Thursday, May 04, 2006

Only three steps to perdition.

Nawa varas nu sagan” (literally, “New Year’s salt”) is a pre-dawn cry you hear only on the New Year’s Day in Diwali in South Bombay as far as I can vouch. It’s uttered by the man who sells you packets of rock salt sprinkled with kumkum that’s supposed to bring you good fortune in the New Year. I remember a ritual from my childhood that took place on every New Year’s Day in my house. The servants would sweep the house, collect the sweepings and pile them up. A puja would be performed of that pile of rubbish. The pile would then be paraded through all parts of the house to the accompaniment of a chant. This was intended to banish all the evil influences that may be lurking about as well as to usher in the just and righteous reign of Bali Raja. The servants would then go down and keep the sweepings in a corner of the compound. They would buy the ‘lucky’ salt from the saganwala and only then come back home. Last Diwali, on the Bali Pratipada morning, I heard the saganwala’s cry and sent the servant down to buy some for old time’s sake. (By the way, Bali Raja was a demon king. He was the fourth direct descendent of Hiranyakashyap. Bali ruled all three worlds, it seems. So, the gods were jealous and afraid of him. The diminutive Vaman Avatar of Lord Vishnu tricked Bali into surrendering his entire kingdom by asking for the gift of “three steps of land”. Read the account of what all transpired here: You can read some information on Diwali customs here: & (I’m not sure how authentic it is, though.)

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