Gudi Padwa: ​The treasured tradition of hoisting of the Gudi

Life has become pretty fast.  That evening, when I returned home from work exhausted, I realized that I barely find time for myself! ( While I was still pondering over my busy schedule, my cellphone beeped. I almost jumped off the couch feeling elated.  A long lost college friend of mine was calling…)

Me: Hey hi! What a pleasant surprise Vishakha! How have you been? I’m so glad you called. (I couldn’t hide my excitement) 

Vishakha : (I could visualize her poker face; she spoke with a neutral voice) I called to inform you that our gang; that’s how we lovingly address our friends circle;  has planned to crash at your place this Gudi Padwa.  Please make sure aunty makes some extra Puranpolis! 

(Both of us laughed out loud…The entire gang could resist anything, but food! Gudi Padwa had come like a blessing in disguise. This sweet reunion was all we needed)

As planned, the gang reached my home a day prior to Gudi Padwa.   It was 5 am in the morning and we were up and about already.  

Let me take you on a tour around the chaotic bustle inside the house.  We have Vishakha sitting amidst a heap of marigold flowers; she is struggling to weave the flowers into a garland! She herself volunteered for the difficult task!  Kaustubh and Nitin are busy cleaning the pole on which the Gudi will be raised.  My mom is in the kitchen; making some fresh offerings for the Pooja.  I’m showcasing my best skills with the Rangoli.  My dad is grinding the Neem leaves and jaggery; mom has instructed him to make a fine paste.  

Vishakha : ( As she cannot stay silent for a long ) “Uncle, why do we celebrate Gudi Padwa”? 

Dad: “Well Beta, so that foodies like you can crash at their close-friends place and eat Puran Polis”! 

( All the busy heads around paused. Everyone including Vishakha unleashed stomach-hurting laughter!)

Dad : (Ceasing his laughter and interrupting ours)  “Jokes apart!  Gudi Padwa has an age-old legend that signifies its importance like any other Hindu festival.  It is the New Year Day for the people of Maharashtra.   Celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month, Gudi Padwa falls sometime at the end of March or the beginning of April according to the Gregorian calendar. It is also the first day of the Marathi Calendar”.  

Mom: “Just like all other festivals, Gudi Padwa marks many prehistoric incidences to underline its significance. Mythology calls it a day when Lord Brahma recreated the world after deluge or the Pralaya. So this day symbolizes the beginning of the calendar and initiation of Sat-yuga. This day is very auspicious to begin something fresh. It is that rare occasion when every moment of the day is a ‘Muhurt’”.

Kaustubh : (The most sensible and intelligent of us all gives his valuable inputs) “When gathering information about Gudi Padwa, we must talk about a few other pertinent facets too. The intersection of the equator with the meridians is a major scientific event at the beginning of Chaitra. This intersection is known as Vasant, the pleasant season. When spring begins, nature invigorates itself by spreading a distinct charm and gratifying atmosphere all over. This naturally blissful period is worth a celebration and Gudi Padwa aptly represents this pleasing seasonal alteration.

Nitin : ( Who believes that he embodies Google) “Celebrations are the very essence of India and festivals are the most prospective way for Indians to connect, given their inherent jovial mood.  In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the festival is celebrated as Ugadi, as Yugadi in Karnataka, as Poila Baisakh in West Bengal and as Bihu in Assam. The Konkanis and the Sindhis observe the occasion as Sanvsar Padvo and Cheti Chand respectively.”  

(Mom was lost in her childhood memories and overhearing our banter, hurriedly added)

“When we were kids, on a festive day, people in our village used to rise early in the morning and take an extensive oil bath. Then they swept the courtyards of their houses and plastered it with fresh cow-dung. Women drew beautiful rangoli designs with meticulous detail on their doorsteps. The strikingly colorful patterns captured the mood of the spring season and brightened up the festive ambiance.  People wore new clothes, adorned their houses and offered oblations to God, praying to Him for a prosperous new year. So let’s get the Gudi up and let your father do it”.

