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Showing posts with label NOSTALGIC MEMORIES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NOSTALGIC MEMORIES. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


Raw Banana is widely used in Kerala Cuisine. Every part of the banana is packed with nutrition and health benefits. This humble plant, with its flower, stem, fruit and leaf, can be consumed in different ways for overall wellness.
I think no one can cook the Vazhakkai Mezhukkuvarathi (Mezhukkupuratti) like my Grandmother Kaveri, we used to fondly call her “Amma”. Her recipe had the authentic Parawoor (Kerala) touch; that only one of her daughter’s could manage to get close too. Sadly, both are no more. But thankfully, since I was interested in cooking and watched them make this simple recipe very closely, I can share it with all my viewers today.
Amma (My grand mom) moved from Parawoor post marriage in her teens or early 20’s to Bombay (Now Mumbai, but I will refer to as Bombay here) and as most Tamil-Brahmins, Palakkad Iyers (referred henceforth as Tam brams) settled in Matunga. Matunga has a special place in the lives of the Tam brams as it was the land of opportunities and people came to make their fortune here and Bombay being Bombay; full of industrious people, it made available everything that the migrants needed. The coffee powders, the vegetables that would be popular etc. Those days, the vegetable vendors would bring the vegetables straight from the farms in double cane baskets loaded on either side of a pole balanced on their shoulders. They would walk through the lanes and by lanes and market their vegetables by shouting out. Amma used to patronize a vendor as she felt his vegetables were fresh and economical. This guy used to come from Vasai (He was fondly addressed as “Vashaiwalla” by Amma). The guy a Maharashtrian used to speak Hindi in a slang and understood some Tamil words and our enterprising star, Amma who picked up Hindi but with her south Indian slang would bargain with him while buying and also place requests, “Agli baar aaya toh Vazhakkai laana, dhoda jyaada laana, accha kaccha hona mangta, payam nahi laana”
It meant, get more raw bananas next time, it must be nice and green and raw don’t bring it when it has started to ripen.
And the industrious “Vashaiwalla” would say, “It’s very hot and by the time he brings it in the sun, it starts to ripen…ha ha ha.

I’m surely going to cover Amma and her experiences in Bombay in another post of mine.

As a child, we have been in awe of our Grand mom's intelligence and quick wittedness and burst into laughter listening to her hindi at the same time. But no matter what her don't give up attitude is what is the strongest memory we have of her.

The reason Amma’s cooking tasted so good was because the whole process was quality centric. Amma would choose the green, hard and long bananas to the Mondangai’s that would be used in her home town, she said the Bananas in Bombay were delicate and cooked faster and had more taste provided the Vashaiwalla got it as soon as he plucked them and delivered it fresh.

The Vazhakkai Mezhukkuvarathi cooked by the Kerala Iyers (Brahmin style) is very simple. It does not need any other ingredients as used in the regular Kerala Vazhakkai Mezhukkupuratti which has onion, garlic, curry leaves, coconut etc.

But there is one ingredient that cannot be missed and that is “Coconut Oil”.

Some recipes are simple, yet not all can do justice in making it; I wonder why?

There’s so much emotion attached to this simple recipe that every time I wanted to share it, I would get emotional and wouldn’t be able to proceed.
Raw bananas are very nutritious and you must try this simple recipe. Add lots of love too. 

Ingredients (Serves 4)
Raw bananas - 3-4
Virgin Coconut Oil – 3 - 4 tbsps
Mustard seeds - ½ tsp
White lentil split (Urad Dal) - ½ tsp
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Red chilly powder – ½ tsp
Asafetida (Hing) – ¼ tsp
Dry red chillies – 2, broken in half
Salt as per taste 

Wash the bananas, de-stem and cut the end as well. Peel the banana and cut in square chunks. Once diced, put in the water otherwise it will get discoloured. Keep aside.
In an Iron Wok/Pan, Add the coconut oil, once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, Urad dal and red chillies, when the mustard seeds start to splutter. Add the diced raw bananas. Add turmeric, Asafetida, salt and red chilly powder. Mix well. Add a 4-5 tablespoons of water.
Cover and cook in a low flame, stirring occasionally, until done.
The important thing is the banana has to get cooked well but not become mushy, then add a tablespoon of hot coconut oil and let the raw banana cook until its gets crisp on one side and soft inside.
Serve the vazhakkai Mezhukkuvarathi hot with hot rice, a dollop of ghee, some hot dal (Paruppu) and rasam.


· Use coconut oil only for the authentic taste

· Apply coconut oil before you start peeling and chopping raw banana as it tends to leave a stain on your hands.


