Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Festivities Continue ......

Today is the 6th day of Navarathri - (Shasti)  and marks the beginning of Durga Puja in Bengal. Ma Durga comes home with her children Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh, and Karthik and is worshipped over five days - Ashtami or the 8th day being the most important day. Bengal comes alive with beatiful Pandals and skillfully carved idols of Ma Durga and family. There are Pandal and idol competitions across the state and the creativity of people is at its peak. The Pandals are based on various themes and people take the time out to actually go Pandal hopping and appreciate the creativity. Kolkata especially wears a festive look and all the sorrow and unhappiness just melt away with the onset of "Pujo". Being brought up in Kolkata, I just cannot help myself travelling down memory lane and how we used to simply enjoy Pandal hopping. Mom would maintain the tradition of Golu at home and would ensure that all friends visited us during the first 5-6 days so that we could go visiting pandals during the pujas. Saptami would be the day we would visit Pandals in and around our own area - there would be so many and this outing would be purely with friends. We would walk and walk and walk endlessly just enjoying the colour and lighting. Come Ashtami and dad would get busy planning our route map to visit the pandals across North Kolkata. These areas were supposed to have some of the best lighting and pandal decorations. We would have an early lunch and set off by public transport to the first Pandal at Mohammed Ali Park in Central Kolkata. These guys were famous at constructing exact replicas of famous monuments across the world. From there we would cover all the major areas one by one either by bus or by foot and would reach home late at night. Come Navami, after completing Saraswati puja at home, it would be time to cover the areas across South Kolkata and our journey would start from Deshapriya Park.
Here are some pictures of Puja Pandals borrowed from a friend's album:

No one could believe that these are just makeshift constructions made of Bamboo, Cloth and other materials. Wonder why this talent is not getting recognized anywhere else. Dashami day would be a day to relax at home, go out with friends and get blessed by elders all over. We would actually go from house to house and touch the feet of elders to get their blessings. Of course along with the blessings would come lots of sweets and goodies. Dashami would be the day Ma Durga would be sent home. The ladies would indulge in "Sindhur Khela" or the play of vermillion - they would send the Mother off with Kumkum on her forehead and sweet in her mouth and they would apply Kumkum on other married women's foreheads as well. It would be such a beautiful site. Of course at home Dashami would mark the end of Golu and the "Marapachi Bommai" or the wooden dolls would be put to sleep. We would go to bed with a heavy heart as the festivals were coming to an end and it was time to get back to work and school. Anyways, looking on the brighter side, there are still 4 more days to go and I have decided to enjoy myself to the hilt. Some pictures of Ma Durga.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Festive Season

Navarathri is here and marks the beginning of the festive season in India and here I am back to blogging almost after 5 long months of taking a sabbatical. At one point of time I thought that I had lost that creative urge in me but thanks to the wonderful friends' circle I have. They have kept me in touch with my writing by inspiring me to write the numerous "thoughts" that I post on Facebook. So what better time to start writing than this wonderful festive season.
India is a land of many cultures and traditions, however most of the festivals across the country happen to be celebrated around the same time. Though in South the festivals begin in the month of "Aadi" or "Ashad" as per the Indian calendar (which begins in and around July 15th) , the real tempo sets in with the onset of Navarathri. The houses and temples wear a festive look and it is time for people to get together visit each other's house, wear bright clothes, and eat special food. People tend to forget all their problems and enjoy every bit of the season.
Navarathri or /Durga Puja is actually a celebration of Womanhood in it's highest form. People across India worship the female energy "Shakthi" to be bestowed with courage, wealth, and knowledge to overcome the challenges they face in life. Proud to be a Woman. And it is that time of the year when people actually realize the worth of a girl child. In the north they perform "Kumari Puja" where young girls who haven't attained puberty are actually considered the embodiments of the goddess and are worshipped. In the South, the little girls are given special treatment in every house they visit and are given lots of goodies by the elders. Beats me as to why in a country where girls who are worshipped during a particular season are considered a curse every other time? Is it because Man wants to meet his selfish ends all the time?? Well that is some serious thought process which could go on and on.
Coming back to celebrating Navarathri, many of us South Indians follow the tradition of decorating dolls in our houses. We call the decoration "Golu." The significance of Golu as I have heard it from my Mom is as follows:It is a time to remember that all forms of life co-exist on earth in harmony and we need to maintain the equilibrium, and also show our gratitude to different people whom we come across in our day to day transactions. We also need to thank God for His creation and for giving us this beautiful life. Here are some more explanations of the significance of Golu:
a. The dolls depict Gods and Goddesses praying for Parvati Devi when she was doing penance for betraying Lord Shiva by attending the Daksha Yagna.
b. The dolls represent the assembly of Durga Devi who killed the demon Mahishasura on Vijayadashami day.
One more signifance is that this festival gives an opportunity for musicians, craftsmen and other artists to express their creativity.Whatever be the reason I have always been convinced with the way Mom explained it to us. Here is a picture of my Golu:

To me this festival has always been a way to express my gratitude for whatever I have received in life. Though I don't really find the time to create a very elaborate display of dolls as many people do, I love to give vent to my creativity in the lmited time and space that I have. I arrange the dolls in a particular symmetry that reminds us that life should be a perfect balance. I really love showing off my display to my friends and relations because I want the happiness and joy to spread around. This is also a time to meet up with people. Today is the third day of Navarathri and I have received lots of guests already. I am looking forward to having a great time in the coming days and enjoying myself.
I have also promised myself that I will blog regularly. Let me see if I can keep up this resolution. :) CIAO friends and wish you all a Very Happy Festive Season.