Durga Pooja

It's the women's day at Pillaiyar Kovil
One of those special days when they worship
Durga, sing thevarams, worship-songs, to bring light
To the dark days in their lives.
The women bring with them large ripe limes
Squeeze on the tart astringent juice from the fruit
Into the inverted limeskins, add ghee
Immerse tiny spirals of twisted cloth wicks
Into each thin-skinned bowl
Light myriads of twinkling flames.
The hours change from darkness into light
As the women gaze into the revelations of their
Lives, their bodies enveloped in the glow of
Shimmering rays, silk against their bodies
Red flames, braided flowers, white threaded
Jasmine red-tinged, gold thalis round their
Throats, gold bracelets, anklets, rings with the sheen
And lustre of those shimmering rays
Women's bodies, glowing flames, giving out light.
"It's a woman's thing," my husband says,
"Go and see it for yourself 
Witness the forces of good embodied in light
Overcome forces of darkness, the hidden evil."
Is it only women, I think to myself
Who pray to Durga for this transformation
While the male gods look on
From the safety of their niches.
Don't those women-prayers, thevarams, the slokas
Reach their ears too
As they wait their turn to be approached
The aalathi lighting their faces
As they wait to be propitiated?

Jean Arasanayagam