2 bananas are placed on each leaf that encircles a large pile of rice. They all sit on a larger banana leaf.
More fruits are then added to the offering as well as this large metal pot containing a mixture of milk and water. The orange lump on the right side is a symbol of the lord Ganesha. After the prayers the guy gave this to me to keep in my desk. I am supposed to keep it for a long time and not break it. That kind of stresses me out.
The guys setting up are muttering prayers while putting together the offerings. This is what it looks like when completed. It is quite beautiful actually with sweet fragrances of incense filling the air. More than a religious ritual it looks like an offering to nature with all its natural elements. It reminded me of when I was much younger doing prayers with my family. And here I was doing it on my own for the first time.
They also set up this large steel basin filled with sand and dried wood laid out in a triangular formation. Surrounding it are bowls of oil contained seeds of some sort. They brought the news papers and a block of wood to place below the basin so the tiles below would not get too hot and crack. They were very well prepared if you ask me.
Next to each bowl these is this ladle which is used to drizzle the oil over the fire. Conveniently it has a very long wooden handle. The handle is changed regularly because it tends to scorch and burn at the base, as you can imagine.
The ceremony begins once the fire is lit. The guru or head hauncho recites Sanskrit prayers very rapidly while the family uses the ladle to continuously drizzle oil over the burning wood. His assistant is on hand to ad wood to the fire when necessary and also refill the oil in the bowls should it run out. I am embarrassed to say that I have no idea what the guy is saying and what the whole shindig symbolizes. There was a time when I did know and I did care but those memories and feelings are long gone. The fire grew to a solid 3 feet tall and the ceremony lasted about an hour. Sitting so close to the flames it got extremely hot and I was covered in sweat. I remember thinking about hell at the time. The process was quite agonizing to be honest and my whole office filled up with smoke.
The prayer ended with me walking around the fire 9 times while reciting a powerful Sanskrit mantra. I then paid the gentlemen for performing this prayer for me with an odd number figure for good luck. That means if you have to pay $200, you would pay $201. Don’t ask me why but this is what my Mom told me to do. A large bowl of rose petals are poured over the fire along with the all the offering that were on the banana leaf. This quickly smothers out the flames and fills the room with a very calming scent. It stirred up a lot of old memories for me.
Overall, although I choose not to follow the religious traditions I was born into, ceremonies like this do leave me feeling calm and more importantly, positive. I returned to my desk with the sensation that I was starting on a clean slate. I guess for a moment there I did not feel so alone.