14 July 2008

Lakshmi the Cow

As mentioned in an earlier posting, I attended Cow Lakshmi's Ardhana function this morning at Ramana Ashram. It was a very sweet event, especially for those attendees who know something of the history of this cow.

In the below, the President of Ramana Ashram, Sri Sundaram is in front of a chair with a photograph of Bhagavan and Lakshmi.

After the short puja, I thought it would be nice to visit some of the 163 cows that live at the Ashram, some of who are Lakshmi's descendants. The below is of a lovely Rajasthan cow, who was waiting for some bananas to be passed through the gate.

These Rajasthan cows and bulls are exquisite, with skin like silk and a gentle, sweet disposition.

The next photograph are of Punitha's calves. Punitha, who is now deceased was a HUGE favourite with devotees and visitors. Lets hope the kids grow up to be as lovely as their Mum.

Lots of cows everywhere, and here an idyllic scene of several cows hanging out under some trees at the Gokulam.

On Mattu Pongal (Festival of the Cows) celebrated yearly in mid-January in Tamil Nadu, domestic animals are decorated and fed with Pongal. Below follows a narrative of a special Mattu Pongal in which Lakshmi played a prominent part. The narrative is particularly interesting because the writer tries to explain the unique connection Cow Lakshmi had with Sri Ramana Maharshi:

“In the Asramam also yesterday morning several varieties of sweetmeats were prepared and, with garlands made of those sweetmeats, puja to Nandi was performed by drawing ornamental lines with lime powder before the cowshed, by tying plantain trees around the pillars, by hanging garlands of green leaves, by bathing all the cows, by placing tilakam (vermilion marks) on their foreheads and garlands around their necks, and by feeding them with Pongal. Finally pujas was performed to the chanting of mantras and the breaking of coconuts.

Lakshmi is the queen amongst the cows, is she not? You must see her grandeur! Her forehead was smeared with turmeric powder, and adorned with Kumkum. Around her neck and horns were hung garlands made of roses and several other flowers, as also those made of edibles, and sweets, Besides these, garlands made out of bananas sugarcane pieces and coconut kernels, were put around her neck. Not satisfied with these, the person in charge of the animals brought from his own house another garland made out of some savoury preparation like murukku and placed it on the neck of Lakshmi. When Niranjananandaswami asked him what it was for, he replied with justifiable pride that that was his mamool (yearly custom) to do so. When I saw Lakshmi thus decorated like Kamadhenu, I was overjoyed and felt extremely happy.

Bhagavan, who went out at 9-45 a.m., came to the Gosala (cow-shed) at 10 a.m., to shower his blessings on his children there. While he sat on a chair by the side of Lakshmi, enjoying the sight of the beautiful decorations on her, the devotees gave arati with camphor, chanting Vedic hymns such as “Na Karmana” etc. Some devotees said that they would take a photo of Lakshmi. She was then led into the middle of the Gosala after asking the devotees who had gathered in to a big group, to step aside. Lakshmi stood there, tossing her head in a graceful manner. Bhagavan also got up, came, and stood by the side of Lakshmi, patting her head and body with his left hand, and when he said, “Steady, please, be steady”. Lakshmi slowly closed her eyes and remained absolutely quiet as if she was in a samadhi (trance). Sri Ramana then placed his right hand on her back, and with his walking stick in this left, stood in a dignified manner by the side of Lakshmi, when the photographer took two or three photos. One must see that sight to appreciate its grandeur fully.

Another photo was taken when Bhagavan was feeding her with his own hands fruits and sweetmeats. You can see the photos when you come here. I was reminded of Lord Krishna in Repalle when I saw the grand spectacle of Bhagavan standing in the midst of the cows in the Gosala. Not only this, in Brahma Vaivartha Purana it is stated that Krishna is the Paramatma, the Lord of the cow world, and that Radha is Prakriti. The theory in that Purana is that Radha and Madhava are Prakriti and Purusha – the inseparable pair. Standing with his body bent slightly to the left, and with his left hand on Lakshmi, and with the walking stick in his right hand, looking as if it was a flute, with a sparkling smile on the face like the foam on the waves of the ocean of ananda, with a compassionate look towards the group of devotees that had gathered along with the herd of cows, Sri Ramana, the embodiment of grace, it is no surprise of one were reminded of Lord Krishna Himself standing with crossed legs, resting on his toes and playing exquisitely on the flute. If that Krishna is Ramana, what are we to say of our Lakshmi who appears to have been completely oblivious of this world with her ears hanging down, with her eyes closed and enjoying transcendental bliss caused by the touch of Bhagavan’s hands on her body? Shall I say that she is the embodiment of Prakriti in the shape of Radha? Otherwise, how could she understand human language?

It is no exaggeration to say that we, with human eyes, saw in that congregation what is beyond human sight; a world of cows, and its overlord, Prakriti and Purusha. You would perhaps laugh at my foolish fantasies but take it from me, that sight was so lovely. Every year this worship of the cow is being performed, but this year Bhagavan gave us this blissful darshan by standing by the side of Lakshmi, because the devotees said that they would take a photo of Lakshmi. What a great day! I am writing to you, because I just could not contain my joy.”

[Letters from Sri Ramanasramam]

1 comment:

Eileen said...

Lovely description!