Legends of the Lamp

Update for month of October 2014 (ended 26 October)

I am the lamp – Deepa. I am lit in many Indian homes prior to the onset of winter. I am usually made of clay – and at times decorated and filled with the oil of the region – sesame in the south, groundnut in the west, mustard in the north and the east. When lit, I can fill an entire room with light, bringing joy to all around me. I have been lit for over centuries and ages and I will tell you the various legends that have been witness to. Let us go back at least 5000 years to the age of the naughty blue cowherd. He was known to be as naughty as he was fearless. His village folk by the Younger Sister River trusted him a lot with his ability to keep away danger. This blue boy was so skilled with his fingers whether it was with playing the flute or lifting mountains or twirling discs as he was with exposing evil plans of killer moms and helping cleanse poisonous rivers (read https://riteriterite.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/kanha-and-the-cowherds-the-yamuna-curse/). And my legend goes to the days when hell’s gates opened up – perhaps due to the shifting plates of land as the modern world was forming and causing myriad earthquakes in that region resulting in the hot lava spewing out with its venomous gases from the centre of the earth or what people referred to as the netherworld or hell. The gases would choke the cattle that dared to roam about near the chasms and the searing heat from the molten lava would further aid the vaporization of the gases to travel afar. The Blue Cowherd happened to be near one such chasm which was still spewing steam and venomous gases out of the opened up earth. The heat and the steam rose into the skies and the changing weather patterns at that time of the year (after the end of the great rains and before the start of the great wintry months) meant that the winds were not strong. The clouds that formed over the river banks grew larger and larger. Everyone in the village was terrified. The clouds spewed out lightning and its thunder rumbled on for hours. The lightning streaks bolted down from the skies and set afire to some drying leaves and bushes and the village folk were too frightened to venture out and put it out. The blue boy grabbed some thick branches of the tree nearby and broke it. He rushed to the fires with the branches and swept over them to smoulder the flames. The young flames died down soon, not only because of the swift sweep and strokes of the branches, but also because the leaves and bushes were still fresh and not so dry after a bountiful rainy season. He then looked heavenwards and shot out an arrow into a low cloud which burst into showers. This triggered a chain reaction in the clouds as the lightning and thunder intensified and with it also the rains that descended on the smouldering earth. The hot earth hissed like dying serpents as the rains poured onto them and the deadly gases were consumed by the heavy raindrops. The blue boy was wet by now and he pulled at his bow and plucked the string to send out the last arrow skywards. The metallic arrow seemed to have been charged as the lightning broke out fiercely striking it and it glowed over the dark grey skies. The villagers who cowered in their huts and cow sheds, saw the glow in the sky and they knew that this meant something important to them. They recognized the arrow shape as that of the Blue Cowherd. They feared for his life and prayed to their gods to protect him. The rains lasted a whole day and the hissing around them stopped at the end of it. When the skies cleared up, they looked heavenwards and the villagers were overjoyed to see the clear skies studded with twinkling stars, a sight they had not seen for days and months and they knew that the monster from the netherworld was tamed. Now they had to look for the young blue prince. They saw him walking home in the dark – it was one day away from the new moon. And to help the blue prince find his way to the village, they lit a thousand or even more of me, the Deepas…. I was lit on the window sill, on the doorsteps, next to the barn, in the courtyards. The heavens had competition that night from the villagers by the Younger Sister River, there were perhaps more twinkling stars of deepas on the ground than there were in the skies above. The villagers gathered outside their homes to welcome back the triumphant blue boy!

After the heady days of September, when the D Street Boyz rejoiced at the greening of their street, came the grey clouds. The hot October, perhaps the hottest that the street had seen in a decade, sent the SENSEX sweltering down. The Boyz of D street did not know what ailed them; was it the global uncertainties or was it the strengthening greenback. One day they heard their continental Caucasian cousins were going bust, and the next day, they heard that it was not so. They were so spooked by the volatility – almost like the blue boy and his villagers who did not know what monster from the netherworld was disturbing their environment. And then one of them decided to take the “bull by the horns” and lead it up the path and get the SENSEX revived by the lights and Deepas of the season. They even chose a fair dark kohl named girl to come and ring a bell on their festive day. She came dressed in shiny yellow festive clothing, almost the colour of the traditional Deepa flames and did not know that she had to strike the gong – she just stood dumbstruck and spreading her toothy smile until someone led her to the charging bull statue on D Street. Even there, she did not know what to do – so she remembered her Tamizh film hero who had once fought a bull in his movies and decided to do a rehash of that. She enjoyed it … at least on D Street, she had more importance than in the movies she did down south! The D Boyz cheered on as they saw their SENSEX revive to an honourable 26 851; up from 25999 in Mid October, though still below the 27206 in end September.

It was early morning, by the time the blue boy walked home. His mother awaited his arrival and with tears in her eyes, but joyous smiles on her lips, she welcomed him in. He was wet and perhaps tainted by the poisonous gases and liquids that poured down on him. To purify him, she used her time tested special oil; laced with special herbs and spices. She invoked the blessings of the family deity and asked the eldest member of the house, her husband, to anoint the young blue boy. She knew that this oil had the purifying qualities to cleanse his body. She then prepared his bath with warm water and sprinkled a few drops of the Great River into it. Though the Younger Sister was the source of their regular water, it was now slightly polluted by the poisonous rains of the previous night. The magical qualities of the Great River could always purify any source of water and so was precious, yet abundantly available. She then set about to make the blue boy his favourite food treats ……. Including a special herbal mix that he had to ingest at the start to cleanse his insides as well, lest he swallowed some of that poisonous rain. The blue boy did all that his mother asked him of and looked forward to the grand feast that was to unfold that day. It would be one of his favourite days……. And I was there that day to witness perhaps the first Deepawali our land has known. I continue to light up Deepawalis across the ages and even in your homes. Thank you for your hospitality.

So tell me how you enjoyed your Deepawali. Do you have another legend of the lamp that you would like to share with me? I have many more…… that the Deepa has told me. I will tell you all sometime soon.



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