Dad: “The hoisting of the “Gudi” is the main ritual of the festival. The Gudi is a long bamboo pole at the tip of which bright green or yellow silk cloth with brocade (zari), is tied. Over this is tied gathi (a type of sweet), neem leaves, coconuts, a twig of mango leaves and a garland of marigold flowers that signify a rich harvest. On this is placed an empty, inverted jug of water (tambya), made of brass, copper or silver and held up to the sky. The people of Maharashtra follow a tradition of erecting Gudis next to the right side of the main entrance of their houses.  Gudi is a symbol of victory and prosperity. It is believed that hoisting the Gudi outside ones home wards off any evil influences, making way for good luck and prosperity.”

Kaustubh was distributing the paste of neem leaves and jaggery, (one thing I hate about Gudi Padwa is this bitter paste), and added his two bits…

Kaustubh: “Gudi Padwa is considered to be an auspicious day to start new business and ventures. For farmers, it is the time to plough their fields and distribute food to labourers. This day also marks the end of one harvest and the beginning of a new one. Gudi Padwa is celebrated at the end of the Rabi season.  Indian society is largely dependent on agriculture and that is the reason that harvests are celebrated with much fun and frolic in the country.”

Gudipadwa-complite-image
Image source: Sharangdhar.com

 

( By now everybody was looking forward to the Puran Polis. We sat across the dining table and waited for Mom to serve us our fair share of the delicacy)

Mom: “Traditionally, Maharashtrian families prepare Puran Poli and soonth panak to celebrate this occasion. A unique custom related to the festival is eating the bittersweet leaves of the neem tree. Sometimes, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with ajwain, gul (jaggery), and tamarind. The consumption of the bittersweet neem leaves is supposed to begin the festivities and believed to purify the blood and strengthen the body’s immune system against diseases.” 

Vishakha : ( Looked at us and yelled at the top of her voice) “Hold it, everybody! The whole point behind knowing the reason to celebrate Gudi Padwa was to know how often can we have Puran Polis. I’m terribly hungry!”

(The whole house lit up with laughter once again. Soon, in no time silence descended across the dining room. We got busy relishing the mouth-watering Puran Polis!)

 

maxresdefault-1.jpg
Image source: Freepressjournal.in

 

 

References : 

https://www.sanatan.org/en/a/167.html

https://www.utsavpedia.com/weddings-festivals/festivals/gudi-padwa/

Advertisements

Holi : The Festival of Colours

Holi The Festival of Colours

In another few days, revellers will mark the arrival of spring by throwing powdered colour with gay abandon, spraying water on each other and the streets will resound with laughter and fun.  Holi may traditionally be a Hindu festival, but during this festival caste and class lines disappear, people and the colors of Holi mingle, to celebrate this festival.

The festival Holi is an ancient celebration and mentions of it can be dated back to fourth-century poetry.  Further mentions are made in a later 7th-century play called ‘Ratnaval’:

“Witness the beauty of the great cupid festival which excites curiosity as the townsfolk are dancing at the touch of brownish water thrown from squirt-guns. They are seized by pretty women, while all along the roads the air is filled with singing and drum-beating. Everything is coloured yellowish-red and rendered dusty by the heaps of scented powder blown all over.”

Colourful parties of people grooving to the beats of  “Balam Pichkari”, a Bollywood track of the younger generation.

 Beyond the dancing and colourful chaos lies a unique culture and deeply rooted traditions. Here’s what you need to know about Holi.

Good Triumphs Over Evil

The night before, on Holika Dahan, Hindus light dung and wood to symbolically commemorate the demise of Holika. People throw coloured powder on Rangwali Holi, the second day of the festival. 

