Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

To the homes and to the pandals
To the streets and to the palaces
For the poor and for the rich
Here I come, here I come

To lighten your lives and brighten your minds
To forgive your sins of the days gone behind
So light up your streets and decorate your walls
Give me a jig and sing me some songs

Offer me sweets, offer me some prayers
I vow that I will be your problem slayer
To be back again with you year by year
Here I come, here I come

He is hailed as the god of good beginnings, a remover of obstacles and a lord of wisdom. His presence is auspicious and his blessings a must. Our beloved Lord Ganesha is coming home again. While he prepares to grace us with his presence, preparations are on full swing. From homes to pandals and from social organizations to security establishments, everybody is gearing up to welcome the elephant-headed god. Roads are getting fixed, pandals are being erected, houses are getting repainted and the police force is making the final checks.

Ganesh Chaturthi marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha, son of Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati. The festival is celebrated with excitement across India with all the communities joining in the celebration erasing the boundaries of religion and castes. The 10 day festival which ends on Anant Chaturthi is perhaps the most celebrated festivals of India. In India, the state of Maharashtra sees the most elaborate celebrations followed by Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka and some Northern States. Internationally, it is celebrated by Hindus in US, Canada, Singapore, Thailand and Mauritius amongst others.

Legend has it that Lord Ganesha was a creation of goddess Parvati. He was created when Parvati gave life into a figure of sandalwood paste that she used for her bath. Parvati then asked Ganesha to stand guard as she bathed. When Lord Shiva returned, Ganesha did not allow him to enter. Enraged, Lord Shiva severed the head of little Ganesha. Once Shiva realized that he had killed his own son, he fixed the head of an elephant in place of Ganesha’s head. Since then Ganesha was the elephant-headed god.

Colourful statues of the lord are erected across the country and aartis (religious ritual) are done on a daily basis. Prayers are offered and sweets are extended in his name. Modak, Lord Ganesha’s favourite sweet is the flavour of the season and could be seen in almost all the households. Ganesh Chaturthi is also when social activities are at an all time high. Popular mandals (local communities) conduct gatherings, competitions and charity fundraisers during this period.

Ganesh Chaturthi is one festival that defines the spirit of India; a festival which cuts across caste and creed and holds mankind and goodness as supreme. And as the Lord of Good Times makes his way back to our homes, let us welcome him with all our heart!

Copyright@Bookchums

 

 

 

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Until recently Onam for me meant waking up early, donning new attire, visiting the local temple and gorging on sumptuous food for the rest of the day. This time I try to take a different look at a festival that people in Kerala celebrate with much vigour.

Kaikotti Kali

Kaikotti Kali

To get the facts right, the festival of Onam commemorates the Vamana avatar or the fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu and also marks the arrival of King Mahabali. Onam falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam and lasts for 10 days with Thiruonam being the last day. The rice harvesting season also falls during this period giving this occasion even more reasons to celebrate.

I remember my mother telling me tales about Onam and the manner in which it used to be celebrated in the not-so-old days. Electricity was a rarity in villages then and the only source of light during the night was the ever humble oil lamp. Kerala with all its brightness was never low on light. So be it temples, houses or cultural hotspots, a lamp always found its way as a sign of goodness.

Pookalam

Pookalam

The run-up to Onam starts from Attam, the first day, where people start preparing for Thiruonam. Houses are cleaned and painted, old stuffs replaced by new ones and people just about start getting in the mood with Pookalam, the floral carpet, making its presence in front of the house. With each passing day the Pookalam sees a change in size and design with a variety of flowers spread in a complex yet subtle style. Though Onam celebrations differ in each region the idea is to celebrate and cherish the fruits of the hard work done. The next few days has people splurging on clothes and jewellery, buying harvested goods and participating in Vellam Kalli (Boat Race), Kamba Vali (Tug of War), Kaikotti Kali and other functions.

Vallam kali

Vallam kali

The 9th day or Uthradom is much awaited as this is the day when King Mahabali or Maveli will be descending Kerala and spending the next fewdays. Mavelis made of wood and mud are worshipped and pooja (sacred ritual) carried out every morning and evening, a function where only men are allowed. Ironical, considering most of Kerala is a matriarchal society. Cometh the 10th day, people are seen celebrating Thiruonam by gorging on at least 20 different varieties of food, exchanging good wishes and presenting gifts while women take to the traditional dance of Kaikotti kali; all this while the floral carpet is at its vibrant best. Once Maveli is immersed in water after the pooja, men take to the streets to perform the colourful and vibrant Puli kalli (Tiger dance) where they mask themselves as tigers. The next 3 days are also celebrated with much enthusiasm as Onam draws to a close.

It is said that old always makes way for the new. The same applies to Onam, where increasing media coverage and public awareness has seen this

Pulikkali

Pulikkali

celebration take to different parts of the country. Not to mention that you will find a malayalee in every corner of the planet. While the age old tradition continues, Onam now-a-days is more of a cultural show than celebration, or so I feel. The huge number of television channels has made sure that a constant dose of programs and movies are all that people get to watch. Local organisations and societies organise Onam functions and almost every occasion is graced by a celebrity or a politician. Jewellery shops are packed while shopping malls sees a mad rush. Call it consumerism or progressive approach, people have moved on from the very old form of celebrations. Though the modern budget concerned family believes on controlled spending, what must be appreciated is the spirit with which this festival is welcomed.

Though I do believe in the phrase ‘Change is the only Constant’, it must never overshadow our roots. The new age Onam has just managed to balance itself on the fine line between the old and the new establishing a congruence of devotion and pragmatism. Now, it’s upon generation next to carry on the flame ahead. Here’s wishing each and everyone a wonderful Onam and good time!

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