Archive for March, 2010

Bhoomi Puja before building a house near Tiruvannamalai

March 25, 2010

Bhoomi (also Bhumi) is the Hindu goddess Mother Earth. Before the start of construction, usually a Bhoomi Pooja is performed. This is to ask permission from Bhoomi Deva, and to get her good will and assistance. It also is to ask forgiveness for the disruption of the many living beings already on and in the land.

Our rickshaw driver, Rajan, has some land near Tiruvannamalai, and will start building a house. 22 March 2010 was selected as the most auspicious day on which to hold the Bhoomi Pooja.  He asked that we join him on the property at 6:15 am.

We arrived at that time, like good Westerners. No one was around. Arunachala is in the background. There is a great view from his land.

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Looking south from the property is the area of Samudram Lake.

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There is no water in the lake at this time of year. It is a foggy morning, not usual here.

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Rajan built a small thatch house on the land. This will be used for storage during construction, and most important, allowed the power to be connected at the residential rather than commercial rate, a big savings.

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While we waited, we drove the scooter out to the dry lake bed to look around. Here is Arunachala through the fog. The lake bed is dry. There are big pits from illegal sand mining. The sand is needed for any cement construction (used for all buildings here). The cost now is about rs 4500 per bullock cart load, big money here, so there is a major incentive for the sand poachers.

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Carol took this picture of me while we waited.

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The sun is rising, time to get back to the construction site.

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People are around now. The Hindu priest and a helper are starting the work for the pooja.

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Here is Carol with Rajan’s kids, Raam Kumar, his son, and Jananni, his daughter. Carol looks great in her saree. It is a fancy one for the big occasion.

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The helpers have dug a hole in the ground. It is at the correct location according to Vastu, a Hindu home design art like the Chinese Feng Shui. Vastu will determine where the well should be, the kitchen stove, the septic tank, etc. If you do not follow the Vastu rules, life in the house will not be harmonious.

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They dig a hole, with a mud column rising in the center, like a lingam built from the earth.

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The priest starts to consecrate the site. First he sprinkles turmeric powder over it.

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Red kum kum dots are then added at the four cardinal points. Jananni and Raam Kumar watch intently.

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The priest sprinkles more powder. Is it more turmeric, or is it sandalwood?

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Bananas and a flower mala are added.

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Next, near to the dirt lingam, an altar is built from bricks.

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The priest covers them with turmeric.

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Then red dots are added. They are ready now.

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On the top of the dirt lingam, a sprig of mango leaves has been added, like a mango tree growing from the lingam.

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Janaki, Rajan’s wife, brings in an alter plate. In this ceremony, family members have a very specific role to play.

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Meanwhile, men cut lemons for use in the lingam setup.

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They are cut into halves, rubbed with red kum kum, then placed on the dirt around the lingam.

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Now Janaki must light the lamp on the altar plate.

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Nearby, men prepare coconuts. There is much fiber that must be removed before they can be broken for the pooja.

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The priest has incense.

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He waves the incense, then places it into the ground near the lingam.

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While men work on coconuts, red cloths are being laid out by Janaki.

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Now the priest has a plate of flowers, and chants.

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He takes this plate around to everyone that is here today. I think it is like everybody is blessing the flowers. Rajan and Janaki go first.

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Then all the others. The man to the left is Rajan’s father’s brother. Rajan’s father is dead, so this pooja role today goes to his uncle.

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The priest leads Rajan, Janaki, and the two kids through a process where they touch each eye, ear, nose, shoulder.

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Then chants.

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He gives flowers to all the family members. Then to everyone else.

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As the priest chants, flowers are dropped onto the brick altar.

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Everyone gets into the act.

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Still preparing coconuts. It is a lot of work!

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Rajan and his wife pranam.

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The cloths are laid out with goodies. These will be given to key people today.

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Rajan and Janaki drop something onto the altar. I am not sure what, maybe rosewater?

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Then onto the lingam.

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The priest drops something onto the lingam while everybody watches. There are about 15 people here today, Rajan’s family and friends.

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Janaki squeezes a lemon (I  think).

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Rajan and Janaki offer incense to the lingam.

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Then to the altar.

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Then to Arunachala.

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I am not sure what is being offered here.

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The priest adds a red flower to the top of the lingam.

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Then breaks coconuts.

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Rajan adds two coconut halves to the lingam.

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Then Rajan and Janaki drop coconut milk onto the lingam.

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Next is fire. Rajan waves a flame at the lingam.

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Then to the altar.

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The flame is taken through the group, so that each person can bless himself with it.

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The decorations for the lingam are getting pretty nice!

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Janaki adds a broken coconut to the altar.

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Next all the family women (and Carol) pour water into the ‘moat’ around the dirt lingam.

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Then a man (Rajan’s father’s brother?) adds a betel leaf with a bit of camphor on it into the moat. He lights the camphor.

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He then passes his hand into the water to make a current, so the flame goes around the lingam three times.

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Janaki gets the ‘goodie’ packages to give out.

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These are given to various people. Here Carol gets one.

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Then the priest takes the last coconut and puts burning camphor on it. He waves this flame, then smashes the coconut on the ground. This is the final act of the pooja.

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He then picks up the coconut halves.

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And Rajan removes the brick that made up the altar. That’s all, folks.

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We mill around for a bit, then people start leaving.

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A successful pooja. I notice that there were roles for each member of the family, and that several times all of the people present were involved in the rites. The Earth Goddess was invoked and asked for assistance and support for the construction. All the people present contributed their energy and goodwill to the successful completion of the construction.

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