Holika Dahan gets its name from Holika, the demoness sister of the evil King Hiranyakashyap in Hindu mythology.  As the story goes, the villainous king tried to forbid his son Prahlad from worshiping one of the Hindu gods, Vishnu.  But Prahlad persisted despite his father. So the king ordered Prahlad and Holika (who was immune to fire) to sit on a pyre, a wooden structure for burning a body as part of a funeral or execution. When the flames struck, Holika burnt to death in spite of her immunity to fire, and miraculously Prahlad prevailed because he called on the help of Lord Vishnu. So, Holi celebrations serve as a reminder of the triumph of good over evil, reflecting the Hindu belief that faith and devotion lead to salvation that can be attained by everyone who believes.

Why the Dye?

As for Rangwali Holi, the legend goes – a child, Krishna felt jealous of his beloved friend Radha’s fair skin, much lighter than his own blue face. When he complained to his mother Yashoda, she teasingly replied for Krishna to paint Radha’s face.  So, on the advice of his mother, he went and playfully painted her face so it was the same colour as his. It is said that lovers often celebrate Holi in this tradition, by colouring their faces the same colour during the celebrations. Hence the flying multihued pigments, called gulal, remind us of the story of Krishna.

However, Holi is mostly seen as a time for people to get together and enjoy themselves. It is purported to be a time when friends, families, and communities can get together without any concern for caste or ethnicity, although how much this holds true in reality is debatable. That said, there are certain groups that take their religious elements more seriously than others.

Synthetic Dyes? A big ‘NO’!

Back in the day, gulal was made from flowers, spices and other natural materials like the brilliant Indian Coral Tree and the Flame of the Forest plants, offering medicinal properties and benefits for the skin. Synthetic dyes became common in the mid-19th century, offering higher profits. Today, most gulal used during Holi is synthetic from China, although the Indian government promotes national products and promotes a return to plant-based dyes. The synthetic dyes used do us no favors, as in 2012 around 200 people were admitted to a Mumbai hospital suffering from colour poisoning.

Getting Stuffed

Families across India lovingly prepare gujiya, a dumpling-like sweet that is filled with dried fruits and nuts spiced with cardamom. Countless variations exist, but common fillings include pistachios, cashews, coconut, and raisins, which everyone enjoys during fiery Holika Dahan.

Toasting With Cannabis Milk

Some people toast Holi with bhang–a milky beverage mixed with a paste of buds and leaves of the cannabis plant, that is grown high in the Himalayas. Consumed for the last 3,000 years, this weed milkshake has a connect with mythology to the powerful monk God, Shiva – and is sold in government-run bhang shops.

Meaningful Colours

Much more than painting a pretty picture, the colours hold special significance. The red dye symbolizes love, fertility, and matrimony. Blue represents Krishna while green stands for new beginnings and so on!

Cleaning Up

To preempt disaster, people are advised to moisturize their hair and skin well to help prevent the gulal from staining. Clothes typically do not survive and need to be chucked away after the celebrations. 

Joining the Fun

One necessarily doesn’t require an invite to celebrate Holi.  Just grab the natural colour of your choice and paint the faces of your close ones!

Wishing you all a happy and safe Holi!

Vasant Panchami:​ The festival that honours Goddess Saraswati

The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit term Sindhu (or Indus), which means river. Thus, people living in the Indus Valley of the Indian subcontinent were referred to as Hindus.  The Hindu pantheon includes many deities.  Although Hindu adherents practice their faith differently and venerate different deities, they share a similar view of life and look back on a common history. 

The Hindus are divided by cultures but united by religion.  Most Hindu festivals fall in either of the two seasons, summer and winter. The festivals are marked around those points of the year which are at or near the SUMMER SOLSTICE and WINTER SOLSTICE, during which light and warmth begin to increase and decrease,  respectively.  In pre-industrial times, humans survived through hunting, gathering and agricultural practices, which depend on the natural cycle of seasons. Thus, they created rituals to help ensure that they celebrated all the seasonal changes. Vestiges of many of these ancient practices are thought to have survived in festivals still celebrated around seasonal themes.

