Indian Village Life – Samuthiram Villages Prays for Rain: By Richard Clarke

This week we were invited to another Indian Village function–an annual ceremony where they ask the gods to bring rain. This is always held on the same day of the year. So on June 23, 2008 we went into Samuthiram Village to see the ceremony.

The rain is particularly needed this year. There are two monsoons that bring the bulk of the rain to the area. The Northeast Monsoon in October and November, and the Southwest Monsoon in the summer. The Northeast Monsoon failed to come last fall, and so far the Southwest Monsoon has failed to arrive as well.

Tamil Nadu has vast agricultural areas, much of which are rice fields farmed as small plots by village farming families. The rice fields can grow three crops each year, but they use lots of water. The English, when they came to India, said that these South Indian fields were the most productive in the world. They depend each year on the monsoons. Now we may have had two monsoon failures in a row.

We were invited to the ceremony by Dakshinamoothi, a man in the village whom we assist with his local organization, Quality of Life Trust. He told us to arrive at 1 PM, thinking that this celebration, like all such events, would start late. He then called us about 12:30 and said that we should be there. When we arrived a few minutes later, we found that it had already started.

It was being help at the village temple, a small building by the road that we have gone past many times. When we arrived, people were already gathered at the temple, the puja was over, and the next part of the rites had started.

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The villagers were gathered under the awning put up for the day.

There were three cones, decorated with flowers, several priests, and an open space in the middle of the crowd.

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Much work was done decorating these cones.

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In the circle there were drummers, beating out a rhythm, and someone dancing in the circle, an elderly lady. It is not usual at village functions to see women dancing, it is usually just the men. The ‘dancing’ seemed particularly energetic and expressive, and not any formal dance at all.

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After she left the circle, a young man, seen above in an orange shirt, stepped into the circle. Before he started moving, he spent some time, in what seemed like working himself up into some state. I wondered if perhaps he was drunk.

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Then he started to move wildly.

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I think his eyes were closed, and there is an expression on his face, almost, I thought, of pain.

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There was another man in the circle as well, in a white dhoti.

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The man in the orange shirt dropped to the ground, and was writhing around. I could not get a good picture of him. The view was blocked by a drummer.

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After this was over, he was exhausted, and had to be helped walk to where he could sit down.

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I found out later that these people were, in this ‘dancing’, surrendering themselves to God, and probably asking for something from God.

After this, the crowd broke up, and the next part of the rites got underway. We went to the Satya’s Cafe in the village to wait.

First came the drummers, who seem to lead all these village processions.

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Then after the drummers, came the cones, each carried by a man. We had seen similar cones walking through the village where we lived, and we wondered what they were about.

They stopped across the street, and the occupants of the house came out with puja items to offer, and received blessings from the priest who walked with the group.

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Then they walked to Satya’s Cafe, where we were waiting. There were some boys walking with the group, too, naturally.

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At Satya’s, the owner, our host, Dhakshinamoorthy, had three malas ready and waiting to offer. He gave them to three western women who sometimes help our his trust, Vishni, Shivani, and my wife Carol, who in turn placed them onto the cones, after puja items were offered.

First the puja offering.

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Then the malas were placed.

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then off to the next house.

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One man stopped for a photo.

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Here are shots of the temple, the next day.

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All the ritual items were still there, waiting to be cleaned up, which was to happen soon. Boys played among the cones.

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Temple gods watched the unfolding of the whole event, remaining silent and full of peace.

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