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Showing posts with label TRADITION AND CULTURE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TRADITION AND CULTURE. Show all posts

Friday, July 24, 2020


Today is a very Auspicious Day. As per the Tamil Calendar, Today is Aadi Pooram (Tamil: ஆடிப்பூரம்), plus it's Aadi Velli (Fridays during this month is of great significance) and added to that it's Naga Chaturthi.

What's this Aadi month all about?
Ashadha or Aashaadha or Aadi is a month of the Hindu calendar that corresponds to June/July in the Gregorian calendar.
Aadi month this year is from July 16th – August 16th (32 days), it is the 4th month of the Tamil Calendar.
Aadi month in 2020 corresponds with Ashadha Month and Shravan Month in North Indian Hindi Calendars which follow the (Purnimant Panchangam) and other Amavasyant Panchanga systems (Telegu, Kannada , Marathi and Gujarati)
The next six months from Aadi to Margazhi is the Dakshinayana punyakalam. It marks the beginning of the night of Devas.
Traditionally, Aadi month is considered as inauspicious and most people avoid auspicious ceremonies during this period.
This month is special for Goddess Shakthi. People worship Goddess and her different forms during this month to get her blessings for their wealth and happiness.

Andal Thirukalyanam Pic courtesy - Tamil Brahmins

The Significance of Aadi Pooram
Aadi Pooram (Tamil: ஆடிப்பூரம்), also called as Aandal Jayanti is a prime festival of Tamilians.

Aadi Pooram is the celebration of the birth day of Goddess Andal, an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi.

This festival is celebrated during Aadi month in the Tamil calendar that corresponds to the English months of July-August.

It is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervour in the places all over the world with Tamil population.

The word ‘Aadi’ signifies the fourth month in the Tamil calendar while ‘Pooram’ denotes one of the 27 Nakshatras mentioned in the Hindu Astrology.

The story of Goddess Andal is known all through the state of Tamil Nadu and her devotion to Sri Ranganatha (a form of Lord Vishnu) is widespread in the whole of southern India.

The celebrations of Aadi Pooram are very splendid in almost all the Lord Vishnu temples located in Tamil Nadu.

The day also holds immense significance in Goddess Shakti temples scattered all over the country. The day of Aadi Pooram is also observed as the day of Goddess Shakti as it is believed that the Goddess herself comes to Earth in this auspicious day, to bless Her devotees.

The devotees therefore worship their deity with full dedication to lead a happy and prosperous life.

In the Saiva temples, the day of Aadi Pooram is observed as the festival of ‘Valaikappu’. In the event, glass bangles are offered to Goddess Andal and then distributed among all devotees. It is believed that by wearing these bangles, the couples will be blessed with offspring and also when pregnant women wear these bangles; it shields their child from all the evil forces.

Rituals during Aadi Pooram
Aadi Pooram is a 10-day festival observed with great pomp and show in all Lord Vishnu temples in the state of Tamil Nadu. Of these, the last day (10th day) is observed as ‘Aadi Pooram’ and a grand marriage ceremony of Goddess Andal and Sri Ranganathaswamy is conducted. This event is also known as ‘Thirukalyanam’.

On the day of Aadi Pooram, the women of the household get up early and start making the preparations. They decorate their house beautifully with kolam. Goddess Andal is fond of lotus flower, red color and kalkandu rice. The women of the household make an elaborate meal for offering to the Goddess.

In the temples, Goddess Andal is adorned with silk saree, glittering jewelleries and garlands. An elaborate feast is offered to the Goddess that is contributed by every household in the community. As the festival of Aadi Pooram celebrated the marriage of God and Goddess, thousands of devotees visit the temples to witness this ceremony.

Special rituals are performed on this day that is accompanied by playing the traditional music. The celebrations continue till late at night and then after the ‘aarti’ the food is distributed among the devotees.

On this auspicious day, the devotees also read the ‘Thiruppavai’ and ‘Lalitha Sahasranamam’.

