Thursday, August 19, 2010

Our Household Deity

A lot of people - especially South Indians (apart from Malayalam people) have asked me if I am a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite.

Many people assume that we are Shaivaites because my father's name is Gourisankar and my grandfather's name was Bholanath. However, when I tell them that my ancestors were called Govinda, Krishna etc they get confused.

So, I tell them - I am, not sure whether I am Shaivite or Vaishnavite or Shakti-ite, as I don't discriminate - but philosophy-wise, I am an Advaitist (a follower of Advaita Vedanta).

However, let me talk about my family and in general about the belief systems of many similar Bengali Brahmins (based on what I have seen and heard). Many families (including ours) have a household deity, and like many similar families (as ours), our household deity is Lord Narayan in the form of a Shalgram Shila.

Lord Narayana is a distinct form of Vishnu, and to that extent we are Vishnu-oriented. And trust me, this religious practice is an old one - dating back to many centuries - maybe as old as two thousand years or more, much before the Great Migration to Bengal took place (or the advent of Christianity, for that matter).

Even to this day, every single day, in our traditional home in Chandernagore, we have Narayan Pooja, and people do not eat until Narayan has been fed (at least they are not supposed to eat). Every Thursday we have Lakshmi Puja, and hence Thursday is also referred to as "Lokkibaar" (The Day of Lakshmi) in our family.

However, unlike many other so called non-Bengali "traditional Brahmins" families (whatever that means), we are an inclusive lot and hence no God is left out of our family Godo-sphere (if there is such a word) and every God is treated in the same way. As far as family tradition and culture is concerned - I lean more towards Vishnu, and personally I also lean towards Saraswati and Adya roop of Parvati.

There are a lot of other aspects to this also, which I will touch upon sometime in future, time permitting.

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