Photo credit Bindaas Madhavi
Arjun first ceremony…
In my previous blog I was uber ecstatic for little Arjun’s first teeth. It was a significant milestone for both baby and I. Finally, a lifelong reward for all the pain and discomfort he experienced in the past months.
I called up my mom to tell her the good news. Like all Nanimas (Indian Grandmothers) she too was meditatively joyful. My mother has always been prone to first think spiritually and then practically, and this is probably the case for all Indian mothers. She has strong roots and teachings from the philosophy of Hinduism. Notwithstanding how liberal and contemporary we are, intuitively we are still predisposed to placing trust in the practices and rituals, for the very least, in some ways, a modest and dutiful offering to show gratitude and thanks for an auspicious moment.
The first thing she said, “It is important you break a coconut and say the Ardas (Sikh Prayer)”. I initially blinked at the request, until she reminded me once, twice and the third was a stern warning.
I then drove myself to Sainsbury’s, purchased a whole coconut and went back home to gather my family to perform this ritual which was very outlandish and new to me. My dad explained how it was done. The coconut was to be broken outside the house (because it’s easier cracking it on a ground stone surface). We all gathered up in the back garden, sat little Arjun on a mat (as he can now sit up on his own). I – the mother, had to cover my hair with a scarf, take the coconut and smash it once. It was important that it broke with the first smash. In the air my arm rose, and dropped down with such force and exactitude. I hit it hard to the ground like my sons life depended on it.
“Smash-Splash-Crack-Open it went”
Much of the coconut water splattered around me. Out of what was left, I made Arjun drink some with a spoon and together we said the Ardas.
It barely took 10 mins and it was done, yet it was very intimate, moving and touching. My little Arjun’s first ceremony.
Hmmm I pondered how it made me feel. Did it make me feel different? Secure? Hopeful? Happy? What did it mean to me? What did it mean for Arjun?
I appreciate the spiritual element of the practice which I will explain later, but I wanted to fully absorb my take on it. Oddly when I broke the fruit, I felt strong (no pun intended) empowered, self-determined, humbled and weirdly a sense of motherly contentment kicked in. Breaking the coconut open for him, in some ways was liberating too. For a moment I felt freed from the shackles of my everyday stress and in a way, it reinforced my responsibility and my bond with my little baby.
It was a momentary occasion, salutation and congratulation for little Arjun. He braved through and I felt proud that my son is thriving and at the same time I felt humbled. For those ten minutes he brought my loved ones together.
“So – Why a coconut?”
The stone fruit (yes – not a nut as I was once mistaken) is quite the symbolic and sacred furry little drupe.
The coconut epitomises the human body. The name itself, coco, of Portuguese origin means funny face or a grin. The hairy shell and indentations indeed looks like a head.
The breaking of the coconut symbolises the breaking of the human ego. According to the Bhagavad-Gita the human ego is subject to egotism which exposes the self to other vices and impurities. The ego has to be restrained, controlled and focused in the right direction otherwise the human mind and body gets polluted.
The hard shell symbolises the ego that needs to be broken in a form of submission of one’s self. Letting go of his ego and pride which he might have due to the particular achievement or occasion (or milestone in my case). When the ego is broken only then can you can taste the sweetness of success (The fruit inside the coconut …)
It teaches us to be happy about our achievement but also continue to keep our feet on the ground and look outwards and not inwards in the self, not inflate ourselves with egotism, vanity, self-importance, ballooning ourselves with all this negativity which in the end will drift us nowhere.
The coconut has three eyes. When you look at one end, you’ll see three pores. These three pores represent life in the making. From one of the pores a shoot grows and starts the life of a beautiful palm tree. In Hinduism it is often regarded as the third eye. The eye to the soul.
The coconut itself is considered a special rare blessed fruit from the Gods, with numerous uses and benefits. The coconut tree is known as a tree of life. Every part of the tree can be used. The entirety embodies a purposeful selflessness.
The roots are used in medicines to treat digestive problems like diarrhoea. It is also used as a dye, making tooth brushes and a natural toothpaste. The tree trunk and leaves are used in building and sheltering. The leaves are also used to make brooms and kindling fires.
In many traditional cultures the hard shell is used as a utensil. It is also used to create charcoal. The husk is used to create coir. When soaked in salt water the fibres are used to create rope, mats and cloth. The flowers when fermented, are used to create vinegars and medicinal alcohols. The water and the copra are unpolluted, protected by the thick shell. The meat is a great source of protein and the water is very pure with numerous nutritional benefits. Making the coconut one of the purest fruits.
Keeping the fingers on the pulse, another practical sagacity about the humble coconut is its power to give life. It converts salty water from the earth to sweet nutritious drinkable water and the water can also be used as a substitute for blood plasma.
Regarded highly with such purity no wonder it is also used as an offering to the Lord Ganesha – a revered Hindu deity respected as the removal of all obstacles. A coconut is broken as an offering to him when beginning new journeys or new endeavours.
I guess this is probably the whole nine yards about what started off as a ritualistic 10 minutes of my life to finding some deeper moral high ground to crack open the coconut.
There you go my little boy – this is why we celebrated your sprouting new teeth.