Puja on the Beach of Papanasam, Varkala – India
The Beach of Papanasam is filled with locals that come here to bring a family member to eternity.. Spreading the ashes, after many rituals lead by a holy man, into the ocean. When I first came to the beach I didn’t know about this. I was not aware of the rituals and the importance of this particular part of the beach in Varkala. I soon found out!
When I walked to Papanasam beach I saw a couple of beds…made of sand. Not every bed was occupied. I was curious by the meaning of this so I went and sat down for while to observe this.
I saw a man, a holy man, sitting on one of the beds. He had all kinds of herbs, fruits and supplies near him and when he saw me looking he gestured me to come with him.
Puja on the Beach of Papanasam
I looked around….was wondering if he really gestured me to come. When I looked again he raised his hand again to me and pointed in front of him. He wanted me to sit there…
I didn’t know what to do….I didn’t really know what the meaning of those rituals were. I walked up to him and sat down in front of him.
He started to put a straw around my finger and lay down a bananaleaf in front of me. He put something that I don’t recognize on it, a couple of small sticks/wood. He asked me the name of my grandfather and grandmother. And then he started to say or sing or chant a lot of words. He gave me flowers and he gestured to me that I had to lay some of it on the bananaleaf.
I had seen this before, at the wedding I attended. I started to understand what he was doing.
After a while, and a lot of flowerleafs, he added also a banana and then gave me rice. He poored water over my hand so the rice would flow onto the bananaleaf.
Witnessing the Holy Puja
When he was done with his chanting, and my hands were empty he folded the bananaleaf together and gave it to me. He pointed out that I had to go to the sea and offer the leaf with its contents into the ocean. I’d seen people do it so I walked to the ocean. So I walked to the ocean, thinking about what to think when I offered it to the ocean..
At the moment of a wave coming I threw it in and when the wave returned to the sea it was already gone. It was under water and taken by the ocean. I looked around me and was wondering what to do. And again I saw the holy man looking at me and gesturing I should come back.
When I sat down in front of him again he put his finger to my forehead and drawed a yellow stripe on it… Then he put his finger in another jar and it came out red. With that one he made a dot onto the yellow stripe.
And again he gave me a smile.
And then he was just a man who was curious 🙂 in bad English he asked me where I was from, what work I did and what I liked about India 🙂
Puja on Papanasam – Varkala Beach – India
In the next days I went back to that part Papanasam beach. It’s the end of Papanasam beach near Hindustan Beach Retreat. My hotel was near Varkala Beach so I had to walk a while but every time it was worth it. Every day so many people went to the holy men sitting there. I saw people walking with ashes of dead, I think, relatives. So impressive to see that part of their life, it is always a difficult moment to say goodbye I think. I didn’t saw any grief, no tears, they were all happy but serious.
After the offering they would stand together, watching the sea….
Just captering the moment.
Great to be a witness of that!!
I asked an acquaintance to explain to me what they were doing and what the meaning was of what I was seeing.
So then I found out it is called Pūjā, it is a prayer ritual performed by Hindus to host, honour and worship one or more deities, or to spiritually celebrate an event. It is pronounced as pooja or poojah. It may honour or celebrate the presence of special guest(s), or their memories after they pass away. The word pūjā comes from Sanskrit, and means reverence, honour, homage, adoration, and worship.
So I was honouring the life of my grandfather and grandmother 🙂
Multiple people in front of a holy man performing Puja
Walking with the ashes on his head to the sea
At the sea they turn their back to the sea before offering
With the ashes of a dead relative to the sea
Puja, Papanasam Beach
I love the intensity of India! I love my travels through this great country!!
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If you want to read some more about India check these out!!
The Complete Travelguide to Mumbai
10 days through former kingdom Sikkim
Climbing the Thajiwas Glacier – Kashmir
Periyar Tiger Reserve – Kerala
Or how about Sri Lanka?
I hope you love this world as much as I do!!
Jacomijn is een politieagent uit Nederland die jou graag laat zien hoe je veilig, actief en gezond de wereld kan over reizen. Safe and Healthy travel is a MUST
I just lost my father in May 2020 during all this Covid 19 period. I could not be at his funeral. My mother travelled to this beach to threw his ashes at this beach. It is sad but meaningful to let go of your loved ones here.
Hi, I just read your lovely article. I am in Varkala right now and I would like to take part in this ceremony to remember a dear friend who was cremated in the UK yesterday. I realise that the holy men do this for a living and I was wondering if you could suggest an appropriate amount to pay them.