· Vazhakkai Mezhukkupuratti can be made by adding onion, garlic, curry leaves & grated coconut as well to the existing recipe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Navarathri Festival then & now...changing times and patterns

Navarathri in the 70's- 2000 & Now....

I had the privilege of living & being brought up in Mumbai. A place where people from all over the country (India) live. Where each festival is celebrated with gaeity. A place where there's a frenzy to catch a train/bus/rickshaw/taxi. Where a day passes only to go to work & be back. Where even 24 hours in a day is less.

The power it takes to board the train, squeezing through the robust melee of people in a mad frenzy to catch the train & the same frenzy to get off the train, literally jumping onto the platform, squeezing back through the crowd and daring all odds to reach home and yet come back with energy for the family & household chores waiting for them. 

Yet, when festivals come, the ladies undauntingly celebrate it with ardour & warmth.

Our Tambrahm community has always been known to be a practical & intelligent lot. Our pragmatic approach to changing times has helped retain our age-old traditions & rich culture & heritage.

Then.....(In the yesteryears)

Working ladies would invite for Vettala Paaku(Thamboolam) over the weekends & housewives over the week. Inspite of living in a fast paced city with such a flinty pace. People still managed to make the time to celebrate festivals with zest. And all the practical difficulties of living in the buzzing metro city made us pragmatic in our approach towards everything.

Back then, I used to enjoy dressing up in my pattu pavadais(silk petticoats), adorning jasmines in my hair and wearing Amma's gold necklace and jhimki(long gold earring with precious stones). I used to feel so dolled up as I used to accompany my Amma(mother) for vettala paaku.

The girl kids were an integral part of the celebrations and were "invited". I used to feel so privileged to be "invited"😀

Nowadays the kids do not want to accompany nor do they like to dress up in our beautiful traditional gear.

In our community, being born as a girl itself was a celebration.

My brother wasn't officially "invited"😜 for the vettala paaku.

Once we reached in our silks & fineries, mind you it's the onset of winters and just comfortable to be attired in our ensemble.

When we visited the people, we used to admire the golus(arrangement of dolls), ask questions about the theme of arrangement, new Additions (It's a tradition to have a new addition of a doll every year). We used to chant shlokas, sing bhajans, appreciate any new things in the hostess's house.

We usually used to be offered sundal & some sweet and beverages(coffee, tea, juice)

Sometimes we used to visit a few houses in a row, so the sundals & sweets used to be packed in little small packets of banana leaves covered with a newspaper made into little take away packs. These packets were made & readily kept if we refused to have anything offered at the hostess's home. These items were not mandatorily given. It depended upon the convenience of the person. 

But, now....

Calling for Vettala paaku has become an elaborate affair.

Every person is competing with another. The humble sundal & sweet are replaced with a huge array of food items. It's like a buffet arrangement with a varieties of snacks & sweets. People are slogging in the kitchen to outdo each other in the quest of making an impression on the invitees. Some even ordering food from restaurants. Eventually a lot of ladies who cannot manage all this will jump off this bandwagon and succumb to the temptation of "not" celebrating this beautiful festival.

There's also competition in dressing up, presenting the house, displaying your riches, Offering expensive gifts and comparing who's gift is better than the other.

There's even pressure in dressing up in certain colors as well. 

There are yet, a group of people who pack the thamboolam in gift pouches and send it over to their friends through their maids😂.Totally hassle-free but completely kills the idea of offering thamboolam.

The manjal(Haldi) kumkumam (Kumkum)which was offered from little brass/silver boxes have transformed into plastic pouches or boxes holding colored powders.

The paaku(betel nuts) is packed in plastic pouches.

We are using so many non biodegradable things now in the name of convenience which is harming the environment.

I'm glad I kept re-inventing myself over the period of years. This year I purchased cloth bags to give my vettala paaku, i do not give blouse pieces which are going to be further passed on😜.

I love the idea of gifts, Gifts are an integral part of the thamboolam, so i take a lot of effort, go to many shops, buy gifts which can be used in the pooja room or house. Gifts that will be useful.
I keep the cost economical as I give a lot of people (80-100 ladies). 
My mom used to say, "The more ladies you give, the more punyam (Blessings) you get".
The idea is not the cost but the thought behind it.

Haldi-kumkum packets i still give....maybe eventually it should (will) change. Betel nut(Paaku) packets too....although some of my friends love them (Roja Paaku with little melon seeds).

No bangles, combs, pottu packets, mirrors😂🤣....they definitely get recycled.

