How to warm up a new house
When Tamils decide to build or settle down in a new house, they organize a great housewarming, which aims to purify it from evil spirits. Besides inviting the whole family, friends, colleagues and new neighbors, the housewarming follows a very special ritual.
A scarecrow watches over the house
During building, a large scarecrow is set up in the house and often put on the rooftop. Made of dried grass, with a terracotta pot (which can be scary) to represent the head, this great doll will remain there all along the construction and aims to capture all the bad energies. On the eve of the housewarming, the person in charge of the construction must walk with this doll at midnight, with a rope like a leash around the new house. Nobody can lay his eyes on this at this moment, and later it will eventually be burnt at the corner of the street. Then, housewarming can start.
The day, the date: a Brahman’s decision
Depending on the birth date and astrology of people building or buying the new house, brahmans are suggesting three or four dates when the housewarming can be made. Once the date is chosen, the happy family invites friends, colleagues and new neighbors. Times of the appointment are fixed according to the auspicious hours of the day, but are very often in between 3 or 5 o'clock in the morning, as these times are always favorable for blessings.
A complex purification
After putting mango and neem leaves as well as sacred water (that must be coming from the lGanges) all around doors’ frame, everyone goes very early in the morning to the house, well cleaned beforehand. Then, brahman proceeds to what is called a Ganapathy Homam, and convokes, for this occasion, the goddess Lakshmi. Brahman sits down with the family and arranged around him panoply of objects that the new owners had to buy. It can be wood sticks, ghee, that the holy man mixes while chanting and reciting Mantras. Then he goes to make a Pooja (purifying the house) and spreads all over the place sacred water and Neem leaves, in order to clean all the bad vibrations that could have infiltrated when the house when it was unfinished and wide open.
Cows as very special guests
Afterward a real cow (representing Lakshmi goddess) and her calf are invited at the doorstep! In a specific order, a long procession, starting with the brahman, followed by the cows, the husband, the wife (carrying fire on a candle), and finally the family, goes around the house before returning inside. If luckily, the cow urinates in the house, this one will be at the height of its blessing! Otherwise, the owner of the cow always keeps a bottle of cows’ urine that he will sell for the occasion. Are you living outside of India? No problem, these bottles are sold, and are even... exported! The urine is then spread by the brahman throughout the house to bless it.
Milk decides if life will prosper
The family of the bride buys for this occasion a very specific metal pot, in which the secretion of Lakshmi must be heated: the milk. If this one, once boiled, flows to the left: it is okay, but if it flows to the right... it is a very good omen! On the other hand, if the milk boils oddly and becomes solid, it may be necessary to consider changing house, because it is a very bad omen... This milk is then shared with the whole family.
Three days of commitment
All things arranged by the brahman must remain intact. The new owners offer breakfast to guests and must prepare lunch in the same house and sleep there that same evening, in order to capture all the good energies spread by the Pooja and to honor the gods invited during the procession. They also must eat vegetarian dishes for three days. On the third day, it is necessary to clean what remains, especially the ashes. It will be put in a small cloth that will be suspended at the entrance door, before being left into the sea. If people concerned live far from the ocean, they will have a month or two to organize a trip to the sea, specifically for this. Once the housewarming is finished, a pure and fresh life can begin!