Posts Tagged ‘festivals’

Midsummer’s Eve, Linkoping, 200614

June 25, 2014

Though I’d asked Prashanth in the morning, he mistook the midsummer’s eve Maypole dancing to be taking place on the next day; at about 4pm, he realized his mistake, and we set off to the place where it was taking place.

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Here’s a video of the dancing that he took last year:

And of the music:

Though the dancing had finished, the maypole was still up:

We saw the Love Pavilion:

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There was a small stream:

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There was a pretty wooden bridge across it:

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Perhaps this gentleman was going over his memories, with that reminiscent smile on his face?

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There were plenty of flowers blooming:

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this Silverpil tree (Salix alba)

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had some beautiful bracket fungi:

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It is the custom on this day to wear crowns of wildflowers:

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But that doesn’t mean one can’t be in touch with modernity!

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The birds were there, too!

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There were some Vikings around:

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Some kind of game with wooden skittles was being played:

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I looked at some pretty old architecture:

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This is the Stora Hotel:

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Here’s coffee… by George!

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I loved this window:

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This one is from 1912!

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With some serpentine touches:

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Some shop windows looked inviting:

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So did this art gallery (it was closed, of course)

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Of course, the Tourist Bureau was closed, too!

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Let me close with this flower (probably a Columbine?)

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we then walked towards the Linkoping Cathedral…but that’s the next post!

The Holi Full Moon

March 18, 2014

The full moon of

Holi

festival where evil is burnt up…..

She came up when we were visiting our friends.

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She rose along the side of the buildings:

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She told the children in the playground that it was time to go home:

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She looked like a sandal-paste moon:

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But later, she looked more prosaic:

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A few trees that are entwined with Hinduism…

February 28, 2014

As I wandered around the kalyANa mantapam (festivity venue) at Chromepet, it struck me that there are so many trees that are inextricably entwined with Hindu rituals and customs…and I was lucky to be able to photograph some of them, right there. I am giving the Tamizh names and the link to the Wikipaedia entries about them, too.

One is the

pArijAtha or “pavazha malli” (literally, “coral jasmine” maram (maram is tree is Tamizh).

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The flowers of the tree are very beautiful:

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They fall like stars to the ground, where they are gathered up for worship by devout Hindus in the morning.

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Though the wiki entry mentions the mythology of the tree being the focus of a tussle between Rukmani and Sathyabhama, two of Krishna’s beloved, there is a story about Hanuman having his abode amongst the roots of this tree:

“AnjanEyam athi pAtalAnanam/ kAnchanAdri kamanIya vigraham/ pArijAtha tharu mUla vAsinam/ bhAvayAmi bhava mAna nandanam”.

My parents had a huge tree in the garden, and I would gather the flowers, distribute them amongst our neighbours, and take some to the nearby “vyAyAm ghar” (exercise place) where there was an image of Hanuman, and offer them there. My practice of reciting the Anjaneya Ashtothram (108 names of Hanuman) dates from the time I was 14 or 15…and in spite of my agnosticism, it’s something I never fail to do, till date!

Another tree that was common in gardens of temples is the

Vilva maram

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The fruit of the tree is used for both food and medicine, even today. In folklore, the tri-foliate form of leaves symbolize the trident that Shiva holds in his right hand.

The third tree, that is used everywhere in Hindu rites and rituals, is the

<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana&quot; Banana or Plantain tree, called vAzhai maram

Every part of the tree is useful; the stem is used as a vegetable (yes, I cook it, too, and it’s one of my daughter’s favourite vegetables!) as is the raw fruit; the flowers are also cooked; the “petals” of the banana flower were often used as informal containers during meals; the leaves are an essential part of the south Indian feast…an “elai shAppAdu” (leaf meal) is a must, where the food is served on plantain leaves, with the “nuNi” (tip of the leaf) intact. (The leaf-tip must face to the left, I don’t know why that rule!)

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The banana stems are chopped, and the mantapam entrance is decorated with the leaves and the banana flower forming a graceful arch of welcome for the guests.