Traditional gifts were an integral part of the Haldi kumkum, so these items got replaced with a small cursory gift given out of love to replace the various things that had "significance" in the past (items worn/used by women to groom themselves meant for married women only 
or single girls (barring widows as they were not a part of these festivities...which was sad)) 
As the society evolved, a woman is no longer identified by the presence of her husband but an embodiment of Shakti (So happy about the status change though)

Gifts!!! Phew!!! 
The cursory gift given in replacement of the traditional items (meant for married women only) has become the focal point.
The focus shouldn't be in the joy of recieving the gifts and judging the person's status based on what's given. 
People these days don't even remove the price tag, so the guests know the value of the gift given (As if it matters the most!!!🙍)
I remember a few years ago, a friend made a comment upon the cost of gifts given during the Navarathri festival. 
Suddenly the whole spirit of Navaratri has changed and now people are taking so much efforts to outdo each other, impress the guests by showing off that their gift is superior, this unfortunately is not the spirit of Navarathri at all. 

I usually buy my gifts from small vendors, which helps uplift them. I give many ladies which includes our building security guards, cleaners etc., hence i buy in lots. I give everyone the same gift immaterial of their class or staus.

The spirit of Navarathri is not in the gifts or the "giving".
The joy is in meeting, and praying/singing bhajans in the glory of the Goddess together and, I ensure that whoever comes to my home blesses me for the warmth and love I give them when they come home and the great time that we spend together that build memories; like the memories I have now, of my past as a child. I don't even remember who gave what in those days.  
As a child even if it was a piece of a coconut barfi (Since many coconuts were given as an item in the Thamboolam / Vettala Paaku, It was commonly prepared in many houses during the time and offered as well. Everything was put to good use and nothing was wasted ever)
Let's turn back the clock to times that were uncomplicated and simple and just rejoice in the glory of the Goddess. 
Let's celebrate and invoke the Goddess within each one of us.
Invoking the inner Goddess according to me is awakening oneself at various levels and then working towards elevating oneself . 
Connecting with my inner Goddess, is also a reminder that we are a part of the Source(The Supreme), knowing our potential and the powers within that can be unleashed for the Emancipation of Women and the betterment of the society is Imperative.
It's a chance to tap into the deepest source of Empowerment, creativity and happiness and that exactly is why these festivals were designed and not for the petty things that it has come to. 

We must adapt to the changing times and not rigidly keep doing rituals in the name of tradition. We must take into account the present day situation and act accordingly when it comes to caring for the environment but at the same time keep in mind the spirit of such beautiful festivals for the women, of the women and by the women. 
Let's find out ways to improve our lives and in the process help Mother Nature conserve her beauty and radiance. 
So let's spread joy and keep up the festive cheer. 
What we do now is what will influence the future generations and if we don't do it right, it probably is going to be redundant soon.

"Happy Navarathri to All"

© Sukanya's Musings


DisclaimerThis article is based purely on the author's personal knowledge, experiences, views and opinions. 

Monday, October 6, 2008


I would like to send this also to LG's Festive Food Event


Navarathri is celebrated for nine days and nine nights followed by Vijayadashami on the tenth day.

This festival is celebrated from the new moon day to the ninth day of Purattasi and is considered as the most auspicious time of the Hindu Calendar. This period is one of the most celebrated time of the year.

Godessess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped for getting courage, wealth and knowledge respectively. Although it has different names in different parts of India, it is celebrated by Hindus from all regions.

In Tamil Nadu, the first three days of the festival are dedicated to Lakshmi, the next three to Durga and the last three to Saraswati.

KAL AAJ AUR KAL (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow)

This was the title of a movie made by the Great Raj Kapoor spanning 3 generations and My composition is a depiction of the Navarathri festival spanning three generations, My grandmother(KAL), my mom(AAJ) and me(TOMORROW). This is an effort on my part to illustrate, how the charm of festivals are fading off our lives? I am afraid that if our generation doesn’t take things into our hands and get serious about our traditions, we will loose our traditions and cultural values. The picture gets grimmer when we migrate to different countries and loose touch of our roots.

I feel that we don’t have as much fun as we used to have back home in Mumbai. Back then we always had the Terminal Exams (half yearly) during the Navarathri festival. The sweet co-incidence was it would always get over in time for us to enjoy the last weekend of the festival. The weekend after the exams was usually marked by full attendance. We got to enjoy the best of everything our style(traditional south indian style) plus playing the Dandiya Raas one of my favorite dances’ just after my Terminal Exams used to get over.

I consider myself as Tomorrow already, as, I don’t know how the Tomorrow after me(my daughter’s generation) is going to be. I am trying my best to go back over to the yesteryears and give my kids the knowledge and sweet memories enjoyed by my amma-amma (Grandma) who used to keep telling us of the Navarathri celebrations they used to have at Parawoor(her hometown) and keep lamenting on those wonderful days…………and the ones I enjoyed in my amma’s (mom’s) house in a sincere attempt to get them in touch with our traditions, values and the spirit of our festivals which not only emphasized on sharing happiness and the virtue of giving but also a social activity for all ages. If this (our tradition) continues no one would be lonely or suffer from stress or depression like we do in this modern age. This is one of the keys to form a happy society.


