There is a prayer in the book of seven hundred verses dedicated to Maa Durga (Durga Saptshati) - the 'Kshama Prarthana', the payer that seeks forgiveness. This prayer often concludes a ‘havan’ or a ‘paath’.
I don’t remember when it became a part of my everyday set of prayers. The practice began with aping the elders during the family or community prayers. It was encouraged too, "Look, how beautifully she recites the verses at this age!"
This turned into a ritual, becoming to my prayers, what muscle memory is to actions. As a child, I sought the forgiveness of the goddess not knowing where I had erred. I did not know the meaning of the words that constituted the prayer. I had only learned the pronunciation.
The understanding was that this prayer would make my chants and the rituals fool-proof. That I would be forgiven, if I had erred.
That gods and goddesses were supposed to be feared, had made home in my heart. I do not remember my parents ever telling to it me. But, somehow what I had learned outside formed an impression.
I was once told by a close relative, that, because god is omnipresent, girls, when they reach a certain age, should bathe in the bathroom with their clothes on, or avoid praying while taking a bath. I never forgot the casually framed remark and the fear it instilled in my mind.
During the visits to my village, or even in the small town where I lived, I sometimes found men bathing in the open, chanting some mantra or the other. Some of these were the same men who presided over the village prayers. Quite often their pronunciation of the mantras was wrong.
Were they forgiven? The child me would often wonder.
With the passage of time my relationship with religion became complex - first bordering skepticism, and later, turning into indifference.
My relationship with our gods too went through a process of disillusionment and oscillation, until it turned into a beautiful personal equation with the Creator.

There are prayers forced out of fear. There are prayers offered out of love. I choose to believe in the latter.
My Sanskrit is covered in rust, since I last learned it in school. The translation may not be exact but it is fair. This prayer (among many others) is what makes our religion beautiful:
आवाहनं न जानामि न जानामि विसर्जनम्।
पूजां चैव न जानामि क्षम्यतां परमेश्वरि।।

मन्त्रहीनं क्रियाहीनं भक्तिहीनं सुरेश्वरि।
यत्पूजितं मया देवि परिपूर्णं तदस्तु मे।।।
I know not how to invoke thee.
Nor do I know the concluding rites.
I am ignorant of the prayers and rituals too.
I lack the knowledge of the mantras.
I do not know the path of action.
Perhaps, I am unaware of devotion too.
Still, Mother, bless this manner of my prayer.
So, why do I write about this interpretation of the prayer today? Because, I believe that it is important for us to read our religious books and our religious literature. We must not depend on the interpretation ascribed by others. We must find what it can to mean to us.
We must know that our gods are not full of wrath, ready to punish us at the first smell of a mistake. Our gods and goddesses are loving and benevolent. They forgive. They do not discriminate.
We are told that we are created in the manner of god. The truth is that we also create gods in the manner of us.

When I leave it to HER and surrender - यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु - what she does, is always full of love.

:)

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More from @TiwariNivedita

15 Jun
I was in a dilemma whether to share a personal experience or not, but if it helps someone who is considering this profession, it will be worth it.

Some of us who are branded as one show/film wonders or ‘failed’ actors, voluntarily choose to disengage with this industry.
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This is not a comment on the hard work that actors put to reach where they are.
This also also not a generalisation, because you may also end up meeting wonderful people here.

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If that isn’t enough, it also gives you the licence to look down upon those with a different opinion, from your self-made pedestal of righteousness and virtue signalling.
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The following song is sung by the womenfolk on the second day of a wedding in Awadh. The women are checking out and teasing the bridegroom and his friend/s.
1/3
फुलवरिया में आयी बहार भंवरवा रस लूटे
राम लखन फुलवरिया में पहुंचे
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Look! There's spring in the garden
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'Spring' is used as a metaphor for Shri Rama and Lakshman's presence. And 'bhanwra' is the metaphor for the ones partaking their presence.
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