When I travel, I love shopping for souvenirs. Finding the perfect item to bring home and remind me of my amazing experiences is so exciting! However, it often results in a lot of clutter around the house. In an effort to avoid this, I’ve been trying to only purchase things that can really be meaningful to me.
On my most recent trip to India, I hardly had any time to shop. However, I did bring back two things I’m really excited about. The first is a bell like those that are used in the temple. As a child, I always enjoyed ringing the bell as we entered the temple. I didn’t know the significance of it at that time. I have noted that most kids like to do that. There’s something about the sound it makes that draws people in.
Most people aren’t quite sure why bells are so important to the Hindu faith. There are bells hanging in every temple, and they are often rung during Pooja (a prayer ritual). There’s actually a scientific reason for this: bells aren’t made of just any metal. They are created from a mixture of metals including cadmium, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, chromium and manganese.
The proportion at which these metals are mixed is the real science behind a bell. Each of the bells in a temple is made to produce such a distinct sound that it can create unity of your left and right brain. The moment you ring that bell, it produces a sharp but lasting sound, which lasts for a minimum of seven seconds with echo. This sound is good enough to touch your seven healing centers (or chakras) in your body. When you hear that bell sound, your brain is emptied of all thought.
My doorbell doesn’t seem to work at times, especially in the winter. When someone is at the door, the only way for me to know is if they call me or if Sandy starts barking! So the bell I purchased can serve more than one purpose. It can be a doorbell and a source of prayer and serenity.
The second thing I brought home is a traditional “Thookku vilakku” from Kerala. A vilakku is a traditional oil lamp used widely in Kerala. Most of the households in Kerala consider these lamps sacred and light them daily during sunrise and sunset. It is also believed that lighting a vilakku will bring the radiance of love and wisdom, dispelling the darkness and ignorance of one’s life.
Light and darkness symbolize knowledge and ignorance, respectively.
Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. External, worldly achievements can only be accomplished with a source of inner wealth–like knowledge. Therefore, we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth. Knowledge is the basis of all of our actions, whether good or bad.
But the traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance. The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas, or negative tendencies, and the wicked, or ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas get slowly exhausted and the ego finally perishes. The flame of a lamp always burns upwards. Similarly, we should acquire knowledge to take us toward higher ideals.
My bell and my lamp weren’t huge purchases, but they will add character and meaning to my home. They have a lot of personal and spiritual value to me, and I want my home to reflect my values and beliefs! You don’t necessarily need a lot of stuff cluttering up the house, but whatever you invest in should have some meaning to your family. So what meaningful items do you surround yourself with? Share a picture and the story with me.