Today is Dussehra. I’ve heard differing accounts of what the festival is about. My favourite version is that of the goddess Durga (an incarnation of the Mother Goddess) beating the demon Mahishasura. It took 10 days, 9 nights and swords – she has several pairs of arms. She also rides a lion. Personally, I would have backed off when I saw the lion. It’s celebrated after the 9 days of Navratri (which means 9 nights) and whichever part of India you come from, it’s essentially a celebration of good triumphing over evil.
To mark the end of Navratri festivities, there was a community party last night. There was music and dancing; specifically dandiya which is a traditional dance for this festival. You get to dance with sticks (these are the swords of the goddess Durga) which you hit against your partner’s sticks. This is danced in pairs and in fours. The H and I had a go…we didn’t last long as part of a four. I consider myself to have a modicum of rhythm, however I was unable to count to four and dance at the same time. In the end, if there was a stick in the air and within reach, I hit it. We were nothing if not enthusiastic. There was also dancing round the big flower rangoli; an anticlockwise, swirling mass of lenghas and kurtis. By the end of the night it was frenzied and glorious. There was also a scrumptious buffet…in hindsight a little more time should have been left between the chole and the dandiya. In fact any food and the dandiya; it involves lots of twirling and scooping, not good for the digestion.
I went riding this morning and at the farm, as part of the Dussehra celebrations, we performed the Ayudha Puja for the horses. T’internet says this is mostly a Southern Indian tradition, but I get the impression that people just pick and choose the bits of Dussehra tradition that they want and make the celebration their own.
The Ayudha Puja is a ceremony to give thanks to your tools of work. It’s specific to your trade. If you’re a carpenter it’s your carpentry tools, if you’re a musician it’s your instrument. The chauffeurs draped garlands over their cars. Yesterday, a friend’s husband who works in a manufacturing plant was performing pujas on the various machines at the factory. She says during their four years in India he has become an expert coconut cracker.
The Ayudha Puja for Ponio went like this. The owner of the farm held Ponio, his wife recited the mantra and I held the offering tray. The tray is moved in a circular motion three times, then the horse gets a smear of kumkum (vermillion) and turmeric on it’s forehead. A little rice is sprinkled on the forelock and then the horse gets a biscuit from the tray. All the horses had a puja and there must be about 30 of them.
This is the mantra for the puja – AUM shreem bhreem saraswataye namah. I looked for a translation but I couldn’t find one. If anyone knows what it means please let me know.
I thought it was lovely that the horses were getting recognition for being, in essence, the livelihood of all the people that work at the farm and their families. Some horses were more compliant than others. Most just wanted at the biscuits being wafted in front of their noses. The photo above is of Ponio sporting his vermillion streak…and checking for any stray biscuits.
Although riding is not my ‘work’, I do feel that it’s a fundamental part of me, it’s what I do. When I go riding I do my best to accomplish something. I have the good fortune to be able to achieve that feeling of accomplishment with the Ponio. He is my workmate and I am incredibly thankful for him.