One such seasonal event is Vasant Panchami. Vasant Panchami is an important Indian festival celebrated every year in the month of Magh according to the Hindu calendar. Celebrated on the fifth day of Magh, the day falls somewhere between the months of February or March, according to the Gregorian calendar. The significance of the day lies in the worship of Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning, who bequeaths the greatest wealth to humanity, the wealth of knowledge. Mother Saraswati is the consort of Lord Brahma, the Creator. The divine couple together engages in creating mankind and imbuing self-awareness and intelligence in mankind.

Hindu mythology describes Goddess Saraswati as a lady dressed in pristine white attire, white flowers, and white pearls, sitting on a white lotus set in a wide stretch of water. The Goddess also holds a Veena, a string-instrument, for playing music.  The four arms of Goddess Saraswati represent the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness, and ego. She rides on a white swan. The swan is known for its peculiar characteristic of separating water from milk, indicating that one should possess clear vision and knowledge to discriminate between good and evil. Children are taught to read and write their first words on this day.  It is considered auspicious to begin a child’s education on Vasant Panchami. The grown-ups are educated about the oldest of the Hindu writings – The “Vedas”.

The word “Veda” comes from the Sanskrit word for knowledge. The Vedas, which were compiled from oral traditions contain hymns, instructions, explanations,  chants for sacrifices, magical formulas, and philosophy. Another set of sacred books includes the Great Epics, which illustrate Hindu faith in practice. The Epics include the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita. Students keep their notebooks, pens and educational items near the statue of Goddess Saraswati and chant Ma Saraswati shlokas to get her blessings. They distribute sweets among the devotees and share their joy of winning Ma Saraswati’s blessings.

‘Yellow’ is the dominant colour of this festival as it signifies the ripening of fruits and crops. The mustard fields in North India bloom during this season giving a yellow coat to nature. People wear yellow clothes, offer yellow flowers to the Goddess and put a yellow, turmeric tilak on their forehead. They visit temples and offer prayers to various Gods. New clothes are purchased for this festival and many delicious dishes are specially prepared for this particular occasion. The colour yellow is deeply associated with teachers, with wisdom and also with auspiciousness. The other Gods who are shown wearing yellow attire in Hinduism are Lord Dakshinamurti, Lord Dattatreya and Brihaspati or Guru (Jupiter). Notably, all these God forms are associated with imparting wisdom. Hence we find that associating the color yellow with Mother Saraswati has a deep significance of portraying Mother Saraswati as the Goddess of wisdom.

And last but not the least, let our prayer go: May Maa Saraswati bless us all to attain enlightenment through knowledge and rid ourselves of lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance. Happy Vasant Panchami!

Makar Sankranti : Reaping the Benefits of the Season

(Not much had changed for Gauri after her marriage.  Her mother-in-law believed in equal opportunities for men and women in their careers and extended complete co-operation to her working hours.  Being from a typical Maharashtrian household, Gauri was supposed to make arrangements for Makar Sankranti celebration in her office this year.  She was quite nervous about it and rushed home to know the details about the festival. 

Gauri went straight to her mother-in-law who was engrossed in some creative cooking in the kitchen. Her Aai(the sweet way Gauri likes calling out to her mother-in-law)was busy in making tilache laddoo (sesame and jaggery sweets) for Sankrant! What a perfect moment to discuss Sankrant; she thought!)

 

Gauri: Aai, I feel very nervous. My boss has asked me to wear a Nauvari and has insisted that I should look after the arrangements of Makar Sankranti celebrations in the office!I barely know about the festival myself! You have to help me with this.

Aai: I should personally call your boss and thank him Gauri.  I don’t remember the last time you have draped a saree, made sweets or performed the Pooja! (Her mother-in-law giggled)

Gauri: Don’t be mean to me, please!  I have a long list of things I need to know and I’m going to keep bothering you.  

(Gauri sat beside her mother-in-law and mumbled all the questions she was worried about…) 

Aai: Calm down dear! I will help you find answers to your questions and will also lend you one of my best Paithanis and some jewellery that goes with it. But in return, you have to help me in making the laddoos. 