Many of our dishes are also cooked or steamed in banana leaves, which form a great traditional lining. Even today, I enjoy unwrapping the spiral of banana leaf which encloses the “kadubu”, a Kannada dish somewhat like an iddli. Kerala dishes made with jackfruit and rice flour are also steamed in plantain leaves.

I photographed a very huge variety of this plant at Lalbagh, on 080211:

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The plant was mis-labelled as “Crown of Thorns”, though. I also clicked the stamens, which are cooked after the pistils are carefully removed:

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In Coorg tradition, the bridegroom chops down several banana stems in symbolism for wild animals, to show his manly prowess. In Tamil Nadu, we sometimes had young women married to symbolic banana stems when the grooms could not be physically present. No, I refuse to go further with the banana symbolism!

Another tree that is always associated with Hindu rites is the

mA maram (mango tree).

The mango is considered the king of fruits in India, and the wood is used for cheap furniture; the leaves are an essential part of the “thOraNam” decorating doorways to homes, and the fruit, in its baby (mAvadu) and raw (mAngAi) forms are used in making delicious pickles.

In this photograph, taken before the varalakshmi pUjA, you can see both banana trees and mango leaves for sale, to decorate the goddess’ mantapams in people’s homes.

IMG_0183 Banana trees and mango leaves to decorate

I won’t write much about the

Coconut palm…thennai maram …as it is so ubiquitous!

You can see how palm fronds are used for decoration:

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In this pic you can see coconuts rolled up in dhotis, to be gifted to the priests:

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We cannot do without coconuts for any puja!
It’s a great pity that our strong links to trees seem to be getting diluted these days…and we seem to think of them not as living beings, complementing our lives, but hindrances to “development”, especially to the faster flow of motorized traffic!

Thyagarja Aradhana (thyAgarAja ArAdhA)…a music festival to venerate a saint

January 21, 2014

Today, 200114, is, according to the Hindu calendar, Bahula Panchami, and this is the day that

Thyagaraja

attained samAdhi on the banks of the river Kaveri, at Thiruvayaru, iean Tamil Nadu.

Over the years that I have learnt, and been interested in, Carnatic music, this has turned into a major, televised event called the

Thyagaraja Aradhana

I just finished watching it on DD Podhigai, it used to be televised on the Doordarshan TV, the official “Government” channel which was the only channel we had in the beginning of TV! Before that, in Kolkata, I would hear it transmitted over the radio.

Here’s the first of the “pancharatna” (“five gems”…the five special compositio ns by the saint that are the highlight of the musical worship), sung in 1986; you can see stalwarts like Maharajapuram Santhanam, and that towering musician, Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer.

FB album by M D Ramaswami, with a very interesting narrative

Here’s all the “gems” being sung last year, from DD Podhigai (I must say, the shrill singing by ladies, who are trying to sing one octave over the pitch, which is set to suit men’s voices, is quite awful):

Though Thyagaraja was a saint, and his samadhi (and the singing) are supposed to be open to one and all, social prejudices prevailed for a long time. Gender discrimination, particularly, was quite bad, persisting until 1940. For the story of how

Bangalore Rathnamma

laid the foundation stone to the temple to the saint, only to be denied access (women were not allowed in those days),
Ka

click here

Carnatic music has also been the traditional bastion of the Brahmin community, with the very interesting exception that nAgaswaram, thavil and mridangam players hail from the Pillai community…Brahmins are a very “exclusive” caste and did not, earlier, even allow other castes into their homes…so this co-existence is intriguing.

My parents conducted the Aradhana in Kolkata, under the auspices of the Carnatic Sangeeta Sammelan, for many years. Apart from this, Rasika Ranjana Sabha (or RR Sabha as it was called) also conducted an event.

The event is also celebrated by the south Indian diaspora, in the US, at

Cleveland, Ohio

It has also developed into a major event–both a music and dance festival– for the south Indian diaspora, but it is not held at the actual time of the saint’s attaining nirvana; this year, it is from March 28 to April 7. Interesting, this year, to have a Thyagaraja festival dedicated to the memory of another of the trinity of Carnatic music, Maharaja Swathi Tirunal!

