I am now in my ancestral village of the state Uttarakhand, a small hamlet with few houses. It is a small dwelling of my grandmother duly constructed of bricks and sand. It had a corridor where I rolled over my charpoy, as the darkness had enveloped the mighty terrains of the Himalayan ranges. But before I close my eyelids, I shuddered as she insisted on me to sing in all its glory to goddess Maa Shakti as the temple bells ring.
Come on! Here you go, as the ringing reached my ears. Tired of the journey, I stretched my brows, but I obliged her.
Hum! Ritual, I rebuked. Way back in the city, my mother had hardly forced us for any such customary ceremony. We had been lavishing a city life, swayed by modernity and striving to achieve what is extraneous in life. Though she would often light a lamp at the altar early morning, we had never participated. We would sleep late and wake up late. For us, it was an obnoxious moment, absolutely unnecessary with no meaning.
The sound of temple bells resounded through the valley with the singing of the villagers.
“Oh Maa, the giver, and the blesses us with goodness
You drove away evil from within us; we owe our life and allegiance to you.”
After the prayer, people bowed their heads and receded for their respective beds. But I remain still but curiously asked her, “Why this ritual and what induces people to pray at this moment and time.
She replied many years back if I could remember, it was autumn, and roads were laden with the fallen leaves. Suddenly Hera, a young boy of merely 30 years, got bedridden due to strange sickness. Slowly news flashed of the other villagers also getting sick. We were shocked as to what happened? It was the first time that such a tragedy struck the village. Its menace was so terrible that people began to die like pancakes. There were cries from all the corners.
Then one day, a saint arrived in our village. No one knows from where. But he appeared to be Godsend. He sat behind that old tall Peepal tree over the corner of the cliff, lit his pyre, and positioned himself towards the east, where you can see the sun rises from behind the lofty peaks. He closed his big brown eyes and recited the mantra. “Om Devo Shakti Maa,” such a powerful and lucrative voice was his that soon all the villagers gathered around him, and they too together started to rattle the same lines in the chorus.
I was one among them. I saw everything happening in front of my eyes.
Suddenly a miracle happened. We saw a strange ray of light emerged from beyond the tall trees, and soon Babaji pitched his voice. In his hoarse but with a polite tone, he told the villagers, “You might get back to your homes soon that evil spirit will go away? As the morning dawned, all the sick woke up recovered. People rushed out of their homes in joy. All of them together proceeded towards the saint in merriment, and after bowing, asked, “Oh Mercy, Lord, who are you? With your blessing, we have gotten rid of evil, and we are well now?
The saint replied, “Our Devi Maa will bless you, never the evil spirit will reign over you, till you keep on reciting this mantra each evening, with diya in your hand when the sun dawns, keeping your face towards the West.” And, you won’t believe it since we are praying, we all survived this tragedy and living happily, each of us 5000 odd villagers life span is more than 90 years. Not a single villager has ever gotten ill.
“You also sing it to the glory of Maa Shakti and receive her blessings.” It was a matter of thought that, as a scientifically gifted persona, how I can take upon myself to believe that these things are myths, but villagers do believe.
These religious ritualsare part of their lives. They perform it for their welfare and the welfare of the people around them.
Whatever religion you belong creates a positive impact on you. I realized this much later. When on that evening, I prayed to Maa, It was nothing less than a surrealistic feeling and a soul-soothing. I felt so blessed, and a smile appeared on my face. Night had dawned, and there was complete silence. I slept so comfortably well and relaxed that I never slept in my whole life.
Early morning when the sun rays fell on me, I gave a big yawn as a sweet voice of a singing bird came suddenly in my ear.