Radha’s playful eyes followed the long trail of black ants carrying sugar crystals on their backs. The pilfering squad! She smirked, allowing her teenage mind to haul her out of the sombre marriage proceedings.
The fire from the altar, bothersome bridal finery, layers of thick makeup and the scorching mid-day sun all made her unabashedly fidgety. She slyly tilted her head, hoping to catch a glimpse of her groom. A fearless giggle escaped her lips as she saw Raghu as helpless in his thick, jacquard jacket.
Radha’s mother squeezed her hand, chiding her adolescent mind to a forced sobriety. Radha bit her tongue instinctively, as she hushed her cacophonous mind to understand the gravity of the auspicious occasion. After all, she was tying nuptial knots in the presence of lord Pashupatinath. Revered bells, pure mantras, ethereal smells, and impregnable blessings overflowed on the holy temple premises. The gilded pagoda shrine reflected the burning sun rays on the centuries-old stone floor, turning them into smouldering coals. Radha wobbled clumsily, holding her saree as she tiptoed across the scorching courtyard. Her soft feet danced rebelliously.
Baba (lord)! Radha prayed with her eyes closed, as vermillion mixed rivulets trickled down her forehead. Suddenly the sound of bells and conches wrapped her in a calming quiet. Her rebelling feet quietened and her frayed nerves relaxed. Comforted from the burning brutalities of life, Radha knew she was being watched on as the enlarging shadow of the temple shrine clothed her in its cooling shade. As she opened her eyes, Radha thanked baba (lord) for his blessings. She felt his presence there.
Many years later…
Liberally applied vermillion on Radha’s forehead, smeared through the folds and wrinkles that quietly aged her face. The red dot proudly declared Radha’s fortune of living under the love of her octogenarian husband. She had braved the unforgiving sun for seventy long years. Today it challenged her relentlessly as she lay uncomplaining. Indeed, she appeared calm, but her distracted soul wandered haplessly around her mortal remains.
The bridal finery tightly wound around her body did not bother her today. The bees, monkeys, smell of burning flesh and the cacophonous wails, nothing, bothered her today. Yet she was restless.
It was her wandering, moksha-seeking soul that floated helplessly around the cremation ghats of Bagmati river adjoining the Pashupatinath temple. One sight of the lord. One final grace could take her through. Alas, her soul seared with desire for liberation.
Radha’s thirsty soul watched on. Her son dipped her remains in the holy river for the last bath. Gratitude overflowed as the holy waters filled her inners. Yet, the blazing desire for liberation burnt her.
Baba (lord), Radha, pleaded for one last time. As the hungry fire ate away her flesh, a fulfilling calm cooled her smouldering soul. The enlarging shadow of the temple shrine shadowed her pyre in a divine acceptance. Radha smiled as baba had blessed her. She felt his presence once again.
The Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest temple in Kathmadhu, Nepal. One of the most sacred hindu temple, it is located on the banks of Bagmati river, where open air cremation is done inside the temple premises.
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