt ashes is applied on the forehead.
My nephew Jaisundar and niece Meena were great caregivers for their mother Devi during her last days and they sent her off from her mortal coils also with great care and attention to detail. My cousin, that is the brother of the departed Devi and his wife Vijaya had come from Chennai and the occasion gave me the opportunity to catch up with them too. There were five Shastrigals (Tamil Brahmin Priests trained in all Hindu rituals and the Vedas) who performed the rituals very well. At the end of the ceremony, one very erudite priest explained the significance of the ceremony in English to us modern Tambrams who did not have a clue.
The homam was followed by a fantastic traditional Tambram meal served on plantain leaves and it was with great reluctance that I left Thane to return to Pune.
Two photographs are shown below.
The top one is rather hazy because of the smoke that is sine qua non for this ceremony. The lower one shows Sundar and Meena participating in the rites. My regular readers will remember Meena the Lion Lady.