I am wondering what the pilgrimage to Grand Bassin will be like this year.
There will be the fervour of many who seek to connect with the seat of power within, the humility of those who undertake a pilgrimage seeking a point of arrival more evolved than the point of departure. There will be the increasing security on the roads and complex organization that will allow groups of women and sometimes solitary women to undertake this walk in the serenity of silence that a pilgrimage affords. How much road we have travelled in 50 years. There will be the selfless service of those who will prepare and serve food and refreshments to pilgrims, thereby making their journey more comfortable. There will be the reminder that the whole of our current life ought to be a pilgrimage of soul growth.
Shiva will not remain inaccessible from the heights of the Himalayas. He will descend as the superhuman, as pledged. Many will feel his powerful vibrations as he crosses the bridge. He will bring the remembrance that we can, within this life, transcend into our pre-existing godly state. Shiva, the esoteric master, with the power to dance the world into creation and destruction, and also capable of the biggest act of love, is at his most powerful when he surrenders his heart under Kali’s angry foot. Nothing short of a full submission to love will catch her attention and remind her of the truth, that all is inextricably linked. The night of Shiva is one of boundless collective magic, it forms an important part of the myriad faces of the mysticism of growing up in Mauritius. It is one I enjoy sharing with my children.
I will also struggle to answer questions that they might ask again this year.
How do we reconcile a Shiva standing on a military tank or loud techno music, which disturb both pilgrims wishing to walk in prayer or silence and non-participating citizens, with a spiritual quest? How necessary are the supersized kanwars which will not only endanger the lives of the pilgrims themselves as has been the case in the past, but also endanger the lives of non-pilgrim road users? I have friends who are confined to taking holidays for two days every year before Maha Shivaratri because they cannot get to work from their home, the roads being impracticable. Not because pilgrims walk, not because they carry kanwars, but because of the recent phenomenon of the supersize kanwars. What purpose does the supersize play in this quest?
I hear friends of friends say that we must continue to do Shivaratri as we do, occupy the streets as loudly and visibly as possible, as a reminder. In this posture, religion, ethnicity, spirituality, politics all get conflated into a reductive story. And yet, Hinduism is not tied to blood or territory, it has never been a fixed doctrine bound by a single book. It is, like the Big India, a palimpsest, multiple, permeable, free of the dictate of ‘la pensée unique’. It is respectful of difference, respectful of all, because there is no other. There is only the nameless One who, in a surge of unbound love, desired to be many.
Is there not a gap, therefore, between the spiritual journey of the Night of Shiva and its high-jacking, by a few, into a political discourse?
What will it take to create a concerted effort to minimize disruption to others and self, and optimize instead on the spiritual quest? And what will it take for us to leave the articulation of voice to other realms?
For example, the country will have voice when we have leaders capable of coming up to Sashi Tharoor’s ankle in their ability to take on Empire, and convince the international community of the travesty of history that Diego was, why it behooves the UK to give back what is not theirs and thus complete the cycle of decolonisation. There will be voice when we have a Mauritian equivalent to Jamsetji Tata, who played a central role in establishing his country’s industrial base. There will be voice when we have a local Vandana Shiva pledging for a wholesome return to the earth to ensure the survival of the human species. There will be voice when bloom Mauritian philosophers of the ilk of Tagore, Krishnamurti and Sri Aurobindo.
While we look to India, as one of our ancestral lands, for inspiration in the creation of voice, why are we not aspiring to creating big impactful voices of our own, without which we will remain politically rudderless, not quite free of the tentacles of Empires? Without which we will continue to deprive the next generations of a level-playing field of economic opportunities and a climate conducive to the rise of new entrepreneurs, and without which we will leave them no humanism to nurture their souls with?
Meanwhile, may every step to Ganga Talao and back be fully anchored into the realm of the spiritual quest that Mahashivaratri belongs to.