Vantage point

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Added a new right bar to the blog.

There is a Hostel Decoration contest today for Diwali and all the hostels are really competetive about it. Let's see how my limited artistic talents can help.

So today is Diwali, or to be precise Laxmipoojan. It literally translates as "Prayers to the Goddess of Wealth (Laxmi)". Among other things that Diwali signifies, the main purpose is paying respects to wealth. I think we must be the only culture in the world that actually recognises the value and virtue of money and has deified it in this form.

In the evening, people will perform a pooja for all the gold, silver and jewellery that they may have in their homes. It is basically the day when you invite Laxmi (used interchangeably with wealth) into your house. People keep their doors open this one day so that laxmi won't face any trouble coming in. Along with open doors, some people also make footmarks using rangoli, as if to show laxmi the way in. One funny thing I have noticed is some people draw these footmarks one next to another, that is the right foot and left foot adjacent. Now isnt that how comeone jumping might form footmarks? It gives the impression that laxmi is jumping towards the house, not walking.

After the pooja, at least in Maharashtrian households, there is the tradition of a haldi kunku where women from the neighbourhood are invited to come and pay respects to the laxmi in your house. After this the hostess of the house applies haldi(turmeric) and kunku(vermillion) on every woman's forehead and they leave only after that. It is sacrilege for women to leave from a haldi kunku without the hostess applying haldi-kunku.

Writing about this whole thing reminds me of a Marathi movie they used to show during Diwali all the time. I don't remember the exact name, I think it was either "Laxmipoojan" or "Thaamb Laxmi Kunku Lawate". I found the movie a bit silly when I was a kid but now as I look the back, it had a very poignant storyline. This is how it goes-

There is a family which is a very prosperous business family, but it falls into bad days. They start losing money and troubles befall them right, left and center. Now the climax of the movie shows that this family, fallen into bad times, organises a Diwali pooja and the wife invites women from all over for a haldi kunku. In the crowd, she suddenly notices one woman whom she has never seen before. The woman is wearing expensive jewels and expensive clothes. The hostess sees her and talks to her for sometime, and somehow (I don't exactly remember how) finds out that the woman is none other than Goddess Laxmi herself. The goddess tells her the reasons why she left their house (a metaphor for why they became poor) and I think they have something to do with disrespecting wealth and wasting it or something. So after telling her this, Laxmi starts to leave when the hostess says "Thaamb Laxmi Kunku Lawate", i.e 'Wait, Laxmi, Let me put some kunku on your forehead'. Now as I mentioned, if a hostess offers to apply kunku , you can't refuse and leave. You have to wait until she does so. So Laxmi waits.

Now what the woman does is, she says she is going to another room to get the kunku, but actually goes to the backyard of the house where there is a well, jumps in it and commits suicide. Now Laxmi can't leave their house since the hostess didn't apply kunku to her forehead, and she is forced to stay in the house forever. Thus wealth and prosperity return to the family again, because of the woman's sacrifice.

What the film tries to teach us is that we should always respect wealth and never take it for granted or it will leave us, and then we will have to pay too large a price to get it back.

Happy Laxmipoojan everyone. Hope you recognise the value of wealth.