Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lunar Tunes

Victory! Virus Vanquished
Kathmandu, Nepal

Whew. It's been a way-out week. If it sounds like I am speaking in ancient riddles, just bear in mind, I am living in the KathMandala.

The Lunar Eclipse on Thursday coincided with the Nepali festival of Indra Jatra, and like most Nepali festivals, this meant lots of animal sacrifices. A baby buffalo (! a baby, that just doesn't seem fair) was sacrificed in front of the Mahadeva Mandal in Durbar Square, and I saw them kill 2 ducks and a sheep right in front of the goddess' chariot at Kumari Ghar. It never seemed right to me that the animals sacrificed are the most harmless, sweet, guileless, defenseless animals - sheep, goats, ducks, chickens. What would the Crocodile Hunter say?

All this along with the King's public appearance and the 3-day Maoist labour unions rally. Needless to say, traffic was a mess.

This, plus the lunar eclipse (considered unlucky in Hindu tradition) must have released some local weirdness. Not only did I get verbally and physically assaulted - shoved and yelled at by some fat German photographer wearing a Hawaiian shirt; grabbed on the butt by a local guy in front of the Seto Bhairav shrine; then threatened for a bribe by yet another local tough who insisted I had to pay to take photos of the street festival -- but Tawanda, my erstwhile laptop Compaq Presario B1800, was down with a mysterious virus.

Following this mishap, I was too depressed all weekend to do anything but watch the Animal Planet Steve Irwin marathon. In Hindu tradition, a lunar eclipse means that the snake-gods Rahu and Ketu, thirsty for divine nectar or Soma, are devouring the moon. The entire operating system froze up and I couldn't even boot. It really felt like something reptilian was in devour mode.

I spent a great deal of Saturday frantically calling friends in order to find a laptop repair geek, and watching Irwin in his life-long dance with some of the planet's most dangerous snakes. Coincidence?

Luckily, many prayers and about 12 hours of Crocodile Hunter later, the young techies at Mercantile Operating Systems on Durbar Marg were able to "operate" and restored Tawanda to working order. That'll teach me not to back up the photos onto hard disks at the end of each day.

Good Vishwa-Karma
So it's a good thing that the special day of Lord Vishwakarma is coming up, on September 17.
Vishwakarma (translates to something like "universal work") is the lord, sort of like a patron saint, of architects and also of all tools, workers, machines and instruments.

On the 17th, everyone will do puja (make offerings and hold ceremonies) to the tools of their various trades - hammers, scissors, sewing machines, cooking utensils or in my case, camera and computer. In south India, you break coconuts. Here, you throw rice and flowers.

I refuse, however, to sacrifice a duck.


haRee said...

The animal sacrifice is a ugly side of the practice...happens throughout India I believe; for sure, they do this in my native Tamil Nadu. Rather primitive thinking, happens a lot in the villages (not badmouthing villagers and their way of life though). I just hope as time goes by people realize the futility of such acts.....

Another practice that happened was the sacrifice of human beings for special buildings, i.e. dams, factories and such. My grandfather was told to perform it when he built his rice mill in a small town in Tamil Nad; he immediately made it clear that the person who advises to do such practices will be the one sacrificed:) lol

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Yep, human sacrifice is still a reality here in Nepal as well as remote areas of India. Every couple months you read about one in UP, MP, or sometimes southern hinterlands. I figure for every one that makes it to the press there must be several that do not....;-(