Yesterday, I went to Number One Hubby’s office to attend the Puja for our new car. Getting a new car in India calls for a ceremony. Sign me up. Bless my little car. Puja my ride.
First of all I would like to point out that Number One Hubby picked out a brown car. That makes me smile. There aren’t many brown cars here – it will be easy to find and, fyi, brown is my favorite color. And it is a lovely milky chocolate shade of brown.
It is a delicate matter – the picking of the right date for a Puja – birthdates and anniversary dates might be considered – and the night before was an eclipse – that is a big Puja no – no. So we did it yesterday. In the morning. In the light of day. I do not know all of the particulars about how a date and time are chosen. But people who know were consulted. There are reasons why this time and date were chosen and I am certainly not tempting fate.
You might wonder if this is really a big deal. It is. It really is. About 25 people from my husband’s office came to watch it.
We pulled up and saw our car draped with flowers. The flowers on the hood formed a swastika – which sounds awful – but not in India. It is the equivalent of the Christian cross and is meant to ward off evil spirits. To keep us safe in our journeys and to bring us prosperous travels. They call it an auspicious symbol – that is a good thing.
A priest (Pujari) gave blessings in Hindi and chants in Sanskrit. He sprinkled the car with a flower that he had dipped in water.
Then he drew a swastika on the hood of the car and another on the steering wheel. He burned incense.
The priest marked our foreheads with red dye – a mark known as a tilaka. Then placed rice over it.
A lei of flowers was draped around Number One Hubby’s neck.
Red yarn was wrapped around our wrists.
The red dye and the yarn were supposed to contain saffron. It is hoped that it will be absorbed into our brain and our bodies.
We will leave both the dye and the yarn in place until they come off on their own.
Number One Hubby then broke a coconut and sprinkled the milk on the car. This was pretty funny actually. Even the priest laughed – funny is universal. Number One Hubby was supposed to hold on to the coconut and break it open on the ground. Then, while still holding the pieces, sprinkle the juice on the car. If you have ever seen my Hubby attack a pinata, you know what happened next. He slammed that coconut on the ground so hard it shattered. Bring on the chuckles. No harm, no foul though – he just picked up the pieces and sprinkled away.
Then we were given two lemons each – to place under each tire of the car. Number One Hubby and I got in the car and drove over the lemons. Squish. Squirt.
Finally we gave an offering to the priest. The envelope was also decorated with a swastika.
Everyone who attended the Puja was so happy for us. It felt similar to a baptism. Congratulations and well wishes were showered up us. We were even given a gift. A statue of Ganesha to place on the dashboard. He will protect us during any new adventure.
Attending this puja was a lot like going to a High Catholic Mass given in Latin when you were raised Southern Baptist. Sure, you can follow along and hopefully not look like a complete idiot. But you will watch the people beside you so you know just what to do.
Here are a couple tidbits that I learned. When participating in Hindu ceremonies, you always accept things with both hands. BUT, you receive it first in your right hand and then place your left hand under your right. Note to self – right first, left under right. Got it. We also took off our shoes for the parts of the ceremony that we participated in. Second note to self – keep pedicure up-to-date.
As with any good ceremony, there were a couple of (very) funny things that happened. The priest’s cell phone went off during the ceremony. That was hysterical – at first I thought it was mine – I was mortified – but it wasn’t – it was the priest’s. Seriously, that’s funny – a ceremony steeped in old traditions and rich with rituals was interrupted by modern technology. Don’t ask me why he did not put it on vibrate – I did not ask. But I do wish I knew if he answered in Sanskrit.
The other thing was that we left the ceremony with much congratulations and many well wishes. We pulled out of the parking lot and drove – I dunno – maybe 500 feet – and we got sideswiped. Yes we did. And no, I wasn’t the one driving. It was a very small fender bender. No one was hurt. The other driver did not even stop. Maybe he was late for his puja.