Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Mission Bee-Hive

Nature always beckons me with its immense bounties. I have always been fascinated by the diversity of our planet in terms of both flora and fauna but little did I know that insects were soon developing an affinity for me. Some stray mosquitoes and flies have been my unwelcome guests at times but honey bees had definitely stayed away from me so far.

A couple of days back, I found a swarm of bees in one of my balconies. I rushed back in, closed the glass door, and silently watched the bees at work. To my utter surprise within minutes a hive almost a foot long was ready. I panicked and started thinking hard about ways of getting rid of them. I ran to my laptop, which is what I often do to look for solutions for problems I fail to tackle. I browsed several ‘do-it-yourself’ websites. The methods were elaborate and needed some experience and loads of courage which I lacked at that moment. I had heard stories about getting stung by bees, the intense pain, and allergy caused by them. The thought petrified me.

Then, I decided about hiring some professional help to get rid of the hive but was again disappointed because our locality does not offer any such services. It left me perplexed. While retiring to bed I made sure that the doors and windows were locked properly.

The following morning I was greeted by a looming hive and I jerked out of my sleepiness instantly. I was alarmed to see some of them inside the house as well. It was then I thought that I have to do something about them. In a fit of panic, I grabbed an insecticide bottle and sprayed it on the stray bees. The bees collapsed in couple of moments. The spray had worked!

 I just imagined what my dad would have done under the situation and decided to take the plunge. I found an old army raincoat which had not been used for some years in one of the suitcases. I took it out, dusted it, and kept it aside. Next, I took two monkey caps of thick wool which were enough to cover my entire face except my eyes. I wore shoes and was soon ready in my ‘shining armor’.  I grabbed the bottles of the spray and went to the balcony. I closed the glass doors behind me. My hands shook, heart palpitated as I looked up at the hive with the nozzle pointed towards it. I said a silent prayer which I always do when I am stuck in a deplorable situation. I said to the count of three the spray should be on the hive.

I said, “I am sorry bees but you have to go!” and pressed on the nozzle hard. I could see the bees flying all over the place. I began dodging them without losing my hold on the nozzle. The ones who came closer to me were the first to go. I was revolving at top speed. At that moment, I just started feeling that I was in a war fighting my opponents and the bottle in my hand was the machine gun. The battle between me and the bees was on for a good fifteen minutes. I emptied the bottles and rushed in for another one. Now, I had to be more focused and could not afford to miss any of my targets.

For the next round, I was more confident as I had the experience of fifteen minutes, two emptied bottles of pesticide, and large number of my dead preys showing that I was well on my way of being victorious. This time, I stood on a raised platform and started spraying. Within minutes the bees were gone and a lonely hive was hanging. I had won the battle!

The sight of the ‘lonely hive’ with the dead bees lying on the floor suddenly made me feel guilty. I felt a pang of guilt in my heart. There was complete silence in the balcony. An hour back the same place was full of activity and now the hive stood like an old wax hill hanging from the ceiling. I was already regretting and asked the bees to forgive me for my callousness. I had gone against nature. Today, one queen of the house had defeated another, the ‘the queen-bee.’

I removed the hive with a heavy heart. I had killed the homemakers along with their queen. I do not know what I did was wrong or right. It’s for you to decide my friends.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hindu Wedding: The significance of the “Saat Pheres”

I have been to several weddings but never realized the importance or significance of these rituals. I used to just attend the ceremony, enjoy, and come home. My niece and I attended a wedding last week. She asked me questions related to the wedding rituals and to my dismay I was as ignorant about them as she was. I then realized that there may be many more like me who just blindly follow the traditions and customs without understanding their meaning or significance. Through this blog I want to share what I learnt about the most important ritual of the Hindu wedding, the “Saat Pheres or the Seven Rounds” taken by the couple during the wedding.

The Hindu weddings are mesmerizing. The wedding rituals find their roots in the Rig-Veda.  According to the Rig-Veda the life of a man is divided into four stages or “ashrams” that are : brahmacharaya, grihastya, vanaprastha, and sanyasa.  When an individual enters the second stage ‘grihastya’ he/she is supposed to get married and lead a family life. The Hindu wedding comprises mostly of Sanskrit Shlokas and innumerable rituals.  The wedding begins with the invocation of the ‘fire god” or “Agni.”

The integral part of the wedding is going around the ‘Sacred Fire’ seven times. The “Saptapadi” is one of the most important rituals without which the wedding is considered to be redundant. The couple encircles the “Sacred Fire” seven times with the bride leading in six of them. The “Seven Pheres” or the circles made by the couple are seven vows taken with the ‘Holy Fire’ as the witness. Fire is considered to be holy and pure because apart from spreading warmth and light, it is also capable of burning down the evil. The couples take a vow, “like this burning fire we would keep our relationship bright, warm, alive, and pure. The seven vows taken by the bride and the bridegroom are as follows:

1.      With the first step, the couple prays to the Gods to give them the mental, physical and spiritual strength to lead a healthy life. "Let us be happy and enjoy life. Let us walk together so we grow together in strength.”
2.      With the second step, the bride and groom invoke the gods for attainment of happiness and harmony by mutual love and trust in all walks of life. "Let us not forget parents and elders. Let us walk together so we get happiness by sharing our joys and sorrows.
3.      With the third step, the couple invokes the gods for plenty of pure and nourishing food. "With God as our guide, let us take the third step to live with honor and respect. Let us walk together so we get good food in plenty.
4.      The fourth step is for preserving wealth and prosperity in life. The chant at this stage means, "let us share joys and pains together. Let us walk together so we get wealth.”
5.      During the fifth round they pray for the welfare of all living beings in the Universe and pray for virtuous, noble and heroic children." Let us observe all acts of charity. Let us walk together so we have family.”
6.      While taking the sixth step they ask the gods to give them a long, joyous life and togetherness forever. "Let us live a long and peaceful life. Let us walk together so we have joy.”
7.      With the seventh, and last, step, the couple prays for understanding, companionship, loyalty and unity. "Let us be friends with love and sacrifice. Let us walk together so we have friendship.”

After the seventh step has been taken, the groom says to the bride, “We have taken the Seven Steps. You have become mine forever. Yes, we have become partners. I have become yours. Hereafter, I cannot live without you. Do not live without me. Let us share the joys. We are word and meaning, united. You are thought and I am sound. May the night be honey-sweet for us. May the morning be honey-sweet for us. May the earth be honey-sweet for us. May the heavens be honey-sweet for us. As the heavens are stable, as the earth is stable, as the mountains are stable, as the whole universe is stable, so may our union be permanently settled.”

With completion of the “Saptapadi” or the “Seven Pheres” the two are pronounced husband and wife.