Stone, Timber and Metal Gods !

July 23, 2010

Nana uncle one day told me that I would be going out with him during the night.

This was thrill. Because, the town used to be in the grip of darkness after around seven in the evening and children were banned from venturing out of the house after dark.

I took Nana uncle’s finger and was so ecstatic; I was dancing all the way. Nana Uncle was carrying a stick in his right hand to ward off snakes. On the left was I. I made him stop at various places, to see clear moonlit skies, to listen to the crickets by Motha Nalla, the big stream, the yet open restaurants clad in the pale yellow glow of lanterns, the old Hapton bus ( ) in grey slumber and the jasmine bloom at Phatak grandpa’s house. But I told him to tread quickly when we passed Doctor Grandpa’s house.

We reached river Khuni’s sand bed. It was today transformed in to an ocean of mostly men and a few women. The programme had already started. I could see the dias far away and hear the clear notes of Mridang, Ektari, Chiplya’s and Daf, although there were no loud-speakers installed. We went near to the stage.

The person singing was in tattered clothes, a cloth head-gear.

“Who is this?” I enquired.

“Tukdoji Maharaj…Now listen carefully to him.” Nana Uncle warned me.

So I listened.

“Lakadacha dev tyale aageecha bhev,

Dagadacha dev tyale panyacha bhev,

Sonya Chandicha dev tyale choracha bhev,

Dev ashane bhetayacha nahee re, dev bajarcha bhajipala nahee re…

And the chorus….Hey SSSS mani nahi bhav mhane deva male pav…..”

(The wooden God is susceptible to fire, the stone God is susceptible to the water, the gold or silver God is susceptible to theft. You cannot find God this way, He is not the vegetables on sale at the market place.)

Nana Uncle found his friends in the crowd and started talking to them. I fell asleep on his shoulders and he must have carried me back sometime in the late night.

As usual, I reported the night’s adventure to Grandpa Anna in the early morning after our BhagwadGeeta recital.

He questioned if I understood anything from Saint Tukdoji’s devotional songs and I said, “Yes, yes, a lot….We should not think that Gods are brave, because they are all afraid of something or else.”

He looked at me quizzically and said, “You indeed learnt a lot. Recite what you heard yesterday.”

I did whatever I remembered, and he said “Go, play now.”

It was summer and vacation was on.


My Grandma, Tai, was extreme case when it was a question of fasting. Come rainy season and her fasts would start. As it is she never ate on Mondays and Thursdays. But during rainy season, she would not eat the normal food for four months. No water during day time and only fruits, milk or a little curd in the evening. As it is she was quite frail. After the four months of fasting ritual, she usually reduced to a leafless acacia tree. Many a woman observed fast those days, but Tai’s fasts were famous in the vicinity as real, ideal, total, fasts.

I dreaded rainy seasons because she was also committed to other two rituals which I had to carry out on her behalf.

The first! During the month of Shravan, on Mondays, I had to take a container full of curd, milk, honey, sugar and ghee mixture to the Shiva temple and anoint the stone Shiva Ling with it. She accompanied sometimes, but mostly it would be me alone.

There would be my friends following me, throwing stones at the curd container throughout my pilgrimage to Shiva Temple. The priest would be definitely missing when I arrived. The school timing would be missed and I would be reprimanded by teacher for late arrival, would be made to stand on bench and tell the whole class why I was late. This increased the number of stone-throwers the next Monday.

The Second!! Tai had also devoted herself to swathe the Marai and Jakhai goddesses with curd rice every rainy season. For me it was a repeat ordeal, worse than the Shiva ritual. More so for Marai and Jakhai, because they had no priests to attend to them. They were there on a hillock, just standing under a tree in the open. As such, I had to carry out all the ritual by myself. They were ferocious looking goddesses, although in timber. They used to watch me all the time when I swathed them, and also, whether I was doing my job well. There was no chance for short cuts or slippage.


