Category: Festivals


Happy Pongal !!

Festival season has started and today it is Pongal , the harvest festival of Tamilnadu.

Pongal festival is celebrated for 4 days . First day , Bhogi Pongal is for cleaning the house and surroundings . The old and discarded stuff is burnt  by making bonfires. Second day is known as Surya pongal . On this auspicious day people offer prayers to the Sun God by cooking pongal made of freshly harvested rice and split gram dal in milk and sugar/jaggery . This is cooked in earthen ware pots in a traditional way outside the house  using firewood. Sugarcane and  fresh turmeric saplings are part of the accompaniments for offering .

 Third day is known as Mattu pongal and on this day  cow and bullocks are worshipped as they aid in farming. Their horns are painted in bright hues and adorned with flowers and belts with bells on neck and legs  and  sweet Pongal is offerd to them also.
The 4th day is for merry making which is known as Kanum Pongal where the people come out in huge numbers for site seeing and visiting families and friends  .
I captured some early morning scenes as the houses were getting ready for the festival. Beautiful patterns known as Rangolis/kolam  were made in front of the house . Also could get pictures of rising Sun on Surya Pongal day.
Enjoy!!

Sunrise on Pongal day

Sunrise on Pongal day

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Sweet Pongal Sweet Pongal

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Vaikunta Ekadashi, January 11th, 2014

Vaikunta Ekadashi January 11
Today is an important festival day for all Vaishnavites. this festival is observed on the 11th day of waxing moon in the Tamil month of Margazhi/Dhanu Malayalam
It is believed that the the inner most dwara ( doors) of the Vaikuntam ( Vishnu’s abode) gets opened on this day. In almost all Vishnu temples this happens to be the Northen gate which remains closed throughout the year and is thrown open just for a day for the devotees. Devotees throng the temple to pass through the gate.

This is also the day Nammazhvar, the great Vaishanavite saint reached Vaikunta and it is believed that Lord himself arrived at the Gate of the Vaikuntam to take him inside.
This Gate ( the gate to heaven, ) on Ekadashi  day gets opened at 4 AM in temples and God is taken through this gate in a palanquin followed by thousands of devotees. Many observe fast during this day, meditate and chant Lord’s name. Those who have faith firmly believe that they would attain moksha at feet of Lord.
These festivals are very famous in Srirangam, Tirupati and almost all 108 Tirupati temples of Vishnu. This is also known as swargavathil Ekadashi in Kerala.
Click this link to have a glimpse of this festival in Srirangam. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C80kniJQ8E

Diwali- The festival of Lights.

  Diwali is round the corner and the mood is upbeat in every household as everyone is gearing up to celebrate the festival. Women are busy getting the sweetmeats ready . Recipes are available now at finger tips with the internet playing the mother’s role giving  step by step methods . It is definitely better than getting it from outside shops at exorbitant prices.

Till a few years ago ,  Diwali was a time to exchange sweets among friends, relatives , and seek blessings of elders . Now all that is waning. Lot of money is splurged on getting dresses, gadgets and lighting up fire crackers. I feel it would be better if  some time could be devoted for the underprivileged children who are homeless and the sparkle of light is nil in their lives.  With only a twinkle in their eyes they wait to get some love and happiness in their life . I have made some plans for this Diwali. I would be sharing what I did on that day. Let’s make this Diwali a safe and happy one. There must be Light in the mind; within  so that the inner light can wipe out the  darkness in the outer world..

Hope and Pray the festival would light up the lives of all the unfortunate, underprivileged children. Wish I had  a magic wand where it would wipe out all the problems of the hapless little ones.

Happy Diwali.

 

it is celebration time today. I am very happy I could get an idol Lord Krishna which was on my wish list for long…
Jai Radhe Krishna!!
God Bless All

Janmashtami

Happy Janmashtami greeting to all my friends.

This is not a post on Significance of the festival, this is rather what it has taught me , my life’s lessons.

