Friday, July 1, 2016

Devotion has no rules

Devotee series:

In a quiet village of West Bengal lived Bamacharan, who as a child was so devoted to the mother goddess that if her image would not answer his prayers, he would roll on the ground screaming and crying. He was considered mad by the villagers and they gave him the name Bamakhepa. He sang songs with his father who used to go into ecstatic states while he sang for the goddess. He grew up to be an extraordinary child, having a relationship with the goddess which none understands, alternating emotional love and exhilaration, with anger and hatred, love and belonging. He went on to become a priest at Maa Tara’s temple at Tarapith but his stay there was marked with confrontation. He refused to perform any rituals or do any rites as a priest. He roamed around, making friends with dogs, sharing food with them, sitting for hours at the cremation grounds and seeing the goddess dance to the tunes of life and death. What outraged the caretakers and others who frequented the temple was that he would eat food to be offered to the goddess before the worship ceremony was finished. The caretakers started murmuring, “Bamakhepa is one mad man, completely unfit to be the priest. See he is making the food impure and unsanctified by not offering the food to the goddess first.” One fine day in anger they beat him severely but Bama insisted that it is the goddess who asked him to take food in this way. He was thrown away from the temple site. But that day the temple owner, the Rani of Natore, had a dream. She dreamt that Maa Tara was leaving the temple. Maa Tara looked very sad and her back was bleeding and full of cuts, and vultures and jackals followed behind her, lapping the blood from her wounds.

In fear, Rani asked, “O Maa, why do you show me these terrible things, and why are you leaving us?”

The goddess answered, “I have been in this mahapitha for ages but now your priests have beaten my dear son whom they consider mad and as a mother, I have taken these blows upon myself. I am in great pain, for four days I have been starving, because they have not allowed my son to eat my ritual food. So I refused to accept the offerings too. My child, how can a mother take food before her child is fed? It is my wish that all that food offered to me at the temple should be first given to my son before it reaches me.” Saying this, the Big Mother disappeared.

The Rani was perplexed and she ordered that the priest be brought back and treated well. Bama continued being the priest at the temple, the most unconventional priest who inspite of having the knowledge of the vedas and puranas, chose not to worship the goddess through any rituals or mantras. He, instead, followed the path of pure, raw devotion. A state of devotion and despise, love and anger, ecstacy and the pain of separation. To him She was his mother, the Big Mother, the beginning and end.

What is the shade of devotion? To the world a devotee might seem mad, a misfit, but isn’t devotion, an insane encounter?

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