Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Online Navaratri Golu(display of dolls)

If  Dussehra for me is synonymous with  Mysore, then Navaratri is synonymous with Mylapore.This suburb of  Madras will be bustling with activity now. People throng to worship at the 7th century Kapali Koil(temple). Though everyday is a festival here, it is more special here during these 9 days with lots of devotees thronging to see the deity's Alankaram(decoration), the traditional music and dance concerts and the 'golu' at the temple. 

During this time all(most) tamil households arrange dolls in steps called  ' Golu'.  It is customary to buy a new set every year and add to the collection of the old dolls, some of which are heirloom. The streets around the temple called 'Maada Veedhi'   has lots of make shift shops and push carts selling dolls. For those of us, away from mylapore/tamilmadu and especially those living in faraway countries can buy all these dolls online too.
Following are some of the clay and papier mache sets made by the artisans of South India.

KAILAYAM ( Abode of Shiva - Kailash)  -  a 14 piece clay set 
Kailayam is the abode of Siva. The set includes Siva, Parvathy, his vahana (vehicle) Rishabam, his sons Ganesha and Muruga sitting on the Kailayam Mountain. The other dolls included in the set are Vishnu, Lakshmi, Brahma, Saraswathi, Nandi with drums etc.

This set tells the story when Krishna saved the villagers and the cows from the continuous downpour of rain. He is lifting the Govardhana mountain and holding it by his little finger like an umbrella. The villagers, the cow and calf dolls are also included.


Uriadi kannan set contains 5 nos of beautiful clay dolls.Put these dolls in centre steps of golu steps.Lord Krishna's cowboy friends are around and help him to steal butter.This is one of the games  Lord Krishna played in  childhood. This scene potrays the lord as a person who steal as a butter and cheese from the house of a cheese maker. Cheese[white color] symbolizes our clean and pure heart.

                                                                   Azhagar Veedi Ula [clay]
This is a 25 piece set which is a representation of a famous festival in the Temple city, Madurai, Tamilnad. The Azhagar veethi ula/ street procession of god  is the main event in the festival and the dolls depicting the event would be agreat addition in the Golu

The court of  chola king 'Manu' ( synonymous with justice)
Thiruvarur was the capital during Manuneethi Cholan.  Manuneedhi Cholan was a legendary Chola king believed to have killed his own son to provide justice to a Cow, following Manu needhi(Manu's law). Legend has it that the king hung a giant bell in front of his courtroom for anyone needing justice to ring. One day, he came out on hearing the ringing of the bell by a cow. On enquiry he found that the Calf of that Cow was killed under the wheels of the Prince's  chariot. In order to provide justice to the cow, he tried to kill his own son under the chariot as a punishment to himself, i.e. make himself suffer as much as the cow. Lord Siva appeared in front of him and gave the life back to the calf. This is one of Lord Siva's Thiruvilayadal (Holy play) to show the world the just nature of the king. 
A stone sculpture depicting the story of the Manu Needhi Cholan (the chariot, the king, cow, calf etc.)  is found in Thiruvarur in Tamil Nadu, India.

AMMAN KOLAM (Brahmin marriage)
The bride and groom are carried by the uncles or fathers to the marriage mandappam (in olden times). There was a musical group around playing instuments and singing songs.These dolls are bright and sure to make most people nostalgic

KALYANA SET (South Indian Wedding set)
This clay  set shows the South Indian wedding. The dolls included are the bride (Kalyana penn), groom (mappillai), bride's sister, bride's parents, groom's parents, priest, his assistant priest, agni kund, ammikkal with attukkal( grinding stone), pots etc. This set contains13 pieces.

This set contains 25 clay dolls. Types of village houses and washerman with donkey, thatched house, postman with post office, small temple with gurukkal , school with students,  milk maid with cow are interesting . Both the village and vayal set can be best displayed by making a landscape, by spreading some sand below and trying to make roads with used dry coffee powder and small water tanks/ponds by placing water in  shallow dishes and spreading some ragi and wheat sprouts here and there. These sprouts grow into lush green lawns, making the golu more attractive.

Twenty pieces in this clay doll set. Arrange these doll set on floor front of the golu steps of sides of the steps.This set suitable for arranging with mountain, park, pond and village set.Something interesting for children to know cultivation, harvesting and bullock cart withcows.This set brings the farm in Tamil Nadu to your home. The farmer, bullock cart carrying the hay, woman transplanting the rice plant, woman carrying the bale of hay, woman removing the weeds from the paddy field, a man removing the grains from the hay, a man chafing the rice from the bran and more are included in this set.

