Karkidaka Vavu

It was visually intoxicating. Vibrantly decorated elephants ambling along the waters edge of a south Indian coastline, a handful of tourists interwoven in to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of locals who had made their way down to the beach on this particular day, and there were Priests… Hindi Priests sitting crossed legged on the sand, their bodies decorated with paint, and their faces decorated with wisdom.

I could tell that there was some sort of ritual happening, obviously, and the seeker that drives my soul wanted the full experience. I found myself lingering around one of the painted men until he finally invited me over to sit down and participate in his blessing. I didn’t really know what was happening, but his energy was hypnotic in a way; calm and grounding. His clear eyes peered through weathered skin, and his smile was as gracious as they come. The warmth that seemed to seep from his pores offered me a sense of comfort and an energetic hug.

He spoke only in Hindi with some occasional head nodding and hand gesturing when needed. I have no idea what he said, but his words landed on me like a sacred poem. He laid a banana leaf in my hands and proceeded to bless rice, flowers, herbs, seeds, and water. A small, framed painting of Shiva watched over us as each item was blessed individually and then placed on the leaf I held delicately, almost desperately, in my hands. My heart needed this, it was clear to me, although I had no idea why. At some point during the ceremony I remember having a sudden and overwhelming sense of love for my father. His presence filled my mind, and my heart, and my being. He had passed 2 years prior, and him showing up at that moment was unexpected, but welcomed. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I was just grateful for the feeling.

The ceremony lasted for about ten minutes, and it concluded with the Priest walking me to the waters edge and releasing the banana leaf, and its contents, into the ocean. It was a beautiful offering from the bottom of my heart into what I perceive as the very heart of nature. Tears welled in my eyes, and I felt light. I had no idea what he said or what he did, but I felt somehow expanded. I was better in some way, and that was enough for me.

A few moments post ceremony, a couple young men approached me.  They were local, and I was clearly a foreigner dressed in a Patagonia T-shirt, a pair of HardTail Pants, and of course, a scarf. I couldn’t completely understand what they were saying, but they seemed to try to tell me the ceremony was about death. It felt really awkward, almost as if I needed to explain myself and my participation in a ceremony intended for those of Indian culture.  They questioned my receiving the blessing, and they laughed…and it didn’t feel as if they were laughing with me, it seemed as if they were laughing at me.  I got the feeling that they found amusement in that I appeared to be another westerner navigating through India in search of meaning. And, no doubt, I was exactly that. Maybe they were just being childish, I don’t know. I have no intention of stepping on any cultural toes, or running wild with assumptions, but WTF? Does where I come from determine my eligibility to be blessed? Does my appearance change the authenticity of the experience? Or make me less worthy in some way? Maybe I am naive in saying so, but the world I want to live in, or rather the spirituality I embrace, doesn’t pay attention to color, or gender, or age, or religion. In a bigger sense, my spirituality doesn’t even acknowledge words. I believe in energy. And what I felt on the beach that day was pure, real, and infused with something that words can’t describe.

A few of the other girls in my group also received the blessing, and we left the beach feeling spiritually satiated…but also confused. Were we allowed to feel spiritually satiated?  I felt an urge to try and process what the ceremony was all about, but at the same time I didn’t want to muddy or tarnish it by trying to wrap my mind around any sort of meaning.  So instead of analyzing and potentially diluting the experience, I simply felt what I felt and moved on.

This reminds me of when I attended a Krishna Das workshop years ago,  and students were asking what the words to his different chants meant. He chants in Sanskrit, and they wanted a literal translation of the chants to satisfy and feed the brain….and I wanted it too. Krishna Das responded that it didn’t matter what the words meant as long as they were spoken from the heart. I wholeheartedly agree. Words matter less, love matters more.

A couple months after arriving back in the states, I happened upon an article highlighting the same ceremony I had experienced. It was called Karkidaka Vavu. I read that the blessing is performed for the deceased as a means to release the departed from any past karma that could potentially be keeping them from peacefully moving into the afterlife. I am pretty sure this ceremony only happens once a year, and what are the chances that I would be there… on that beach… on the other side of the world…on that day? Slim, I think, but I was there nonetheless. I don’t know for sure, but I think it is safe to assume that my Dad had some karma to work out. Truth be told, I am pretty sure my Dad and I had some karma we needed to work through together. His presence during the ceremony was a surprise to say the least, so there must be have been something to it.  I hope it helped. Peaceful travels, Dad.



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