"Goddess Andal"Pic courtesy -
Artist Vishnu 

The celebration of Aadi Pooram is very elaborate in the Goddess Andal temple at ‘Srivalliputtur’, which is the birth place of Aandal located in Tamil Nadu. The 12-day festival here marks the birth star of Goddess Andal. This festival is also observed as a big event at ‘Srirangam Sri Ranganath Temple’ for a period of ten days. On the last day, the marriage ceremony of Lord Ranganatha and Andal is held with great pomp and show. It is a popular belief that unmarried girls who worship Goddess Andal on the last day will very soon get married. Moreover, when the festival of Aadi Pooram falls on a Friday, as per the belief, it becomes more auspicious and the celebrations become more elaborate with countless rituals.

So, Celebrate Today, Chant God’s name and let’s pray for peace and joy in the world.

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. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008



This song is from the Hindi movie Shirdi Ke Saibaba, a film based on the life of Saibaba, ‘Deepavali manaye suhani. reminds us of how Saibaba lighted lamps in a poor girl’s house with water for Deepawali, so that she can also light lamps and enjoy the festival.

Here is the video for all of you to enjoy;

Diwali as everyone knows is the Hindu Festival of Lights," where people light small lamps. Lighting the lamps signifies victory of good over the evil within an individual. In Hinduism, across many parts of India and Nepal, it is the homecoming of Lord Ram of Ayodhya, after 14-years of exile in the forest and his victory over the evil demon-king Ravan. In the legend, the people of Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) welcomed Ram by lighting rows (avali) of lamps (deepa), thus its name: Deepavali. Over time, this word transformed into Diwali in Hindi and Dipawali in Nepali, but still retained its original form in South and East Indian Languages.

(Some of the Info courtesy – Wikipedia)

Diwali preparations started about a week before with all of us removing cobwebs, washing and wiping the whole house with soap, bleach and water and doing our annual spring cleaning, the old clothes we donated for charity. We also did some shopping for clothes, shoes etc.

Yo put up the serial lights outside the house and inside the mini temple in my house. We also hung 2 lanterns one bought by us from Chaing-Mai(Northern Thailand) and one brought by my parents from India as my little one had demanded from my parents for a lantern(kandeel)from India for Diwali.

This year I was blessed to have my parents with me for Diwali. The fun was doubled, "the more the merrier" I made Ribbon Pakoda, Chocolate malai barfi and plain non-spicy rice chaklis at home. We ordered a few sweets from outside as well, as, during this time the sweets available in the market are usually fresh.

I put color rangoli outside the house and my mom (amma) put maa-kolam (rangoli drawn with rice flour, refer to link on maa-kolam for my article on the same in my blog)

The Maa-kolam was put by amma in the morning and I had put the color rangoli on the eve of Deepavali day. Everyday we put a new rangoli & kolam for 5 days.

In Singapore all the ladies apply Mehendi(Henna Art) for Deepavali, so my little girl wanted mehendi on her hands as well, so I took upon myself the task of drawing mehendi for all at home. We bought some sparklers and some bite-sized bombs which are the only crackers that we can buy here. We bought sparklers with some variation this time. The sparklers spit fire out from inside.The crackers available in Singapore are very safe and boring, but something is better than nothing to reminisce us of our biggest festival. Every evening for about 6 days my daughter had fun bursting crackers though. My little one was also watching it with awe.

I kept all the new clothes on a tray in front of God on the eve of Diwali day.

On the Diwali day, We all got up early in the morning.I lighted small earthern lamps also known as Diyas all over the house.

Amma applied oil for me and I applied for all the others. Oil is usually applied on the head and the body and we must soak for a while and then we took bath with scented hot water, infused with rose water, fresh jasmine flowers and rose petals.

We applied “Utna”which is a scented herbal powder. Amma also had brought Moti sabun(Gulab and Sandal)…..Now my husband Yo always used to take bath on Diwali day with “Moti” soap while in Pune, so he feels very special about using Moti soap….luckily my parents were coming so I asked them to get the soap for him as a surprise. He says it’s a Diwali special soap, so be it, enjoy.

