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Nine Melodic Nights for the Three Goddesses

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As I walked out of the small yet busy airport of Polonia, I set my foot in AURI compound with light blue color sprayed on all the new buildings there. Right across the small mosque as blue as the sky that day, I spotted a Pura, Hindu temple that commonly found in Bali. It was a quiet afternoon. When the night falls, a bunch of children running to enter the sanctuary. Their skin are dark. I can see a white dot in between their big beautiful pair of eyes. Behind them, Indian teenage girls and much older ladies, look like from the Tamil tribes, covered their bodies with bright colorful sari. Their foot steps marked with the jingly sound of bracelets.

An altar filled with fruits, colorful flowers, and pictures as well as the figures of the Gods was in front of them. “Om Pra No Dewi Saraswati Vajebhir Vajinivati Dhinam Avinyavantu.” I took a glimpse of the small text book they were holding and see the translation. “Dear God, the Glorious and Powerful Sarawati, May You, the source of every science, protect our knowledge.”

The Hiduism hymn went on for two hours. A 7 years old boy suddenly take the lead of one part of the hymn. His voice sounds so clear and lovely. The commune of less than 50 people, later on end the ritual by humming “ommm”. Each of their thumbs and forefingers meet to make circles. Their eyes shut and look peaceful.

Lisa Kusuma, the wife of Priest Taya, explains. “Tonight is the last night of Navarathri. Tomorrow we will walk around the downtown of Medan with two chariots drawn by cows.” Navarathri, or nawaratri, is a ritual known by the name of Galungan and Kuningan among the Hindu devotees in Bali. The ritual is celebrated twice in a year. But unlike the Balinese with their Saka calendar, Navarathri festival by the Indian Tamil’s Hindu, marked on every Puttarasi month of Tamil calendar. This time, in October 2010.

During the holy festival, Hindu devotees must pray for nine nights at the near-by temples. But since Shri Mariamman, the biggest Indian temple in Medan is located far away from those who live in Polonia, the procession being held in a Pura, not far from the priest’s home. “All the same, still the Hindu sanctuary, right? As long as it’s still Veda that we believed in,” said the mother of one.

Navarathri derives from the word “nava” (nine) and “rathri” (night). The procession held for nine nights in a row, to worship Devi, the Goddess. Hindus believe that the supreme Goddess reincarnates into three forms. Devi Kali or Durga, as the other half of God Siwa, symbolizes powerful force. The other is, Devi Lakshmi, the wife of God Vishnu, the symbol of wealth and prosperity. And the last one, Devi Saraswati, God Brahma’s partner in life, represent knowledge, education and art.

A question pop in my head as i try to recall the hymn sang before. “Why they sounds like only praising Saraswati?” I asked. “Thats because you come on the ninth night. During the first three nights, we sang the mantra for Goddess of Durga, and the next three nights we praise Lakhsmi, then the last three nights for Saraswati,” explained Lisa. There were a lot of children that night, because Goddess Saraswati is the Divine mother of knowledge and art. Tonight is special for the children because they can ask blessing from the Goddess for the sake of their education in the future.

This holy festival believed to be more than 4000 years old, initiated by the Aryan people. But later on recognized as one of the most important rituals for Hindu devotees, in India and around the globe. During Navarathri, the main worship dedicated to the universal mother of Durga. Famously known for Her two sides of gentleness and power.

The next day, the Divine Mother of Durga will take a trip around town. Several tall dark men in their 20s busy decorate two chariots. One with three meter heights had lots of colorful bulbs. The other one has a figure of a beautiful woman on a big fierce lion. Even though it was made of styrofoam, the Goddess still look powerful and elegant all at once.

With the threatening pose, the Goddess spread Her four pair of arms. Her long black hair looks more graceful with a small crown. A pair of arms (top right and below left) holds a long spears called Trisula. Then all three other left arms each holding a cobra, shield and bow. The arrow of the bow held by the second from the top of the right arm. The other two arms each holds a sword and Cakra, the weapon given by God Vishnu. In other stories, Goddess of Durga can have 16 arms.

