Nov 15, 2012

Bead Bai: Satpanth Ismaili Das Avatar Ginan

Avatars of Vishnu circle Sultan Mohamed Shah (Aga Khan III) in red turban 
Notice Om above the imam's potrait.

Gujarati writing. 

Top લાંબી  ઇમામતના  જોમાંઘારી - Bearer (responsible one) of the long immate

Bottom: નુરમોલાના  સુલતાન  મહમદશાહ - Noor Mowlana Sultan Mohamed Shah

Bottom margin. Courtesy: Ismailia Association, Bombay, 15-1-1957


Chapter 17
Picture Darshan and the Song

After his morning chai, Dadabapa gathers all his grandchildren around him at Saheb’s framed picture at the shop’s corner altar. A slim garland of stale marigold roses and browned jasmine hangs on the picture that calls for veneration. Below the wilted loop are a handful of mung, a silver coin and a burnt-out incense stick in a peacock stand. A fresh tuberose. A broken tasbih. Some coins. Dadabapa replaces yesterday’s incense stick and lights a new one on the peacock’s head cast in silver on the incense holder. He lights another one holding it between his two fingers as if it were a long sewing needle.

“Remember life is a changing cycle of karma from yoog to yoog,” says Dadabapa measuring his words as he looks at each one of us in the eye. Thus begins the morning lesson, and the song.

“Satpanth stories are in the four colours of the yoogs. Each has its own persona in red or yellow, black or white.” I keep still, my eyes tightly closed. I thrill in the expectation of the rass of darshan seeping into my body, the devotional bliss in my ears, the magical picture in my eyes.

“I am at your feet. I offer this my aarti dua today,” Dadabapa speaks to the picture. Then he turns around and speaks to us. “Children! Sing with me! Let me hear your voices loud!”

I open my eyes gradually to the picture and my heart to the coming bliss. Dadabapa draws incense smoke in circles around the picture in which all the ten avatars of the creator as fish, animals and men stand before me. I look at each image, my palms pressed before me, my chants following Dadabapa, line by line. Shamshu mumbles by my side. He is impatient for his mind is elsewhere. Pictures of the avatars sing back to me. My eyes fall on them pleading darshan. Awe fills me when the chant of the fish-animal-human god avatar in the ten descriptions becomes one prayer to our unison universe. Behind the children, Ma Gor Bai and Kaki Bai auntie stand at a distance with their hands folded, eyes closed, all singing together. My father stands in the opposite corner, also with his hands folded, eyes closed and singing. Only Noordin Kaka uncle is not there.  Even Hawa joins us.

I am Vishnu’s machli avatar, the giant fish

I saved the Vedas from heinous demon

Behold! I am the Lord of the age

When he comes to ‘I am’ in the end verse, Dadabapa raises his voice.  Repeating after him, we would call out ‘I am’ in a chorus, shouting at the top of our voices. He would smile aside without looking at his grandchildren imitating him.

I am Vishnu’s kurma avatar, the turtle

I deliver life when oceans whirl

Behold! I am the Lord of the age

Awe grips me, so vast a divinity in the picture before me. So vast the story of Das Avatar. So vast the creation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This really answered my problem, thank you!