Bheemarupi Maharudra , recited with wide eyed wonder amidst mind visuals of a Hanuman flying through the air carrying mountains, and the Ramraksha. One was in Sanskrit, the other in old Marathi.
What made the thing interesting, however, was the fact that these recitations were followed by a spirited recitation of mathematical tables from 2 to 21. You couldn't make any mistakes, and you had dinner only after you did a complete prostrate namaskar in front of the Gods, once the tables were done.
There was an implicit understanding here, that learning and reciting prayers was not enough; you needed to put in work by yourself, for the Lord to take cognizance of you.
So we grew up, with a good mix of rituals mixed with some common sense, and quickly learnt that God tended to look slightly more favorably on kids who put in hard work along with prayers, as opposed to desperate prayers alone.
My late mother , was the to-date only women trustee member of one of Pune's very well known ancient temple trusts, and often involved herself amidst the devotees , particularly , students and children. Come February and March, and the Ganpati temple would see a huge spurt in serious looking students who would arrive and spend large amounts of time, going round and round the sanctum sanctorum, 108 times, mouthing the various Ganpati names and prayers. Then one day, she called them aside, and advised them to spend that time studying hard instead, and maybe visit the temple for a short time to freshen your thoughts and pray. Ganpati wasn't going to make you pass if you didn't put in your own hard work.
And so we grew up, watching rituals and stuff, absorbing what we could , but with a no nonsense understanding that you did your best before invoking God to come and give the finishing touches. We were not encouraged to do trade-offs with God; like "if you grant me this, I will do this"; or "if such and such happens , I will perform some extravagant ritual", etc etc.
And so, today there are different reasons to pray to God, than there were, when we were children.
It is often done sometimes to bring solace to someone in the family who has been physically suffering despite immense efforts of the family and medical community. Many times to bring peace to the troubled minds of those doing the caretaking.
It is often done to seek guidance in troubled times. With parents no more, you need to seek guidance from another elder .
Sometimes it is a sense of gratitude , for what you have been given in life, and the way you have received it. For the continuing good health of family. For blessings bestowed on, say, a child, to show him/her the way forward. For situations that could have been worse, but were not, thanks to good timely advice from someone.
For someone's safe return home, in an increasingly dangerous world. For friends , who are secretly, actually, family.
And so very often , it is to beseech Him to make this a safer country for girls, given the recent horrendous happenings; to make people less violent , and more truthful and caring.
There are no rituals on a daily basis, other than lighting a lamp/agarbathies and worshipping with flowers. There is an undeniable sense, that someone, like a Parent, is watching, and helping me keep on track.
But then life is not always ruled by the head. The heart has its place. And so we have occasions, when we celebrate with God, and call these occasions as festivals. It is , as if, it is party time with the Lord, and there is dressing up, and adorning and decorating, and singing and chanting.
Unlike my parents who learnt in their own different childhoods and developed knowledge and expertise regarding worship celebrations, and could often have priests to conduct the pooja, I had multifarious childhood activities and am not similarly blessed. And so, in an effort to bring to the household today, a bit of some past memories , I look for something to help me .
This part of the year, is a celebration of all of them, be it Ganeshotsav, Durga Pujo, Dassehra, Divali. And I am very happy, that the Cycle Pure Agarbathies have come up with a Lakshmi Pooja Pack, with all the required paraphernalia, including an audio CD of shlokas. (Come to think of it, pooja or worship, originally , was always do-it-yourself (DIY); after an age when priests would be coming to conduct poojas (at some homes, they still do), life has actually come full circle ....)
Maybe I will remember all the older childhood stuff all over again, some shlokas will have a familiar ring.
Maybe the children, now older , will learn something new. The younger ones, will enjoy much like we did, and will , maybe, have questions.....
Much like the little boy from the Cycle Brand Agarbathies ad who asks "What if there was no God ?", only to have his sister ask him ,in reply, about who could have managed to smartly put coconut water inside the coconut ....
Submitted as an entry for the Cycle Pure ‘Your Reason To Pray’ contest by Womens Web.