Priest Wamethewa Siwam Siwa Sri Tayarajabal Gurukkal or used to be called Priest Taya in daily basis, explained, Goddess Durga also known as Goddess Mahisasurawardhini. The name given to Her after she manage to defeat Mahissa, a giant evil with the head of a bull. It’s being described as powerful giant who can conquer and throw the Gods from their home in Heaven. The Gods later on ask for help from God of Siwa who sent Goddess of Durga to fight the demon.

The battle last for nine days and nine nights long. Then on the 10th day, the powerful Goddess transform Herself into a figure with eight arms. Each arm holds weapon given by the Gods. Told in other stories, however, Durga’s battle was to freed the innocent people. Mean while, in modern life, Mahissa resembling evil and deceitful entities which naturally exist in the soul of every human being.

Every Hindu devotee, for nine consecutive nights is expected to live in humbleness and avoid meat in their diet. Some of them even take the time to do fasting or at least only eat once for a whole day during Navarathri. The fasting are meant to repress ‘Mahissa’ inside of them.

Basically, the procession of Navarathri is a reminder of endless battle between dharma (good) against adharma (bad or evil). Both of which lies in every man’s soul. The fight is a way to reach God’s compassion. Since only love and compassion of God that can be the most powerful weapon to fight adharma.

This time, to celebrate the peak of Navarathri festival, both chariots wil be drawn all around town by cows. “Two cows will pull the biggest chariot where two priests sit and give blessings along the way,” explained Priest Taya. “One cow would be enough to pull the Goddess figure,” he added.

The cows look even more graceful and holy when a robe with religious sign put on them. Flower arrangement dangle on them as well and the Goddess, with the colors of red, purple, white and green.

But unfortunately that night, when hundreds of people came to attend the procession, the rain starts to pouring hard. Even so, it didn’t back them out. They still go on with Iratham Urulam ceremony, or also called as Ratha Yatra in sanskrit, which means the travel of the holy chariot and God’s blessing for the devotees present.

The crowd continue to sing the melodic hymn at the parade. Some enthusiast boys lead the parade with the sound of percussion. After walk for more than 10 km around downtown of Medan, once they reach Kampung Keling, they stopped at Shri Mariamman temple. A gorgeous young lady with jasmine flower arrangement circling her lovely long hair, suddenly steal the crowd’s attention. The immediate silence was broken with Indian tune, which can shake everyone’s body. The lovely girl starts to dance.

She’s not just amazed the Hindus. She also made those who pass by Kampung Keling area to stop a while and have a look. Maiya (25), a native Medan, who happens to pass by around 10 pm was stunned. “I never realize there are this many of Indian people in Medan,” she said.

When the dance finally over, the crowd cheer and get ready to walk again, barefoot. A young man with distinctive Indian wardrobe lead the parade by blowing Sangka Pancajahnya, a trumpet in the shape of a shell to mark the beginning or the end of ceremony. The chariots walk with the devotees, with fireworks in the air to make it even merrier.

Along the way, Priest Taya would stop every now and then to receive offerings from the devotee asking for special prayers. Navarathri believed to be filled with blessings where the devoted Hindus with a specific wish and have been fasting for nine days can have their prayers fulfilled. Smokes from the holy fire continue to be blown to the people with faith in their hearts.

Approaching midnight, the group had back to the path where they started the journey in Polonia. Not far from the priest’s home, they stop to conduct the closing prayers. Those who faithfully accompany the holy cow while drawing the chariots, receive the flower arrangement as the symbol of honor. Priest Taya sing a prayer to ends the procession. It was very late at night, but not a single child following the ritual look sleepy. They’re lost in their prayers as the priest give them blessing by marking their foreheads with red and white ashes. Everyone melt in the holy fire that continue to illuminates the darkness.

**For images go to the website

***Special thanks to Raviji and Mba Rita. šŸ™‚


Written by nickmatulhuda

October 18, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Posted in her published work

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