Author: Krishika sureshwaran
The minuscule island located just the beneath India is like a speck of dust to the human eye. This island is so small, no one really notices it. For those who do recognize this country, they are rather confused of whether it is part of India or an unknown island where no sort of living creature can exist. This country is named Sri Lanka and that is where I am from. In the summer of 2014, my family and I visited our birh place after eight years. During our stay, we toured various different locations. These included a 1000 year old underwater temple, a 400 feet Bhuddha statue made of gold, the world's largest and best tea industry and plantations and so many more indescribable destinations. However, to me the most unforgettable moment was the one at home.
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Every October, only in Sri Lanka, there is a festival for the goddess Durga. Thousand of men, women. children, and priests walk around the town, carrying enormous golden statues of the goddess, food, flowers, and other ingredients to perform the prayer through pooja. Men and young teenage boys balance a large iron cone covered with flowers on their heads and dance to a diverse collection of music, nonstop. It is a religious belief that on this day, the lord Durga will release her spirit to one in ten humans who roam around dancing. These humans will then be like messengers from the goddess. She send them information and they will only talk to those who they believe are filled with wisdom and bright future. To me, this all seemed like a ludicrous superstition and I did not believe it for a single bit. Never did I know that my entire belief system will permute from that day forward.
We waited for hours, and as dawn fell upon the town, the parade finally approached our neighborhood. As soon as it reached our front door, a miraculous chaos began. One man out of the thousands, a man who stood right before me approached toward our house. He came unbelivabably close to me and met my eyes. That's when I noticed golden shimmering circles inside his brown eyes. He made me kneel before him, took a machete and brought it up to my neck. Softly, in a girlish voice he asked me, "do you believe I'm real now?" Then, he wrapped a flowery necklace around my neck, blessed me and left. I was shaken to the core. Later on that night, my family and I went to the temple to pray, and I witnessed the same man once more. People whipped him until he bled. It was a tradition to get rid of the spirit before midnight. He, however, did not feel pain. After the beating was finished, the man brained his consciousness back, unaware of what took place just a few minutes. He was in a trance this entire time period.
Being back at my hometown felt exhilarating. The teenage girl who first landed in Sri Lanka was assimilated to the American culture so much that she could hardly appreciate the culture she was born in. But, I returned back to the states as a changed young soul. In that two month trip, I learned many unbelivabably yet marvelous traditions from my culture. The start to my open mindedness was this particular festival. Now, I yearn to go back to my birthplace and explore the wonder that awaits for me. Every single person in this world should accept and be proud of their culture. It is what makes them unique and different from the world. For me, this trip made me realize this. Assimilation makes humans want to fit in to society, but to truly fit in, one must embrace their traditions, culture, and beliefs.