Sunday, September 18, 2011

Simply Sunday - Fabulous Festivals

Come September (actually August), and I can feel the magic in the air (at least in my very own air space!) - the magic that is culture, the magic of memories coming alive, the magic of the fabulous festivals of India.

Festival fever begins for me (and most South Indians) with the Varamahalakshmi Nombu puja in mid-August. As my mom and mother-in-law let me know in advance the date of the puja and remind me conveniently the night before the puja as well, I start my preparations by getting all the puja items out of the box it has been for the past few months, the Lakshmi mukham, and all other items needed for the puja. With this puja, as I have been doing always, I end up calling a couple of friends and family at the very last minute for vethalai-paaku (just shows that this is the first event of the festival season! and I am just getting warmed up). Here is my Varalakshmi, all decked up:
Next up, this year, on the very next day, was Avani Avittam (thankfully, the puja is performed by the males in the family and I just had to prepare some prasadam and keep the puja items ready for them) and Raksha Bandhan(even though this is not a South Indian tradition, since I grew up celebrating it, I still do by sending a Rakhi to my brother every year and getting my little ones to do it as well - my DD loves the concept of Rakhi - maybe more so since she receives a fancy gift from her doting big brother each year). 

Krishna tiptoes (literally) to follow with Janmashtami that comes soon after. This means, drawing dainty footsteps with rice-flour paste to signify baby Krishna making his entrance into our home.  I wanted to use plain old chalk to draw the footsteps while my little ones wanted me to dip their feet in riceflour paste as I had done in years past when they were really little. When I explained that it is "Baby" Krishna coming to visit, they told me I always tell them, "you will forever be my babies". They then proceeded to tell me that since both wanted their imprints(!) on the ground, I could start off with my 5 year old's footprints at the door and end with my 8 year old's prints near the puja area - wow,  this meant that Krishna would grow up in leaps and bounds in our home. In the end, I gave them the pieces of chalk and asked them to draw the footprints as they wished. No photos of the wonderful footprints here, but believe me when I say, Lord Krishna is in here within the flowers somewhere in the photo below:
The elephant-faced Lord Ganesh  is close behind Krishna as Vinayaka Chaturthi arrives pretty soon. This year, too, I did not have enough time to a) clean up the mud in my garden of all the excess twigs, leaves etc to use it to make my clay Ganesha, b) to go to Michaels or Jo Anns to buy myself some clay to use for this. So I decided to use maida flour to make my Ganesha and be green in the process.Well, I did not think of one thing beforehand, maida gets 'pulichified' (ferments) and as part of that process, expands and settles as well. So my lord Ganesha who was not too chubby on 'day one' when I made him, turned way more chubbier on 'day two' (Friday) when my friends whom i had invited for dinner came over. I joked that Lord Ganesha loved my experimental kozhakattais so much that he ate all of them (and I had none left over for them! - actually a culinary disaster) and as a result of overeating, he grew chubbier. Don't you think so - here are the pictures - the before, the kozhakattais, and the after!

Next up is one of the biggest and the one festival that takes up a lot of my time as I prepare for it - Navratri. I love this festival and the wonderful memories it evokes for me - my parents removing the wicker baskets of clay dolls from the attic; arranging the golu padi with stacks of books, tin dabbas, planks of wood; my mom assigning the duty of inviting all the aunties in our colony which I loved - dad would write down all the aunties names in the order of the houses they lived in our colony and I would take the mailman's route along with my best friend and collect signatures and a Yes/No from the aunties for when they could attend at our home and at the same time enjoy the goodies all the aunties would offer to us (after all, they would say, all the walking up and down must make us hungry/thirsty, right -- and well, of course we never refused the refreshing juices and the yummy sweets and snacks offered to us - it being festival time, everyone had wonderful goodies always); making the rounds to visit all the golus; hosting the golu in our house and handing out the sundal, vethalai paaku to all our guests; and last, but not the least, the garba at our colony gardens where all of us friends would sit down and chat away until, inevitably, one of the aunties would spot us and make sure we took part in the dances!
Now, as I work to create new memories for us, I make up guest lists each year (it increases like Draupadi's saree) and try to come up with new(sometimes cute, sometimes silly, sometimes simple) poems to send out as my evite. I scour the internet to look for favors for the ladies, for the kids (because they love goody bags and is not fair when only their moms get them) and order them well in advance to ensure they arrive before Navratri. I look at how I can setup the golu padis each year and see if  I can do a theme. This year, am still contemplating on this and hope I can make up my mind before the next weekend comes around. Here is my what my evite said along with a wonderful photo courtesy of Once Upon A Tea Time. (which completely fit the wordings I had made up for my evite)


Oh, When the dolls come marching in,
Oh, When the dolls come marching in,
Oh, How we wish that we could join them
When the dolls come marching in..

The dolls will be marching in and taking their places on the golu padi,
And when they do, please join us to celebrate Navratri with your family .




More photos of Navratri golu will follow soon. But here are photos of the golu itself from previous years:




The pictures here are progressive from 2006 (when I started) to 2010 (last year - to the right).

And of course, let us not forget the most brightest festival of all - Deepavali which will come later this year followed by Karthigai Deepam and so on until it is next September again and the whole cycle repeats!

More information about Indian festivals can be found at: http://festivals.iloveindia.com/ ; http://www.karnataka.com/festivals/ ; http://hinduism.about.com/od/festivalsholidays/a/hindu_calendar.htm

Happy Festivus!!!

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