Day two in Sankasya started out with a lovely morning of chanting. We always break for lunch and in Sankasya lunch has been at a Burmese monastery.
We are traveling with a crew of Indians from Bodh Gaya, and that includes a cooking crew. However, to earn meta it is good to cook for monks and offer them food. This is where Nadia comes in. She has an amazing ability to put together a meal with a few ingredients one spoon and a giant wok, so we have been eating exceptionally well, and with a Thai bent rather than an Indian one.
The afternoon of day two was such a magical India moment that even in my photos and my descriptions I am afraid it is one of those “you had to be there”.
There were many variations told of what the celebration was about, but the one that came to the forward most often was the young boy hair cutting ceremony. I was told that after the full moon young boys are shaven for religious purposes. I spent a lot of time trying to bring you more information, all for naught. There are many, many hair cutting rituals in the various religions of India so it could have been any number of them, or it is simply local to this village in Utter Pradesh.
It started very small, we returned from lunch and there was a man playing a horn and another on a tin drum with 5 or so women in sari’s moving and shaking.
*The monks slowly gathered in their respective places and began to chant. Now, chanting isn’t very loud. There is always a lead monk, and he has a microphone, but the chanting itself is only as loud as the number of monks.
Slowly that little group of people began to grow. There weren’t that many and it was delightful to see all these women in colorful saris with children in tow.
However, the group spontaneously simply became enormous, and the cacophony of voices from tens of dozen women and twice as many children began to truly take on epic proportions. However, it was fun, the gaiety contrasting with the solemnity made for true magic.
Chaotic would be an understated word for the next phase. A truck, loaded with amplifiers, stacked 5 high started playing Indian rock music. At that point, all I could do was roar with laughter. Of course, I was appalled at the rudeness, but when Tenzing, one of our English speaking crew asked them to quiet down, their response was, we celebrate our religion our way and you celebrate yours your way, and frankly, they had a point.
With that, all you could do was appreciate the spontaneity and go with the flow. This is what makes India so magical.
A little side project that is going on, sponsored by Nyingma Institute is Peace Bells. There is one in Sankasya and members of the community Steve and Stephanie have been in Sankasya all week to gold leaf it.
Steve grew up in California with an art background and became a member of the Nyingma family when he was 32. Stefanie is from Germany and came to the US as part of a different Buddhist group. They met at a joint event and later Steve found himself learning gold leafing from Stefanie. They married and now live in Germany. This was a week of volunteer work for them, and it was so much fun for me to have one morning to photograph them working and get to know them.
At the end of the ceremonies in Sankasya the monks gathered to bless the bell and then we all had the opportunity to ring it. The sound goes straight to your soul. I am not that kind of mushy person, but I admit I cried when I heard it.
I have always said how India is a place where art and beauty are foremost in daily life and this project shows just that.
Meet Yay Wa Ta:
The monk on the right is Yay Wa Ta. He and Thaw Bi Ta, whom you met in the last post, are always together, and their smiles always brighten my day. They are both from Burma.
Yay Wa Ta has 4 brothers and one sister. His father passed away when he was 12. He has 2 degrees, one of which is in Pali. He hopes to teach English one day, he speaks broken English at this point, but, no doubt, will accomplish his goal, especially with Thaw Bi Ta as a friend, because Thaw Bi Ta’s English is excellent.