CREDOS: My altar — II

My grandparents were quite religious, and they passed on those values to their children — my parents and many aunts and uncles. We belong to the Brahman caste, the priestly section of Hindu society, whose members are considered keepers of the scriptures. According to ancient scholar Yasaka, Brahmam eti janati Brahmanam — He who knows Brahman,

the Supreme being, is a Brahmin. My family took this role.

In their time, my grandparents conducted the daily rituals while the family came together every night at the altar to pray together. The prayers, called the aarti, were made up of several hymns to the gods, accompanied by a clanging bell and a traditional candle made up of a cotton wick soaked in oil. This ritual is today carried out by most of my uncles and aunts,

and many of my cousins have established altars in their homes.

In our home, my father conducts the daily puja in the morning and evenings, an elaborate hour-long service that includes 30 minutes of meditation, followed by aarti and some religious shlokas. When I was younger, the family sang together at the altar during the evening aarti.

When I was 10, my father would ask me and to fetch flowers on weekday mornings. The flowers were offered to the gods, and I loved this chore. The early mornings were cool and we took a little basket, much like Little Red Riding Hood, to collect flowers from the nearby park. —