Can someone explain what was going on?

While on my way to breakfast today, I noticed a little ritual that I’d never seen before. A woman was carrying a small slightly shabby ornately decorated chair on her head. It had carvings and peacock feathers and was maybe upholstered in red velvet. She was carrying what at first I thought was a single-tail whip, that she cracked on the stairs of the hotel/restaurant we were going to visit, then stood there expectantly. As I passed her I noticed that it wasn’t a whip, but looked like a very long gray plait! After a little bit a manager (or some other officialish looking person) came out and gave her a few coins and she walked down the street. I caught his eye as he was doing it and he just sort of grinned at me.

Can someone please explain what I just witnessed?

4 Comments so far

  1. Deepa Mohan (unregistered) on April 28th, 2007 @ 2:01 pm

    If this was what I think, Charles, that was not a chair, but a “kaavadi”, that is a decorated piece taken out in procession by devotees of Lord Muruga or Karthik (the son of Shiva and Parvathi, and the younger brother of Ganesha); his vehicle is the peacock, whose feathers (alas!) are used to decorate the kavadi. The devotee walks all the way to the Murugan temple that s/he has chosen; on the way, of course, many solicit alms. Religion, everywhere, is closely associated with charity, so some people make use of that fact!

    Some devotees, apart from carrying the Kaavadi, also pierce their tongues or backs with little metal spears as a token of self-mortification. The whip might have been, once, used for self-mortification, too…but now, apparently, it is used to draw attention to the fact that others can get brownie points in heaven by donating to the devotee!

    Well…that’s what *I* think you saw….

  2. Charles Haynes (unregistered) on April 28th, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

    Hm. I have friends in the USA who’ve done the Thaipusam, so I’m familiar (at second hand) with the Kavadi frame and I don’t think that was it. It was definitely rectangular and looked like a chair about the size a small child could sit in. The woman had one of those circular pads on her head that people use when carrying burdens on their heads.

    It’s kind of funny because as we were leaving the house for breakfast I remarked to Debbie. “You know, I don’t have my camera. I hope I don’t regret it.” Of course I did regret it. I should know better.

  3. tarlesubba (unregistered) on April 28th, 2007 @ 6:02 pm

    it might just be a variation on the same theme. shiva,ammoru, even shani are pretty common too. so there might differences in paraphernalia on account of that.

    deepa peacocks shed feathers too.

  4. Ravi (unregistered) on April 28th, 2007 @ 10:56 pm

    Well, Charles, some of these people come from sorrounding villages where photos of dieties/gods/goddesses are carried on such mobile ‘platforms’ and blessings given to generous people! As for that long plait / whip, thats interesting but no idea at all.

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