(Gauri smiled. She loved the warmth in their bond. She loved the festivals as they strengthened these bonds.  She began rolling the laddoos while listening and capturing every bit of information that the elderly mother figure passed on to her)

Aai: Let me begin with the story that my mother-in-law told me.  I was barely 18 years old when I got married.  I can roughly recall my first Sankrant away from my mothers home. My mother-in-law asked me to make Puran Polis (A Maharashtrian wheat preparation stuffed with a paste of jaggery and tur daal mixture, topped with ghee and served hot with milk).  I was horrible at cooking back then.  So while learning to cook the difficult traditional dish, I heard this story from her.   

Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival.  Most Hindu festivals follow the position of the moon and are based on the lunar calendar. Thus, the dates of festivals change every year. But Makar Sankranti is a festival which falls on the same day every year as it follows the solar calendar. On Makar Sankranti, the sun enters the sun-sign of Capricorn or Makara (the Indian rashi). Therefore, the ‘Makar’ in the name. The word ‘Sankranti’ signifies the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to another. Thus, the name of the festival literally means the movement of the sun into Capricorn.

It also has something to do with the position of sun, moon or some solstice, I’m not really sure.  Why don’t you google and find the right information Gauri? 

(Gauri hurriedly looked for her phone and surfed the internet to add to the details.) 

Gauri: Google says, Makar Sankranti is one of the oldest solstice festivals and falls on the equinox, day and night on this day are believed to be equally long. Post the festival, it is officially the beginning of spring or the onset of Indian summer and the days become longer, and nights shorter.

Aai: I knew a bit of this. Now, coming to food, Makar Sankranti is the festival of til-gul where sesame and jaggery laddoos or chikkis are distributed among all. They are generally accompanied by the saying, “Til-gul ghya ani goad goad bola“, which means ‘eat these sesame seeds and jaggery and speak sweet words’ or also ‘take sweet, talk sweet’. The festival is one of the bonding where every member of society is asked to bury the hatchet with enemies and foes and live in peace.  Also, since the festival falls in winter, eating of sesame and jaggery is considered beneficial to health as they are warm foods. 

Gauri: Aai, what is the connection between ‘Makar Sankranti’ and kite-flying?

Aai: There is a very interesting reason behind the kite-flying. Kite-flying in olden days was generally done in the early hours of the morning when the sun’s rays were bright but not too harsh. Also, during kite-flying, the human body was exposed to the sun for long hours. The early morning sun is considered beneficial for the skin and body. Since winter is also the time of a lot of infections and sickness, by basking in the sun, Hindus believed that the bad bacteria on their bodies would be cleared to a certain extent. Creating a fun way of sun basking where no one would even realize they were reaping the benefits through kite flying. Cool, right?

Gauri: Fairly amazing! And you mentioned the Paithani and Pooja too.  How do they relate?

Aai: As per the traditions, we wear Nauvari and perform a Pooja.  That is what I want you to do for every festival but you fail to impress me.  This time your boss has replaced me and I cannot thank him enough! 

(Gauri and her Aai laughed out loud….) 

 

-The voice behind this article is Ashwini Gaikwad, Content Writer, Investronaut.

Shree Mahalaxmi Mandir, Pune Serenity Personified.

shree Mahalaxmi Mandir, Sarasbaug, Pune –  A Hindu temple, a revered structure where the boundary between humans and the divine dissolve.  This temple allows one to release themselves from an illusion of complexities of life and move towards the knowledge and truth of life.

Architectural details – The layout of the temple

Shree Mahalaxmi Mandir was consecrated on the 15th February 1984.  This temple is carved in the Dravidian style of architecture. This magnificent architectural marvel goes beyond brick and mortar and imbues ritual purity and has a magical effect on the devotee.