The Navarathri Atmosphere at Mumbai

The prices of flowers start to rise when the festival approaches. Huge mounds of Marigolds orange and yellow are piled up everywhere in the markets in Mumbai. The Toran (a string made of Mango leaves and marigolds) to decorate the entrance of your house is also available at all flower shops. Huge Pandals get erected from place to place, these pandals come alive in the late evenings. A lot of knick-knacks like earthern lamps, beautiful earthern pots called garba pots, Rangoli powders and many other items are sold at discounts on the street. Nothing can beat the shopping at Mumbai for festivals, the markets are so crowded and full of festive things. We used to go to the market to order for coconuts to be delivered to the house, buy the paaku (betel nut), vettalai(betel leaves), turmeric sticks, kumkum dabbis , blouse pieces and also gifts to be given to the ladies later during vettala paaku.

Navarathri celebrated in a South Indian home

The Navarathri Mornings at home

Being a South-Indian and living in Mumbai gave me the best of both the worlds is what I could easily say, as you see a cultural integration of all communities and get to enjoy the best of everything.

Getting up early in the morning to the sounds of Venketesha Suprabhatam and then M.S. Subbalakshmi’s Lalitha Sahasranamam (1000 names of the Devi). Have a nice oil bath which is usually the practice in my home and then go to the temple. After coming from the temple, there is also pooja at home.The kalasham is kept. A small earthern/brass/copper/silver pot is taken inside which we put some rice, toor dal, Turmeric stick and a dollar coin, indicating the house should be always filled with dhan and dhanyam. A coconut smeared with turmeric powder is placed on top of it as shown in the picture. Kumkumam is applied on 3 sides of the coconut and the tail can be adorned with flowers.

The house will be fragrant with lots of flowers, incense and dhoopam. The pictures of the deities dressed in flower garlands. Amma puts a huge ma-kolam outside the house and in front of our mini temple and we tie a Toran too at the entrance of our home. All of us sit together to chant the Lalitha Sahasranamam (1000 names of the devi), followed my Mahishasuramardhini strotram and all the devi stothrams, followed by a mini bhajan session,

(Above is a picture of Lalithambaal)

Appa always insisted that I should sing the bhajans, usually devi bhajans. A grand lunch used to be prepared by my mom, while chanting simultaneously as she doesn’t have the luxury of sitting with us doing pooja, since she has to finish cooking.

The Navarathri Lunch Menu

The Navarathri menu is pretty special,

Payasam (Pal Payasam)

Dal vadai (only paruppu vadai is prepared), usually ulundhu vadai (popularly known as medhu vadai (doughnut vadai) is not prepared for festivals since ulundhu vadai is made during shraddhams)

Hot Rice

Steamed Toor dal (Paruppu)





Thuvaran (dry vegetable) usually cabbage or beans with coconut is made.

Thayir Pachadi (Yogurt with cucumbers or tomatoes)

Chips (Banana, Chenai Chips) or Vadaams


Chundal / Sundal is usually prepared in the evening.

Sundal Menu

The types of sundal to be prepared on each of the navarathri days is given below:

•Day1: Moong dal (Green gram )

•Day2: Sweet Puttu /Red beans (can be made sweet or spicy)

•Day3: Peanut

•Day4: Kabuli Chana

•Day5: Bengal Gram dal (Chana da)l (kadalai paruppu) Yellow split

•Day6: Black eyed beans (Lobia) (can make it sweet or spicy)

•Day7: White peas /Green peas (pattaani)

•Day8: Field beans(mochai) /Karamani Chundal

•Day9: Konda kadalai (channa dal)

•Day10: Payasam / Chakara Pongal

Navarathri Evenings

At home

Evenings are a time when the ladies visit each other for Vettala Paaku. The ladies usually get dressed for the occasion, girls in pattu-paavadais, teenage girls in Daavanis and married ladies in their Kanjeevaram sarees or their best traditional clothes. Vettala Paaku used to be given everyday during the evenings after lighting the evening lamp in yesteryears, but nowadays since women are working and busy, they stipulate one evening during the Navarathri festival and on that day they prepare everything, call all the people they know and offer vettala paaku. There is no harm in doing that as long as people don’t stop this practice altogether. The token gifts that used to be given in the yesteryears have been replaced with special gifts given in bags. Every year, women like to offer a different gift. It’s almost become like a competition where women vie against each other to be the best as far as choosing the most thoughtful and useful gift is concerned. The Navaratri evenings were also fun as we

(the group of invited ladies) used to have mini bhajan/sthotra chanting sessions on weekends or marked days like Tuesdays or Fridays which are considered auspicious days for the Devi.