I was born and bred in a conservative, joint family . I  have enjoyed living together with my siblings and cousins under one roof learning good values of sharing, devotion to God and I grew up right under the gaze of Vittobha, ( Krishna) the temple ( click link to read my post on My Pilgrimage)  which was right in front of my house. My house was like an extension of the temple and we always moved in and out of the temple. No wonder I grew up being a staunch devotee of this Lord who steals the heart of his bhaktas. The lovely face of Krishna with doe eyes, the diamond diadem , His Pitambara , the peacock feather which added the extra grace , the magical flute which cast a  spell on his Gopikas in Vrindavan   captivated my fancy too. Reading Krishnavatara by KM Munshi only made my faith and devotion stronger for HIM. This is one God whom I feel I can stay connected to. Though it was only Bhaya-bhakthi in the childhood towards God. I have started realising he is right with in me like a constant companion.. We should not be afraid of God. Our conscience must be clear and we must be able to share love or whatever we have to realise  the stength of God with in us. I don’t expect that God will appear in front of me if I do a tapasya, from where will he appear when He is with in me? If we cannot love others whole-heartedly that means I am not loving myself.

I enjoy, preparing goodies and  decorating the little Krishna idols I have with me, one being the most precious, a gift from my father which I attach a lot of sentiments. My dad himself was a great devotee of Krishna and he worshipped a saligrama of Krishna ( Murali Krishna) in our house, a tradition which is still continuing. Krishnashtami is always a grand festival in my paternal house as the house becomes a beehive of activity on that day. Prasad like  banana halwa, til laddu, sugarcane mixed with soaked bengalgram ,sattu ( a sweet made of bengalgram dal)  cashew-candy, dryfruits and fresh fruits and God’s favourite , sweetened butter are offered to the Lord. By evening Lamps are lit , the idols and saligrama gets bathed in  milk and water and are decorated with flowers of all hues  with fragrance filling the atmosphere. The pooja goes till late into the night and the curtains to the event are  drawn when the offerings to Lord are done and everyone participates  jointly in the partaking of neivadyam which is offered to the Lord. The preparation of all the prasada items and food for all the family members was solely prepared by my mom with we children chipping in with a minuscule of what she did. Hats off to her. I think she drew all the energy from the devotion she had for the Lord. I do not stand anywhere near her in terms of the kind of work she did.

I will be conducting the worship today evening. It would be a simple worship and would be offering  neivadayam ( goodies) many of which I have mentioned above and would end with an  aarti.

Festivals are time for indulging in sweets and lip smacking goodies. So when I say Lord resides in me we should really eat and enjoy so that it reaches the God. This is my philosophy.

Krishna has taught me the meaning of LOVE and I want to fill my heart with more and more and keep it NIRMAL (pure).

My Krishna(s)

Wishing you all again, a Happy Janmashtami.

See you soon!!!

My Kochi trip

I had a fabulous trip to Kerala. The long drive, the fine weather, family get togethers,scores of temple visits marked my trip. The main attraction was the visit to Kochi temple on Diwali day. The temple was decorated with lights, rangolis, festoons made of flowers and palm leaves.I think palm leaf festoons are unique to Kerala and they are called as thoran which is part of any auspicious function. Mango leaves are also used as thorans. This bio degradable decorations are eco-friendly and look very attractive than the artificial ones. See some of the pictures. Yes, some. You will see more later.
Again hitting travel tracks. Hope to see you all with more information.
Enjoy and take care!!!
All Pictures are of Kochi Tirumala Devaswom temple

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Happy Deepavali

Happy Deepavali all my dear friends; The festival of light is just a day away.

What I like about this festival- it is a time for family get together,cleaning and decorating the houses with brilliant coloured festoons and Rangoli ,visiting friends and relatives and exchanging sweets . A great occasion to meet near and dear.