POIKKAL KUDHIRAI SET( False footed horse) - A folk art of tamilnadu

Poikkal kudhirai is a great art performed in villages.This set contains 8 pieces.

                                                          PONGAL SET [clay]
Pongal or Sankranti is a harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu. The set comes with the mother making pongal on a wooden stove, father, boy and girl. The house, Cow and calf are also included in the set. All the above have to arranged on a landscape like in village/vayal set

This doll set represents all the important monumental structures of the mahabalipuram.
Mahabalipuram,derived from 'Mamallapuram' is a town in Kancheepuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It has an average elevation of 12 metres (39 feet).Mahabalipuram was a 7th century port city of the South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas around 60 km south from the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. The name Mamallapuram is believed to have been given after the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I, who took on the epithet Maha-malla (great wrestler), as the favourite sport of the Pallavas was wrestling. It has various historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th centuries, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
ref : wikipedia

All the above sets and the corresponding texts are courtesy from an online site here  which sells the above sets online.

This is  my online golu this time and the next 9 days are time to feast,fast and soak the festive air.

For information on Golu, read here.

The Indian Halloween/ Hungry ghost - Mahalaya Paksh

Mine is a generation caught between the traditional rituals ( especially if you are from a semi-orthodox family) and   Modern World, there are times when we are in a  dilemma as to which side to take.

Take for instance, today is Mahalya amavasya and the fortnight preceding this is called Mahalaya paksham, traditionally in orthodox families men are supposed to pray for their ancestors and conduct a ritual called ‘Tarpanam’. Having done the tarpanam you are barred from eating outside food through the fortnight.  

After the ritual,  what if you have to  attend a  very important working lunch with your customers  or official dinner  or   if you are to travel on work or if you are on an onsite project.  How practical is this ritual then?

Shunning the rituals could agonise the elders  in the family and shunning office work, well you know whom we would agonise.  Isn’t it like a catch -22 situation? Either ways you feel guilty. 

 At times like this,  many of my generation tweak  the rituals according to our convenience contributing to the lifestyle change,  but read on what this ritual is all about.

 Pitru paksh/shraddh paksh /  Mahalaya paksh is a pan Indian hindu ritual practiced by many. This is a ritualistic custom  to reflect on the contributions  our ancestors/forefathers made, the cultural and traditional values they set for us in order to make our lives better.   The practice of the ritual varies from place to place like in some regions they fast, some abstain from eating certain vegetables and in Northern India my friends say that they do not buy any new things during this period.  It is the responsibility of everyone to keep up the pride of the family lineage by performing actions that promote the good of all. The fortnight of ancestor worship is nothing but a reminder of one's lineage and duties towards it.

Only once in a year a great celebration takes place in the Pitra loka (ancestral world) and only for 2 weeks during  the “Mahalaya Amavasai/ Fortnight”. This year it commenced on the 13th of September 2011, right after the full moon day and ends on the Mahalaya New Moon day, which is today  on the 27th of September 2011. This two week’s period is the most important period to appreciate your departed ancestors. 

Our departed forefathers / ancestors cannot come to this world whenever they think, except on Amavasai ( New Moon ), the starting day of every month and during Malaya Paksha. So they all come in sookshma (means not visible to naked eyes) dehas and if we offer them the sesame (gingelly/til) and water they accept that, and bless us directlyThe last day of the mahalaya paksh called Mahalaya Amavasya is very significant for Hindu rituals.  It is called Mahalaya Shraddh.

According to Saranam, a devotional journal, Generally a priest perfoms the rituals of shraddh in a sacred place or along a river bank. It is believed that as the physical body is lost after death, the absolute earth element from the sheath surrounding the subtle body reduces and the water element increases. The constitution of the sheath is such that level of humidity in it is maximum since the rituals are related to the body of the deceased, they are perfomed on the banks of a river where humidity is high and attracts the subtle body, hence all these rites and rituals are perfomed along river banks. Our ancient Siddhas understood that honoring ancestors through tarpanam ritual keeps us living with good health, wealth, prosperity and enlightenment.

