Tuesday, October 27, 2020

THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHT - AND LOVE.


Diwali  or Deepavali is the Indian festival of lights, usually lasting five days and celebrated during the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November). 

One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Diwali symbolizes the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance". 

The festival is widely associated with Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, with many other regional traditions connecting the holiday to Sita and Rama, Vishnu, Krishna, Yama, Yami, Durga, Kali, Dhanvantari, or Vishvakarman. Furthermore, it is, in some regions, a celebration of the day Lord Rama returned to his kingdom Ayodhya after defeating the demon-king Ravana.

During Diwali, people wear their finest clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of their homes with diyas and rangoli (oil lamps or candles), offer puja (worship) to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, light fireworks, and partake in family feasts, where mithai (sweets) and gifts are shared.

Diwali is usually celebrated twenty days after the Dashera festival, with Dhanteras, or the regional equivalent, marking the first day of the festival when celebrants prepare by cleaning their homes and making decorations on the floor, such as rangoli.

 

The second day is Naraka Chaturdashi, or the regional equivalent which for Hindus in the south of India is Diwali proper. 

Western, central, eastern and northern Indian communities observe main day of Diwali on the third day, the day of Lakshmi Puja and the darkest night of the traditional month.

 In some parts of India, the day after Lakshmi Puja is marked with the Govardhan Puja and Balipratipada (Padwa), which is dedicated to the relationship between wife and husband.

 Some Hindu communities mark the last day as Bhai Dooj or the regional equivalent, which is dedicated to the bond between sister and brother, while other Hindu and Sikh craftsmen communities mark this day as Vishwakarma Puja and observe it by performing maintenance in their work spaces and offering prayers.

Diwali marks a major shopping period in India, and is comparable to the Christmas period in terms of consumer purchases and economic activity. It is traditionally a time when households purchase new clothing, home refurbishments, gifts, gold, jewellery, and other large purchases particularly as the festival is dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and such purchases are considered auspicious. 

Other goods that are bought in substantial quantities during Diwali include confectionery and fireworks.



DID YOU KNOW?

Every year during Diwali, Indian forces approach their Pakistani counterparts at the border bearing gifts of traditional Indian confectionery, a gesture that is returned in kind by the Pakistani soldiers who give Pakistani sweets to the Indian soldiers.











Saturday, October 24, 2020

THE NINE COLOURS OF NAVARATRI

NAVARATRI is a Hindu festival that spans nine nights (and ten days) and is celebrated every year in the autumn. The festival is celebrated in the bright half of the Hindu calendar month Ashvin, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October.

In the eastern and northeastern states of India, the Durga Puja is synonymous with Navaratri, wherein goddess Durga battles and emerges victorious over the buffalo demon Mahishasur to help restore Dharma.

 In the northern and western states, the festival is synonymous with "Rama Lila" and Dussehra that celebrates the battle and victory of god Rama over the demon king Ravana.



 In southern states, the victory of different goddesses, of Rama or Saraswati is celebrated. In all cases, the common theme is the battle and victory of Good over Evil based on a regionally famous epic or legend such as the Ramayana or the Devi Mahatmya.

Celebrations include worshipping nine goddesses on nine days, stage decorations, recital of the legend, enacting of the story, and chanting of the scriptures of Hinduism. 

The nine days are also a major crop season cultural event, such as competitive design and staging of pandals, a family visit to these pandals and the public celebration of classical and folk dances of Hindu culture

 On the final day, called the Vijayadashami or Dussehra, the statues are either immersed in a water body such as river and ocean, or alternatively the statue symbolizing the evil is burnt with fireworks marking evil's destruction.

The festival also starts the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays, Diwali, the festival of lights, which is celebrated twenty days after the Vijayadashami or Dussehra or Dashain.


THE NINE COLOURS

Many devotees take the nine colours associated with goddess Durga very seriously and wear clothes accordingly. It is believed that doing so brings prosperity, blessings and good luck.

Before going for the Dandiya and Garba dances, women wear these auspicious matching colors according to 9 days of NAVARATRI colors. Even people dress up in these colors while going for their job or any religious gathering during NAVARATRI festival.

