SAMSKARA by U. R. Anantha Murthy
Naranappa – a Brahmin who leads a non-Brahminical life
Chandri – a dalit woman who lives with Naranappa
Praneshacharya – learned scholar and priest of Durvasapura
Manjayya – a wealthy Parijatapura Brahmin
Garuda – a relative of Naranappa
Shankaraya – Priest of Parijatapura
Description of Agrahara and Rejection of Naranappa’s rites by Smarta Brahmins
The second chapter describes the houses in the agrahara – the place dominated by houses of Brahmins. Most of the houses resemble the same except for the kind of flowers grown at the backyard. The Brahmins go to each other’s house and get flowers for worship and they also get to know the welfare of others. Naranappa’s house differs from other houses in this aspect. No one goes to his house and neither does he go to others’ houses. Moreover the flowers grown in Naranappa’s house are only for Chandri’s hair. Unlike other houses, Naranappa grows a bush in front of his house which is a favourite of snakes. Some people believe that Naranappa keeps snakes in order to protect the gold in his house.
Naranappa’s house is the biggest of all the other houses in the agrahara. The Brahmins lead a very simple and contended life. The Tunga river runs at one end of the agrahara and during summer when the water dries to a trickle, they cultivate cucumber. It is a favourite vegetable of their diet. All through the year, they have some function or the other and thus their life move in a cycle every year.
The name of this agrahara is Durvasapura because of a legendary story behind it. It was believed that Durvasa, a sage did penance on a hillock in the river, Tunga. The place became famous because of the legendary story and also because of Praneshacharya.
The Madhwa Brahmins, sent by Praneshacharya from this well known place of Durvasapura, go to Parijatapura to inform about Naranappa’s death and also to know whether they would be willing to do the funeral rites for him. They go first to Manjayya’s house and he receives them warm and asks his wife to treat them as their guests.
When Garuda informs about Naranappa’s death, the Parijatapura Brahmins are happy to do the rites because he moved with them without any caste pride and also they considered it a pride doing rites for a high caste Brahmin.
Shankaraya, the Parijatapura priest also shows interest and displays his knowledge of their religious texts. He says according to a Brahmin, even snakes are born twice and so proper funeral rites should be done. And so, he stresses that it is important to do the rites immediately for a Brahmin. But when Durgabhatta subtly raises the question whether Naranappa is a Brahmin, Sankaraya hesitates because he does not want his people to do anything non-brahminical. Therefore he says that they can do the rites according to Praneshacharya’s instruction. And Manjayya offers to pay money for the funeral rites.
1. marinated – adjective
Meaning: foods like fish, meat and vegetable that are dipped in a marinade
Example – Fresh pappadams, fries, and marinated red peppers spread out to dry on the verandah mat.
2. sneaky – adjective
Meaning: doing without being noticed.
Example – Only Lakshmana was sneaky, he moved out half the yield of his trees and sold it to the Konkani shopkeepers.
3. niggard – noun
Meaning: stingy person
Example – His was a niggard’s spirit.
4. initiations – noun
Meaning: formal rites of admission into an organization or community
Example – All twelve months of the year, they had vows to keep; they had calls for ritual meals occasioned by deaths, weddings, young boys’ initiations.
5. Aeon – noun
Meaning: an extremely long period of time
Example – In the Second Aeon of the cycle of time, for a short while, the five Pandava brothers had lived ten miles from here, in a place called Kaimara.
6. pronged – adjective
Meaning: long, sharp and pointed like one of the points on a fork
7. trudging – noun
Meaning: walking with tiredness
Example – The Brahmins walked through it, weak with hunger, their heads covered with their upper cloth; they crossed the three pronged river and entered the cool forest to reach Parijatapura after an hour’s trudging.
8. bund – noun
Meaning: an embankment
Example – In the blink of an eye, all the lower-caste Brahmins of Parijatapura gathered on the bund.
9. jibe – verb
Meaning: to say and annoy someone with an intention
Example – But Manjayya didn’t hesitate to say, ‘Don’t worry about the expenses. Wasn’t he my friend? I’ll personally see to it that all the necessary charities etcetera are done,’ meaning really to jibe at the niggardly Madhva crowd.