 A similar type of ritual is practiced by the Chinese called ‘Hungry ghost’ festival and the westerners called ‘Halloween’. The main reason why Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese community are successful in material wealth is just simply because they are strictly observing their ancestral ritual both monthly and yearly. Just by following elaborate ancestral rituals and dharma as thought by our Siddhas (the great South Indian Mystic Scientist) monthly and yearly we can attain both material and spiritual success in life easily.
Mahalaya Paksha is much like the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival or the Halloween. According to Siddhas (South Indian Mystics) the main reason for all of our everyday problems besides planets is the departed spirits of our ancestors. Our role is that we should constantly connect to the departed ancestors to live a peaceful life. The blessings of our deceased ancestors, both maternal as well as paternal, are a major reason why you do or do not succeed in this life. 

                                                        Chinese 'Hungry Ghost' festival

                                                                     Halloween Pumpkin lanterns

                                                'Tarpanam' ritual on the river banks

Pics and info courtesy: Indian scientific knowledge academy- a journal devoted to scientific study of Indian rituals, customs and practices

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dussehra @ the royal city- Mysore

Whenever the word Dussehra is mentioned only two things come to  my mind,  one the Dussehra in Mysore and the other is the eagerly awaited Dussehra vacation.  So, what better time to make a post  with  Dussehra and vacation around the corner and the world celebrating Tourism day today.

Mysore Dussehra is  a Dussehra with a difference. Though Dasara is celebrated all over the world, the rulers of mysore, the wodeyars lent a royal touch and celebrated it with grandeur. Today  Dussehra is synonymous with Mysore and goes beyond religion and promotes tourism by showcasing it is a socio-religious- cultural extravaganza.
In continuation of the tradition bequeathed by the Vijayanagar empire,  The wodeyar king  Raja wodeyar  started the grandeur of the festivities  in 1610  and this year 2011 marks its 401st year. The festival is basically to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. On this day the Goddess Chamundeswari, the presiding deity of  Mysore  killed the resident demon of Mysore ‘Mahishasura’ after whom the city is named Mysore, an anglicized corruption of ‘Mahishasurana   ooru’ meaning the city of Mahishasura.
The city's  royal heritage ensures that the festival is celebrated in a manner befitting its  regal status and hence the  city looks electrifying in the evening with  all its  heritage buildings and streets  illuminated, especially the Mysore palace  looks all the more majestic with all those dazzling  one lakh lights.

 An eclectic mix of cultural and sports events like classical music and dance, folk , fusion,Kavi  goshti (sammelan), , Air show, motor cycle stunts, martial arts, heritage walk, food festival, wrestling completion, Air shows adds colour  to the Dussehra. Apart from this is the horticulture exhibition besides the  Dussehra exhibition which has stalls for handicrafts, dresses and ornaments and lasts for two months beginning  Dussehra.

However, the main attraction is the last day of the festival called Dussehra.  A traditional procession called jumbo savari  in which goddess Chamundeswari is carried atop a  decorated elephant, makes its way through the roads and lanes of Mysore from the Mysore palace and ending in Bannimantap( to worship the banni tree).  In the beginning years, the elephant carried the King of Mysore  now replaced by the Goddess.   On this day, a parade of tableaus depicting the rich heritage of Karnataka are showcased like the republic day parade in New Delhi, amidst dare-devil stunts and fireworks.

This was telecast live in the afternoon, during the Doordarshan days when transmission was restricted to evenings and much before Doordarshan we children used to surround the radio to hear the commentary of the festival broadcast.  So magnetic is Dussehra here, that it  is recognized as  'Naada Habba' meaning state festival.

I have witnessed the celebrations twice. For me, Mysore and its Dussehra  have a special place in my heart.  Mysore Dussehra - A beautiful experience.

                           The illuminated Jagan Mohan palace (courtesy: wiki)

The resident demon Mahishasura after whom the city is named, you can catch this statue  atop the chamundi hill in mysore

                                                   Jumbo savari on Dussehra

Check out major events of mysore dussehra 2011 here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Add Bimba to your life, this Navaratri.

If you are a connoisseur of art and  value Indian culture,  history,  heritage, craft, textiles then we cross paths, read ahead.

