18 January, 2012

Ash gourd & beliefs

Whenever a farmer comes to my doorstep selling vegetables, I buy them. The other day, one of the regulars dropped in. This time, he had only ash gourds. Since my own ash gourd vine was looking good, I had to tell him that I didn't want any.

He then expressed a desire to see the vine - to check out the variety, etc... Soon after seeing it, he told me that the vine would produce only one gourd and that I should be offering it to some temple instead of using it!

Well! I hadn't heard this one before! Though nobody knew why, every single person advised me against using the ash gourd if it turned out to be the only yield from that vine. And, 'Give it to some temple' was the final line that everyone added!

You know, as far as vegetables and beliefs go, the ash gourd is one that has many attached to it... each one of them, meaningless and without logic.

My mother believed that a whole ash gourd should not be cut with a knife by people whose parents were alive. Fortunate to have had parents throughout her life, she would always drop the whole gourd from a height. After that first cut, it was okay to use the knife!!

In Karnataka, God knows how many ash gourds are broken this way during Ayudha Pooja (ninth day of Dasara) and at house warmings. As kids, it was explained to us that breaking an ash gourd was a substitute for animal sacrifice. Of course, nobody had a convincing explanation to the need for animal sacrifice ('to please Gods' - an unacceptable one!).

Though the ash gourd is a vegetable that is used on regular days, many cultures don't have it on the menu during joyous/ festive occasions. However, no such restrictions for the death - related occasions.....

The other day, a friend's friend dropped in for some plant cuttings. We were meeting for the first time. On her way out, the woman asked me the ubiquitous 'How many kids?' When I said 'One', she shook her head very reproachfully, and in all earnestness, said, 'You must've eaten ash gourd curry during your initial days of motherhood'!!!
One of those moments when I had wanted to laugh - very badly - but couldn't!

Well... that's all I can remember right now, but, have you noticed? All these beliefs have such gloomy implications. How unfortunate that a vegetable that has a very long shelf life is associated with death and negativity :(

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PS: In case you're wondering... the vine in our back yard had only one gourd. Though I like to think of myself as a rationalist, I couldn't bring myself to use it!!

After offering the ash covered fruit to the ash covered God, I have been wondering if all Gods are okay with this gourd!

They should be okay, I guess - after all, they didn't make such rules!!

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