Offering Oblations to the Demigod of Sleep

Reclining Mahavishnu (& other Krishna Avatars) attended by demigods+goddesses. Ghoom Mama not pictured.

I once put a book directly on the floor, and my Bengali husband quickly put something under it. “Mother Saraswati,” he said, referring to the goddess of learning. “Geez,” I thought. It was only a novel.

Some people think that Hindus worship many gods, but that’s not really true.

Vaishnava Hindus worship one supreme Godhead, known as Krishna, but they respectfully acknowledge the demigods who preside over the elements, the planets –even one’s material senses– like managers might work under a business owner.

I’ve come to really appreciate this connected, everything-is-personal way of seeing things.

One reason is that you can never be lonely.

Another is that it fosters, at least, a non-violent lifestyle (you’re less likely to trash things) and, at best, a more God-conscious one.

One of my favorite demigods is one I’ve never actually read about in any Vedic literature. I’m told he’s more of a folk-deity associated with children.

“Ghoom Mama,” or, “Uncle Sleep,” is the presiding deva of slumber. I imagine him as sort of like the Sandman of India, and how can one not love a god of napping?

I was introduced to Ghoom Mama in the early days of marriage, when my husband sang me a lullabye to induce sleep:

“GHOOM MAMA! GHOOM MAMA! Ghoom diye jao!”

It was loud.

It didn’t help me sleep, but it made me laugh.

These days, I do find myself blissfully worshiping at the altar of Ghoom Mama more than I care to admit. I asked my husband what this deva looks like, and the following conversation ensued:

Him: “He’s…kind of round.”

Me: “Really?”

Him: “Yes, he’s pillow-y.”

Me: “Oh? And what does he wear?”

Him: “Loose clothing. A dhoti.”

Me: “Is he married?”

Him: (looking at me like I was born yesterday) “Of course.”

Me: “So…she would be Ghoom Mami-ma (Auntie Sleep)?”

Him: “Mm-hm.”

Me: “You don’t suppose these two might have a second job, say, around Christmastime, making and distributing toys to youngsters around the world?”

Him: (seriously) I think so.

I did a Google search for Ghoom Mama, Indian Deity of Sleep, etc. and came up empty-handed. So it’s possible that Ghoom Mama’s jurisdiction is mostly the State of Bengal with special visits only to Bengali ex-pats.

This would explain why my husband can sleep anywhere– sitting upright in an airport terminal, lying directly on a hard wooden floor…It’s like a superpower.

The next time I have trouble sleeping, I might give the Ghoom Mama song another try. If that fails, I’ll default to Plan A:

I’ll pick up a book and make myself a cup of hot milk.


I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can even call me a heathen. I will still like you! Or follow me on Twitter (I’m @TheYogaofLiving). Om Tat Sat.

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