Friday, 21 September 2012

SERVING IN GOD'S OWN TEMPLE


It was a full moon on a summer’s night and the moon shone brightly on the golden roof of the temple situated in the heart of the town. The Temple was a shrine dedicated to the Mother Goddess and was revered by the people of the country who flocked from all corners of the country, nay, even the world to come and pay their respects and offerings as well as place their supplications before the feet of the statue of the Mother Goddess carved out of the finest stone.

The Temple was indeed full of sanctity and every brick, stone and metal work therein seemed to be filled with the power of the divine. In fact, it appeared that all these bricks, stones and metal work were deep in prayer to the almighty Mother. On this particular full moon night the golden plate that served as a domed roof over the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine wherein the Holy statue of the Divine Mother resided, appeared to be deep in prayer as the moon beams sparkled and shimmered on the dome.

The gold plate that covered the dome felt that a great injustice had been done to it for though it was one of the costliest metals known to man it had not been used by the Holy Mother to create her own statue but had to suffer on top of the dome where it had to face all the vagaries of nature and the differing seasons. In summer the gold plate would be attacked by the harsh hot rays of the sun while during the monsoon the violent rain drops would smash upon it. During winter the golden plate had to bare the brunt of the cold climate while the stone statue of the Mother Goddess was kept warm inside the sanctum sanctorum.

The golden plate believed that a great injustice was being done to it and that a mere stone had been chosen to create the image of the Goddess while the aristocratic persona that it was had been misused to serve as a roof for this statue made of mere stone. As it prayed fervently for justice the Mother Goddess appeared before the gold plate. The gold plate was overjoyed and paid obeisance to the Mother. It also demanded the Mother to explain why it had not been chosen to create the Mother’s image while an ordinary block of black granite had been chosen for the honour.

The Mother Goddess looked at the golden plate with love and affection. “My dear child you are as precious to me, if not more, than the stone from which my image has been created and it is exactly because of this that I have made you be laid on the roof above the image to protect and guard the deity inside”. Though the golden plate was happy to hear this, it could not still accept the fact that a mere block of black stone had been given much more importance than it deserved.

The Mother smiled lovingly on understanding what was going through the mind of the golden plate. “My dear child”, she continued,” each of the elements found in nature has different properties and it is exactly because of these different properties that the block of stone has been chosen to carve my image. While you being made of gold cannot withstand extreme heat and will melt under very high temperatures, the block of granite has been chosen since it could withstand any treatment meted out to it by the five elements. Just as a Mother withstands the pranks, sorrows and tribulations of her children so also the block of stone withstands all extreme conditions and continues to remain the object of love and affection of my devotees”. The gold plate upon hearing this felt very humble and happy to serve the Mother by being her roof over the head of her image.

The stone steps laid in front of the Temple heard this dialogue between the Divine Mother and the golden plate. After hearing the Mother it could not resist crying out to the Mother and saying,”Oh Mother Divine! if what you say is indeed true then why am I who am also a piece of stone made to serve as a lowly doorstep and bear the trampling of the feet of thousands of devotees every day while the other block of granite who is also my cousin receives the devotion and admiration of these same devotees who trample upon me?”.

The mother went down to the doorstep and caressed it with her gentle fingers. “Oh lowly doorstep! You too are special to me and it is exactly because you are special that I have made you the doorstep of my Temple so that all my devotees must first pass over you before they can reach the Deity. The only reason why you have become a doorstep while your cousin has become a statue is due to the fact that when the stone cutter struck you with his chisel and mallet you split into two flat pieces while your cousin was strong enough to withstand the blows from the mallet and was therefore chosen to be carved into my image; for being the Mother Goddess, I have to be strong enough to bear the sins of my children and guide them through their trials and tribulations”.

(The theme of this story has been adapted from ancient folklore passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth in the rural districts of Southern Tamil Nadu.)