In the colony(a group of apartments forming a society)

Every year, in our colony, the residents have the Navarathri celebrations. All the people living in the colony contribute towards the celebrations. A huge pandal is erected in the centre of the ground. On Day 1 of the Navarathri celebrations, the pujari does the staapana of the idol of Goddess Durga and lighting of the akhand jyot (the lamp which cannot be let to extinguish). Residents take turns to ensure that the akhand jyot doesn’t get extinguished. Every morning and evening aarti is conducted with great devotion. After the aarti and Prasad distribution in the night, all the residents would dance garba, followed by daandia raas for the goddess.

We live in a cosmopolitan neighborhood, One particular year, the committee of residents who organize events in our society decided that we should have a Unity in Diversity theme and to emphasize that each day the aarti was conducted by the different communities of people residing in our society. So we had the Maharashtrian Aarti, Gujarati aarti (ours is a predominatly Gujarati neighborhood- so every year we used to have the traditional Gujarati Aarti ), south Indian aarti and so on and so forth. It was a really good experience as we got to get a glimpse of the aartis performed by different communities for the Goddess. Since I am a south – Indian, we formed a group and decided to chant the “Mahishasuramardhini stothram”. We started practicing every day in the evenings till we all perfected the art of singing in unison. The day it was the turn of the South Indians, all of us came together and recited the stothram and believe me it was the first time this had happened in our building, almost everybody i.e. the south-indians and the non-south Indians, some of whom had never heard it before were so impressed with the stotram, due to its alliteration and the very catchy rhythm that they wanted copies of the Stotra and wanted to learn it from us. India is a country with so many states and every state has its own way of celebrating festivals and what bonds each one of us is the fact that we are all human beings living close to each other. No matter what language we speak and which state we belong to, we are all one in the eyes of God (Our creator)

Navarathri in the yesteryears as told to me by my grandma. (Kal – Yesterday)

Shimmering lamps and fragrant flowers touch up homes in cities and towns commanding unflattering reverence. The ladies usually get dressed for the occasion, girls in pattu-paavadais, teenage girls in Daavanis and married ladies in their Kanjeevaram sarees.

If the interiors of a home bristle with women singing hymns and songs, children attired as various gods and goddesses prancing around add to the joyful cacophony. The air, thick with the fragrance of agarbatti and flowers, makes the entry to the house equally attractive. Traditional designs or rangolis made with various colored powders and flower petals are always an enticing sight.

While the impressive arrangement of artifacts at Golu (kolu) sets the tone of the festival, what takes the cake is the delicious concoction called `sundal', made from chickpeas, bean sprouts and coconut. Housewives get busy making and exchanging sundal and special sweets for the occasion.

This festival of nine nights epitomizes the social and cultural aspirations of people. It coincides with the rainy season, associated with sowing and sprouting of seeds — a sign of prosperity and abundance. The feminine equivalent of Hindu Holy Trinity — Durga embodying Shakti, Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and Saraswathi the goddess of learning and arts are invoked as part of the religious celebration.

Each day of the function starts with reciting the stothrams (prayer songs) on Godesses such as Lalitha Sahasranamam, Devi Bhagawatham etc. In the evening, they light the Kuthuvilakku and offer flowers, fruits etc. to the golu. They invite the neighbors, friends and relatives to receive thamboolam(vettalai paaku). Every day, a different kolam is drawn in front of the golu. The Devi Mahatmiyam and other texts invoking the Goddess who vanquished demons are recited.

In the end, they do the "mangala aarathi" (In a plate they mix some turmeric powder, and kumkum with water, and show to the Gods and finally pour it outside the house.) They assemble at every house daily to exercise their vocal chords. ‘Navavaranam’, (sung in praise of Devi) which is a rigorous musical exercise, is rendered most often by the congregation.

The house is charged with the energy of bhakti(devotion) and divinity. The women, after singing to their hearts’ content, are given hot milk (to soothe their throat) and snacks.

Vettrilai pakku(Shen Tamil)/Vettalai paaku(colloquial tamil) (betel leaves) is usually accompanied by many other items that women use to adorn themselves as mentioned below.

Each day, a type of sundal is prepared as offering to God. In the evening, people invite the neighbours and offer Thamboolam (vettala paaku) with the sundal, clothes, coconut or some token gifts.


