Reflections on remembrance rituals

Cyrene-Ancient Greek City-
in modern day Shahat-Eastern Libya…spending a few hours
remembering reflecting on our
forefathers in some such sites is a nice way to connect
with the larger whole of which we are all a part

The ritual of prayer has its healing powers. Many people pooh-pooh the religious rituals as they are done mindlessly. However if a ritual is done regularly with proper thought and  application, it builds  perspective. Remembering-reflecting rituals like Shraddha as observed by Hindus are an important part of the spiritual calendar.

Other traditions also have similar periods of fasting and remembrance

Values and beliefs

The fifteen days of Shraddha period-Sep 30 and October 15 are going on and it is a time when children remember their fathers and forefathers as per Hindu tradition. The value system of the family unit is fundamental to society and it is always important to nurture this sense in children. Belief systems may change as per social and scientific knowledge.

“Do you not believe in God” one long time friend of Christian faith once asked me on reading one of my articles- No More Gods.

“If you think of this whole universe as having been created by a supernatural being who is still controlling everything by remote control, I definitely do not believe in this,” I replied. Richard Dawkins book is a masterpiece on this and should be read by all those interested in clarifying their concepts on this.

Belief in the family system as per Hindu tradition still makes me observe the cultural calendar. In a few days the Navratras will start-which are going to be observed with much fanfare in many parts of the world. I go through the prayers during Shraddha period, remembering and reflecting on some of my forefathers.

What are the benefits of participating in ritual prayers and calendar events, in which at a regular time of the year, one remembers our forefathers and reflect on our family history and sense of being a part of a larger whole.

Family as Anchor

On a pilgrimage to their family home
Upper Kaithu Bazaar-Shimla-September 2012
Savitri-Surendra Thapliyal, Prity Dutta

Reflecting on the family system makes me use this
photograph of my aunt, in front of our family house in Shimla,
India where we used to stay in the later part of the 19th
century and first half of the previous century.

The family migrated from Srinagar Garhwal to Shimla in 1890s…
then to Delhi around 1940s..

It was a pilgrimage to Kaithu, a prayer at Kali Bari and
a walk down memory lane..the younger sister of my father,
Savitri Thapliyal was once a small school girl –
Savitri Bhatt, she visited her old school and other
memorable sites.. a walk down the Ridge in Shimla…
made me remember some of my own childhood visits to
the hills around Shimla..the walks down Lakad Bazaar,
the songs at Anandale, the prayers at the hill temples
of Jakhu and Taradevi..

Who we are? Genealogy is an important and interesting aspect of developing a sense of identity and context. This is also a time to reflect on the role of family system as an anchor to the many functions which a human being does, in different institutions which can only be supported by a family unit. It also gives a sense of continuity.

Part of a larger whole

Consciousness is beyond individual minds. When the part tries to contemplate the larger whole, the issues like senses, mind, various objects being part of a larger cosmos one gets a better perspective.

Acceptance versus resignation

In the African tradition, people celebrate death as much as a part of life process as death. This is different from Judeo-Christian traditions. The African tradition deals with the spirits of those who passed away as friends in contradistinction to some other traditions in which ghosts and spirits have a negative connotation.

“It is God’s wish” I hear many people say in resignation when faced with sad news.

“This is life” is another oft-repeated sigh which I hear.

There is an undertone of resignation in these expressions.

Connecting with the spirits, the positive legacy of those who shared some precious moments of life with us, shaping our values and beliefs, nurturing us in our formative years, giving us a base and platform to develop, nudging us when we were a bit down and still remain a living reality in every breath of ours is a positive way of accepting that life is a process of continuity. The movie Saaransh ends with the father seeing some saplings grow and expresses in realization- (roughly paraphrased)- “I Have an end, you have an end-but life does not end..”

Accepting the processes of birth and death and celebrating life in all its shades and nuances is something I developed through observing the remembrance-reflecting rituals as observed during the “Shraddha-Periods” of Hindus.

* * *

Do you have an experience of the sense of continuity one gets when remembering and reflecting one’s forefathers?

–          –

In next article we will reflect on the sense of Legacy, Nostalgia and Catharsis which one gets by participating in remembering-reflecting rituals. Other traditions also have similar periods of fasting and remembrance.


About prashant bhatt

A psychologist, interested in mindfulness practices. I practiced medicine as a radiologist for 23 years in India and Libya as a radiologist before shifting to Canada. A regular diarist, journaling since 1983 Reading journal :
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1 Response to Reflections on remembrance rituals

  1. Pingback: ..we walk on « Prashantbhatt’s Weblog

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