Three Green Candles

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Juggernaut carried three green candles made from vegetable oil to light them at a Hindu temple, Muslim Dargah and Catholic church. He gets a different expereince at each place of worship.

Submitted: September 01, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 01, 2013



Three Green Candles

Subba Rao


Agni is the fire god in Hindu mythology. Fire plays an important role in Hindu rituals; flame as a symbol destroys evil to re-seed Dharma or truthfulness like fire destroys overgrowth on forest floor for rejuvenation of useful species. Not every kind of wood is appropriate to generate fire and flames during the rituals. The Hindu priest consults scriptures to select a particular tree bark or wood for a specific ritual.  If a ritual were to produce badly needed rain in severe drought, the priest after consulting scriptures will use a particular tree wood appropriate to yield results in making ritual fire.  It is like selecting a particular medicinal herb for treatment of an ailment in ancient medicine. Most priests carry wood chips of various plant species while visiting the devotees at their homes to conduct rituals.

Near the shipping harbor in town, among the line of three hills, on top of each one of them has a place of worship; a Hindu temple, a Muslim dargah and a Roman Catholic Chapel ‘Mother Mary’s Church.’

Devotees attending the Hindu temple carry a small bottle of vegetable oil or clarified butter, cotton wicks and shallow clay lamps to make diya or lamp at the temple as part of worship. Wicks saturated in oil placed in clay or brass lamp were lighted at an appropriate time on the advice of the temple priest during the ceremonies.

Juggernaut instead carried three green candles to the Hindu temple to worship his favorite god Hanuman. “I brought few green candles to light them up if you would allow me,” Juggernaut removed green candles from a brown paper bag.

“Burning candle is burning animal fat; for that reason we don’t light candles in Hindu temples,” the old priest was polite.

“These green candles were made from vegetable shortening not animal fat.”

“You mean the kind of vegetable shortening used in cooking?” the priest was curious.

“Yes, I used vegetable shortening and turned into wax by hydrogenation to make these candles burn for a long time and the green dye turned them into green. I request for your permission to light them instead of diya which could be a fire hazard.” Juggernaut was holding out the green candles to show it to the priest.

“In our religion we use only shallow clay or brass lamps with wicks saturated in vegetable oil or clarified butter not candles, as a Hindu you should know better,” the priest gave a stern look at Juggernaut.

“Yes sir, I understand but these candles were made from vegetable oil. For the safety of the devotees in the temples, these vegetable oil candles are safe to use,” Juggernaut was pleading the priest.

“We have been using oil lamps for thousands of years without any fire hazard,” the priest was logical so far.

“Well, I shall share a tragic event that happened in our own family several decades ago. My aunt while worshiping at a temple was standing too close to an oil lamp and her silk sari caught fire and quickly engulfed her before anybody can help her, she died from severe burns  immediately; since then I was thinking about alternatives to the use oil lamps in the temples,”

“I am very sorry to hear about the tragedy, certainly it was a horrible thing to happen particularly in a temple but a silk garment can also catch fire from a candle flame; what difference it makes whether a flame is from a candle or an oil lamp? But still I cannot accept candles in a Hindu temple,” the priest was kind but stubborn.

“A candle burns with less intensity than an oil flame; I agree that fire accidents can occur from a lighted candle or an oil lamp. But the rancid smell and stains of spilled oil on the floors and walls is an unsightly scene in every Hindu temple. These candles were good alternative to oil lamps in temples, besides the candles are handy to carry to a temple than oil, wicks and clay lamps etc. to make diya,” Juggernaut tried to convince the priest.

“I understand your point but my predicament as a priest serving in this temple for more than 50 years was if I would allow candle burning in the temple, there will be riots by the believers that could result in more tragedy than your personal tragedy with loss of your aunt. In the minds of Hindus, candles are associated with Christian worship in churches and the mind set won’t change,” the priest showed some sympathy.

After carefully placing back the green candles in the brown paper bag, Juggernaut headed towards the nearby Muslim dargah. The steep stone steps to dargah were winding and tiresome to climb. Dargah is a place of worship for Muslims but many Hindus also visit to worship for miracles.

Ishaq Medina, a Muslim preacher came to the area over 400 years ago to spread Islam.  He was known for performing miracles, one of his famous miracles was extending his hand to reach a tall coconut tree to pluck a coconut. Thus he earned the name coconut Baba. His grave or dargah became a shrine for both Muslims and Hindus for receiving miracles.

The imam attending the dargah was in mid forties with dark mustache and short beard. He came across as a simple man in long white garb with a piece of green cloth around his shoulders.

“Could I worship Baba’s grave by lighting the green candles?” Juggernaut slowly removed three green candles from the brown paper bag.

“In our faith we do not light candles or oil lamps in dargah if you have incense sticks I will be happy to light them for you,” said the imam.

“These candles were made from vegetable shortening and not animal fat,” explained Juggernaut.

“It won’t matter whether the candles were made from animal fat or vegetable oil, we don’t burn candles or oil lamps in dargah. Burning candles is a Christian tradition; If you were to visit again please bring incense sticks either of rose or jasmine fragrance and also a large bottle of clarified butter as an offering to Baba,” suggested the imam.

“You said you don’t burn oil lamps inside the dargah,” Juggernaut gave a look of surprise.

“No, we don’t burn oil lamps but clarified butter has other uses here.”

“Certainly I will bring rose and jasmine fragrant incense and a bottle of clarified butter if I were to visit again,” Juggernaut slowly retrieved himself from small dargah with its inside walls decorated with colorful semi-precious stones.

Juggernaut slowly walked down the steps from hill top dargah and headed for Catholic Church built in late 1800’s on the nearby Mount Ross Hill.

The father in white robe at the Catholic Church was tall and dark skinned. He invited Juggernaut with open arms into his little church.

“I have been carrying these three green candles in an attempt to light them up at a Hindu temple and Baba’s Dargah, but at both places they declined because of their religious belief,  I am sure you will let me light them here,” Juggernaut removed three green candles from the brown paper bag.

“Certainly, I never saw green candles before though, most of my congregation members bring white candles only,” the father started to examine the candles.

“These were special candles made from vegetable shortening,”

“You mean regular vegetable shortening used for frying in the kitchen?”

“Yes, vegetable shortening was turned into hardy wax to burn slow as a candle,” explained Juggernaut.

“You have interesting candles,” said the father walking towards the altar.

“Would you please do the honors by lighting a candle for me?” requested Juggernaut.

“Certainly, I will light one green candle for you and with that lighted candle you  light the other two,” the father proceeded to light the candle.

“Thank you father for allowing me to light the candles in your church,” Juggernaut was grateful.

“Everybody is welcome in our little church irrespective of their faith; we consider all the seven billion people of the world as the children of god no matter what faith they follow to reach him. We believe in Jesus,” the father smiled flashing his bright white teeth.

“Well, I am glad my three special green candles were part of worship in your church,” Juggernaut lighted the two green candles.

“This is everybody’s’ church;, here we allow our devotees to worship god by whatever means whether burning candles made from animal fat or vegetable oil or burning wood chips, though burning wood chips and oil lamps are fire hazards since the church was built with wood and your green candles certainly meant to be lighted here,” the father looked serene in the white robe.


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