Yesterday was the long-awaited day to bid a loving, final goodbye to my mother, Sarah Esther Gordon (18 June 1927 - 24 May 2007). It was a pre-arranged plan that her ashes be sprinkled in the Ganges, a fitting and highly auspicious destination.
Why? In a nutshell: There is life beyond the demise of this body, and according to the ancient Sanskrit scripture, if the remains of the body come in contact with the Ganges water (which had previously washed the feet of God) the next destination of the departed soul is guaranteed a highly placed one.
It started raining quite heavily Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning much of the temple property was starting to get pretty waterlogged. Since some serious local monsoon flooding had only subsided weeks before, the water table was saturated. So it didn't take much for lakes to appear where there were neatly manicured lawns the day before. There was even some talk that perhaps it would be 'rain, stop play'. Here's a view from my room.
Nevertheless, the rains had stopped by noon and the sky, although still cloudy, showed a more friendly demeanour. Horizon-to-horizon grey turned to white clouds with the occasional glimmer of sun.
I had invited a small core of old friends from Australia, most of whom had met my mother, to accompany her on her final journey. We met in the temple courtyard and waited for Jananivasa, the presiding pujari (priest), to arrive from the goshalla (cow shelter). He had picked up some auspicious items like ghee, yogurt milk etc to be used in the ceremony.
Our little entourage set out through the sprawling temple grounds, past the huge samadhi (memorial tomb) for our spiritual preceptor Srila Prabhupada, towards the Ganges, which is flowing nearby.
Prabhupada's Samadhi, completed in 1995, receives about 1.5 million visitors a year, and is a stunning architectural wonder.
We turned left at the Samadhi and headed down to the Ganges banks.
The course of the Ganges changes yearly with each monsoon and flood. It is now a convenient few minutes walk from the temple compound.
I pour my mother's ashes into a bamboo tray covered with silt from the Ganges, and Jananivasa sprinkles it with yogurt, ghee, other cow's products, flowers, scented water, and sesame seeds.
Jananivasa fills a pure copper pot with Ganges water, mixes it with camphor and rosewater scented sandalwood paste, auspicious grasses such as Kusa, more sesame seeds and flowers. He invokes many mantras and prayers for my mother's auspicious journey ahead.
I wade out into the river and deposit the final package into the cool sweet waters and the shelter of Mother Ganges. The package sinks and gently melts away into the meandering currents.
Finally: an offering of Ganges water to Mother Ganges in the name of my mother, flowers are sprinkled, and the auspicious ceremony is over. Ganga Mayi ki Jaya!
Posted by Kurma on 2/11/07; 7:30:00 PM
from the dept.