Samain and the crescent moon of Radical Change with Venus
Thursday gratefuls: A charcuterie of sorts for dinner last night. Marilyn, a true friend, and Irv. Alan today. Ovation West. More good days for Kate. Quieter. More peaceful. Lisa Gidday, retiring. Covid. Snow for its beauty, its moisture, its fire suppression. Good sleeping. Mirabegron. This life, a good one.
Joseph, Seoah, and Mary went to Little India the other night to celebrate the start of Diwali. I went with Mary to the start of Diwali in 2004 when I visited Singapore. Little India has lights, lights, lights. A big Diwali sign graces the main street leading into Little India, stalls are set up selling various kinds of Diwali decorations, and other items related to Hindu gods and goddesses.
Singapore’s Veerama Kali Amman Temple, built by Joseph’s fellow Bengali’s in 1881, has extra significance during Diwali since Bengali’s worship the dark goddess for its whole five days. In other parts of India Diwali focuses more on Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and wisdom.
Diwali began as a harvest festival and is still mainly that in rural India. The rice harvest is in, its time to dance and sing, do puja, especially honoring Lakshmi. Or, Kali, if you’re a Bengali. Joseph was born in Calcutta, now Kolkatta, the capital of Bengal and the third largest urban economy in all India. He’s not been there since so this Diwali in Little India is special for him.
Diwali is the “biggest and brightest” of all Hindu festivals according to DiwaliLifeFestival.org. As a harvest festival and a festival of lights Diwali conflates Samain, the end of summer and the final harvest festival for the Celts, and Hanukah/Christmas, both holidays that features lots of color, lights, candles.
Several years ago, probably 2000, Asian Arts curator Bob Jacobsen taught us new guides at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts about the South and Southeast Asian objects in its collection. In one session he had slides of a trip he had done to Cambodia where he focused on Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat just means Angkor temple and there are over 70 temples in the Angkor area complex, home for centuries to Khmer devarajas, god-kings. Each new devaraja built his own temple.
The temple most often identified as Angkor Wat is the first temple you encounter after passing through the tree shrouded impossibly loud thanks to the howler monkeys road from Siem Reap to Angkor. Bob showed us slides of the churning of the sea of milk, part of a frieze that extends completely around the temple’s first level, a quarter of a mile of carved relief sculpture at eye level. Not sure why but I immediately felt I needed to see it. In person.
When my dad died in 2003, he left each of us a small inheritance and I decided to use some of that money to visit my sister Mary in Singapore, go to Bangkok, and then onto Siem Reap and Angkor in Cambodia. The trip was in 2004. I did not realize then the importance of the churning of the sea of milk to Diwali*, the celebration I had experienced the week before in Singapore’s Little India.
Lakshmi and Ganesha, see picture below, receive puja together during Diwali. Ganesha opens the way, creates opportunities. Lakshmi uses them to create wealth, knowledge, and wisdom.
Diwali is not a well known holiday in the U.S. Even so, I have several personal connections to it and welcome all of them during this delightful time. If you want, you could visit a Hindu temple in your city or area. Lots to see right now.
- Lakshmi’s Incarnation into being
The story of Lakshmi’s birth begins when the Devas (minor gods) were in a race against the Asuras (demons) to obtain amrit (the nectar of immorality). The Devas consulted Vishnu who was on earth as Kurma, a tortoise. They decided they would churn the oceans for the amrit. They created to churn by the threading the serpent Vasuki around Mount Mandara. Kurma dived to the ocean floor and balanced Mount Mandara on his back.
In the grip of Kurma’s cosmic clutch, the mountain could not sink into the ocean bed. The gods churned and received the Nectar of Immortality from Lakshmi Devi and then fourteen treasures came to their hands. Lakshmi Chose Vishnu as Her Consort. Vishnu carried Lakshmi from the ocean into His heaven. Each time Vishnu descends on earth as an avatar. He is accompanied by an avatar of Lakshmi. Diwalilifefestival.org