Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Season of Spring

Spring in India is a time of opening into a new year. Sometimes by the roadside in Karnataka we find a kind of door-like structure made from three slabs of stone, two of which are planted erect in the ground, and the third is placed on the top, rather like a very high table. These structures are known as "burden bearing stones", and are erected by the roadside to help those who are carrying head loads, to rest their burden for a while. These stones are very symbolic of the way, and our need to both set out on a journey, but also rest our burden. Up in the hills there is a shrine among the rocks. This shrine is called the "Hill of the Cross" or "Kurisumala". Near here Dom Bede Griffiths started a Christian Ashram where I lived for some time. It is believed that St. Thomas rested here on his way from the Sea coast to Tamilnadu. There is a sense of the wind blowing, and a feeling of space.
Spring is the time for the beginning of Lent. On Ash Wednesday people make the journey up to the hill, and throughout lent this becomes a place for pilgrimage. There are a number of Indian festivals at this time like Maha Shivrathri, or the great night of Shiva. It is believed that on this night the River Ganges, which was originally a great river in the heavens, which we see as the Milky Way, came down to earth, in order that the dead might be brought back to life. So great was the force of this river, that there was the danger that it would shatter the earth to pieces. So Shiva sat in meditation in the form of a mountain, and the river first fell on his head, before coming slowly down to earth, through his matted locks.

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