This rainy season I said to Tai that I will not help her. I said, “The new class teacher is very brutal towards latecomer. And most importantly, the stone God is afraid of water and the timber God is afraid of fire. What good is it to cover them with curd or milk or rice any way?”

As usual she went to Anna, complained about my refusal and he said that he would not press me to do this job. Tai was furious. She stopped talking to me. I did not mind that.

Come Monday, she placed the curd container in front of me. I did not look at it and went to school. As I was coming back, I saw Tai returning from the Shiva Temple, drenched in heavy rain. So what? I had Grandpa’s backing for my actions.

This continued for all four Mondays.

Tai did not request me after the first Monday and carried out the ritual all by herself…..and fell sick. Doctor Grandpa said she has grown anemic due to fasting and should not continue observing those, neither she should get wet in rain. As expected, she did not pay attention to this advice. Doctor Grandpa and Anna also did not press this point much, because they knew she would not listen to any body.

The Marai and Jakhai’s ‘no-moon day’ ritual eventually arrived. Tai had still not recovered. It was a no-school day. Still she did not ask me. Instead, she got up from the sick-bed, took head bath and started preparations in wet clothes. Looking at her pale and shaking body, I could not stay detached. I told her to stay put, took the curd rice she had prepared forcibly from her hands, went running in the rain and swathed the goddesses myself.

I scolded the goddesses all the time saying, ‘You wanted this? Take this!’ while applying the curd-rice plaster.

Next day Tai was up and running as if nothing was wrong with her health.

In the evening we had a dinner-conference.

Anna said, “Enough is enough. Next year, there will not be any rituals performed like this. Not if you are going to fall sick.”

“Why? Shiva is our family God ! ……And Marai and Jakahai my dear ones….. On the other hand, you family members should help me in maintaining traditions.”

Tai then said to me, “And listen, You. Timber or metal or stone, I do not mind. Why should anybody?…..Does anybody know why I perform these rituals or observe fasts?”

I said, “No. I do not know. Tell me.”

“You are a little skewed, that is why, and won’t listen to anybody”, Nana Uncle said.

“It is just to discipline my body, and to see how much I can endure, nothing more than that. If I am in difficulty, this discipline helps me. Gods do not, but my discipline does help.”

“And why were you sick yesterday and suddenly well today?” I questioned. Was that Goddesses’ doing?

“You were not ashamed to share my effort, which is why. And you went on to please timber goddesses just for me, which is why.”

Then I told all present once more in loud voice that I did not like Gods that are afraid. Further, that the Marai and Jakhai idols did not appear friendly but want to eat you up, the idols had deteriorated too much and all the curd rice that day went ‘inside’ the timber statues, instead of covering them, the idols were just leaning on a tree trunk, had no footing to stand on and the Goddesses appeared angry lame because of that.

Few days later I casually visited Marai and Jakhai abode, and to my surprise, I saw that the old idols had been promptly replaced with new ones, a bit smiling ones this time.

To that, Tai said, “Timber is Timber. Timber is afraid of fire and water and termite and decay. Not our Marai or Jakhai. They were in the old idols and are now in the new. And it is definitely useful when children are not afraid of the statues.”

Tai did not give up her ‘discipline’ and I was not ashamed of helping her afterwards, since it was just for her and not for anything else.


6 Responses to “Stone, Timber and Metal Gods !”

  1. Wonderful. ‘Belief’ can do amazing things, and everyone has their own reasons for it.

  2. PeACEMAKER Says:

    I am just narrating those days. It may appear a bit leaning towards blind faith, but that was the order of the day.
    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Ranjeet Elkunchwar Says:

    Nice post. And “skewed” ? Really? I like how the elders made you learn your lessons and not teach. I guess you did the same with us.

  4. PeACEMAKER Says:

    Thanks again Ranjeet.

  5. Vidya Murali Says:

    Heartwarming ! The scenes just come alive . It was like watching a beautiful sepia toned movie .
    Wish i could have met Tai , the ” disciplined ” lady !

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