The Year 2020 has created the biggest cultural disruption at the Home front. Suddenly the house got transformed in form and functionality. Never before have we spent so many waking and sleeping hours at home.
All these years we took the home for granted. We fulfilled our dream of bigger-better-beautiful homes but hardly had the time to spend at home. In and out home, we were, 24×7 running, here and there and everywhere. It was as if life happened out of the home – in our great rush for gold and glamour. That was the historic Pre-Pandemic times.
Come Pandemic, all the action was forced to shift in-home; everyone and everything grounded. Home became like the central nervous system, connecting all the live wires of work, eat, pray, sleep, study play- all happening under one roof. Home became the safe haven, holding us, protecting us, within its four walls. It suddenly felt like hiding in the bunkers during wartime.
Right from the times of prehistoric cave-dwellers, the home has been a primordial icon of human existence. In the 70s, Roti, Kapda aur Makaan ( food, clothes and house) became the popular slogan, capturing the Indian sentiment for the 3 basic necessities of life. A house, a roof over the head, is the fundamental need and right of life. On the other end of the spectrum, the size and address of the house is a status symbol. At an emotional level, a home is a place of being myself with my near and dear: a place of comfort and refuge. For an immigrant in search of a sense of belonging, home-land defines identity.
The Pandemic makes me ponder over the concept of ‘Home’ – an oft taken for granted place. It made me examine its meaning and symbolism from a physical, social, cultural and spiritual perspective.
As I dwelled upon home, it reminded me of our family song, in praise of a beautiful home. I have grown up singing this prayer song together on family functions and festivals. It’s part of our family tradition, passed down the generations. I not just loved the melody but also the lyrics celebrating the ‘Beautiful House’ in which the Supreme Lord speaks.
Thinking around ‘home’ made me decode the lyrics as a cultural text. What fascinated me was the layers of meanings interwoven: the literal and the connoted. One at the level of the house as a physical entity, and the other at the metaphoric level of a house as a human body. Decoding the lyrics of this song, sung in praise of the beautiful house, opened the door to the Hindu philosophy of life- connecting the material with the spiritual. I marvelled and felt enriched to understand the deeper meaning in the concept of a home: the universal construct of life and living.
The song celebrates the beauty and bountiful of a house- a creation of the Supreme Lord. At a deeper level, the house is viewed as the metaphor for human body: as per the Hindu philosophy, the Soul, the eternal self, resides in the home of the physical body.
It asks the question of what the house is made of- the material, the method, and the doer. It goes on to answer the question from the perspective of the Hindu philosophy of life: Paanch Tattva, Teen Gunas and the Supreme Creator.
The bricks of the house, our body, is created from the Paanch Tattva – the five elements of nature- air, water, earth, fire and space. Unlike the concrete, the human body is created from nature, and in nature it dissolves. The mortar are symbolic of the Teen Gunas: Tamas (darkness & chaos), Rajas (activity & passion), and Sattva (beingness & harmony). The interplay of these three Gunas, present in everyone in different proportion, defines the character of nature and determines the progress of life. It’s the innate quality, peculiarities of our nature that binds the being as a whole. The builder and the creator of this beautiful house is none other than the Supreme Creator.
The song goes on to marvel the wonders of the house. The central pillar of the house is symbolic of the Universe: the invisible space that no one can see, flowing in and out. Viewing from the the body perspective, it refers to the lungs, and the invisible breath, inhaling and exhaling. And how wondrous that is. This brings to our awareness the miraculous working of the universe and life, that’s we cannot see and yet it sustains life.
Further the song honours the union of man and woman residing in the house- from where life is born. Saint Kabir, in state of surrender, says that its the Supreme Power that creates and destroys. We are just instruments in the hands of the Creator. At a deeper level, it’s also symbolic of the duality of masculine-feminine energy- YinYang. The balance and harmony in life lies in the dynamic interplay of the opposing yet complimentary forces. Yeh Bangla Khoob. Yeh Bangla Khoob. Sung in praise of a beautiful house, made plentiful, in which the Supreme Lord speaks…
I honour, I salute, I sing in praise of the house I reside in.
I honour, I salute, I sing in praise of the house- my physical body, in which I, my eternal Soul, resides in.