Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Bull at Oachira

A family wedding brought me and the kids to the little town of Oachira in Kerala. While the bride dazzled down the aisle and went in for the third change of sari, I was whisked away by some aunts to the “Parabrahma” temple nearby.

It’s the first time I have ever been asked to worship a tree. No idols, no stone temple structure…just a huge tree with branches that look much like the horns of a Bull. The priest explains that the Bull is worshipped here and I see many well fed decorated ones walk around majestically as people bow to them and touch their forehead.

Reminded me of my school history lessons where we had to trace the progress of early man. “Early man prayed to forces of nature.” I had written. “He prayed to the trees and thunder and rain because he didn’t understand them.” said my teacher.

How wrong she was! He prayed to them because he understood them…so well. There is nothing more beautiful than a resplendent, verdant tree over 100 years old, its leaves whispering a secret you cannot understand. There is nothing more beautiful than old drums playing in the distance as a Bull walks by with his eyes fixed on you but with no trace of menace. A man nearby sits on one side of a giant weighing scale and prays with eyes closed as dozens of bananas are placed on the other side until the balance lifts in the air and steadies itself. Chants go up in the air as his promise to the God has been fulfilled.

The atmosphere is almost surreal. It is so far removed from the reality that I live in yet I cannot help but marvel at the simplicity of it all. I look ridiculously out of place in my sequined georgette sari, nevertheless I kneel down and pray. I prayed that the energy and beauty of this place would never tarnish, and I prayed that more people would find God in a tree.