Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sky Lights


I could see the specks of light in the sky as the CNG made its way towards the temple, feebly trying to squeeze its way between too-big luxury SUVs, beaten-up cars with broken fenders and motorbikes carrying its female passengers slung across sideways.

Random side note: Why do these women sit like this? I did it once, but only because it I was in a nonnegotiable long skirt, and throughout the journey my center of gravity yelled at me for being utterly stupid, and I'm never doing it again.

Admittedly, I had no idea what the festival was all about, or what it signified. I only knew there were going to be pretty lanterns let off into the sky and that's really all the motivation I needed to get my ass down there. I'd been there a couple of time before, and I like it. Geese and dogs wandering around the place. Its a temple/monastery, after all. Peace and tranquility are to be expected.

Well anyway, I know now its Pravarana Purnima, held on the full moon and marking the end of the Buddhist version of Lent.

The Daily Star reports as such:

THE Holy Pravarana Purnima is one of the greatest Buddhist festivals. The Buddhists of Bangladesh observe the holy day with due solemnity, religious dignity, freedom and fervour ... the festival is observed in the month of Ashwin, and is also known as Ashwini Purnima ... The breaking of the Varshavasa day is called Pravarana Purnima. On that day, the Buddha came down to this world after preaching the Abhidhamma to his mother and other gods in the Tavatimsa Heaven during Varshavasa. The Buddha advised his disciples to propagate the true Dharma on this day.

A whole lotta words. Article gives nice background info on the festival's origins, but fails to mention its highlights -- pretty lanterns in the sky.

And that bit about solemnity and dignity? Dude, have you attended one of these things?

Too late now to edit pics to prove my point more forcefully, but you'll see what I mean soon. There was some serious dancing at the end, dancing involving gyrating, half-naked, sweaty men with abs, grabbing each other and shimmying all over the place. Jessica was not unpleased.

This crowd was (dare I say it) putting on a show more gay than any of the action I've seen in Happy or Taboo. It would've been a lot more pleasant if these guys weren't straight and all that ass-slapping actually meant something (maybe it did, but I'd like to see you try finding one guy to admit as much). The one thing that they do have in common with the crowd in Singapore's awesome gay bars? No one gave a fuck about me.

Half-naked dancing men aside, the main feature of the festival was fabulous. Till now, I have no idea what the lanterns signify. If I had to give a guess -- cleansing, a fresh start, releasing your wishes into the night sky in the hopes that the gods hear you better at a higher altitude?

All religious allow these outlets of hope. Hope that your prayers will be heard, whether or not its by writing your wishes on slips of paper and attaching it to a tree or
writing prayers on floating candles. Hope for absolvement, that the past will be forgotten by all, including yourself, when you step into the confession booth or let that lantern of yours float away, away into the night.

At some point, I teared slightly amidst the cheers as the lanterns went up one after another. Don't really know why. Ridiculous, since I still don't know what the whole thing means. Maybe I kinda wish I could attach some of my own stuff to those lanterns and let it all go.

Purnima - Kamlapur Buddhist Temple

I'll show you what he saw in my next post.