Tuesday, December 28, 2004

North Vs South

I happened to visit a pooja at the house of a north Indian colleague of mine. It was a “Satyanarayana pooja”. I could find some stark differences between the South Indian and North Indian traditions.

  • The purohit was fully dressed, shirt, sweater and a woolen cap. In the South Indian way generally the purohit is topless, with a shawl only.

  • The couple who performed the pooja were dressed fully which is not the case with South Indians. The guy who performs the pooja dresses like the purohit - half dressed.

  • The prasad was prepared by a visitor like me. He just washed his hands and legs and was ready to put his hands into the prasad. Among South Indians, a bath is a must and mostly the person who prepares the prasad is also half dressed.

  • The “saligram” could be touched by anybody present for the pooja. It was like any other photo of the God. South Indians regard the “saligram” as the most auspicious stone. Only a few who are in madi (people who have taken bath and not touched anybody after bath, generally in wet towels...considered to be pure) can touch “saligram”.

  • After washing the “saligram”, the stone was dried using a towel that was used for general purposes. This is totally unacceptable (the above being the reason) among South Indians.

  • The God had only a few flowers on him. This is the case even in north Indian temples. Down south, flowers hide almost everything of the idol\photo. In fact the expenditure on flowers for such a flower is really very high. Fewer the flowers, lesser is the beauty of the deity.

  • The aarti style was different. An oiled lamp was taken and held in front of the deity. The guy performing the pooja, held the lamp in one hand and moved his other hand from the lamp towards the photo without moving the lamp. It was like waving the smoke towards the photo. This was unusual, as even in temples of North India the style was not this. In south India, the fire is moved in circles, up and down all over the photo.

I asked the purohit why is it that north Indians are not so strict on the madi aspect. The purohit has been staying in Bangalore for more than 20 yrs and seemed to have answered this question hazar times. He said North India is considered pure because the Goddess of purity “Ganga” flows there. Hence they don’t need any more madi.

May be the river linking project will let Ganga flow down to South India aswell and reduce the differences in the traditions.

Madi - This is a Kannada word. I don't know the exact version in Kannada or English. It roughly means purity or Immaculateness.

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