Kitchen of my Amma and her Rituals…

Angithee and the Agni Dev

During my childhood, in early sixties, in Shimla, for my Amma, a routine job like, cooking food was not less than religious ritual. Amma would  cook food on a Angithee which would have coal in it. Old iron buckets would be used to make this Anghithee.  The ironsmith would cut a hole on one side of the bucket and would fit an iron grill at the center of the bucket. Mixture of fine clay and shredded drass would be used to line the inside of the Angithee and the top would have three round projections to hold the cooking vessels and also to let the air and fire flames pass from below!

The last kitchen chore that my Amma would do was to give this Angeethi a fresh coating of clay. Even this was a ritual worth explaining. The used coals, still hot and buring, would be put out from the Angithee and the Angithee would be prepared for the morning use. Amma would give a fresh coat of clay to the Angithee. The liquid clay would at once dry as the angithee would be so hot even when there were no burning coals in it. The vapours would fill our small kitchenette with a smell which no perfume today can compensate for.

And why did Amma do all these rituals! For my Amma, and most of the women of her generation, Angithee was the abode of Agni Dev. Amma would purify her Angithee every time after cooking food. When she would cook food, the first offering of the food would be made to Agni Dev! Such was her belief that Agni has to be fed the first thing before serving food to anyone else. The food had to be pure! Nothing could or should defile food while being cooked.

During my recent visit to my Amma, I saw an old Angithee lying in the storehouse. No one ever uses it. It lies discarded lamenting, perhaps, her golden times.  I thought of all the ritualistic performance that this Angithee had seen and paid my obeisance to it for having been instrumental in feeding us.

I wanted to peep through relics and memories of my childhood—some old paraphernalia, books, papers and yellowed black & white photographs! I thought of annual issues of Purana, published by Gitapress Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. I craved to find them.

“Amma, where are the old Puranas?” I shouted while searching for the old heap of books and paraphernalia that seemed so out of place in the marbled new construction that is my Amma’s proud home now. I had asked her as I was not able to locate the old books that during my childhood had made a small abode in Shimla, our home! I was searching for a part of my childhood that still was alive in the yellowed papers of the old books.

All those Puranas lay peacefully in a steel trunk lying in a corner of a room that had all the old unusable paraphernalia spread in it. I opened the trunk and scrambled through so many old papers, each of which had something or the other to remind me of. And then I came across Agni Purana. Now this was a Purana that I remembered only glancing at during my childhood as it didn’t have any stories in it! I loved reading anything and everything that had a story  but AgniPurana had description of many of the tricky religious practices. So this is the Agni Dev that my Amma fed everyday during her daily ritual.

But now when I had reached an age where such religious practices and methods interested me a lot, I picked up this Purana and went through some of its pages to have a look at it. The Purana had Agni Dev as the recite of various Akhyanas of the Purana and I found tits and bits of the Purana very interesting. The Purana was in a very bad shape. Its pages had yellowed, the paper cover had come off but luckily the inside was intact and in good shape. I wanted to carry it back with me to Hamirpur to read it and to find why my Amma religiously fed the god of the Angithee, the Agni Dev. And what I found in the Purana was nothing less than a miracle to me.

To be continued…..

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The Best Lesson that I Learnt in the Year 2010…

Looking back and reflecting on the year 2010, that is about to become a part of history, I can say without an iota of doubt that it has taught me a great lesson. It has taught me to have faith in God, trust the basic goodness of human beings, the power of destiny, and the law of Karma. I don’t think that by any means it is a small lesson that I learn in the year 2010!

I learnt that survival of faith and human life is God’s will to show us that come what may, His will must prevail. I saw and felt the belief of people in the power of God and felt humbled by their faith! I saw the auspicious signs on rocky terrains as a testimony of people’s faith in God!

I saw life surviving under much trying circumstances. I saw and noticed for first time in my life beautiful small flowers spreading color around dull and drab colourless rocks! I learnt to appreciate that life can survive under most difficult circumstances. I learnt that irrespective of the fragility of survival, these flowers were spreading colour and fragrance to one and all. I saw beautiful flowers providing relief to the tired travellers, the flowers that sprung from the hard rocks. The flowers whose destiny and life could be smashed anytime under the feet of an callous traveller!

I saw roots of trees finding a succor from hard rocks which sustained my belief that even hard exteriors had a soft heart inside. These roots of a big tree had found a succor and strength from a rock which had such a tough exterior. The green foliage that grew abundantly on the surface of these rocks strengthened my conviction that if you have will to survive, the Nature will provide the support!

I learnt the undying wish to survive even under the cruel hands of imminent death!
I learn to have faith and spread love and belief. Thank you Year 2010 for being so supportive and caring to me and my loved ones!

