We, that’s Manjula, Kamlama and I, drive to the village in the Ambassador, round the backside of Chamundi Hill.
We park round the front of the small village house and follow the sound of the music to the rear. We’re met by a typical scene: a “tent’ a canvas decorated roof to provide shade, these are often used for events at someone’s house, has been quickly erected that morning. The musicians are seated on the road in centre of the tent, the men are either seated by the music or constructing something out of bamboo.
Our gardener is laid by the side of the house door with his closest women relatives, particularly his wife and adult daughters, crying, prostate around his body. Small groups respectfully go and place flowers. the pile becomes so high that they are often scooped up and taken away to be added to the ‘litter’ the men are building.
We pay our respects, leave flowers, wait a few moments and leave.
He will be buried later that day. I don’t know why. Most people are burnt on a funeral pyre (helps the soul escape?) and then the ashes to be sprinkled on water. Locally that’s on the river such as the site we feature on the Srirangaptnam tour. Some are buried.
For the following thirteen days there are a whole series of rituals and customs to be followed. These vary according to location, caste, local and family tradition. They might include: no cooking at home, a process of cleansing, clearing and cleaning, redecorating the house, showering, Tulsi plants, new sari, bangles, sindu. The widow goes to the burial place to break her bangles, takes the flowers from her hair and wipes off the Sindu.
Its complicated, formal and informal and its significance is unmistakeable.
These scenes are common as we pass through villages.
This is the first close member of our team to die. Nariyanappa has worked for us for over three years and in that relatively short time has created a commerative to his abilities as a gardener. He’s made a real and lasting difference to the place.
You can see it, as you arrive at the house, in the downstairs sit-out, up by the back door with the bouganvillia or the best of the lot, the roof top terrace. Even to the very last moments he was concerned to ensure his daughter (who also works for us) was visiting regularly to water and keep the garden in good order.
We visited his wife and family during this period of mourning to provide some cash to help them through and the gift of a little sun We thought it was approriate as he’d brought a light into our home with the beautiful garden he’d created which is appreciated by the hundreds of people who visit us here in Mysore.
Thank you Nariyanappa!