The exquisite external appearance and minute interior details entice even atheists to observe and be astounded by the ambiance created by this temple.  The Mahalaxmi Mandir is laid out pertaining to directions, based on a concept called ‘Vastu Shashtra’, which means ‘science of architecture’. 

The rudimentary structure has a dome on the top which is pyramid shaped.  This pyramidal structure descends down to form the principal part called ‘Vimana’.  The Shikhar of the Mahalaxmi Mandir is 55 feet tall, 24 feet wide and the length of the temple roof is 54 feet long. The temple is constructed in a way that this topmost structure is perfectly visible from any point outside the temple.  It is believed to bring luck and prosperity to those who view it from outside the temple right before they enter or after they leave the temple premise, on the completion of the darshan.

1415776748.indian-architech-6

The ‘Mandapa’ is an underlying grid which is the foundation of the entire temple.  The hallway of Mandapa is be-decked with pillars that lead the way to the ‘Garbhagriha’ (i.e. womb chamber).  The Garbhagriha is a small shrine room located at the very heart of the temple.   Within, the symbols of ‘Tri Shakti’, Goddesses Shri Mahasaraswati, Shri Mahalaxmi and Shri Mahakali are placed.  These idols are six feet tall and have been carved out of pristine marble.  Around this womb is a circumambulatory path where various rishis, munis idols are carved. Saint Dynaneshwar, Saint Tukaram, Saint Tulsidas, Saint Jalaram, Saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Saint Kabir Das, Saint Sur Das, Sri Ramdas Swami, Saint Guru Nanak, Saint Ramakrishna Paramhans, Saint Basaveshwar, Saint Sri Mirabai – twelve such saints can be worshipped by the devotees.  

When the Aarti is performed, a big bell hanging from the center of the ceiling is struck. The positive waves created by this bell allows the devotees to be fully attentive to the deity. The aroma of camphor and incense invade the entire space.  The soft warmth of the diyas and the chanting of religious mantras soothe the entire space.  The devotees find a sanguine solution as they lay their gratitude, their problems, their whole being. One attains peace of mind. It is not just the bell that resonates and brings peace of mind. Every subtle object or carving possesses a divine belief behind it, everything ultimately enabling the devotee to become totally pious. The temple is a beatific environment within which to meditate, with its strategically located mandapa, perfectly spaced pillars, and meticulously and scrupulously carved figures. 

The Tri Shakti   

The three deities worshipped at Mahalaxmi temple are Shri Mahasaraswati the Goddess of learning, Shri Mahalaxmi the Goddess of prosperity and Shri Mahakali, the Goddess who liberates mortals from time and death. 

Goddess Laxmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity.  Laxmi is elegantly dressed, prosperity-showering golden-colored woman, signifying the importance of economic activity in the maintenance of life. She holds a lotus in her hand, a symbolism of fortune, self-knowledge, and spiritual liberation. 

Goddess Saraswati the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, wisdom, and learning.  The goddess Saraswati is a beautiful woman dressed in pure white, seated on a white lotus, which symbolizes light, knowledge, and truth.  The color symbolizing purity, search for true knowledge, insight, and wisdom.

The name Kali means Kala or force of time.  The Dark appearance of Kali represents the darkness from which everything was born.  As she is also the goddess of Preservation, Kali is worshiped as the preserver of nature. 

The architectural excellence seen in the temple is of sublime virtue. Its beauty is enhanced solely by the soulful structures. Florid decorations surrounding the premises enable the devotees to dwell in serenity, maintain their composure and focus their attention on the Lord, eventually hoping to win his benevolence.

For more details please visit http://www.mahalaxmimandirpune.org/About.

The voice behind this article is Ashwini Gaikwad, Content Writer, Investronaut.

Diwali:​ That of the rich and that of the poor.

