4 December 2008

The Deepam Festival -- Part Three

"It is widely believed that the provision of Free Food at Deepam is rewarded by the Lord more than any other provision of Free Food! Down at little shrine area in the only remaining virgin forest adjacent to my house, on one side of the road every year we have The Big Temple servants feeding ten thousand persons a day, and on the other side another group feeding another ten thousand. Crowd Control Barriers sprout and the vast distribution of free food manifests itself all along the Hill Round Route.

We wandered down to the little shrine area around midday on the seventh day of last year’s festival - the day of The Lighting. The Free Food queue in the crowd control barrier on one side of the road extended back for more than a kilometre, forming a static block against the jabbering stream of thousands not interested in free food just then. The field behind where the forest watchman lives was full of onionskins, vegetable peelings, big pots being filled with food and big pots on fires. Full steaming-hot big pots were carried on palanquins by strong men across to the awning on the roadside where more big pots of hot food were lined up and many men were dishing spicy rice onto leaf plates for the long barricaded queue of hungry Tamilians extending out of sight.

We ate our free food on a bench segregated from the crowd by thorns, watching a big fight between temple bouncers and persons trying to eat their food too near to the distribution spot, thereby creating untold congestion in a greatly congested situation. There was no alternative since there was nowhere to go to eat, because the sea of human beings takes up every available space. Discarded leaf plates smeared with spicy rice covered the road and particularly the shoulders of the road, where one had to wade through a great mess in order to move. Huge religious festivals have an agonizingly sordid side.

But the ecstasy is something else." To be Contd.

[By Apeetha Arunagiri]

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