There was a time when people used to visit their friends and relatives and call them for vettala-paaku and now is the time when people just call them over the phone. Of course the charm of all the festivals are slowly fading away, as nowadays people decide upon a date and call all the people on that date for vettala paaku. It’s no more like how it used to be in the yesteryears. But living in India and living abroad does make a difference in the festive ambience. Thanks, to my mother I am still aware of our rituals, our rich tradition and culture. With 2 kids she always strived hard to do everything and celebrated all festivals with gaiety and fervor. My grandmother had told her, “Celebrating festivals reaps good things/happenings/events, it spreads positive energy and brings about cheer. My grandma used to say the only people in whose house there has been a death, don’t celebrate festivals, so naranjya veetula (full house – meaning endowed with happiness & prosperity) where there hasn’t been any tragedy we shouldn’t act like we are mourning or be lazy to celebrate”. So my amma religiously celebrates all the festivals, but credit also goes to my appa who is equally enthusiastic and gives her his full co-operation and support helping her in everything, sincerely conducting the poojas and making the atmosphere so pious and festive. As of todays generation, you even call them, they don't have time to come for vettala paaku and hardly there are people left who call people of vettala paaku, time constraints and deadlines have made people anti-social and people dont want to visit each other for vettala paaku thinking of social obligations.

What constitutes the Vettala Paaku

Vettalai – Betel Leaves

Paaku – Betel


Manjal - Turmeric

Kumkumam – Bindi or the traditional ku

mkum powder

Manja Cheradu (Yellow thread)





Blouse piece





A gift – something in plastic or steel as per the convenience, financial status and likes of the person.

Out of these, Vettalai, Paaku, Manjal Kumkumam are the most important, the rest are upto one's own convenience and budget.


Golu is one of the cutest part of Navarathri, this is what interests the young children to visit houses with their mothers for vettala paaku. Golu means placing idols of Gods and dolls on a wooden staircase. Not everyone keeps Golu at home. It depends on family lineage. We don’t have the practice of keeping Golu at home, but as a kid I used to love to see the Golu at other homes during Navarathri. Early on Golu was meant to display stories of our Gods. Stories from the Ramayanam, Mahabharatham and Shiva puranam were displayed using dolls and idols of Gods, but as we have started to emancipate as a society modern themes have started entering our golus. Traditionally dolls and idols of Gods are arranged in steps like a staircase. On the top most step idols of Gods are placed followed by the other dolls on other steps. People decorate the steps with garlands of fresh flowers, nowadays people also decorate with art papers, festoons, balloons, lights etc. This is also an opportunity for women to exhibit the arts and crafts made by them on the steps. Though all family members get involved in the festivity, golu is traditionally a women's festival.

9th day

Saraswathi Pooja

Goddess Saraswathi is the wife of Lord Brahma(Creator of the Universe). Goddess Sarawathi is usually seen with books and musical instruments. My amma will make us read from our books

first before wrapping them neatly in an unused cloth(usually

silk) and then praying to Goddess Sarawathi to bless us with knowledge. On this day people make young children to learn to write. They usually teach the children to write”Om” followed by alphabets on sand.

Ayudha Poojai (Praying to the tools/equipments) is also done on this day. People pray to their tools on this day.

A musical concert of reputed classical singers is held every evening for nine days at Navarathri Mandapam of Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum.

Period: October/December every year.

10th day


This day is the last day of this festival. Dassera or Vijayadashmi is considered as the second biggest festival after Deepavali. This is a special day for attaining victory in anything and everything. Vijayam means victory. Therefore, this day is celebrated as an auspicious day for starting any new work. People start new activities like learning music, dance etc on this day. Those who play musical instruments or learn music, usually visit their Gurus with Thamboolam(Vettala, Paaku, Poo(Flowers), Pazham(Banana), Prostrate before their Guru, seeking his/her blessings and take atleast one lesson with their

Guru on that day marking sweet beginnings to their journey of learning. Those who keep Golu will change the position of one doll in the golu, marking the end and the next day the golu is removed. The entrance of the house is decorated

with a Thoranam made with Mango leaves and Marigolds.(You can see the entrance of my home decorated with Thoranam prepared by my husband)

You can also see a picture of the Maa-Kolam I drew outside my house on Dasera day.


The musical soirees during the Navarathri festival is a feast for the eye and intellect. Many temples organize music concerts in the evenings. Eminent musicians perform in the presence of the deity. Since religion and culture are interlinked, we have a delightful fusion of golu at home and kutcheri in the temples.


