So last Saturday one of the Tamil students, Alvin, from Patu de Rosemont invited Betty and I to a Hindu ceremony that was happening at his local temple. By this time the other English assistant Ellen had also arrived so she came along too. Now they were meant to sacrifice a goat there but unfortunately it turns out that there was a mix up and it was a vegetarian ceremony. To be honest I was quite disappointed, I was really looking forward to seeing a goat sacrificed and then getting to eat it later!
But it was a nice day anyway. Alvin first took us to his family home, we saw the goats that would be used in later festivals and his house is just behind a huge field of sugar cane, so we had a little munch on that before going to the temple. Turned out that we were a couple of hours early for the actual ceremony so I spent that time practicing my French with the locals and we were also given some South Indian food served on a banana leaf in the traditional way which was cool. We also had to eat it in the traditional way, without cutlery, which led to some laughs.
I think Alvin has developed a bit of a crush on me. He pretty much stuck to me throughout the ceremony, when I moved he moved, but he was very sweet and it gave me a lot of time to speak French. He also knows an incredible amount about Hinduism and although I asked a lot of questions I didn’t really understand that much as he spoke a mix of French and creole. What I have learnt is that there are even more Hindu gods than I thought there were and that South Indians seem to worship different ones to Gujaratis, placing a lot more importance on Kali, the goddess of death.
The actual ceremony was quite similar to ones in England: there was a priest sitting at the head of a circle of men from the community who repeated prayers and chants as they added different elements to the offerings to the goddess. It lasted about 2 hours, with no involvement from anyone else but those men. However it was very nicely decorated with fresh flowers and palm leaves and even banana trees. And on top of the trident of Shiva there was in fact a lemon that was meant to represent a sacrifice (hence the title of this post).
What else? Well in between the chanting there was traditional drum music from Alvin and his cousins and Alvin said that he would hand-make me a miniature goat-skin drum for me to take back to England as a souvenir! Then today at school he brought in some vanilla and other herbs/spices to give to me and invited me to his birthday party in October.
We all left the ceremony early as after 2 hours they had only paid homage to one goddess and still had another 2 to go, so unfortunately we missed out on all the yummy sweets that would be given out at the end but maybe next time!