Growing up in Nepal, whether you have a religious background or not, you would know about a Kalash. A simple pot made of either metal or clay, small in size but significant. So much so that many legends and countless religious beliefs justify the importance of Kalash.
In the Hindu religion, Kalash is the primary element that connects various aspects of life. For example, you might have seen Kalash of multiple sizes and designs placed in many places, like at the gateway you pass through, different auspicious occasions, and other rituals. But as we go back to its roots, or how it came to be, we are forced to think that maybe Kalash is not there just as a showcase but might have substantive significance.
How did it come to be?
The history of Kalash dates back to the Yuga of gods and deities. Gods stored Elixir in it that made them immortal and powerful. The demons, learning this, searched for ways to obtain the Kalash. That led to a conflict between gods and demons. With that clash, the mortal beings came to know the existence of Kalash.
The wise, somehow, understood how strong the Kalash could be, so they came up with an alternative for making it more powerful. They bestowed potent mantras and represented the essence of gods in the form of Kalash. From then, Kalash passed from generation to generation.
Kalash is associated with the five elements or the chakras. pṛthivyāpastejovāyurākāśāt, a Vedic mantra indicates the sequential appearance of these elements. First appeared space, then emerged air. Thereby creating fire and energy, which then formed the water, and from there the earth.
These five gross elements represent the solid, liquid, radiant, gaseous, and etheric forms of matter. They combine to create the empirically perceived material reality (Prakriti), including the physical body.
Highlighted elements of Kalash
The opening of the mouth represents the element – Akasha (Aether). It means the basis and essence of all things in the material world. Another element to integrate with Akasha is Vayu (Air). Together they represent the highest and the holiest place, heaven.
The neck of the pot represents the element- Agni (Fire). Fire is a boon for our survival. It exists at three levels- fire on the earth, lightning in the atmosphere, and the sun in the sky.
The expanded center represents the element – Ap (Water). In Hinduism, it is also the name of deva Varun, a personification of water. Agni, the god of fire, is also referred to as Apam Napat- offspring of the waters as he has a close association with water.
The broad base of the metal pot represents the element –Prithvi (Earth).It is associated with the orb, the most resilient base anyone could ever have.
With the combination of these divine elements, the Kalash takes its form to be a religiously powerful symbol. The incantation connects the Kalash with these elements and actuates its energy.
Adding more auspicious elements to Kalash, we place coconut and coronet of mango and peepal leaves over the top. Coconut is a supreme fruit, respected and sought after by the deities as the fruit of strength and wisdom. Coconut is considered as the head of the Kalash and is kept facing upward(the sky). The water in the pot is called amrita, the Elixir of life.
The leaves connect the coconut and the water inside. Kautuka, red and yellow cloth or thread, are wrapped around the neck of the Kalash. The Kautuka is then further tied with the coconut signifying the Kalash as a living entity. This process represents the connection between the whole being and the gross elements.
The Reason Why
The whole preparation eventually brings out the highest and purest form of a Kalash. We call it Purna Kalash to show its completeness. At home or temple, it should be facing towards the north-east direction. Whereas during rituals, it should be facing toward the east direction, regarding the Yagya. The prosperity linked to the- now considered living Kalash is observed by the worshipper. It is a welcome sign and a prayer for all the entities to come and bless the surroundings, the reason why we can see Kalash decorated at the entrance in many places.
The Kalash symbolically signifies the creation. You hear the empty pot vibrating with the sound of the pouring water filling it to its completeness. The reverberating sound produced makes you feel that the environment is cleansing upon itself. Kalash is called the pot of prosperity. The faith people have in the power and purity of Kalash is what highlights it in almost every Hindu practices.
If you want to hear a story about how this holy item – Kalash shaped someone’s life, do check out Shaped by The Kalash.