venerdì 10 giugno 2011

Pradakshina and Prasavya

Ganges - Varanasi
Turning around a center. The circular walking around something, the circumambulating something is a ritual very common in India and it has a very significant symbolism.
There is the rite of circumambulating an image of deity, lingam, Nandin, or fire Agni, relic, rivers, hills, sacred trees or a corpse in the hindus funeral rites.
Each of these walkings around has a meaning and precise rules.
First, the circumambulation is clockwise or counterclockwise.
In the first case it is pradakshina, which means 'right' and is a walking reserved for the auspicious rites, or propitiatory rites in honor of the gods.The 'auspicious' walking is in the clockwise direction because this is the path and the direction of the sun and other stars and thus that is considered a positive movement, benevolent, propitiatory.
Among the most important pradakshinas I like to remember the Giripradakshina (‘giri’ in Sanskrit means 'mountain' or 'hill') which consists of walking around the hill of Arunachala ('pillar of fire') at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu regarded as a representation of the God Shiva. The pilgrimage is done barefoot for 14 km of the route.
There is also a pilgrimage around the Ganges from its sources to its delta and back in the other side, a distance of thousands of kilometers and long years, while the path around the holy city of Varanasi is about sixty kilometers.
The spouses too, during the wedding ceremony of Vivaha, made seven laps in a clockwise direction around the fire reciting the Gayatri mantra.
From a symbolic point of view this walking is a metaphor for what should be the life of the devotee. As in this rite in the middle of walking is a God or an his image, so in the life of each the center should be occupied by God before whom all are equal. In fact, as every point on the circumference is equidistant from the center so every devotee is equal before God.
When the gait is counterclockwise, that is Prasavya (in Sanskrit means 'left'). It 's a movement reserved for funerals and other not auspicious rites - even – for the rituals of black magic.
Even in traditional funeral rites called Antyesti, the male heir sets fire to the pyre where lies the body of the deceased after doing three (or seven) turns counterclockwise around the funeral pyre.

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