After watching the Kaisikam yesterday–not just the play–but the whole unfolding, I understand many things I did not understand before. And, I now do not understand many things I thought I understood. Festivals, especially at large temples like Tirukkurungudi, are complex, multi-layered events. They carry so much meaning in their particularity and in the specificity of the moment. Equally, they are like pieces in a puzzle, fitting into a larger whole that comes into view incrementally. The Kaisikam has left me thinking about about the events that are bracketed by the two Ekadasis–Kaisika and Vaikuntha; about descent and transformation; about place making and myth making, and all the times the curtain is pulled back and closed again (both literally and figuratively) to reveal something of a tradition’s insides.
I’ve been heartsick reading the news of my home-state on fire. The countless photographs of devastation and destitution capture just a sliver of the scale of loss and of the long, long recovery that lies ahead. To be honest, as much as I’ve loved being back in Tirunelveli and in Tirukkurungudi, a part of me has wanted to be back in California, to be with family, friends and my kitties in this time of shared catastrophe–the fire has touched us all in some way.
Yesterday’s Kaisikam–especially Nambi’s magnificent procession amidst the towering flames–with the thunder of drums and drones and the equally thunderous rain outside–not only brought me some measure of comfort, but it reminded me forcefully of the value of the moment, of the weighted particularity of place, and of the gift I’ve been given to be here, right now, to see, know and feel these amazing, astonishing things.