There has, of course, been a lot of politics surrounding the festival, and I just try to look past the human element to the divinity that still ensures that many people gather each year on the sandy banks of the Kaveri, and offer geetanjali (musical reverence) to this saint.

The irony, however, never fails to strike me…Thyagaraja was a man who was poor all his life, renounced the world and became a sanyAsi a few days before his death, and reached out to the masses through the simplicity of his songs…and today, he is a gold-plated statue,decked with garlands and jewellery, accessible only to those with “VIP” tickets…he is saluted by the rich and the powerful..and the poor, common people to whom he reached out can attend the concerts that happen over the days of the festival..but not many do. It’s still a bastion of the Brahmin caste/community, and a very “Hindu” event…old divisions continue to live on.

Celebrating Karnataka

October 31, 2013

November First is the date that

Karnataka was formed in 1956

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Our own natural and supernatural creatures…

October 27, 2013

Our witches need a break, too!

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And our personal St.Louis lion comes with his own warning:

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Am off on a long journey, far away from these two, in a short while…

How one sees it

October 19, 2013

The Hindu piously said
To the fez-adorned head:
“Even if it is Bakrid…
Does not the slaughtered goat still bleed?”

The Muslim smiled. “Oh, yes, we wield
The axe. The sugarcanes in that field
And millions more, are scythed away
To make sweets on Diwali day!”

It’s not what one kills, but what one is used to killing, that makes one inured to it…and not think of it as killing at all! Do we think that we are murdering ants, roaches, rats, worms, or mosquitoes? Is it OK to kill plants to eat them, and not OK to kill animals for the same purpose?

Navaratri Golu in St.Louis, October 11,12, 13, 2013

October 17, 2013

We visited a few homes for the golu, and I was most impressed by the collection of dolls the ladies seem to have acquired over the years:

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I loved this representation of of the Carnatic Music Trinity, Saint Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshithar, and Shyama Sastri, with Raghavendra swami at the right:

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Even male children sat and sang for Amman:

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(That’s Siddharth Rajagopal, and he sang very well!)

Of course, the food was an awesome spread in each household:

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From another home:

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We’re enjoying it all:

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Some of us try out others’ playthings:

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The centerpiece in this golu was a “crawling Krishna” which was pinched by the baby of the house, and used to hit the passage walls :)

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Here’s the hostess, holding the baby who’s holding the Krishna. Her elder daughter, Neha, is singing:

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I loved seeing this Tanzania diorama, with the jungle, the wildlife, and Mt. Kilimanjaro!

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Some of us were grappling with the wildlife, too:

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Ofkose, the dressing-up must be documented!

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Here are two of MY dolls:

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And here’s the dusk, deepening into the “ratri” (night) of the Navaratri!

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My child and her child:

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We thoroughly enjoyed the golu visits, and ate our way through a lot of food :D

Navaratri (Nine Nights) Festival over the years…

October 9, 2013

I used to have small “golu” every year, until my daughter left home. By that time, it was difficult to set it all up by myself, without anyone to appreciate it, and even worse to put it away…so I gave up the yearly practice. (My golu dolls still lie in a trunk in the attic of my flat.)

I just received email invitations to several friends’ homes here, and I fell to musing on the festival…and I thought of this song from the movie,”Navaratti”, where Sivaji Ganesan plays nine roles.

Though I am not parituclarly fond of this rather contrived song, it shows the traditons of a few decades ago.

Golu, or Kolu

Apparently, the word means, “divine presence”.

here
and

here

is a post of mine, with a photo I took of my friends’ golus.

here

is a post I made about Navami (Saraswati Puja, in Bengali, Sorosshoti Pujo).

And, finally,

here

is a post from my blog on Citizen Matters, with a lot of photos associated with the 10-day festival.

Happy Navaratri to all my friends who celebrate it! I will be visiting some friends here in St.Louis over the weekend, and will share the photos, too.

Holi, St.Louis, 300313

March 31, 2013

Sometimes, the very air is charged with the colours of happiness.

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But in the middle of the happiness, it’s important to count one’s blessings…

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To see other photographs from today’s Holi event at Sportport, Maryland Heights, Missouri,

click here

Here’s a family that’s coloured their lives with happiness:

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