India celebrated Dasara last week. A part of this is to perform puja (worship) to bless machines which are important to you. As I came up toward this digger the shovel was moving up and down as if it was bowing over a small fire which was on the ground in front of it. By the time I got there and snapped the picture the ceremony was over. The motorcycle seen here leaving the scene has also been blessed. You can tell because it is decorated with banana leaves and garlands of flowers. In addition to decorating the machine there are a variety of fruits which are smashed on or by the machine as part of the puja.
Here is another machine I photographed on my way to work. Notice that in addition to the traditional flowers and paint this has a more modern addition of balloons.
Our driver brought leaves, flowers and fruits and blessed our car. He left it decorated for two days then cleaned everything off. I was at work but Donna was there for the puja so perhaps she will write something about it.
Joseph, our driver, spent all morning cleaning the car. It was spotless--more spotless than its usual spotless. And he had decorated it with great care. He had bought all the items used with his own money. I came down to watch the puja, which pleased him very much. Each door was marked with several lines, and the tires had them in 4 different places, besides the hub caps. (I had noticed three lines on the control panel inside the elevator on the way down to the garage. Elevators need blessing too.) Yellow mum petals were sprinkled on top of the car and around the car.
Joseph put a small lime just in front of each wheel. He put another half lime with a red powder on it in front of the whole limes by the front wheels only. Then he smashed a white pumpkin open and put one half in front of each of the half limes. (This is filled with pomegranate-like seeds that makes it look sort of like a bloody honeydew on the inside.) With our housemaid/friend's direction, he moved the car forward far enough to crush all the fruit and end up right on top of the white pumpkin. From what Jaya said I understood that running over the fruit, etc. would keep you from running over any people, and protect you from other accidents.
Joseph also lit some small flat oval lozenges on a silver tray, which he carried around the car. I think these might have been the same substance that was burning on the last tray that is presented at a Hindu wedding. He made an offering of a pile of puffed rice and a banana on a banana leaf in front of the car. He also lit several cones of incense, which were placed on top of a coconut and another fruit during the ceremony, and also several incense sticks, which he tucked into the decorations on the front of the car at the very end. The ceremony ended with smashing open a coconut. Smashing the coconut and pumpkin alarmed Luna. Otherwise she had watched the whole thing from a safe distance, and surprisingly stayed out of the water on the floor around the car. There were several containers of Indian sweets and many fruits on Joseph's tray. They were just there for the blessing, and then he shared them with Jaya, myself, and guards and other people who work in the complex.
The last part of the process was to take a short drive in the car. So we all loaded in. I cringed when Luna made a huge black footprint on the threshold of the car from finally stepping on the wet floor. Her towel was spread on the back seat, so she could do no more damage to his hard work.
I suggested that I could send down a broom and dustpan to clean up the fruit and pumpkin pieces when we got back, but Jaya said they had to stay there until the next day. She said other people would be doing puja too, and that the cleaning people would clean it all up the next day. I saw several other cars that had undergone the same puja already, so I didn't worry about it. I realized that we had seen all the decorated vehicles shortly after our arrival last fall, but didn't know it was a once a year ritual. We just thought ,"That's what they do in India! They must like pretty cars!"
Although he is a Christian, our driver Joseph was determined to do a puja. A friend at church was surprised when I asked if he had done a puja. I think it is a cultural tradition as well as a religious ceremony. Joseph was raised Hindu, and converted when he married. Perhaps if you are a driver you have more of an investment in both keeping up appearances with other drivers, and doing anything you can to avoid accidents, as well. And Joseph is a GOOD driver. When visiting the Infant Jesus Church after Luna's big scare, I thought that that Catholic church had many of the same forms of offerings and mood as the Hindu temples. Many Indians seem to embrace at least parts of several religions at the same time. The "more is better" philosophy, I suppose. Or an extension of a common public sentiment that all religions are equal.
That is the public policy, but all sorts of violence has been happening lately in Orissa on the part of some "religious" who claim that others have forced people to convert to a different religion, and then proceeding to force the people involved to convert to Their religion. I guess every religion has its extremists. Public tolerance still comes down to one on one.
Donna and Joe have finished their assignment in India. Occasionally they still travel somewhere.