Shalini Mahapatra

Drama Inspirational


Shalini Mahapatra

Drama Inspirational

Lakshmi Purana

Lakshmi Purana

8 mins

Dipti had celebrated her 21st birthday a week ago. She was undoubtedly a charmer, with shiny dusky skin, slim body, big black shiny eyes, and long wavy hair. Very conventionally beautiful looking Dipti had just completed her master’s in Psychology from Utkal University with flying colours and was now getting prepared for appearing the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) exams for pursuing higher studies. Dipti’s father had other plans. He wanted his daughter to get married and settle down in life before his retirement from the State Government services.

Dipti’s reluctance was ignored; alliances were searched and made to meet her. Finally, Dipti’s marriage was finalized with a doctor. A doctor as a son-in-law was a jackpot for her parents. Dipti’s unwillingness into marriage was least kept in consideration but it was promised by her future husband Dr Ram, that she would be allowed to complete her ambition of appearing JRF and continuing higher education. Dipti had to agree and was married to Dr. Ram Kar (MBBS) in October.

Dr. Ram lived with his parents and unmarried sister, Rama at the medical quarters inside the hospital campus. She was the newly wedded wife of Dr. Ram and the first daughter in law of the present generation Kar Family. She had to participate in all the rituals of the family and perform her task sincerely as an obedient bahu, which she did. Her mornings were early. She had to bathe and enter the kitchen. She would first strain some tea for herself and the entire family, and then hurriedly start preparing breakfast to be served by 8 am and lunch to be packed by 9.30 am for her husband who would carry it to the hospital and for Rama who would leave for undergraduate college. Dipti was doing something she had never done earlier. Her mother never allowed her into the kitchen, although she made sure Dipti was trained to cook when required. Time passed, a month and a half had gone by. December was almost there and the JRF exams had to be taken. Dipti had not been in touch with studies since her marriage in October. She was impatient but couldn’t do much about it. 

She reminded Ram of his commitment to allow her time and support for preparing the JRF exams. Ram looked at her and said that he would look into the matter. That evening he told her, “Dipti, the month of Margasira starts next week. Being the daughter-in-law of the house, you along with Mother will have to perform the month-long rituals, so this time you should overlook taking the JRF exams”. He further suggested, “Fill up the forms for the June schedule; you will have enough time to prepare.'' Dipti quietly accepted his words and moved on.

Dipti had been a witness to the Margasira Lakshmi Puja during the month of December since her childhood days. She had seen her mother and grandmother perform the rituals and then they would together read the Lakshmi Puran loudly in turns. Dipti just sat beside them and listened to the story of Goddess Lakshmi’s exile and Lord Jagannath’s pressed hardships. Dipti participated in decorating the courtyard of the house by making intricate Jhotis-hand drawn patterns sketched out of a watery rice paste on floors and walls.

She recollected her days back home. Come Winter, somewhere around December every Wednesday night, the Oriya household would be meticulously cleaned and decorated with beautiful and traditional designs of ‘Jhotis’. These white customary patterns depicted elephant, lotus and the miniature footmarks of Goddess Lakshmi. These traditional drawings were made on Wednesday night and left to usher in Goddess Lakshmi early next morning. Thursday early morning, Goddess Lakshmi was welcomed by blowing the conch shell and by the soft tinkling sound of handbells, adding pious music to the elaborate rituals. Thereafter followed the narration of the “Lakshmi Purana” , an Odia narrative describing the exile of Goddess Lakshmi from the Shri Jagannath temple at Puri.

As per the narrative Goddess Lakshmi after being humiliated and taunted by Lord Jagannath for visiting a low caste devotee leaves the temple, to a low caste woman’s house by the name Shreya Chandalini, who is also her dedicated devotee. After Goddess Lakshmi leaves the temple, Jagannath and his brother Balaram become paupers. They face many hardships and adversities after which they realize their mistake and finally ask Goddess Lakshmi to pardon them for their harsh and rude behavior. Goddesses Lakshmi excuses them after putting forward her terms and conditions and then joins them back to the temple. In the process, she establishes her own self-esteem and reinstates their lost grandeur. She also validates her stance against the caste system, a social stigma. The narration is followed by an offering of delicious food preparations to the Goddess which is thereafter consumed by the entire household. This practice is carried on throughout the month for four to five weeks.

