Reference to "Festival of Light"





How Kasturi received his name.
(taken from the book
"Loving God" by N. Kasturi)


'On the twelfth morning of my life, a label was attached to me amidst a great deal of religious noise. My father saw me for the first time only then, when he came to name me. The name which has stuck to me ever since was an ancient one, much the brighter, because it was borne by a series of grandfathers. The rule was that the first son must be named by the father after his own father. So, I was given by father the name his father bore .... My first son was named Narayana by me, because that was the name my father had .... Father took me from mother's hands and sat on the floor facing the family shrine with me on his lap. He prayed to God to bless the name and help me to add some more fragrance to it. Then he raised me by the shoulders to his face and whispered thrice in my right ear a long string of strange sounds, by which I was to be known thereafter. It was a nine-syllabled rodomontade (ranting talk). I had tumbled into the Brahmin caste and so, the last two syllables had to be Sharma, symbolizing that status. The rest of the name, Kasturiranganatha indicated, neither the God idolized in my village nor the God installed on the Seven Hills. It denoted God, as adored by millions in Tamilnadu, installed in a reclining posture, on a multi-hooded many coiled serpent and described by that name as "musk-dot adorned". Kasturi means 'musk', 'ranga' means 'stage', and 'natha' means 'director' or 'master'. The temple of "Ranganatha with the Kasturi dot" is situated on an island, called Sri Ranga (The Stage), in the Kaveri River, formed by it while half-way from the Mysore Plateau to the Bay of Bengal. [Picture: "When He first drew me to Himself"-(1948)]

... The substance called musk is valued as a precious perfume. Since it is also dark in color, a dot of musk between the brows serves to ward off the evil eye. It was preferred by nobles and princesses over cheaper contrivances. The brow of the idol at Srirangam was marked with the Kasturi dot, for nothing less could satisfy the devout worshippers. The name "Director of the Stage" reminds us that 'All the world is a stage'. God directs the cosmic play, unaffected Himself. he reclines magnificently on terror and poison, with His head on a pillow of calm. His will achieves and motivates. The Katha Upanishad declares, "Seated, He journeys; reclining, He is everywhere".

Kasturi Ranganatha Sharma was too long a word to be uttered in full, every time I was spoken of or to. The caste symbol 'Sharma' could be painlessly amputated. The rest symbol too had to be curtailed, but, the problem was, head or tail? My grandfather was accosted and referred to, by all who had to deal with him, only as Ranganatha, and for the daughter-in-law (my mother) to mouth the name of the father-in-law was taboo! So, the second half had to be jettisoned. The result was, I came to be known as the fragrant animal substance used for 'dotting' the Divine Brow.

I could stand with folded hands in the presence of the "Kasturi Ranganatha" only in my 70th year! It came about through Baba's Grace. Friends invited me to a town called Tirupur to speak on Baba, on the 24th day of December. And Baba directed me to go. But, I longed to spend Christmas Day with Baba, since it reminded me of my entry into the world stage. I asked permission to go over from Tirupur to Srirangam and worship Him in the Ranganatha, reclining on the serpent. The serpent, Baba says, is symbolic of pollution, poison and death and God is pictured as overwhelming, quietening and mastering these evil traits. Baba said, "Yes. Go to Sri Rangam and eat your fill of sweet rice". The reference to sweet rice did not surprise me. Years previous, when we were proceeding to Madras, Baba, as was his wont, asked every single person in the car to sing for Him a song. My genes had no music among their components but I had to obey, nevertheless. Memory brought up for me a song I had heard a clown sing during a play I chanced to attend while at school. it was a prayer to Shiva for a morsel of sweet rice, wrung out of a hungry onlooker at a feast conspicuously consumed by the rich. Baba must have discovered that my subconscious had hooked up this particular lilt, for the reason, that I myself had an unfulfilled hunger for this dish, deep within me! He decided to remove that pang at Srirangam on my 70th birthday.

I was thrilled when I stood before the shrine and filled my eyes and heart with the entrancing vision of the 20 foot idol, stretched on the coils of a seven-hooded serpent excluding captivating icono-charm. To my eyes, the Feet, the upraised soles were not of dark green stone as the rest of the Divine Body was. They were alabaster with a shade of blue. They were soft, tender, fair, familiar, alive; they were Baba's! I removed myself away from the portals of the shrine with great reluctance. Sweet rice was, I believed, the routine offering at Ranganatha shrine but that day, we were given only laddus and muruks. 

We had one more temple to visit on that holy island - a famous Shiva temple with the sacred Jambu Tree. When we moved out of that temple, the priest ran behind us, to announce that it was specially sacred day when "Sweet rice was offered to the deity." This was welcome news indeed. He insisted on our turning back into the temple. He made us squat on the clean floor to the right of the shrine; he spread banana leaves before us and served sizable heaps of the dish Baba had asked me to 'eat my fill'.'


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Written by N. Kasturi M.A., B.L.