At home, people drape the idol of the goddess with a specific color of cloth/saree and accessories on each day of NAVARATRI.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

I WISH…… I WONDER. - Teacher's Day special


As little children, we often play games with friends and these games sometimes hold the seeds of our future. My fondest memories of such childhood games was the one I would play by myself. All it needed was some chalk and a blackboard. I would stand in front of an imaginary class, repeating what I had learnt in school that day and reprimanding my students just as my teacher used to. Then I would pretend to correct books as the class did its assignment. Finally I’d ring the bell and, as I bid my class goodbye, I would hear them say “Thank you Teacher” before I’d walk out satisfied that I had done a great job. This game shaped my future and made me desirous of joining the noble profession of teaching- a vocation which many, sadly, have reduced to a pay packet at the end of the month. 

My B.Ed. training days at SXIE, Mumbai brings to mind a special event and a debt I will never be able to pay my dear teacher Mrs. Athaide . All through that year I had never displayed any great gift but a poem I had written for the annual magazine showcasing our extracurricular talents impressed her and she asked me to do a ‘filler’ for Annual day. I was reluctant, but finally after much persuasion she got me to agree. I took the song ‘ Those were the days’, changed the lyrics to reflect all we had done that year and brought the house down that evening. I remember my principal, Mrs. D’lima, ask where I had been all that time and that was praise enough from the starchy monarch. That one kind gesture boosted my self-esteem ever so much. 

When I did become a full-fledged teacher I had my own fan club but I often felt that I was not doing much for my students, since management demanded that portions be completed and books corrected. This obsession with completing syllabuses is what quenches the spark in dedicated teachers. Then there were unmotivated colleagues whose only thrill in life was a fat salary cheque placed in their hands by an equally fat clerk who could hardly muster a smile. 

My greatest frustration, however, came from the overwhelming numbers we had to teach. One year, I had 74 students in my class and, being a backward area of the city, only 10% were scholars so you can well imagine my plight. I would count on this group of gifted children to help me check for completed work but could not succeed in motivating the large multitude of slow learners who, for one reason or another, were more in need of therapy than an education. All I achieved in those six years of desperation was a sinking feeling that I was a horribly bad teacher. 

When I came to Goa, I was relieved to see the classes reduced to half the numbers I was used to and envied the teachers here. Though I do not teach for personal reasons, the ideal class I would have loved to teach is one with 20 students, where I would know each one personally and could do regular home visits. The few times I had done these visits in Mumbai changed my opinion of those students drastically. 

Uniforms blot out differences but teachers need to know these very differences if they want to educate in the real sense of the word. A friend of mine recently told me that she is glad that she has moved to Australia for the simple reason that her second child is rather slow and the teacher allows him to study at his own pace. Here, in India, he would have been classified a dunce, punished by the teachers and ridiculed by his classmates, she said. I was instantly reminded of Aamir Khan’s movie on dyslexia “Taare Zameen Par” where the little Ishan is forced to go away to boarding school when he cannot perform well in studies like his elder brother.

We strive for perfection even in our own children, when we force them to live out our dreams and aspirations. In the movie “Ice Princess”, a girl, who is heading for a physics scholarship at Harvard University discovers her gift for ice-skating. Her mother, appalled at her life choice, only comes to terms with her daughter’s talent when she watches her sail through the figure skating championships, winning the silver medal . At one point in the movie, the mother, in frustration, angrily blurts out to her daughter that she is throwing away her dream for a passing fancy. The girl replies, “Not my dream, Mother, yours. I’m going after my dream.”

Another movie that drove home the message that our children have dreams apart from ours and we need to open our eyes to their diverse talents was “High School Musical”. Troy, a basketball player meets Gabriella, a science nerd at a party and they discover they both sing well. But their parents and friends cannot accept them in this new avatar. It really broke my heart to see them struggle with the ostracism. I could well picture my own kids and other young people going through the same turmoil in their lives. 

Last month my son requested me to write a poem for his college magazine so I gave him this one:


I WISH……….. my books were lighter and my satchel less bulky.

I WISH………...the principal was full of smiles and not so rude and sulky.


I WISH………...my teachers knew the way to make me wanna learn.

I WISH………....education was loads of fun and not just a way to earn.


I WONDER……if it really matters how many volumes you’ve read.

And…………….if a few words of kindness is all that needs be said.


I WONDER……if I’ll remember my school for what it taught.

And…………….if that high–paid job will satisfy me or not.