The cell phone beeps –  “ Maa ka phone aaya” is a harsh ringtone that is a contradiction to my mom’s pleasing personality. I peel open my eyelids – it’s 5 am and she has called me to wake me up like she has been doing on Diwali every year.  I hear the excitement in her ‘hello’. It is my first Diwali away from home. I don’t know if I feel good about being away from my family or not.   “We miss you too love. Get up, crawl out of your bed and make a conscious choice to be happy.  Happiness won’t find you, you need to find it!” Mom’s voice softly coming over the line dispels my feelings of being low.

Each time I find life getting down,  she manages to turn the tables in my favour! I promise her that I will dress well and call her later to wish and chat with the rest of the family.  I hurriedly get out of the bed, grab my sneakers and rush to the garden across the street.  An early morning stroll through the open green spaces will definitely lighten my mood. 

As I step out I see the sky emblazoned with different colours.  I sit on the cement benches stretched along the back of the garden.  Red, purple, yellow flowers grow alongside a pond.  On the other bank of this pond is a low lying compound wall, behind which the poor, the downtrodden, the underprivileged, the unfortunate community, of our society resides here in their tiny huts.  Children dressed in their worn-out clothing sit there and wait with their mothers to give them something to eat. I then got to thinking.  

Diwali is the festival that celebrates good over evil.    In the 21st century poverty is one of the biggest societal evils.  What does Diwali mean to the underprivileged?

Diwali. The festival of lights. 

Every year millions of firecrackers explode, casting their light in the night skies.  ‘Diwali’ seems to mean differently for different strata of society in this ‘modernised’ world we are in today.  One stratum belongs to the rich; it’s a grand world.  The other belongs to the poor; it’s a vast world.  These worlds of the rich and the poor seem to overlap but never really merge.  Or do they? Every Diwali the rich paint their happiness all over the sky for the poor to watch.  

It is now time for us to realize what we have done to the poor people.  Money that we donate to them will last them for a few moments. The food and leftover from our tables will keep them fed for a few more hours. Every Diwali many show their compassion for the underprivileged by gifting them crackers. Many others show their compassion by sharing sweets. They donate sweets on one day and wrongly believe they have satisfied the hunger of the needy!  The ones who can’t deal with the subtlety and are even more compassionate and donate money. After all, money is what the richness is all about! 

diwali

Money, sweets and crackers – is this what the poor are asking for? Many believe it is. I do not.

The compassionate fail to recognize that the very same crackers they burst during this season were made by the hands of these kids. Excesses in food and sweet, during this festival, finds its way into garbage bins. Whilst the empty stomachs of these poor people who long for a fistful of food remain hungry. 

Instead, if we spend an hour with them, it will impact them and us alike, for a lifetime. The simplest thing we can do would be spending a day with them and understand what their real problems are.  

firecrackers-759

But this doesn’t fully answer the original question.

What is the meaning of Diwali for the underprivileged people?

1516892230373

These poor kids light up our skies every Diwali.   The rich are under the complete control of this Ravana of the 21st century and every Diwali he laughs when the crackers we

diwali_festival_lighting_of_lamps

burst plunge someone’s life into darkness.  The poor know our wants but we don’t bother about their needs.  Through the factories, they risk their lives. Diwali in their world was about the lamps that drove away the darkness and not about the crackers that have driven intense darkness in their lives.

wp-image-99641214jpg

As Diwali brings its unique joy of celebration,  maybe it not the right time to decide if banning crackers, donating food and money to the needy is the way one should celebrate it.  But if not now then when will we consider the unending plight of the underprivileged! Maybe next year or some other time…or maybe never!  This year let us closely connect to the people in need and understand the ways in which we can help them find their happiness.   

Happiness shared is happiness multiplied.  Let’s distribute happiness this Diwali season! 

 

The Navratri Story: An artisan who personifies Maa Durga through his art

Temple - Artisan crafting Mother Durga0.jpg

The artisan is perched at the edge of his studio; behind him are rows and rows of Maa Durga idols.  The rain has ebbed a bit.  Outside as the sun lies low on the horizon the luminescence effect of the rising sun throws an ephemeral glow on the faces of the Durga idols.  The artisan is keen on getting the biggest idol crafted today.