This year Dipti performed the rituals along with her mother-in-law in the Kar family for the very first time. She was no longer a daughter but a daughter-in-law. She had done everything from cleaning the house, painting the floor with jhoutis, to reading the Lakshmi Purana and cooking the food to be offered as naivedyam. Being a newly wedded wife all this was expected from her. She was careful not to annoy anyone and did everything with sincerity.  

The New Year had ushered in. Dr. Ram was concentrating on his Post Graduate entrance, so he spent more time at the hospital and the Medical college hostel allowing him undisturbed study time. Dipti filled up the form of the June JRF entrance. She was determined to study hard and clear the entrance. Now she was used to the work pattern of the new household and was able to find time gaps for studying. Time passed swiftly. The admit card was received and the JRF exam was scheduled on the second Sunday of June. Dipti had prepared well, she was waiting to take the exam.

Two days ahead of her exams Dipti’s mother-in-law decided to visit her ailing brother. She told Dipti to look after the household and take special care of Rama, her sister-in-law who would be taking her undergraduate final exams starting from Monday. Dipti requested her mother-In-law to reschedule her trip for Sunday evening but mother-In-law stayed adamant and left. Dipti had to again forgo the exam. Dr. Ram cleared the Post Graduate exams and got through specialisation in Medicine. He was busy with his studies. Rama had graduated with a first-class and a distinction in Mathematics.Dr. Ram had almost forgotten about Dipti’s JRF exams. She reminded him and told him that she had not been able to appear the exams in June owing to Rama’s exams. Dr. Ram preferred to stay aloof and suggested that she could appear in December. Dipti filled up the form for the December schedule.

December arrived along with the Margasira Lakshmi Puja once again. Dipti had to do everything for the Puja. Her Mother-In-law would only sit and Rama would join in during the meals. Dipti did not want to miss appearing at the JRF entrance this time. The admit card arrived. The second Sunday of the month was allotted for the exam. Mother-in-law announced that an alliance for Rama would come visiting that Sunday over lunch. Dipti should cook the meal for them and tidy the house. Dipti informed mother-in-law about her JRF exam, but all in the house including Ram turned deaf. Dipti remained silent. She continued with her JRF preparation.

This was Dipti’s second Margasira Lakshmi Puja in the Kar family. On Thursday morning Dipti proceeded with the rituals and settled to read the Lakshmi Purana. This year Dipti read it very loud.Generally, her voice would be lower, but this time she read it on the top of her voice. Her voice was so loud that she was able to gather the entire household with her narration. When the entire house gathered around her thinking she had gone crazy, Dipti paused. Looking at their confused faces she looked up into them and started speaking firmly, “The Hindu month of Margasira in Orissa comes with a very important message. It is the first text on women's liberation and women’s rights that have been put forward in the shape of ‘Lakshmi purana’. The text is read every Thursday throughout the month of Margasira, as a reminder to all those who do not consent to women's liberation.”

She continued, “While all in this family have read and heard the text every year none in this family understood the essence of the text. Just to make all of you understand, Lakshmi Purana is a narrative text that describes Goddess Lakshmi’s stand against domestic violence and her justified disagreement towards the prevailing caste system.” Dipti continued, “I have been hearing the Lakshmi Purana since I was a child. I understood it in my teens. It has taught me that happiness is a personal choice and self-esteem does not endorse any sex tag or price tag. I have my dreams and a choice to pursue it, not at anyone’s approval or consent but because these are valid wishes and grant me independence and happiness.” With a sigh, she said, “Whether a woman is married or single, no ritual or custom can victimize her aspirations, I too am a woman and I am second to none.”

The Kar Family heard Dipti Silently. The message was conveyed. Dipti appeared the JRF and cleared it on her first attempt.

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