During our recent travels in the American mid-west, we saw an interesting, and increasingly familiar, sight at the local Hindu Temple - a Car Pooja.|
The location was the Hindu Temple in Dayton, Ohio. And the car was a gleaming Black Lexus.
The Temple Pujari came out of the temple with a plate filled with flowers, some lemons and other religious paraphernelia.
The Pujari quickly walked across to the Lexus in the spacious Temple parking lot and commenced the Pooja with much solemnity. By this time, an elderly lady (presumably the owner) and her companion had stepped out of the car and watched in rapt attention.
The Pujari placed lemons under all four wheels of the Lexus, chanted some mantras and sprinkled some kumkum over the car. Then, the elderly lady got into the car, drove a short distance over the lemons and stopped. The Pujari performed more poojas, and chanted more mantras.
The whole spectacle transported us back to our childhood in India, where worshipping cars, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles and the tools of one's profession was a fairly common practice, particularly during Ayudha Pooja. We still remember rubbing kumkum and turmeric paste, and tacking on yellow flowers to the handle-bars of our bicycle.
However, in our naivete we thought that after moving to the New World - U.S. - Indians would have abandoned this rather quaint practice.
Not so. Not so. Indians, it seems, will be Indians anywhere, even if their passports proclaim them to be Americans or Australians or Canadians.
At least for the first generation Indian immigrants, the tug of religion and culture is still very strong.
Since several Hindu Temples in the U.S. advertise services for Car Poojas, we figure it must be a popular and sought-after Pooja. Some Hindu Temples like the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Maryland have even set aside a separate spot for performing Car Poojas.
Coming back to the gleaming Black Lexus, the Car Pooja at the Hindu Temple of Dayton took about 10 minutes in all.
After giving the Pujari the appropriate fees, the elderly lady and her companion quickly drove off having secured divine benediction for their gleaming Lexus.