Mythology

The Holi Tales

Legend says that the holy festival of Holi started with an innocent question of a curious Krishna who was teased by Radha and the other gopis for his dark skin color. Bewildered, he runs to his mother Yashoda and asks why she made him black while Radha was fair. This was pure injustice. He felt really sad about this. Yashoda, hearing this, chuckles and rubs turmeric paste on his sapphire color cheeks and sends him off saying that now his color has changed. The naughty Krishna then run and plucks some kala Jamun fruit for Radha and asks her to close her eyes so that he can feed them to her. Instead, he rubs the dark juice on her cheeks and hands and declares that she too is now dark. On seeing this, all the gopis of Vrindhavan gets overwhelmed with love. They fill their palms with fragrant oil, turmeric paste, fresh butter and start smearing each other’s faces and bodies. They fearlessly throw cheese balls, buttermilk, butter, curd, aromatic oils, and water mixed with turmeric, different fruit juices and Palash flowers extract at each other. Every devotee looked very attractive with their smiling faces and glittering white teeth. Their happy faces seemed more beautiful than the mighty Palash flowers. This incredible display of affection, love and devotion was enough to start the colorful festival of Holi.

The nostalgic memories of this colorful festival always lingers in my mind. The hustle bustle of buying colors, pichkaari (water guns), new clothes to the big list of the grocery items everything was taken care with lots of care, enthusiasm and accuracy. This festival was something everyone looked forward to. Be it for the sumptuous food, family and friends getting together, exchange of gifts or smearing each other with gulaal or color. It was always a hit and never disappointed us in any way. We had a big joint family back then and everything was done in a grand way. The preparations for the festival would start well in advance and we would be gorging on the delicious food for at least a week. Apart from the memories, the other thing which lasted for a couple more weeks were the colors peeping through parts of our face, nails, palms and feet. The enjoyment did make us stand out in our school and each time a teacher saw us, he/she would ensure we are reminded of not studying enough 🙂 But, who cares. Huh!! Its Holi!

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With the passing years, leaving home and being in a different city, I do get nostalgic each time a festival come by. I try to replicate some of the things, if not all, and try to rejoice the moments again. This year I made a full Jharkhand Holi Thaali. Now, my Maa might not agree to this. This is not even half of the Holi recipes. I know, some of the major things are missing in this. I will add them next year. Maybe. Till then, enjoy this please 🙂

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I hope and pray that each one of you reading this now, your life gets filled with colors of joy, love, enthusiasm, optimism, faith and gratitude. You give and receive love with open arms. The joy and happiness never leaves your life and you can pass the harmony to others through your deeds.

Love to all!

One day, Brahma and Vishnu were quarreling. Brahma claimed, ‘I created the world. I must be God.’ Vishnu retorted, ‘That you seek validation means you cannot be God.’ ‘Then who is the God?’ Brahma demanded to know.

I Am God, I Am Shiva, Shiva, Bholenaath, Shivji, Fire, World, God Balakrishnan K

In response a pillar of fire appeared between them. It stretched up beyond the dome of the sky and below the foundations of the earth. And the fire seemed to be burning without any fuel.

Both Brahma and Vishnu decided to look for the ends of this pillar of fire. Brahma took the form of a swan and flew up to find its top. Vishnu took the form of a boar and dug his way down, determined to find its base. Brahma flew for months and years but there was no sign of the tip of the fiery pillar. Vishnu dug for months and years but there was no sign of the base of the fiery pillar. Finally, exhausted, the two returned to share their findings. ‘This pillar of fire has no base,’ admitted Vishnu. ‘It is endless and infinite.’ Brahma, however, lied. ‘I found the tip. I even found Ketaki flowers on it. I have done what you couldn’t do. I am greater than you. I must therefore be God.’

As soon as Brahma said this, the pillar of fire burst open and out came another God, who looked like a mendicant, smeared with ash and wrapped in animal skins. ‘Liar,’ he shouted pointing to Brahma. ‘You lie so that you can delude the world with your lies so as to dominate everyone around you and feel powerful. You are not God.’ He then turned to Vishnu and smiled, ‘You admit the truth. You are humble enough to accept limitations. You are curious to know what lies beyond the horizon. You are not intimidated by uncertainty or afraid of ignorance. You are in the process of becoming God.’

Brahma trembled and bowed to this self-assured being. Vishnu watched him in awe. The mendicant identified himself, ‘If the formless can be given a form then I am he. I am God, I am Shiva.’

