Thursday, April 16, 2009

The family priest.

At the thread ceremony we attended on Wednesday last I saw at close quarters the presiding priest. He looked like a benevolent version of the first family priest at 233 Khetwadi Main Road. Our first family priest, hailed from Telangana (now Andhra Pradesh and a hotbed of Maoists and Naxalites), just like the presiding priest at the thread ceremony. My mother used to call him Shambha (Samba?) Bhatji. So he must have been named Shambhu after Lord Shiva. He was quite a jolly fellow, though bald and fierce-looking. I can hear inside my head the refrain of a mantra that used to be chanted at the fairly frequent Laghurudra puja commissioned by my mother. “Padma hastey sugandhe, sugandhe, padma hastey” which has something to do with the floral aroma wafting from lotus hands, I reckon. There used to be several priests chanting the mantra. They were divided into two teams and after one team finished chanting a verse, the other team would take up the refrain and so on and so forth. It was quite an enjoyable performance. Shambha Bhatji stopped coming one fine day and was replaced by his younger brother, Balkrishna Bhatji who used to earlier accompany him from time to time. I remember Balkrishna Bhatji telling me with his eyes closed and after silent chanting of some mantra (I presume) that I would do well in the exam I was about to write. He was later on succeeded by his son Datta Bhatji who and, after him, his son used to also preside at the temple of the Mankar family deity, Maheshwari, in Navi Wadi. Neither he nor his son is attending the shrine now. I lost track of them a few years back.