• Adyar Times

Boochandi Corona!

I have been fascinated by the many thematic temples in India. Tamil Nadu specially has temples dedicated to curing illnesses. Our mythology is filled with Gods and Goddesses descending to the Earth to help or cure people. Vaitheeswaran temple near Chidambaram, Garbharakshambika in Thanjavur, and Tayumanavar and Samayapuram at Tiruchirapalli are just a few examples.

Not just in temples, health has been given importance in other religions as well. The Basilica of the Lady of Good Health at Velankanni is a good example. However, for this article alone, I am going to refer to one of the most fascinating Hindu temple - Samayapuram.

One of the Gopurams of the Samayapuram Mariamman temple, Tiruchirapalli. Photo courtesy: https://tamilnadu-favtourism.blogspot.com/

It is probably the only temple dedicated to a viral disease - Pox. After a bout of pox, a visit to Samayapuram is a ritual in most Hindu families, irrespective of whether you have ever visited the temple previously or you have prayed to the Goddess during the illness.

Recognising that no cure was available for virus diseases, our ancestors emphasised on cleanliness and distancing and medicine for symptoms as the only way to wiggle out of the problem. A house that contracts this is adorned with neem leaves and smeared with turmeric paste, cleanliness is the norm, the person is quarantined from others at home, clothes are washed separately, food is prepared separately and people never forgot to pray to God.

All this treatment sounds so familiar to Corona’s, isn’t it? Corona too is a viral disease, yet, we shiver at its name. Pox in those days was dangerous too. With its cure shrouded in mystery, it was thus named after the Goddess herself - Amme in Tamil and Mata in Hindi. Corona too awaits redemption. A house inflected with pox was left undisturbed and revered, and not shamed or stigmatised as with Corona.

It would be foolish of me to trivialise Corona, but the fear associated with it is absolutely not healthy. This terror has made Corona into what we call in Tamil - boochandi. Just like a child is told, “Go to sleep, else boochandi will catch you,” the public is told, “If you don’t wear mask or maintain social distancing, Corona will catch you!”

The fear has created hesitation in people to go and check themself. Instances of families tearing off pamphlets stuck outside their houses by the Corporation has also come to light. Enquiries reveal stunning statements from even the most educated, “People will be afraid to come to our house,” or “We don’t want people to be afraid of us.”

The public seems to be missing the whole point of why they need to cooperate. Most of the concepts are not new to them. However, the right triggers need to be just touched. The onus lies on each one of us, not to crib and complain about the system not working properly, but to explain clearly to others, so we can together be a part of an implementation system. Let not Corona be the boochandi of your life!

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