I Am God, I Am Shiva, Shiva, Bholenaath, Shivji, Fire, World, God, Kotilingeshwara,Balakrishnan K

Since that day the stone pillar or lings is worshiped by all, a reminder of the pillar of flames that appeared between Brahma and Vishnu. Those who look at this image as merely a stone image are like Brahma, people who lack imagination and who do not yearn for wisdom. Those who look at this stone image as a symbolic container of an idea are like Vishnu, people with imagination who yearn for the truth that exists beyond the tangible.

~ Devdutt Pattanaik from 7 Secrets of Shiva

— I am God, I am Shiva

Weaving Memories

Recently, I have been thinking and thinking a lot about the memories I have been gathering for a while now. The days are malleable and memories are bound to be created everyday. The irony is that some stay with us forever and the others get erased with the sand of time. I believe that we women are the guardians of memories. We preserve them like no one else does and then pass it on to generations. Don’t we stock all the memories which contains the fragments of love, food, stories, beliefs, joy, sadness, laughter and much more? Well, I do 🙂

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As a kid, I loved to hear stories. I was bemused by the beliefs, bravery, love and the beauty of things said by old souls. I listened to them keenly and created a world of my own among them. It is fascinating how the memories, the stories, the talks cling to us and visit us often.

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Some out of boredom, the others out of sheer interest, I drew these. The happiness, the solace and the sense of doing something from the heart has lifted my spirit multiple times. There are days when things are hard and doing something like this lighten my mind and sets me free and I weave more memories. the memories which I know will remain engraved in my heart for a long time. The happiness collected and passed on, the encouragement given and inspirations taken, the beads of stories woven and gathered makes me believe that life can be full of happiness and contentment.

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I want to gather all the happiness and store it in my heart tight. I want to make good memories and use them as the light when the times of darkness approaches. I want to be the firefly who brings hope with its tiny light in the ravenous darkness. Like the wings of a butterfly, I want to bring out these joyful memories and spread happiness which are safely tucked away in the heart.

This world is a beautiful place and so is you. Please do spread random happiness till we meet again.

Eat Tulsi, Because Ma Says It… :)

Recently I went to meet a friend of mine who has a five year old son. Unfortunately, the poor soul was suffering from bad cough. On top of this, my friend told me that he frequently gets cough and cold. I remember, that when I was a kid and whenever me or anyone else in the family use to get cough, ma used to give us a warm mixture of “sudh desi ghee, crushed pepper and some sugar”. And this always acted as the “Ram Baan” for all our cough problems! Also, after the daily puja, she use to hand over a few leaves of tulsi patta (holy basil leaves) to everyone in the family. I remember her saying that eating tulsi patta everyday increases memory power, prevents cough, cold, malaria and lots of other common dieses. And this small daily care and routine did miracles. I barely remember getting fever, cough or cold as a kid.  And even if I did, drinking a hot steaming cup of tulsi, ginger and pepper chai over the cough syrups and a few leaves of tulsi took care of everything 🙂

Tulsi, the miraculous plant

There were days, when ma would tell me the stories of the time I was there in her womb and the lady doctor asked her to eat lots of bananas for iron instead of drinking iron tonics for the development of the kid’s strong bones. She ended up eating lots of them as everyone was concerned at that time for her and me. I remember her saying that when she went to meet the doctor in the seventh month of her pregnancy, the lady doc asked her to stop all the iron suppliments. As, the iron consistency was really high in her body and it could have caused bone stiffness in my body! But the good thing is only because my mom ate lots of iron at that time, I have got really strong bones 😀

Back at home in Jharkhand, everything is natural. Most of the families still believe in the ayurveda power more than any chemically produced medicine. You will often hear ladies sharing “the home remedies”. Applying few drops of honey or crushed marigold leaves juices on the cuts and bruishes, planting mint, tulsi and marigold flowers to ward off mosquitos, massaging a painful leg with warm mustard oil with some garlic pods, applying some haldi, dahi and besan instead of expensive face packs, using a paste of amla, reetha and shikakai instead of shampoo and the list goes on and on…

Ayurvedic medicines are really helpful. And the best part is it doesn’t give you any side effects. No wonder, lots of celebrities are getting back to mother nature. And they swear on home remedies like using besan for their skin instead of chemicals, drinking warm water with lemon and honey to keep their body in shape and skin glowing. I am so thankful to my mother and gradmother for teaching me the importance of all these things right from my childhood. I have seen the miraculous effects they do in our lives. It is always necessary to implant these knowledge right from the beginning so that we believe in these things. We understand that lots of things which we think can be attained only by using chemicals can actually be done the “Ayurvedic Way”.

