On Sunday the Sacramento Bee had a great little special to the Bee in the California Forum section titled, Tossing Coins, demonstrating faith in Hindu holiday, written by Anita Chabria, a freelance writer in Sacramento. As is explained in the beginning of the piece, “Diwali, the festival of lights, is an ancient Hindu holiday honoring the triumph of good against evil, hope over despair. Lakshmi, the four-armed goddess of wealth and prosperity, is its principal deity. Looti is a Diwali tradition for the Chabria family.”
This was of interest to us for several reasons. First we live in a community, North Natomas, where a lot of Hindu’s live. We are always interested in learning more about different cultures. But there is a direct connection to our retelling of Sinxay.
In our retelling, the king, Phanya Kousarat chooses to become a monk after Soumountha has been abducted by Nyak Koumphan. After studying Buddhism for six months he leaves on a journey to find out what he can about what happened to Soumountha. After visiting with an abbot at a temple outside the city gates of Muang Champa he learns that Nyak Koumphan’s did indeed abduct Soumountha and that only someone with a lineage to Buddha would have the extraordinary powers to defeat Koumphan. The next morning he encounters seven beautiful sisters giving alms and falls in love with them, and after sharing a meal with the other monks decides to return to Muang Pengchan immediately. When he returns, his wife, Chanta, the nobles and all the citizens are ecstatic he’s returned and a ceremony is held where he could become king again. And, as we write in our retelling,
When Mahathet was positioned correctly, the drums began beating, while monks and honored guests poured perfumed water into the tail of the gold hanglin, which then flowed out of the naga’s mouth onto Mahathet. Afterward, servants poured perfumed water throughout the chapel.
Crowds of people came to the ceremony, and it became quite boisterous with everyone blessing Mahathet. The nobles tossed gold coins into the air, causing everyone to scramble for the money as it landed on the ground. Some people were so jostled that they kept losing pieces of clothing until they were completely naked!
We always wondered why Pangkham included this event and one possible reason was revealed in the piece written by Chabria. She writes that
It’s not always joyous for everyone, though. I’ve seen parents cringe while watching their kids go all-in. They endure what must seem like a distasteful show of greed, featuring their children. Most of these guests come from Christian backgrounds, and likely have an Anglo attitude that money is private, not to be discussed and certainly not to be pitched pell-mell at a party.
People might think the same when they read the passage where people dive in pell-mell at the Phanya Kousarat’s ceremony, were some of the attendees lost all their clothes! Isn’t that strange and a little bizarre? Chabria, whose husband was at one time battling cancer goes on to explain,
Thankfully, the cancer [her husband’s] is gone and we have two healthy girls. And now I understand looti as an adult, the way my father, a refugee who lived in camps, probably does. It’s confronting the arrogance and self-deceit of believing that anything we hoard – money, power, even an abundance of caution – can defend what we love. It’s a bleak truth that can only be offset with faith.
Wow, it really is all about letting go, letting go of holding on, beyond what is healthy. Superficially it appears to promote greed, but like with anything meaningful, one has to dive deeper to understand the full meaning. Thank you Anita Chabria.