April 27th to May 2nd, 2007
Our family had planned a get-together. Now let me clarify by what I mean by **family**. We cherish brotherly bonds with cousins who trace back to 5 to 7 generations. We were in all 80 people gathered for doing some family ritual. According to the belief, it is established that our ancestors protect us and take care of us. They have the answers and solutions to our present-day problems. For example: If someone is facig some illness or someone's children are not getting married, they seek answers from the holy spirit. We performed a havan (ancient hindu ritual) and established the shrine for our ancestors and kul devi.
Now let me describe my hectic itinerary. I left Pune, on Saturday 28th April afternoon and reached Mumbai by 5pm. Then I had to catch a train from Bandra at 9:00 pm. We reached Baroda at around 5 am and from there we hired a cab to reach Talaja ( my native place ) by 9 am. Then we climbed the mountain and participated in a religious ritual at the peak of Talaja mountain. The ritual was called adhar abhishek. In the evening we decided to go to Palitana. So, mom, dad, bhai, bhabhi, me and my nephew all of us reached Palitana in the evening. Next day early morning we climbed the holy Palitana. Up there, we performed our usual rituals and then started descending it in the scorching heat around 12:30 pm. Without food, water and shoes it was a testing coup, but I managed it somehow. Then we went to Bhavnagar to meet bhabhi's aunt who had take diksha long ago. We had food at "Food Point, Bhavnagar" and then we reached Talaja late in the evening.
There, back at Talaja we had a family meeting where the nuances of the havan were being decided. I have been religious throughout my life, but I had never witnessed such a ritual. This ritual baffled some of the principles of Jainism. So in a way it was hard for me to believe in whatever was being done. I tried to discuss this with my father, but he also had no conclusively answer to it. There were some stories/incidences which approved of the presence of family-protectors. Also, somethings took me away from it.
On a side-note, this made me relate this all to a classic animated film, MULAN. Mulan is a chinese film which highlights the ancient Chinese family rituals and also shows how an intelligent girl saves the Chinese empire from being invaded by Mongol tribes.