Ah, all this talks make me homesick. I am quickly gonna go and make myself a hot brewing cup of tulsi tea. Drink and relax 🙂

 

 

Happy Sarhul Everyone :)

Sarhul Photo courtesy: Niranjan Kujur | Flickr

“Sarhul” is one of the grand festival of the tribals in Jharkhand and Odisha. This festival is celebrated on Chaitra Shukla Tritiya, the third day of bright half moon in Chaitra month. “Sarhul” is celebrated during spring season when the Shaal/Sakhua trees get new leaves. This festival, is too much related with Shaal tree and the earth and the Sun. In fact this festival is related to the whole of nature!! It is a worship of the village deity who is considered to be the protector of the tribes and the festival is also marked as the beginning of the New Year. People sing and dance a lot when the sprouting happens. The deities are worshiped with shaal flowers. These flowers represents the brotherhood and friendship among villagers. Pahan the priest, distributes shaal flowers to every villager. Rice wine called “Handia” is then distributed among villagers as prasad. Traditional group dance, music and feasting with gay abandon are the highlights of the festival.

I wish that the new year brings lots of happiness, prosperity and success in everyone’s life.

HAPPY SARHUL 😀

Here comes the spring…

Saraswati Puja

 ॥ या कुन्देन्दुतुषारहारधवला या शुभ्रवस्त्रावृता या वीणावरदण्डमण्डितकरा या श्वेतपद्मासना।

या ब्रह्माच्युत शंकरप्रभृतिभिर्देवैः सदा वन्दिता सा मां पातु सरस्वती भगवती निःशेषजाड्यापहा ॥

This is the Saraswati Vandana we sing every year on the auspicious occasion of Saraswati Puja. “Saraswati” is the Goddess of knowledge, music, arts, science and technology. The name Saraswati came from “saras” (meaning “flow”) and “wati” (meaning “a woman”). So, Saraswati is a symbol of knowledge; its flow (or growth) is like a river and knowledge is supremely alluring, like a beautiful woman. She is depicted as beautiful Goddess with four arms, wearing spotless white saree and seated on a large white lotus sorrounded by swan and peacocks. She is also known as “Sharada” (meaning “autumnal”), “Vani” and “Vagdevi” (both meaning “speech”). Saraswati holds a special place in the minds of Hindu students, as she is the goddess of learning.

Name it a tradition or a student lucky day, one is not supposed to study on Saraswati Puja. Now, who needs a better reason to cast aside books for one day have fun and roam around without being asked or questioned?? Placing all the books of my most dreaded subjects (Maths and Physics) and the pen which I would use during the final examination beside the idol was the first thing I used to do on this day! I used to take part in this puja so actively.  I remember praying and chanting the mantras with my grandfather with all my heart on this day as it meant a lot to me! The only wish I wanted “Maa” to grant me was to pass me in “MATHS”  (ofcourse in other subjects too!!) We were strictly refrained from touching the books or any study material till the day was over! Next day, I used to collect them, pray a small prayer (actually reminding “Maa” that she should have now filled the power of knowledge in me) and then started studying vigorously. After all, final exams always used to be just few days away and I had to make up for one day of my lost time you know 😉

I remember everyone wearing basanti (yellow) color clothes on this special day. Reason: yellow being the favourite color of Saraswati maa, apart from white, and the rich yellow signifiies the onset of Basant Ritu. Most of the flowers, fruits and sweets which were offered to Saraswati maa were either yellow or white in color. It’s not uncommon seeing unmarried and adolescent girls ageing 4-19 years wearing some or other shade of yellow sarees! Apart from the rituals involving the puja, the very sight of cute little school girls decked up looking like cute dolls in sarees (which most of the times are unmanageable) hopping around the streets and lanes, eating the “prasad”, is such a delight to watch 🙂

There are lots of good memories related to Saraswati Puja and my small little town. The aura, the chirping of birds, the blooming flowers, the smell of the aam ka manjar (mango flowers) and the knock of the spring season its amazing. Oh.. it seems to be a decade since I have felt and celebrated it the original way… Hope, I will visit and feel the warmth of this special puja soon in the coming years again!

देखो यह बसन्त मसतानी
आ गई है ऋतुओ की रानी…

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