Goodbye 2010!

Visiting Kamru Nag…The Reigning Deity of Mandi—2

The Verdant Green–Mystifying,  Enigmatic and Daunting…

Walking along the deep green meadows we talked about all that anyone of us would share about the deep jungle around us. The anecdotes, though hard to believe, added to the feeling of awe that ruled our hearts. The verdant green seemed enigmatic, daunting and mystic. Yes, these are the feelings that the verdant green surroundings filled our hearts with when we looked around the dense pine jungles with thick vegetation sprouted with big solid rocks in between! Was it not this very jungle that saw the aircraft carrying the then Governor of Punjab going down. In 1994,  Punjab governor Surendra Nath — who was also officiating as governor of Himachal — and nine members of his family were killed in a plane crash on the Kamrunag mountains, bordering Kullu and Mandi districts. Call it a coincidence, but Surendra Nath was going to Kullu from Chandigarh and accompanying him was his younger son, Vikram Malhotra, who was then the deputy commissioner, Kullu. The accident occurred on July 9. The unfortunate mishap took the lives of three generations of the 68-year-old governor’s family.

I tried to imagine a complete family in a happy mood going down in flames amid these very trees. These trees seemed to have watched it all. The tragic death of the twelve members of his family and also the crew made headlines in almost all the newspapers at that point of time. The rumours by the local people that the jungle was littered with cash and ornaments added to the mysticism of the accident. The local people have a tale to tell about the unfortunate incident. The hearsay is that the Governor wanted to purchase some land in the adjoining area and was on a visit to pay for the land. The local deity had not assented to such a deal and this was the way to stop the deal. The tale justified the scattered cash and ornaments in the jungle. Enigmatic godly interference! No one would ever know the truth of the tale. We looked at the deep thick jungle and the verdant green around us fand the sight filled us with enigmatic, mystic and daunting feeling.

Interestingly since my mom, too, had decided to trek with us, the three generations of our family were represented in this trip! I shuddered to think.“Can gods be so ruthless?” shaken to her core, asked my little one. “Yes, they are, but only to those who transgress the boundaries made by the gods” I added thinking of so many persons who try to play god in the lives of others. Is it not that Kamrunag always sides with the party that is losing? The local people might have been on the losing side when it came to put a stop to a land deal where high and mighty were interested and the deity showed his wrath. The tales about the large forest area littered with cash further substantiated the myth of the Kamru Nag where devotees throw ornaments and coins in the lake as an offering to the god. The excitement in the mood had given place to somberness. Everyone was deeply immersed in  thoughts about the tragic incident.

If there was deep forest on one side the other side had rocks whereon feet of innumerable people might have treaded to pay obeisance to Dev Kamru Nag. We, too, marched ahead leaving the past behind, literally as well as psychologically!

Visiting Kamru Nag—The Reigning God of Mandi… 1

   A Panaromic View of the Road to Rohanda

01 July, 2008

Tuesday

The first thing that I did on the morning of 1st July, 2008 was to look at the sky. The sky, blue and shining, seseemed to smile at me. It was clear of the clouds that filled it last evening. The sun peeping from behind the mountains seemed to rejoice at the childlike enthusiasm that filled my mind with. I was excited and shouted aloud to everyone in the family to get up. Suddenly the silent and sleeping home came to life and was filled with commotion as everyone was up and about. And why would they not be as today we were going to trek all the way to Lake Kamru Nag, but only if the sky would not be cloudy! The only stumbling block would had been an overcast sky with impending rain following it!

 

The month of July is the month of heavy rains in Himachal and curiously the legendary Kamru Nag is the god of the rain for the believers. I had prayed hard to the god the previous night to save us from rain in the mornig and the god had listened to my prayers. I was filled with gratitude and hoped that it will surely listen to my other prayers and bless me with his benevolence. With a heart filled with rekindled hope, I started making preparations—preparations to trek to Lake kamru Nag. I packed some Paranthas, fried potatoes and some pickle as working lunch as  I had been told that there is no shop at Kamru Nag lake.

 Starting early we travelled by vehicle from Mandi to Sundernagar a distance of about 24 Kms. And from there we took Mandi—Karsog road. The trek would start from Rohanda that is about 50 Kms. from Sundernagar. We started the trek from Rohanda and when we looked down; the panoramic view of the valley looked majestic. I marvelled at the look of the road that seemed like a serpent from this place. I marvelled at enigma of the nature and also at man’s ability to reach the unreachable! The undying spirit of can-do attitude!The verdant surroundings added to our enthusiasm and we moved ahead with a thrill in our heart and with a can-do attitude we started the ascent!