This time I am travelling to Kochi, my home town and going to participate in the Diwali celebrations in our Kochi temple. The temple would open at 4.45 am and I would participate in the morning pooja. The temple would be flooded with devotees and it would be a great sight to watch each and every one in their best attire. I am looking forward to this trip as there would be special flower arrangements and illumination in the temple. I shall come back and share my experiences with you all.
Till then You also celebrate the festival of lights with your near and dear ones.
Enjoy,eat sweets, make new friends and let goodness fill everybody’s mind.

My Navarathri

Navarathri is one festival I love to celebrate and follow and adhere to all the customs attached to it. But the verve and enthusiasm has gone down a little as mine is a nuclear family and I miss lot of fun . Growing up in a joint family we enjoyed this festival and had fabulous time with cousins and siblings. I had written a post on Navarathri last year. You will find it here.

I wish to be in Calcutta this time of the year as Panchami , i.e fifth day onwards the Durga Pooja starts, the whole city gets transformed and one would feel like , Alice in Wonderland nay …..one in Ma Durga’s land. The beautiful idols of Divine Mother, big doe eyes cast a magic spell and one gets rooted in front of Her. My last year post on Durga Pooja, click here.

The place where I am now, Navarathri is a low key affair for me , no Durga pandals, no friends hence no Kolu and invitations to visit any houses. What signals Navarathri in our house is we worship Goddess by singing devotional songs and melting into the sweetness of the Bhajans which one will experience only when sung. The habit of singing bhajans was inculcated in us right from our childhood by our mother and it was part of our daily routine. My father made evening prayers mandatory, a discipline all my siblings are following even now. During Navarathri the Bhajan singing would be a lengthy affair and singing in groups was ecstatic.

Learning new songs from mother and friends was part of this festival and even now pictures just flash in front of my eyes when I sing those songs which I learnt in those days. This year my sister is with me and we are opening our old Bhajan books and reliving the experience of our Good old Navrathri days. How I miss my childhood. I still hold those memories in my heart like a precious pearl which I take out during the festive season, enjoy the beauty and put back safely in the chest till the next year. It is a sweet dream which I have lived and I suckle the honey as a butterfly does.
Happy Navarathri Wishes.
May Goddess Durga bestow her blessings on all.

Krishnaashtami

Today is Krishnaashtami, also known as Krishna Jayanthi . Krishna is my favourite God  and I am sure there are  many like me, may be  I can relate to Him better than any other Gods.  His antics and mischief as a little child captivated the  hearts of all in Vrindavan .  His flute mesmerised every soul.   He is presented very well in all the pictures. His yellow pitambhara, a diadem on forehead with a peacock feather  and a smile on his lips endears Him to one and all.  Krishna avatara etched myriad pictures in  my mind and I got enchanted by his stories . K.M. Munshi’s  books on Krishnavatara which he wrote in 8 parts, I devoured voraciously. I consider the first one as  the master piece as it deals with Krishna’s birth and his early life in Vrindavan.   The descriptions in the book made me felt I was right there in Vrindavan with the Lord.

Thus Krishna came to stay in my   in my  mind and heart. I know He is with all of us and we  celebrate his birthday with  all religious fervour. I do have three small idols of Him and I decorate it with flowers and Tulsi , his favourite.

Varieties of sweets along with sweetened butter , fresh and dry fruits are offered to Krishna during the worship.   Then chanting God’s name and performing Aarti, is   part of the worship. His devotees follow Vrata on this day and avoid eating rice and rice based items.  Some, fast and partake only prasada after the pooja is over.

Another event related to Krishnaashtami is something like Bhai Dhuj of North India. Brothers would visit their sisters home with Phalara khotto (basket filled with goodies).  The baskets would be full of  fruits, vegetables, pulses , sweets and special item like  bunches of raw and ripe bananas. Hence banana chips & halwa made of ripe banana  is part and parcel of this big day.  It is time to strengthen the bonds between brothers and sisters and their families too.   This is one day every sister would look forward to.  So Krishnashtaami is not only a day which ends in rituals, it is also a time to strengthen the family ties.

