The Divine Pot – Devdutt Pattanaik

Cooking rice porridge for the Gods

“AncDevdutt Pattanaikient Indians revered the pot. It was the symbol of the womb, the garbha, for it sustained human life. The pot was equated with the mother; it was a symbol of divinity. A pot or kalash filled with water and sprouts and crowned with green leaves and fruits became the symbol of abundance and good fortune. It was worshipped over 3,000 years ago. It is still being worshipped today.” – Devdutt Pattanaik

PongalThe pot is a great invention. Without the pot, we would still be going to water bodies like rivers and ponds to hydrate ourselves as and when we feel thirsty. Thanks to the pot, we can get the water into our homes and store it for future use no crocodiles lurking beneath the water, no fear of a wild animal getting provoked into attack. The pot is a symbol of human civilisation.

Ancient Indians revered the pot. It was the symbol of the womb, the garbha, for it sustained human life. The pot was equated with the mother; it was a symbol of divinity. A pot or kalash filled with water and sprouts and crowned with green leaves and fruits became the symbol of abundance and good fortune. It was worshipped over 3,000 years ago. It is still being worshipped today.

The Gods, the ancients believed, had a pot that overflowed with grain and gold. It was called the akshaya patra. They also had a pot brimming with amrit, the nectar of immortality. Humans had neither. But humans included women who created and nurtured life, ensuring the continuation of the species. Women were therefore a combination of akshya patra and amrit, holding in their bodies the Water pots and veiled Rajastani women.promise of abundance and immortality for the family. Without a woman, a family perished. The family tree withered.

In ancient times women were clearly regarded as being more valuable than men. The survival of a tribe depended not on the number of men it had but on the strength of its women. So in the early days, women were given the choice to choose husbands. The foremost form of wedding was considered to be one where the father gave his daughter to another family. It was a gift of akshaya patra and amrit.

While the forest was equated with the wild Goddess, the field was equated with the domesticated Goddess. Forest was woman, field was wife. Forest was water in the pond, field was water in a pot. Field was the womb that sustained a village. It was worshipped as humanity’s akshaya patra and amrit, bringing forth prosperity year after year. The domestication of the earth, the transformation of the woman into home-maker, the moulding of clay into a pot, is the result of human intervention, an imposition on nature’s freedom, a sacrifice to ensure the birth of civilisation, to ensure perpetuation and survival.

Garba dance for the GoddessIn autumn, as the rains recede and crops are harvested, three things come together on nine nights: the pot, the woman and the field. In the centre of the field, the pot is placed filled with water and sprouts, and around it women dance in circular formation. They bend down and clap as they thank the earth and cosmos and energise it with their happiness. This is garbo, the dance of the earth-womb. The circular formation of the dance is a reminder of the horizon, the rim of the divine pot, the world we live in. We live in a cosmic womb, just as deities in temples are enshrined in the garba griha or sanctum sanctorum, a detail endorsed by the metal pots placed on top of the temple dome.  – Times of India, Chennai, Oct. 15, 2010


2 Responses

  1. Alakh Niranjan Sadhus at Kumbh Mela 2013

    The spirit of togetherness that binds the nation – TNIE – 14 January 2013

    Before the celebrations of Holi marks the end of winter, the cold season witnesses several other religious occasions — Lohri, Makar Sankranti and Pongal. While bonfires are the characteristics of Lohri, which has been associated with the winter solstice, Makar Sankranti, too, signifies the Sun’s return to the northern hemisphere or uttarayan. Since the day of the winter solstice is December 21, uttarayan begins on that day. Over the ages Makar Sankranti has slid by several weeks, and it has been estimated that several thousand years later, it will be observed in February.

    Makar Sankranti is also related to harvesting, as is Pongal. Next to the Kumbh mela, one of the biggest gatherings of pilgrims takes place on the day of Makar Sankranti at Ganga Sagar in West Bengal, where the holy river runs into the sea. As is obvious, religious fervour, the change of seasons and harvesting are integral to these festivals.

    By bringing together thousands from different parts of the country, especially in their journey to the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal, these occasions have strengthened the bonds of national unity, as they have also boosted trade and commerce since arrangements have to be made to cater to the needs of the pilgrims. The roles of these diverse sections, driven by both spiritual and material considerations, have long served the cause of social harmony, especially in the earlier centuries when the organs of the government were either weak or non-existent. What is noteworthy about these festivals is the spontaneity and resilience which inform them, demonstrating these basic elements in the national character that enabled travellers to ignore the hardships of the road. The spirit of togetherness fostered by their travelling is one of the silken threads that bind the country.

    Kumbh Mela 2013

  2. Purna Kumbha

    Purna Kumbha, or Purnakumbha or Kalash or Kalasha , is an essential part of worship in Hinduism. Today it is also used in Hindu weddings, temple functions and other occasions associated with Hindu religion. Purna Kumbha, literally means a ‘full vessel’ and symbolically it is a sign of plenty.

    Reference of Purana Kumbha is also found in the Skanda Purana and the Matsya Purana. In Skanda Purana it is mentioned that the ‘Purna Kumbha’ can be worshipped. Matsya Purana indicates that people placed it at their doors as a sign of plenty.

    Purna Kumbha mainly contains ‘water’ – the veritable life principle. Thus it is a direct worship of Varuna – the God of rain. He is the harbinger of rain which ensures fertility on earth and which nourishes animals and human beings.

    The earthen pot used as Purna Kumba is decorated with geometric designs and Swastika. The geometric design various from region to region and from community to community. Depending on the society and its wealth, earthenware gives way to silver, brass or gold pots.

    Apart from water, Purna Kumbha is filled with twigs or leaves of five trees – Ashwatha (peepul), Vata (Banyan), Amra (Mango), Panasa (Jackfruit) and Bakula (Elengi). A lotus flower and a small bowl of rice are also put in the pot. The mouth of the pot is covered with a husked coconut, which is decorated from the sides with mango leaves.

    Except for water, what goes in the pot varies from region to region. Mango leaves and the coconut is a constant factor in most areas.

    All the items used in the Purna Kumbha signify life in its bloom and plenty. It also indicates that human beings are part of nature and when nature thrives human beings too flourish.

    Kanchi Mahaswami with Kamandalu

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