The poem summarises a child’s perspective of education as drilled into him by his elders and what his own heart really wants. I hope those who are in the noble profession, sorry, vocation of teaching listen to the heart of their wards and will ‘bring out the best’ in them; not just mould them into standard products for society with their own particular brand of idealism.

BAPPA MORYA - Ganpati Visarjan.

 

Anant Chaturdashi is a very significant festival observed on the 14th day in the Bhadrapada month during the Shukla Paksha as per the Hindu calendar. This festival is popularly known as Anant Chaudas.

The sacred day is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the universe. Lord Anant is one of the incarnations (avatar) of Lord Vishnu. 'Ananta' in Sanskrit means endless/eternal, and therefore, it is believed to be an auspicious day for worshipping Lord Vishnu.

This year, Anant Chaturdashi was observed on Tuesday, September 1, 2020.

Ganeshotsav or Ganesh-Utsav, which begins on Ganesha Chaturthi, culminates on Anant Chaturdashi. 

Bappa, as Lord Ganesha is fondly called, is worshipped for one-and-a-half days, three days, five days, seven days or eleven days during the Ganeshotsav. The duration primarily depends on the tradition each family or organisation follows. 

After the puja, people bid farewell to Bappa as he embarks on his journey to his heavenly abode by immersing him in water, and this ritual is called Ganpati Visarjan. After spending a few days at the homes of his devotees, Bappa returns to his house with a promise of returning to the earth next year.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: 

One of my school friends, Dr. Ujwala Gavali, shared her pictures of Ganesh Visarjan today.

 In her own words:

"Ours was eco-friendly Shadu Ganpati prepared by my daughter. So we did immersion at home in a pot as seen in the pictures and then we used the mud for a plant in a separate pot and sowed tomato 🍅 seeds. We would like to encourage others to try out this next year to avoid river pollution."

And that's not the end of the story, folks. My friend tells me that they entered the eco-friendly idol in a competition and WON A PRIZE.

ONAM POOKALAM

 


The ONAM POOKALAM.

Pookalam, which literally translated from Malayalam means patterns created with flowers, is a quintessential element of Onam, the biggest festival in Kerala, India, and families labour over the design for hours keen to make the most colourful and breathtaking floral carpet.

The LEGEND of ONAM

Onam, held in August and September for 10 days, originated in Kerala to celebrate the golden rule of King Mahabali.

The legend holds that jealous of King Mahabali's popularity and his power, the Gods conspired to end his reign. They sent Lord Vishnu to earth in the form of a dwarf Brahmin who trampled Mahabali to the netherworld. But Lord Vishnu granted the king's sole wish i.e. to visit his land and people once every year.

However, there is an alternate legend which talks of founding of Kerala by Parasurama, again an incarnation of Vishnu. It holds Onam as the day on which Parasurama created Kerala from the sea-bed by throwing his battle-axe into the waters.

People lay a flower carpet, traditionally called 'Pookalam', in front of their house to welcome the King and mounds representing Mahabali and Vishnu are placed in the courtyards. Snake boat races, Onappottan, Kaazhchakkula, Puli Kali, Kaikottikkali and other traditional rituals are performed followed by a lavish feast called 'Sadhya'. Onam also means new clothes for the whole family, sumptuous home-cooked delicacies on banana leaves rounded off by a cup of sweet Payasam.

The ten days of Onam are called Atham, Chithira, Chodi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradom and Thiruvonam.

THE ONAM SADHYA

Onam Sadhya, which in Malayalam means 'banquet' is a sensational multi-course vegetarian meal that features over 24 dishes on a banana leaf.  Onam Sadhya is enjoyed without any cutlery and is usually eaten while sitting on the floor.

(School friends Anita and Ketkee celebrate Onam with their families.

The usual items in  an Onam Sadhya include: Kaaya varuthatha (banana chips), chena varuthatha (yam chips), sarkara upperi (Jaggery coated banana chips), mango pickle, lime pickle, puli inji (tamarind & ginger chutney), kichadi (Gourd in mildly spiced yoghurt), pachadi (Pineapple in yoghurt) , olan ( ash gourd with black beans in a coconut milk gravy), stir-fried vegetables with grated coconut, theeyal (mixed vegetable gravy), erissery (mashed beans and pumpkin with coconut gravy), avial, puliserry (yogurt based curry), kootu curry (black chickpeas curry), sambar, rasam, spicy buttermilk, bananas, papad and of course boiled rice.


My school friend Seema shared this picture