Let God shower His blessings on one and all.

Lokam samashta sukhino bhavantu.

Let peace  prevail

Happy Janmashtami wishes to all.

Onam

Onam festival & flowers

Onam is around the corner , a famous festival in Kerala which is celebrated by one and all. The month of struggle and hardship of Karkkadagam ( Malayalam month)which is a difficult time for farmers because of rains and dwindling stock of food grains gets over and it sows the hope of bright days ahead because of the bountiful harvest. Onam is also known as the harvest festival of Kerala. These celebrations go on for about 12 days starting with Atham star, the 10 th day Tiruvonam being the most important day. The people enthusiastically gear up for this festival . They shop for new clothes, new accessories for their houses and markets also match the requirements by putting up their best sales.

What I like about Onam, is the rainbow of colours it brings in each and every body’s mind. The houses get spruced up and each and every courtyard gets decorated with floral carpets. In villages one would find children going around plucking and collecting flowers of various size, shape and colour early in the morning and enthusiastically creating floral patterns. Finding floral carpets in front of each and every house is really a visual treat and it lifts up one’s spirits.

People staying far away flock to their homes to be with their near and dear ones. The karanavar ( the eldest member) hands out Onakodi (new Clothes)to all the family members. Every one eagerly waits for the Tiruvonam day, on that day all the family members sit and enjoy the grand feast which is called as onasadya. Preparation for the sadya starts 2-3 days ahead and women folk of the house give their best for the occasion. They churn out traditional delicacies and the king of dessert payasam is served at the end of the sadhya. There is a proverb related to Onam-Kanam vittum onam unnananam. One may have to sell even the seedlings kept for the next sowing season- meaning not even a single soul should remain hungry on that day.

It is really a spectacle to see hordes of people moving on the road in their new and best attire visiting temples and their relatives. All the ladies wear the traditional settu mundu and also play the traditional dance kaikottikali around the flower carpet which gets brightened with the oil lamp in the centre. Kaikottikali is a form of dance where the women move slowly, in rhythmic movements clapping hands as they render songs invocating the Gods.

Here is a sample of Kaikottikali, women in traditional dress of Kerala

Kerala government conducts Tourist week connected with this and snake boat races and cultural events are conducted during this period. These events attract lot of tourists, domestic as well as from foreign countries.

There is an interesting legend related to this great festival. Mahabali was a very powerful and benevolent asura king and all his subjects were happy because he used to grant all their wishes. Seeing that, even the gods became jealous of him. They felt the king would become a threat to them and requested Maha Vishnu to help them. Lord Vishnu, as Vamana, a young Brahmin using the king’s weakness to grant all wishes asked him for 3 paces of land. Mahabali happily obliged. Vamana grew into a gigantic form and with one pace He measured earth and with the second He measured the sky and asked the king where he could measure the third pace. Having realised it was Lord Vishnu himself who came as Vamana,  to honour his commitment, Mahabali showed his head to the Lord and with that Bali was sent to the nether world. Before leaving he got a boon from Lord Vishnu to visit his subjects every year and that,  people  should celebrate his return as a big festival of joy and cheer. With great religious fervour, people welcome Mahabali and worship Vishnu also during this period.

As times have changed, tradition is giving way to convenience as time is difficult to manage. Working women look upon hoteliers and caterers for ready made Onasadyas and event mangers to handle all the preparation for Onam. Even though this is away from the traditional way, people seem to compromise for this as everyone gets rest as well as enjoyment of the festival though with a slight strain on their budgets.

Whatever may be the legend or the tradition, Onam is a time to forget all worries and let one’s hair down and soak in  the sweetness of celebrations.

Ente Onaasamsagal (Happy Onam Greetings).

Acknowledgement: Beautiful picture of floral carpet by Matthieu.A
See you soon!