Friday, January 28, 2011

Loving India

My heart brims over with joy and pride as I watch India's tricolor flutter high above the grandeur of New Delhi's Rajpath. India is celebrating her 62nd Republic Day, and though I stand still as the National Anthem rents the air, my heart is in a frenzy of emotion. It's that time of the year again, when the soulful notes of "Jana Gana Mana," "Vande Maataram," and "Maa Tujhe Salam" remind me about my love for this land, my adoration of the essence and spirit of this great nation that we today refer to as India. Known through the ages by names like Bhaarat and Aryavarta.

This is the land where people have converged from time immemorial in search of peace. Where the chaos of everyday living has cast an illusory veil over the oasis of peace that only the truest seeker is fortunate to discover. A land where kings and queens have lived in immaculate palaces alongside hermitages where monks revelled in the ecstasy of the palace within. Where the idea of "Aham Brahmasmi" or "I am Divinity" has defined the tradition of Sanathana Dharma, that is today known as 'Hinduism.'

Here is where the form of Ganesha adorns nearly every living room; where Krishna is incomplete without Radha; and where the Goddess is as powerful, if not more, than the Gods. Where the relationship between human and God is made personal, so that the divine is never thought to be too high up or too far away to experience. After all, Ganesha is only a glance away, and Saraswati only a song away.

The very concept of India suggests a freedom where Spirit is not shackled by name and form. I open my heart to the love of Christ as much as I do to the grace of Krishna. The Azaan from the mosque stirs my soul, very much like a soulful chant from the Vedas does. The Gurbaani sung in a Gurdwara brings tears to the eyes, even as a devotional song to Sai Baba rouses a wave of devotion within me.

This land is ironical in that it allows me to get mired in ritual, yet it also gives me the choice to rise above ritual and, thereby, unravel some of the deepest mysteries of life. I can choose to worship a river by offering flowers to it every day. Or, I can choose to embrace the idea behind this ritual. The idea that the river is a metaphor for life itself. A cyclical journey that begins and ends in the ocean. Like the soul's journey that begins from the Spirit and ultimately culminates in union with the Spirit.

The dancers performing on Rajpath are dressed in vibrant colors. Their energetic performance is followed by a serene procession of monks singing buddhist chants. So typical of India. I like to think of her as a splash of myriad colors painted on one canvas. She is calm like the waters of a placid lake, yet she can be tumultous like waves in the grip of a tempest. She showers you with the love of a mother, and molds you with the strength of a father. She is both, the beauty of the rose and the prick of its thorns.

My gaze wanders back to the tricolor. I am mesmerized by the saffron, green, and white. Each color is symbolic, each pattern laden with meaning. Just like so much else about India. A world within worlds, where every seeker finds their own path. I found mine here, and I have much to be grateful for. From the depths of my heart, I sing to her "Maa Tujhe Salaam!" (Glory to thee, O Mother!)

(Also posted on my blog)