Pinki and the hair cutting ceremony


Pinki and the Hair Cutting Ceremony

I was sitting down on the concrete surface panting, sweat pouring from every pore in my body. I had just climbed about two hundred steps up a steep hill with the complete camera equipment on my back and a very thick edition of “Lonely Planet: India” weighing down the pocket of my left leg. Too tired even to speak, I was resting with my back against the small temple wall with my legs out stretched.

“Mataji ke mandir”, thats what the locals called it, the temple of the divine mother. Sonu, my new found acquaintance tells me that this is a very famous temple in Bundi, Rajastan. People from all over come here to ask “mannat”, which roughly translates to vow to a deity. This is like a bargain with the God, where the devotee says, if you give me a new Ambassador car, I will give you two goats. For most uneducated people misled by priests who are equally benighted, devotion is usually measured in goats, rupees and rice. It is said that once you climb the hill and stand in front of the deity, almost anything you ask for is granted. I could think of nothing but a little rest for by aching legs and sore back.

The temple is a very small place, right on top of the hill. It consists of a single small shrine for the deity, surrounded by a platform where the devotees could sit . A few meters away from the platform is a small wall about a feet high which forms a rough perimeter around the temple. The insides of the temple are surprisingly cool. There was a small crowd of women in very colorful attire, which is common to Rajastan, singing bhajans in a very slow and melodic tune. I sat silently for a long time listening to the monotonous rhythm which seemed to have a strange soothing effect on me.

After resting for some time, I decided that it was time to pull out my camera. Though I am not used to taking portraits, I thought I will try my luck with the village folk here. The initial plan was to maintain a safe distance and not draw attention to myself. Becoming inconspicuous, however, is a little hard for anybody clad in a baggy 9 pocket cargo trousers with a huge camera. Soon I was the center of attention of a group of kids who wanted to know anything and everything of what I was doing with the camera.

Brothers in Arms

And thats when I found Pinki. She was standing right in the middle of the group, a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old. Her large black eyes had a lovely twinkle in them. The small face was framed by thick and flowing hair which was turning brown from lack of care. Even in the group, she commanded attention in a subtle but forceful manner. Her large and beautiful eyes reflected innocence, playfulness and purity. She is beautiful, a beauty which is not of the flesh but celestial. When I looked at her, with her tangled and flowing hair and with a bright orange mala of flowers around her neck, she looked like the Divine Mother herself. I did not want to waste time changing my lenses, a decision which I deeply regret now. I quickly took a couple of shots before the other kids were onto me again.

Pinki in Color

Sonu explained to me that it was a hair cutting ceremony. Pinki has come along with her huge family as a part of the ceremony which requires her to shave off her hair and offer it to the Goddess. While the singing of devotional songs was going on in the temple, it seems that prasad, or food for the Goddess was being prepared on the foot of the hill. The ceremony begins when the food is brought up and offered to the Goddess. I would have loved to stay back in the temple and have some food while taking pictures of Pinki, but Sonu reminded me that we still had a lot of places to go. So reluctantly I gathered up my stuff and prepared to climb down. It seems that I was not the only one who was waiting for the food to come. An old woman in the group shared my pitiable condition, and she was gazing down towards the foot of the hill. Fortunately for her, she did not have anywhere to go. She could still sit inside the cool temple walls listening to the bhajans, and soon she will be having a “happy meal”, and MacDonalds will have nothing to do about it.


<The Wait


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