One of the funniest things you can do as a blogger is perhaps to get someone to write on your blog. It saves you for work (joke). But more important, it gives you an opportunity to share the views of some more people also. In Capgemini, we have an internal blog where we write about world festivals. When I came across some really nice articles by Chandra Duraiswamy, I asked him to write about how Navrathri is celebrated in his area.
Here we go:
Idols of Hindu gods and goddesses made in clay adorn the madaveedhis (4 streets surrounding the temple) of Mylapore (an area in Chennai, India) two weeks prior to Navarathri (aka Golu in Tamil). During my Saturday visit to the temple, I stopped by a few stalls and scanned the dolls to look for new themes. Usually the dolls are miniature replicas of the idols of Hindu gods in various temples and these days they also have Ganesh (elephant God) holding iPads and iPhones. The artisans also depict a few scenes from the famous Hindu epics – Ramayana and Mahabaratha. And since Cricket is more than a religion in India, these days spotting a cricket field is common, yet Chennai Super Kings have not made their debut in the Mylapore Golu.
I got home from the temple last Saturday evening with some pictures of the new dolls that I spotted during my stroll, while my mother was ready with her list of things to-do for me. It is a tradition to start good things on New Moon day (aka Ammavasya) and since it fell on a Monday this year, Amma (mom) wanted me to clean the house, vacuum the sofas and set-up the stand for the dolls the day before. It was a working Sunday for me L. Some people also built Golu with themes and concepts, while we decided to keep it simple.
While I got busy bringing the dolls from the attic and building a stand for display, Amma was busy inviting all her women friends in the neighborhood to come home for Golu. On that same piece of paper she had also planned a high protein snack called as “Sundal” (boiled lentils sautéed with spice, salt and coconut) for each of the nine days to be offered to the Goddesses and then distributed to those who visit our home.
Women and girls visit our home during the nine days festival and they sing hymns in praise of the three incarnations of Mother Goddess – Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. Women are dressed in traditional pattu (silk) saree and while girls dress-up in pattu paavadai (silk frock) and some of them also dress up as gods and goddess. This helps girls get over stage fear and also helps them to be a social butterfly.
In between the hymns, women discuss about water woes, power outages, cooking gas shortage, long queues at the public ration store, and also their shopping plans for Diwali. They also smack some neighborhood gossip, bash their mother-in-law in between the hymns along with some sundal. Along with sundal this year Amma decided to make Badham Kheer (ground almond boiled in sweetened milk and garnished with saffron) and Puttu (steamed ground rice sweetened with coconut and jiggery) for snack.
It is a tradition to give a thamboolam (coconut, betel leaf, betel nut, pieces of turmeric and sachet of vermillion) to all the women and girls who come home. Along with that Amma also gives useful and usable knick-knacks, thought most women prefer giving blouse material for sarees or a plastic container. Every year amma comes up with a new idea and I have to take her on a shopping trip to find something of utility value. One year Amma gave Tulsi plant, another year she gave people shopping bags made of cloth to discourage use of plastic. This year she gave a key chain that had colored plastic rings to help people differentiate house key, car key, cupboard key, etc. And these days it is almost a competition amongst women to find something unique and useful to give away.
Usually the male members play the role of a driver and drive their women and girls around the neighborhood. My dad usually engages them and all they talk about is politics! While women get something to take home, men get nothing and I have heard a few grinningly complain about this inequality. So this year we decided to give them a Soduku book.
Today is the fourth day of Dusshera and I can smell Amma cooking Chick-Pea Sundal in the kitchen. In another six days (on Vijayadashami day – 10th day) everything will get back to status quo – the dolls will return to the attic, kids will return back to school to collect their quarterly exam report cards, and women will get back to the grind.
Looking at our tradition and culture, our ancestors are super marketers – they weaved the social fabric through festivals in the era of no-Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin. And even in the era of online social networking today these festivals and traditions find relevance and purpose.
I wish I could offer you some sundal snack and a small gift, but I guess you will have to come in person for that. For this year I leave you with just words, some pictures and some links for more reading. Hope you will be able to make it to my house next year. Catch you soon!
And please make sure you read Chandra’s blog.
Talk to you soon!