Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is there a right prayer?

               Jai Ganesha, Jai Ganesha, Jai Ganesha Deva
                     Maata Jaaki Parvati, Pita Mahadeva

Day before yesterday was my second Diwali here in California. Diwali, for those of you who don't know, is a festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and which is as significant to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians. In the evening pooja (prayer), my husband and I sang the Ganesha aarti. The prayer had been floating in my consciousness for days before. Well, not the prayer exactly, which praises Lord Ganesha, but rather a specific line in it that has been getting under my skin. While talking about the various miracles that Lord Ganesha can bring about, it says "Baanjhan Ko Putra Det," which means that Ganesha can bestow the gift of a son to a barren woman. When I was a child, this line seemed to confuse my very being. Everyone sang it like it was normal.

This time, when I was singing the aarti, I tried to convince myself that it said "putra" or son instead of "putri" or daughter just because it rhymed better. Maybe it was speaking just of a woman who desired and wanted to have a child - surely, that's a natural desire? Was I being too rigid? Didn't I want to stay in touch with my culture by singing the aartis the right way? Didn't the aarti also bring back that sense of home, that feeling of connectedness and even devotion?   
Stuck in the middle of these questions and doubts, I sang the line but with a certain feeling of hopelessness. I got hooked into a space where I felt that nothing I did was the correct solution, that I was caught between remaining connected with my culture or remaining connected with my truth. The little girl I was would not have gotten confused. She felt her feelings keenly and when she was negated, the feelings bled right into her. She knew it was unfair and wrong, even if she couldn't understand why God thought that only a son was a gift or a woman was valuable only if she had children.

But I do. I understand. When I allow myself to get out from that little space where I've cornered myself. Does staying connected with my culture mean that I start believing things that I actually stand against ? I don't think a true God would ever create a sterile, barren human being. I don't think a true God creates women for the sole purpose of having children - although that could be part of their bigger dream. I don't think sons are gifts, and daughters are not. And I think God thinks the same way I do. And our prayers reflect only who we are as a society. They don't reflect the true nature of God. Only a patriarchal system discriminates, not God.  When I truly think of my doubts and questions about staying connected to India here in the U.S, I know that I don't want to follow dogma. I want to pray with my whole heart, something I've not done for years. But that prayer has to be mine. And not couched in thinking that my very being protests against.


  1. Yes it is the right thought you wrote about ,even I was praying and thinking about changing that particular line . But what can be that in place . why the singers and other people do not find a perfect one .

    1. Thank you. I think we keep on singing it, even though it bothers us, all in the name of tradition. I don't think there's any easy answer, except that in our own lives we stop saying that line, and maybe point it out to people who are ready to listen and understand. We can't "make" someone change, but we can change ourselves.

  2. Thanks for reminding a good thought .