Bimba - the art ashram  @ Bangalore  is one such place. An initiative by Deepika, a textile graduate from New Delhi and her husband Mr. Deepak Doraiswamy  who is an IISc and IIM grad.   I have already blogged about  the wonderful evening we experienced  here.   Anything more I write about it would be a repeat of   here.  So check out the following invite and if you are in Bangalore this Navaratri,   experience  rasalok at Bimba and do visit their art store at Jayanagar( address on the website). 

Click on the invite for better read

Check out some of their displays below

Ganga  descending from the corridors of heaven and the hand crafted golden lotuses at the entrance of heaven
a tableau from Ganga avatarnam (Descent of Ganga)

                                                                tableau of Ravana – The priestly asura

                                                                  Krishna and Sudhama

                                                      Sankaracharya rolls the cosmic dice

( 2 Pics)The left still is from muthuswami dikshitar- a gift of goddess  and the right one from Ravana - the priestly asura.

Photo courtesy: Deepika's FB page

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A temple of art and architecture @ Somnathpur (Karnataka)

Chennakesava temple at Somnathpur was  our  next stop after Talakad.  A 30km ride on  the T,narsipura –kollegal  road, past the lotus laden water ponds,  paddy, millet,sugarcane, marigold and tuberose fields saw us at Somnathpur.

This  is a beautiful creation of the Hoysala dynasty besides Belur and halebidu, built in the mid 13th century.You buy a 5rs ticket to enter the temple but after entering the temple and seeing the well maintained temple I feel the ticket should be graded to higher amount. Spotlessly clean and cared with great devotion.

Walking through the pathway, sandwiched between emerald green lawns, you enter the temple  which stands in the middle of  an enclosure  around which runs an open verandah with 64 cells.

The serene temple stands on a star shaped foundation  which is characteristic of  Hoysala architecture and has 3 exquisitely carved temple towers called trikutachala . The three towers once housed beautifully carved idols of Lord Kesava, Janardhana and Venugopala till Malik Kafur and other mughals destroyed them.

This is not a temple in the sense that there are no poojas done to the idols here since they were destroyed by the mughal invaders. It is simply a temple exhibiting the delicate craftsmanship and high precision engineering of the mighty dynasty called hoysalas which ruled the present day Karnataka between AD1100 and AD1320.  This dynasty was noted for its peace and a leisurely life along with its encouragement to talent of arts, which is reflected all around the temple.(hoy is kill and sala is head of the dynasty since he tackled the tiger single handed and killed, this heroic deed took the form of yadava dynasty as hoysala dynasty) 

One need not search for the history of the temple because everything is beautifully recorded here along with all those sculptors name .When I went around the star shaped platform admiring all those beautiful carvings I noticed an employee of ASI cleaning the dust from the crevices.  This beautiful temple is now under the safecare of ASI.  

When I had been here as a school student, all I was interested was in merry making with my friends, only during my recent visit in the May gone by did the beauty of this place sink in.

How many times have I gone WOW over all those celebrated structures of the world( with due respects to those creators), little did I realize that we have an archictectural marvel with high precision and symmetry all done when  precision tools and machines were unheard but just hammer and chisel.The sculptures and the craftsmanship speaks volumes about the hand dexterity, patience, concentration of our ancient craftsmen. 

As I walked out of the temple  and sat on the bench watching at the boys playing cricket outside the temple compound, I also  was wondering why many of the Indian temples and monuments were not celebrated on par with many well known monuments around the world.

 I left Somnathpur, a tiny leisurely village on the banks of the Kaveri,  140kms, southwest of Bangalore and 30 kms from Mysore which has that rural stillness. The stillness here speaks and speaks  about our glorious past in the form of the Chennakesava temple and it has the touch of eternity. So what if this poetry in stone is not celebrated atleast I can write a post about it and next time you are around Mysore don't forget to listen to this stillness called Somnathpur.

Click on the pics below for better view, the last few pics are in bad lighting

                                               click  on the above image to read the temple history

                                                       Don't miss the star shaped foundation and the pillar by the side

                                                      The ceilings inside the temple carved like a plaintain flower, translates the concentration, dedication and patience that must have gone into it.
                                                       Lord Vishnu
                                                                  Notice the broken flute of Lord Venugopala

Monday, September 12, 2011

Time stops by.......... for Ganesh Utsav

                                                                    The eco-friendly Ganesha

Festoons of mango leaves, marigolds, colored rangoli, flower,  paper decorations and  netted golden  valence around the gazebo, people in traditional attire, kids prancing around the complex in their ethnic best, our whole housing complex wore a festive look for the past few days due to Ganesh utsav.

