A Monsoon Diary

by Julian Crandall Hollick
page 4

Chhunar says days and nights waiting for the monsoon to come are no fun: " If it rains and it gets slightly cool that is when we feel sleepy. Otherwise, you don't feel like sleeping because it is so hot." But does he look forward to the rains? "Yes, desperately, we are waiting for the rains." "What if the rains are late, does it affect your crops?..Does it affect what you earn?" "Yes, if the rains are late, then it is going to affect our lives... because once we stop the farming on the sand, the next stage is that we go in for a different crop that is dependent on lake water and the rains, and if the rains are late then we're in trouble."

Chhunar says it's cooler in Bhitthur than in the city. There are plenty of trees to give shade. And there's also a breeze off the Ganga. Chhunar goes to get his boat ready. That's how he earns a living in the rainy season While we watch the kids noisily washing their buffaloes in the river.

Bhittur appears to be an insignificant little place. Dusty, crumbling walls reveal wafer-thin bricks that could be fifty... or five hundred years old, decaying and disintegrating ghats (steps) leading down to the river from crumbling temples, porous and blackened by decades of constant humidity, in some cases riven by deep cracks as if an earthquake had once struck Bhitthur.

Lots of people still come to worship at the temples in Bhitthur because it's supposed to be the place where Brahma finished creating the Universe. According to legend the sages became worried: Master, how will Man come to know that Brahma actually created the Universe here? So Brahma placed his wooden sandals by the riverside. The sandals sank, but the nail between the big toe and the smaller toes didn't get washed away. And there it is, smack bang in the middle of the ghat that leads down to the Ganga. That's why people come here.

In the afternoon, I pay a visit to Harish Shankar Shukla - the senior pandit in Bhitthur. I need reassurance that divine intervention is on hand, if needed. "If the rains are late are there special pujas or ceremonies that you, as a Pandit, will practice to try make the rains come?

Recite the Shiv Purana! That's what he recommends. You see, Shiv's wife Parvati begged her husband to tell her a particular story she really wanted to hear. Shiv said "Okay! But you must give me your Third Eye in exchange. Its heat is scorching the earth and destroying everything that's living! "

Parvati, reluctantly, agreed. Shiv was full of happiness and gave the appropriate thanks.

"And did it rain?" I ask. "Of course," says Shukla. "So now the Sanyasis and Pandits, they get together and create Yagyas (bonfires) - and a number of pandits get together, and they burn a number of things in that - like ghee and that, they commit sacrifices - and it's said that the fumes which come out of the fire, they rise up into the sky and that causes humidity, and that is why it rains. Pandit dares make a prediction: "On the 19th of June, a star known as Adran Naksh - Nakshatra - is going to shine, and on that day, on the 19th, I guarantee you as a pandit, because it is written in the Vedas, it will rain on that particular day. So that day you can come to me at any time. My door is always open to you!. I shall be dancing in the rain."







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