Kummi is one of the most important and ancient forms of village dances of Tamilnadu. It originated when there were no musical instruments, with the participants clapping their hands to keep time. This is performed by women; many varieties of Kummi, such as, Poonthatti Kummi, Deepa Kummi, Kulavai Kummi, Kadir Kummi, Mulaipari Kummi etc are known. The women stand in a circle and dance clapping their hands rhythmically. This dance is usually performed during temple festivals, Pongal, the harvest festival, family functions like the one to celebrate the coming of age (onset of puberty) of the girl-child etc. The first line of the song is sung by the leading lady, which the others repeat.

People dance around the deity clapping rhythmically. At every step they gracefully bend sideways, the arms coming together in sweeping gestures, up and down, left and right, each movement ending in clap.

Kai Silambu Attam

This dance is performed in temples during Amman festivals or Navaratri festival. The dancers wear ankle-bells and hold anklets or silambu in their hands, which make noise when shaken. They perform various stepping styles jumps. The dance is in praise of all female deities, the most preferred being the powerful angry goddess - Kali or Durga.


Kolaattam is an ancient village art. This is mentioned in Kanchipuram as 'Cheivaikiyar Kolattam', which proves its antiquity. This is performed by women only, with two sticks held in each hand, beaten to make a rhythmic noise. Pinnal Kolaattam is danced with ropes which the women hold in their hands, the other of which are tied to a tall pole. With planned steps, the women skip over each other, which forms intricate lace-like patterns in the ropes. As coloured ropes are used, this lace looks extremely attractive. Again, they unravel this lace reversing the dance steps. This is performed for ten days, starting with the Amavasi or Newmoon night after Deepavali.

Originated as devotional Garba dances, which were performed in Durga's honor, this dance form is actually the staging of a mock-fight between the Goddess and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king, and is nicknamed "The Sword Dance". The sticks of the dance represent the sword of Durga.

What further adds colour and music to the Navarathri festival these days is the vibrant `Dandiya Ras'. The event has crossed geographical and cultural barriers to become a universal mode of celebration. In Tamil Nadu, it has a different form called `kolattam'. With the small wooden sticks having bells at the end in their hands, men and women dance to the vibrant rhythm of music. So popular are dandiya nights during Navarathri in any city that people don't hesitate to join in the elation.

To get a feel of the festival season, which is not just a religious occasion but highlights art as divinity, celebrates music as an obeisance to creativity and enjoys dance as a mass entertainment. People are out there, everywhere in temples, in neighbour's homes, at market places, on the streets to partake in the glitter and glow of the season. As usual discount sales are screaming out, as these are auspicious occasions to make purchases. It is a treat indeed to see women and children dazzling in their silk dress materials wearing gold ornaments and jasmine flowers tucked in their heads spreading an ethereal fragrance.


This is a festival that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. It is a festival of music, dance, of giving, of sharing, of good food, wearing good clothes, meeting people. Underlying everything is the universal message of peace, harmony and bonhomie.

Happy celebrations!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003


One of my favorite serials when I was a kid was Bharat Ek Khoj (Hindi: भारत एक खोज, translation: Discovery of India)
It was a series of explorations into the different periods of Indian history and was made in 1988 by the writer, director and producer Shyam Benegal.
The serial was based on a book written by the great historian and the first Prime Minister of independent India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, titled The Discovery of India.
The 53 episode television series was telecast on Doordarshan and dramatically unfolded the 5000 year history of India from its beginnings to the coming of independence in 1947. The starcast included Om Puri and others. Om Puri was also a narrator of the stories. Roshan Seth looked very much like Nehru and was also the narrator of the series.
Lyrics Of The Title Track
The lyrics of the track were so meaningful and the music was excellent. I can’t seem to forget the lyrics after so many years.
“Srishti se pehle sat nahin thaa, asat bhi nahin Antariksh bhi nahin, aakaash bhi nahin thaa. Chhipaa thaa kyaa, kahaan, kisne dhaka thaa? Us pal to agam, atal jal bhi kahaan thaa.
Shrishti kaa kaun hain kartaa? Kartaa hain yeh vaa akartaa? Oonche aakash mein rahtaa. Sadaaa adhyaksh banaa rahtaa. Wohee sach much mein jaantaa..Yaa nahin bhi jaanataa Hain kisi ko nahin pataa, Nahin pataa, Nahin hai pataa, nahin hai pataa.
Voh tha hiranya garbh srishti se pehle vidyamaan. Vohi to saare bhoot jaatee ka swami mahaan. jo hai astitvamaana dharti aasmaan dhaaran kar. Aise kis devta ki upasana kare hum havi dekar?
Jis ke bal par tejomay hai ambar. Prithvi hari bhari sthapit sthir. Swarg aur sooraj bhi sthir. Aise kis devta ki upasana kare hum havi dekar?
Garbh mein apne agni dhaaran kar paida kar, Vyapa tha jal idhar udhar neeche upar, Jagaa jo devon ka ekameva pran bankar, Aise kis devta ki upasana kare hum havi dekar?
Om ! Srishti nirmata swarg rachaiyta purvaj rakhsa kar. Satya dharma palak atul jal niyamak raksha kar. Phaili hain dishayen bahu jaisi uski sab mein sab par, Aise hi devta ki upasana kare hum havi dekar, Aise hi devta ki upasana kare hum havi dekar.”
Here's a translation from Sanskrit (by Prof: Raimundo Panikkar, courtesy Google)At first was neither Being nor Nonbeing.
There was not air nor yet sky beyond.
What was wrapping? Where? In whose protection?
Was Water there, unfathomable deep?
There was no death then, nor yet deathlessness;
of night or day there was not any sign.
The One breathed without breath by its own impulse
Other than that was nothing at all.
Darkness was there, all wrapped around by darkness,
and all was Water indiscriminate, Then
that which was hidden by Void, that One, emerging,
stirring, through power of Ardor, came to be.
In the beginning Love arose,
which was primal germ cell of mind.
The Seers, searching in their hearts with wisdom,
discovered the connection of Being in Nonbeing.
A crosswise line cut Being from Nonbeing.
What was described above it, what below?
Bearers of seed there were and mighty forces,
thrust from below and forward move above.
Who really knows? Who can presume to tell it?
Whence was it born? Whence issued this creation?
Even the Gods came after its emergence.
Then who can tell from whence it came to be?
That out of which creation has arisen,
whether it held it firm or it did not,
He who surveys it in the highest heaven,
He surely knows - or maybe He does not!
I discovered later that it was an extract from the Rigveda. In the Rig Veda, there is a sukta or a great hymn called Nasadiya Sukta.

