Lucky mothers-to-be collect ‘barata-bara’ goods

Saturday, 12 October 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By D.C. Ranatunga Chamila Kumari is a young mother from Abhayawewa – a village in Anuradhapura. Carrying her third child just two weeks old, she turned up to participate at a rare ‘pinkama’ when goods were distributed to pregnant mothers. Known as ‘tulaabaara pinkama,’ it signifies the offering of goods to the weight of a pregnant mother. It was the brainchild of the young dynamic monk, Venerable Talalle Chandakitti, who is always on the lookout to do something new and different when it comes to Buddhist rituals and offerings. Chandakitti Thera was completing 25 years in robes. To mark the occasion, he wanted to do something to benefit the needy. He picked the age old ‘pinkama’ dating back to the days of the 12th century King Nissanka Malla of the Polonnaruwa era. In fact, there is reference in Buddhist texts to the ‘tulaabaara pinkama’ being held during the time of the Buddha when the wealthy monarchs distributed gold. In the old tales, we read about our own kings giving away ‘athek barata vastuva’ – wealth to the weight of a tusker’. When Chandakitti Thera decides on a ‘pinkama,’ he always think of it not merely as a religious ceremony but he gives priority to the service he could provide for those in need in society. It was no different when he thought of the ‘tulaabaara pinkama’. He decided to locate 25 pregnant mothers from the remote villages in and around Anuradhapura. “It was no easy task. I sought the assistance of the Samurdhi niladharis to pick on suitable mothers and they did a good job,” he told me. There was yet another proviso. Each mother would have had two children earlier. Those expecting the third baby were the ones who qualified. They were to have reached the ninth month by 25 September. There were 29 of them by the 25th. Chamila and another had delivered the babies by then. “The construction of a pair of scales where we could sit the mother on one side and fill the goods to her weight was a big challenge,” Chandakitti Thera recalled. The Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB) rose to the occasion. The Thera’s ‘dayakas’ contributed funds to buy the stocks of goods for distribution. These comprised a long list of things to meet the requirements of both the mother and the child. Many benefactors took over the tasks of providing transport, meals, shelter at the site on the bank of Basawakkulama in Anuradhapura where Chandakitti Thera has put up an ‘avasaya’ and other arrangements. On the 25th morning, the ceremony began with the chanting of ‘seth pirith’ by 25 monks to bless the mothers-to-be. They listened intently holding the ‘pirith noola’ in their hands. They were given ‘pirith’ water at the end of the chanting. They received further good news. The devotees of the Bambalapitiya Siri Vajiraramaya (Chandakitti Thera holds a monthly meditation class there) had decided to open savings accounts in the name of the little ones after they are born. The mothers were then taken to the site where the pair of scales was placed. Each one was made to sit carefully on a comfortable chair placed on one side of the scale. Two young females – members of the Dhammadeepa Foundation – the Thera’s social service organisation – kept watch on either side and ensured she was at ease. A Buddha statue was handed over to each mother to be worshipped at home. Venerable Tirikunamale Ananda Anunayaka Thera placed the first stock of goods on the other side and opened the proceedings. It took quite a while for each of the 29 mothers to be weighed, goods piled up and packed in large boxes. On an average, each one weighed around 62kgs. They were treated to lunch along with nearly a thousand lay devotees. This was only a part of the ‘pinkama’. Twenty five ‘samanaeras’ – novice monks – were also selected and were given their essentials in the same manner. With a casket in hand each one sat and watched the goods being loaded. “It was quite a task but with everyone rallying round and giving a helping hand, everything went as planned,” an exhausted but happy Chandakitti Thera said. In fact, when the news spread, many a pregnant mother had turned up till evening and whatever goods were left were distributed among them. As we left the premises late afternoon, the boxes were being loaded into lorries parked on the Basawakkulama tank bund with beaming mothers watching nearby along with family members.