While many of our friends joined the 60’s club, there were jokes galore about, “Tum satheyaa gaye ho!” The 60th birthday makes you a senior citizen and licenses you to flaunt your platinum blonde hair but that besides, why is it such a big deal? Some people retire while some decide to re-tire, rejuvenate, rediscover themselves and enjoy life with renewed energy, because their primary responsibilities towards their work, children etc. are done and dusted.
We recently attended the Shastipoorthi or 60th birthday celebrations of a South Indian friend. He was dressed like a groom and his wife like a bride. To my amazement, their children performed the re-marriage of their parents on this day! I was intrigued. My quest unravelled this …
The term Shashti Poorti, is derived from the Sanskrit words, Shashti (sixty) and Poorthi (completion). According to the Vedas, every year or Samvatsara has a name. The year 2023-24 is Shobhakruth Nama Samvatasaram. There are 60 Samvatsaras in all and they repeat themselves every 60 years. So the Hindu year in which one is born, gets repeated after 60 years. Magically, the astrological position of the stars and planets at the time of birth dittos itself on the 60th birthday as per the Lunar calendar. The expectancy for life in the Vedic age was 120 years. So on the 60th birthday, one is half way home!
What about the wedding ritual? Traditionally, there are 7 vows in a Hindu wedding that are promises made by the bride and groom to each other. The groom promises to protect the bride and earn for the family. The bride promises to look after the house and family, and use the earnings judiciously. They agree to share their joys and sorrows and stand by each other through thick and thin. And they promise to be friends for life!
It seems that the seven vows have been internalised and become second nature by now. So what next? The re-marriage at Shastipoorthi is a spiritual marriage, whereby the couple proceeds together on the path of spirituality. Elaborate Prayers are performed along with the children and grandchildren. The undertone of the celebration is gratitude, along with preparation for the sanctimonious life ahead.
The first 60 years are spent in childhood, youth, learning, earning, marriage, begetting and upbringing of children, performing their marriages etc. After slogging through life to learn and earn, next in turn is to yearn to prepare for one’s spiritual sojourn. I was reminded of what Sri Sathya Sai Baba said, ‘Life is a journey from I to We to He’ and suddenly, I realised how profound this was!
Our culture guides and goads to prepare for the ultimate goal of life without having to be a renunciate. When I got married, my father said, “Stand together to make 11, not just 2!” As I watched our friends’ circumambulating the holy fire, I felt shivers go down my spine. A spiritual innings … Wow!
This article has been published as the Middle piece in The Tribune on 09.10.2023. It can be viewed here https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/musings/the-start-of-a-spiritual-innings-at-60-542584
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