Matru means mother. Of the frequent quotes shared, the first is ‘Matru devo bhava’, meaning offering regard to the divine in the mother’s form. This is followed by Pitru, Acharya, and Atithi, meaning father, teacher, and guest respectively. More may follow but the first slot is for the mother.
Matru is physical and also metaphorical as a concept. Matru concept is easier to appreciate and universal, present even among animals. Mother gives life, the physical form, preserves inside, protects outside, and ensures the initial nurturing of the child. When the child is vulnerable, the mother does the necessary. Regarding adaptability and life skills, it is from the mother that one learns and later improvises. Mother is the gateway to the outside, introducing the world to the child. The child trusts and accepts it. this becomes the initial reality.
Maternal affection is unconditional. Mothers’ wish is for the well-being of their children. Discrimination from the mother among the children is rare; if it exists, it is positive for the weakest child. On the part of the children, the feeling they should have during the life and beyond the life of their mother is gratitude. People quote ‘survival of the fittest’, and one should remember that at the time of their birth, one was the weakest. One would not have survived but for the mother. Hence, the saying that even Delhi’s ruler is son to his mother.
Over the years, Matru becomes the concept. Any nourishing ecosystem becomes a ‘mother’. Then the organisation that provides ‘food for life’ becomes an extended mother. The city that hosts one becomes another extended mother. At a macro-level, Mother Earth becomes a larger mother.
The umbilical cords may get cut physically but emotional bonding survives for a long period. The sense of sufficiency and confidence one may have initially, and sometimes stretches throughout life is due to the security provided by the mother in the initial period. The relationship is more than physical nourishment as the culture gets passed to the nextgen through the mother, the first teacher. When the physical existence of ‘Matru’ ends, it becomes the time to offer gratitude through an annual offering ‘done with shraddha’. When Matru Yagyam is performed with all gratitude, the life given by Matru blossoms.
Prof S Ainavolu is a Mumbai-based teacher of tradition and management. Views are personal. https://www.ainavolu.in/blog