After bath, we all wore our new clothes dabbed with some kumkum on some inconspicuous side for everything to be auspicious. Had sweets, burst some crackers and then went to the temple.

We had a grand lunch and in the evenings all the Indians in our vicinity met at the play area and burst crackers. We exchanged sweets and savories with our neighbours and friends and this marked a joyous celebration for us.


I would like to send this to Priti’s Festive Food Event – Diwali Celebrations

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Before we go to the different types of Rangolis or kolam lets have a brief introduction of what the rangolis is and also the when, why and where of it. This article intends to bring to you'll the Evolution of the Rangoli or Kolam.

What is Rangoli?
'Rangoli' is a sanskrit word which means a creative expression of art through the use of color.
When,Why and How is Rangoli applied?
In ancient India, rangolis were used to decorate the entrances of homes, a floor-painting which provided a warm and colourful welcome to visitors.
In a rangoli, powdered colors are sprinkled on cleaned and dusted floors to form decorations. The colored powder is usually applied 'freehand' by letting it run from the gap formed by pinching the thumb and the forefinger. One important point is that the entire pattern must be an unbroken line, with no gaps to be left anywhere for evil spirits to enter and thus are they prevented from entering the inside of the home.
In Indian culture, all guests and visitors occupy a very special place, It is said “ Atithi Devo Bhava” (Guest is equal to God) and a rangoli is an expression of this warm hospitality.
The Diwali festival is widely celebrated with rangoli, since at this time, people visit each other's homes to exchange greetings and sweets. It is a tradition to paint a Rangoli at the entrance of one's home during Diwali. This is done because it is believed that Goddess Lakshmi visits well-lit and decorated homes on Diwali to bless its members. Therefore, people make colorful Rangolis to welcome this benign Goddess and to usher in the New Year with color in their life. Rangoli also has a religious significance, enhancing the beauty of the surroundings and spreading joy and happiness all around. Women learn to make Rangolis from an early age and it is almost like a family heirloom passed through the ages. Rangoli Patterns are usually designed to resemble Nature like Peacocks, flowers, swans, mangos and creepers. Traditionally the colors were derived from natural sources like barks of trees, flowers and roots. However today they are synthetically manufactured. Besides that a host of other ingredients like rice, chili, turmeric, cereal and pulses too are used to further enhance the beauty of the Rangoli and to create a 3-D effect. Rangolis can be vivid three-dimensional art complete with shadings or they can be the traditional plain, yet as beautiful, two-dimensional designs.

What is a Kolam?
In the South of India Rangoli is known as Kolam. Kolams are thought to bestow prosperity to the homes. For special occasions limestone and red brick powder to contrast are also used. Though kolams are usually done with dry rice flour, for longevity, dilute rice paste or even paints are also used. Modern interpretations have accommodated chalk, and the latest "technology" in kolams are actually vinyl stickers (that defeat the original purpose). When people get married, the ritual kolam patterns created for the occasion can stretch all the way down the street. Patterns are often passed on generation to generation, mother to daughter.

Rangoli in front of house during Pongal
Kolam is not so flamboyant as its other Indian contemporary, Rangoli, which is extremely colorful. However, the beauty of a kolam, bordered with blood-red "kaavi" (red brick paste) is also considered exceptional.
Evolution of the Rangoli(Kolam)
Techniques have evolved over time and now the use of the cone, sieve and funnel are popular. A few very talented artists actually throw the color, and the end results are stunning works of art. The materials can be virtually anything that fancies the rangoli maker, but more traditionally it is 'chiroli' marble dust to which pigments have been added. Finely ground maize (corn) flour which has been subsequently 'dyed', grass and gravel have also been used. Petals of flowers, grains and pulses have been used to form attractive and unusual designs.There have been some innovations in the Rangoli making it look more exotic and increasing the aesthetic beauty of the Rangoli. Some of the rare varieties are the floating rangoli, 3-D kolam, funnel kolam, stencil kolam, portrait kolam and bubble kolam

