In Kerala, temple festivals have a season. A wide span of 4 months starts early January and ends Mid-April or may. It also falls as the annual school vacation time in Kerala schools. For every child in the state (one could argue Hindu child as the temples belong to majority Hindu community even though they are open to all) their first moment of magic in life could be a night in the local temple festivals, amidst the life in the temple’s festival ground or ‘Poora Parambu’.
It is a miniature of the crass Kerala society. You meet a world of colour and vigour of freedom, which is otherwise starkly suppressed by society’s morality. It is a messy but a necessary evil for most of the Keralites to attend a ‘Poora Parambu’. Most people are unaware or have least interest to know what is happening inside the temple. Rituals and divinity gives way to enchanting freedom, which exalts energy surely is beyond describable limit.
I’ve been an outsider to religion. So normally I don’t get hitched by the charm of Festivals. Last week I got an opportunity to be a part of a festival in the local temple. Thousands of people queued up the temple gates and proceed to festival ground, when I set my foot there in a gross evening. Divinity has blocked a state motor way even an ambulance finds it difficult to pass. We can’t blame people for that considering Kerala has got the highest of density of people living in India.
Nadakavu Bhagawathy temple, devoted to the goddess of destruction Kali is the one I’m referring to. We have two grounds separated by the state highway dedicated for the Pooram or Festival. And the attraction: the fireworks. We occupied a place in the road so that we can witness the action of both sides. Two large grounds almost equal to a cricket ground’s size were carefully planted with ammunition. Deep inside the pockets in ground buries fire crackers waiting for the flame. The main ground adjacent to the temple has a special decoration. Fire crackers, thousands of them joined together to form a garland to initiate a chain reaction for the final punch.
A local man told us nobody would stand the sound of crackers bursting as a chain. He said it was a skilful work to create a garland, starting from a single cracker to multiple and organized array. It will create an effect same as ascending musical notes. Nobody stands it –he claimed.
It is dangerous too, imagine a cracker released from ground lose its trajectory and falling on people! It will surely kill especially when we have a mob.
Why this incredibly loud fireworks? My friend answers me (He is a Christian) Hindu’s have this belief that Goddess Kali loves the sound of this massive explosion. For her to giver ears to the worries of people they should open her ears. Kali, setting abode in the celestial have huge ears. In order to get her attention it is important to make incredibly loud crackers.
Festival ground is a miniature world. Beautiful ladies dressed up in their best, parade along their family and friends to give men a much needed glance. Normally it is a taboo to stare at woman but on a festival night it is not. You meet all kinds of people in festival ground, from all the walks of life. Drunkards solemnly sleeping on the pavements, kids animated with Chinese built toys in their hands, families reunited by pure love, massive number of lovers who cares nobody but a scoop of ice cream they are holding… that is how a true festival ground take shape.
The place combines massive energy, especially the hustle to watch street circus. Like a Gabriel Garcia Marques book you could see novel people, tightrope walking to earn money, occasionally a juggler too. One should be amazed to see how an ordinary place transformed into multi layer euphoria with the power of mere moon light.
Now back to the fireworks. It is a spectacle to watch. One by one, the man with the flame lit the crackers. Like a ghost resurrected they head into the sky to burst loud and spread their colour. Each one has different colors, red, green and yellow. That doesn’t matter because the heaviness of explosion prompts you to close your eyes. That means you miss half the action yet it is brilliant. Followed by which started the chain reaction. Over 300 meters away we have seen the massive force taking shape to make a big bang.
Slowly but powerfully it began the dash. Racing against applaud of mob it reached our territory too. We were watching this spectacle from the ground zero, means we were the penultimate space where the mega-explosion happens. When the ultimate big bang started my friend Benhur hold me tight and asked me to stay back. I saw people adjusting their positions not to get hurt by the fire. I do the same. As the ritual was over people began to shout with happiness amid the thick smoke to mark their share of divinity.
On returning I hear people asking each other about the possible millions of rupees the temple management would have spend on this half-an-hour blitzkrieg. What I was thinking; has the Goddess Kali’s ears opened? Will she be smiling?
“We behold what we are, and we are what we behold.”