The art of crafting an idol. 

Myriad thoughts run through his mind. “Do my hands craft out these beautiful idols? And do the colours I use bring life to these lifeless eyes?  Of one thing I am certain: I don’t carve these idols; I don’t bring life to the lifeless; these idols take a shape on their own”.  

With a wooden base, he craft the basic structure of the idol with bamboo. Using straw and ropes he fashions the shape of the idol.  With fresh clay sourced from Ganga, he mixes it with rice husks till it is hard enough to hold yet pliable enough to mould. The body of the idol lovingly takes shape under his hands.   The face remains.  This is part of his work he loves the most.

The detailing: Artisan brings life to the lifeless 

The artisan continues, he creates a mould of the idols face, nostalgically remembering the making of a similar mould in the years gone before.   Mixing the past with the present creating the future, rapt in attention, he sits there quietly and carves the face of the clay Goddess. 

His fingers trail down the cheek of the freshly moulded goddess, caressing it, smoothing it.  The sweet smell of wet clay helps him etch a smile onto the face of the goddess. He adds a few finishing strokes to the large drawn out eyes.  There it is; the face looks soulful; radiant in a way he has never seen before.  Remarkable is the end result when you put your heart into something you love doing!  

Around the corner, a small shack is stacked with glittering crowns, arms and legs.  The artisan moves to his collection of a variety of zaris, beads, mirrors, motis and starts accessorizing.  A goddess is a mother, a woman, a warrior.  Keeping this universal role that the mother goddess plays in perspective, the artisan starts threading the beads, motis, mirrors accordingly.

Triumph of good over evil

A few meters away is the artisans home.  His 12 – year – old daughter, whom he lovingly addresses as Durga, walks in to help her father.  She looks up at him and asks curiously “Baba, why do we worship the Goddess Durga?”  The artisan, still engrossed in his craft, replies “Dear Durga, as your name suggests, it’s the warrior aspect of the Divine Mother.  Durga means something that is inaccessible, invincible or who can be a redeemer in situations of utmost distress.  Mother Durga represents strength, morality, power, and protection.  She protects humankind from dark forces like selfishness, jealousy, hatred, anger, and ego.  She is an embodiment of the feminine force and creative energy.  It is believed that she is the supremely radiant goddess who destroys the evil forces and brings peace.  These are the reasons why we worship Mother Durga.”  

“Baba, why do they say that a woman shouldn’t touch the goddess?” It was first time in a while that the artisan’s hands stopped working.  He looked upon his little daughter and said, “ It is said so because people believe that they want to keep the women into a mould. But, you my little girl, you are set free to do whatever you feel like doing.  I want you to touch every idol your baba makes. I want you to feel the art.  I want you to break the shackles that are put upon women and recognize your own worth.  Maa Durga is a woman herself. She will never object to children, whether they be girls or boys.”

The artisan’s little girl hugged him with a trusting smile. Her baba has never lied to her. As the sun goes down and the darkness engulfs the area of the studio, the artisan smiles with content for understanding the true meaning of worship.  He is not breaking the traditions but indeed preserving them in the best way he knows.  Every girl, woman we come across is in some form or the other a symbol of love, strength, weakness, motherly – care. She must be worshipped next to every divine goddess. 

Conclusion 

As the artisan heads back home with his little girl, skipping behind him, trying to keep pace, he sees her stumble.  He rushes to help her when she stops him saying“ No Baba. Please, don’t help me.  I want to fall and rise on my own. I’m the Durga of tomorrow.  Maa Durga has given me enough strength.”   The artisan has created a difference.  His well-put thoughts are now deeply engraved on his daughter’s mind.  He sees his daughter stand up all by herself.  And behind her rises the shadow of Goddess Durga; the one that’s coming from an idol standing tall far behind her.  Such is the blessing of the Mother.  She comes home for a short span but empowers each individual.  

The voice behind this article is Ashwini Gaikwad, Content Writer, Investronaut.