“Ei.. Yaa… Ei.. Yaa… Sore Sore.. Ei.. Yaa.. Mata Mata.. Ei.. Yaa… Tomaruna.. Ei.. Yaa… Mae Mae.. Ei.. Yaa…” The calls echoed in the streets; Neither the thunder nor the rain dwindled the spirits of the people. Mugs overflowing with Osaké and Ocha, were passed along; people, young and old alike, had only one thing in mind; Get the huge two-wheeled cart to the Geku. It was the Oshiraishi-Mochi-Gyoji, at the famed Geku at Ise.
The Shikinen Sengu, the once in 20 years renewal of the shrine buildings and treasures; a reminder of the impermanence of everything; is under way and in its final stages at Ise. The Shikinen Sengu, a set of ceremonies, being followed to the book for the past 1,300 years, makes the Jingu, eternally old and always new at the same time.
Having heard about the large-scale constructions and myriad ceremonies associated with the event, I always wanted to see at least a part of it. Getting an invite all the way into the Geku was a sweet surprise though! It all started, when we were discussing about shrines at an English conversation lesson, I was doing. One of the ladies in the group, was from Ise, and she told about the Oshirashi-Mochi-Gyoji, but was not sure about the details. A couple of phone calls, and she had it all set, and invited me to the festivities.
People in Ise Shi and their invitees are allowed to go into the shrines once every 20 years on the day of the ceremony. They carry white pebbles and lay it inside the newly built Jingu. The pebbles are carried in huge two-wheeled carts, that are pulled around the city, and brought to the Jingu. At the Jingu, the pebbles are unloaded to rows of wooden tanks, assigned to people from different areas of the town. Every person, then carries two pebbles, all the way into the newly built Jingu, and lays it down inside.
Back on the streets, the rain was getting ever more powerful. The drummers and the lords of thunder were at a fight, on who would make the loudest sounds. The dancers and the group leaders cheered and kept pace with the drummers. Ei.. yaa.. Ei.. Yaa..
It took us a couple of hours before we reached the Geku. With the pebbles in my hands, and walking through the gates of the Geku, passing the huge wooden walls, a multitude of things strike me at the same time; the magnificence in the simplicity of the structure, the aroma of the wood, the beauty in the pattern of black and white pebbles laid around the wooden structure, the looks of curiosity, wonder, awe and devotion in a thousand eyes around you!!
Soaked to the bones in the rain, coming out of the Jingu, we were welcomed by the calls of another group coming with their huge cart.. Ei.. yaa.. Ei.. Yaa..