The NASADIYA SUKTA also of Rig Veda gives another account which says " In the beginning there was neither existence nor non- existence, no realm, no sky, no air, no earth. There was neither mortality nor immortality, neither any form nor name, neither day nor night.; Darkness concealed darkness. There was, however, only one thing: 'Breath which breathed breathlessly.' This breath desired to create and there was creation. The Gods themselves were not there. How was it formed or was it not formed at all? God only knows; Maybe he knows; Maybe he knows not"2
Thus desire- Kama ( desire or lust ) is found to be the cause of creation. Whose desire was that? No one knows. From 'ASAT' -( Non-being) arose 'SAT'- (being). The opposites that are yet complementary entities whose interaction produced and maintained everything.
Does this not sound like the saying " The Lord said 'let there be light ' and there was light"?
The music for the the title track was done by the famous composer Vanraj Bhatia. The track was a mixture of Sanskrit Slokas from Rigveda, and their translations in Hindi.
One of the singers of the Vedas was Mr. Gauri Shankar, I was an active Chinamayite then. Mr Gauri Shankar had attended the Chinmaya Balavihar Camp at the Sandeepany Sadhnalaya Ashram at Powai and taught us some shlokas. He also told us that he is one of the singers of the title track of Bharat Ek Khoj, that made me watch the serial. I was so proud to know that I know one of the persons in the credits of the track.
List of Episodes
1. Bharat Mata Ki Jai
2. The Beginnings
3. The Vedic People and the Rigveda
4. Caste Formation
5. Mahabharatha Part 1
6. # Mahabharatha Part 2
1. Republics and Kingdoms
2. Acceptance and Negation of Life
3. Chankya and Chandragupta Part 1
4. Chankya and Chandragupta Part 2
5. Ashoka Part 1
6. Ashoka Part 2
7. Sangam Period and Sillapadirakam Part 1
8. Sangam Period and Sillapadirakam Part 2
9. The Classical Age
10. Kalidasa Part 1
11. Kalidasa Part 2
12. Bhakti
13. Chola Empire Part 1
14. Chola Empire Part 2
15. Delhi Sultanate Part 1 (Arrival of Turk-Afgan)
16. Delhi Sultanate Part 2 (Prithvi Raj Raso)
17. Delhi Sultanate Part 2 (Padmavat)
18. Synthesis
19. Vijaynagar Empire
20. Fall of Vijaynagar
21. Akbar Part 1 (Deem-E-Ilahi)
22. Akbar Part 2
23. Golden India
24. Aurangzeb Part 2
25. Aurangzeb Part 2
26. Shivaji Part 1
27. Shivaji Part 2
28. Company Bahadur
29. Tipu Sultan
30. Bengal Renaissance and Raja Ram Mohan Roy
31. 1857 - Part 1
32. 1857 - Part 2
33. East India Company -Indigo Revolt
34. Mahatma Phule
35. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan


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