Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't Break That Coconut

Today, while on my morning walk, I saw a school kid waiting outside a kutty (small) Vinayagar temple with a coconut in his hand. His mom urged him to break the coconut. Apparently, his exams were starting today. Breaking the coconut is an integral part of the Hindu culture. I remember myself doing it just last week when I took my parents to a temple for a pooja.

On my return, I found pieces of coconut and shell scattered around on the road. It upset me a bit. I wondered why should one waste a coconut. When I was young, my dad told me that coconuts which were offered to God in this manner, referred to as sedurkka selutharthu in Tamil, was picked up by poorer sections of the society and consumed.

Now, as I saw those pieces of coconut flesh on the road plastered and dirty, I wondered to myself, if any person with even a bit of self esteem would pick up any of those pieces. It also doesn't augur well for the one performing this mindless act. They are wasting an expensive product thinking the God, if at all (s)he is there, will be happy. Now, I am quite certain that that God will only be sad about it.

But while I have grown to become an agnostic tending to atheism, I have realized that many such rituals were started to provide some meaning to our lives, often has profound meaning. So as usual I googled to find the meaning behind this ubiquitous act. And here is what I learned. But look at how we have adapted this ritual. Though I must say that this act of breaking the coconut on roads is more of a Southern phenomenon.

If at all one wants to pursue this act, do it well so that there is no wastage. Otherwise, you could simply offer it fully to some poor person. Or simply give it to the maid at home. With impoverishment so rampant, I am sure that that one coconut will provide good nourishment to a family at least that one day.

But certainly the meaning behind breaking the coconut has been lost in translation.

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