In the ancient times, sages who lived in the forest used to carry a kamandalu (a small pitcher) filled with water. Many paintings that depict these sages too show this. Even today many who perform japa (chanting of Divine Names) or meditation are seen to be carrying a kamandalu with water.
What is the purpose and significance of carrying this pitcher filled with water?
Everyone is aware that water is a cleanser. It is used for purifying purposes. Water plays a major role in external cleanliness. But the attributes of water do not stop there. It’s cleansing quality works at subtler levels too! Water has the power to wipe off even unseen subtle vibrations that may cause harm to us. Indeed, it offers us greater protection than we perceive.
This subtle attribute of water can be observed in many instances when we care to look at it. We know that the police usually take the help of a trained dog to track a thief. The dog catches some scent of the thief and starts following the scent. The dog can trace the track of the thief so long as the thief has not crossed a river or any kind of water reservoir. If the thief takes a dip in a water source he gets cleansed at a subtler level and the dog can trace him no more! This is a simple example of how deep water’s cleansing power goes.
This was known to our great seers and sages of the past, and thus they always had a pitcher filled with water with them. When we place such a pitcher in front of us while walking or performing japa/meditation, the negative vibrations of the people who come near us are barred by the water in the pitcher. Thus we stand protected from it.
This is why when we eat we protect our plate by pouring water around it (pariseshanam). That protects our food from being contaminated by any negative thoughts of someone who sees us eating.