The socio-religious- cultural festival of Ganesh utsav  is the most awaited in our complex by all, not just hindus but other minorities too. We generally book an eco-friendly Ganesha months before the festival so that it is available at low cost. This statue is lugged to our complex by our own residents( no external labour). The puja is performed daily in the morning and evening for five days followed by a prasad which is generally done by a few residents and a Maha Bhoj (dinner for all) on one of the evenings, outsourced to a caterer. 

A variety of educational and cultural programmes are organized in the evening like veena, vocal, veda chanting, bharatnatyam, folk,dance-drama(this year was mahishasura mardan) fusion, skits, extempore,debates, quiz and some special programs exclusively for senior citizens like singing etc. Many entrepreneurial women also set up stalls for chocolates, food, jewels, dress materials etc.,

The cultural events are an audio- visual treat for the residents. It also serves as a platform for the kids to showcase their talent and what a talented kid pool we have!. Not just kids, it also brings out the latent talent of those men and women who never got an opportunity before. The youngest participant was a 6 month old disguised as 'Anna Hazare' for fancy dress competition to an  90 year old senior citizen who participated in the prize distribution ceremony  by giving away prizes and gave a speech telling that they felt honored to stay in the community which recognizes senior  citizens.

The children of our complex put up a beautiful show daily in the evening helped by the elders( men and women) not necessarily their own parents but by their aunts, uncles and  friends in the complex.  An  aunty teaches contemporary dance, another aunty teaches skits, another one shares her jewels, sarees or applies make up for the dance. My children especially have great exposure and respect towards many indian cultures and have learnt a lot from this  Mini- Indian community with their peers which would not have been possible at home or at any school.

An exclusive ramp show for senior citizens and singing contest showcasing their love for their spouses showed how much the couples were in love in their evening of their life. An uncle(65 year old)  told he never got an opportunity  to express his love to his wife, while he was young when he was staying with his parents and now in old age  in front of his grown up son and d-i-l and sang the song ‘ Chaudvin ka chand ho...’. It was so touching.
A feeling of unity and the camaraderie we share,when people meet in person and socialize and get around to make an event like in a festival, which otherwise would'nt be possible with so many busy with their daily work. Many  working women and men( including my husband) came early from work to oversee the arrangements. Events like this make me feel we are one huge joint family. As a community, we do have our minor differences but what’s life without some spice.

On the last day, after the prize distribution of the various events, the laddu in the hands of the lord Ganesha was auctioned. The auction started at 2000Rs and ended at 9000. After the final aarti to the  Lord Ganesha  -  the  Scribe  par  excellence,  the  recorder  of  Mahabharata  went around the complex piloted by fire works. The God of wisdom, was taken for immersion amidst chants of Ganpati Bappa Morya. It was really funny and sad – a mixed feeling to see the children cry and run behind the vehicle not wanting to let go their favorite god.

On a personal note, The highlight of our cultural evening apart from the dance, music and other literary programs is a quiz program which is called ‘Conundrum’.  One of the resident guises as a quiz master and makes a complex questionnaire reflected on a projector screen, which throws up a  champion team called ‘Conundrum champions of our complex’ every year and the ‘Conundrum champion of 2011’ was won by my son’s team( 3 members) all of them aged 12. They edged out 14 teams, participants from the age of 10-18( Last year sadly, my son lost in the tie breaker round. ( both the teams won the tie-breaker and so they put a toss to find the winner) he sadly lost the toss. He was glad he won this year right under the same Ganesh ji. Whats' more he was glad he edged his own sis with whom his teachers often compare him with in school. 

My daughter who generally participates in the dance, skits  had to be contented with quiz, carnatic keerthanais and Shankar Mahadevan’s ‘Ganeshaya Deemahi’   due to her pre-boards clashing with the festival.

If festivals were celebrated not just for feasting and fasting, but to focus on happiness, oneness and to bust stress from the mechanized humdrum of our routine, then the essence of this festival is captured every year by us. Every year with this utsav, we feel time stops for 5 days.

The  'Conundrum champions of  our complex - 2011'. 
 My son bending down to check his prize which was a parker pen, while the other team mate is behind him.

P.S: wanted to post pictures of dance and skits but did not want to tresspass into other's privacy without their permission.