Floating Rangolis/Kolams
What is a floating Rangoli? This is a new and interesting concept in Rangoli. It was discovered by some artistic people that water kept in a large Urn or Urali(a traditionally used wide mouthed flat & thick & flat bottomed pan vessel usually used for cooking (can be metal or made of Terracota or clay also) also becomes a surface for putting rangolis. So the powder is dropped in an artistic way on this surface to make patterns, Colors added give the picture beauty. Even Flowers can be added. But there is one condition though, the Urn or Urali cannot be moved or shaken for if it is shaken then the entire work of art is mixed with the water. As the powder or flowers float in the water they are called as floating rangolis.
The powders used for floating rangolis are not the usual rangoli powders that are available in the market as they may dissolve in the water so a different type of powder has to be used which will easily float in the water. A different base is used to make these rangoli powders, If the base is light like saw dust, it can be used to make floating rangoli on the surface of stagnant water. If a rangoli is to be made on water, the color should preferably be insoluble in water. I guess, Rangoli competitions held all over India have spurted the youth to discover new and innovative ways of applying Rangoli, Thus, giving it a whole new dimension.
Here’s an interesting read on floating rangolis (excerpts from an article in the newspaper):
Those days have gone when Rangoli used to be done with simple dots and a free hand. After years of practice, an artist in Rajkot has come up with varieties of 'Rangoli' that has left even the president of India stunned during his visit to Rajkot.
Rangoli on water, under water and in the middle of water is something that artist Pradeep Dave is an expert at. This year, he tried something new and has balanced a Rangoli on Peacock's feathers. But what has taken everyone by surprise is the Rangoli that balances itself on air.According to Dave, this is not magic but a fine combination of Art and Science. Dave has not taken any formal education on making Rangoli but it was just through practice and the application of Science that has help him through his various experiments of making varieties of Rangoli. It was in 1986 that he first made a Rangoli inside water. Then after years of practice he could make it on surface of water and after three years of research he could finally do it in middle of water.
According to Dave, doing Rangoli at the bottom of water is easy, but doing it on the surface of water is the toughest job because the entire Rangoli is done without help of any support or base drawing. A Rangoli in water takes a minimum of eight to nine hours depending upon the detailing of the drawing. This New Year, Dave has made a total of 13 varieties of Rangoli. "After three years of reasearch I was successful in making a rangoli between water.According to science, things either flow or sink in water.But this rangoli neither flows nor sinks.I have named it Trishanku. Every year, I try to make a new rangoli," said Dave. One can see a Taj Mahal inside water or a portrait of Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Amitabh Bachchhan and even Narendra Modi. Where the Taj Mahal took around 27 hours for Dave to complete the portraits have taken some 20 hours each. A Rangoli done in the shape of a carpet can be easily misunderstood as a real one. Dave knows some 45 different types of Rangoli, which includes on the walls and even on the roof. Rangoli done inside water can remain intact for around 15 days if preserved properly. Dave made a rangoli of the president of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam inside water , during his visit to Rajkot, he was not only surprised but was stunned to see a fine combination of art and science. The rangolis made by Dave have been kept open for public and every day a large number of people flock his residence to see these rangolis. Some could not believe even with their naked eyes that the rangoli has been done with the help of gypsum colours or a poster placed inside the water. "These are very good.It is so difficult to make an ordinary rangoli and we wonder how he has made a rangoli on water," said Disha Mehta, a visitor. "I never thought that it is possible to make a rangoli inside water.It is good. All colours and shades are also very nice," said Beena Joshi, another visitor. According to Dave, there is no technique but simple rules of science that he follows. All that he uses is gypsum colours and oil for making rangoli inside water. While the Rangoli placed on feather and in air is done with extremely fine colours that weighs less that the feathers. Dave through his art now aims to enter his name in the Limca books of Records and Guinness Book of World Records. (ANI)

3-D Rangolis/Kolams

3-dimensional. A graphic display of depth, width, and height. There are several ways to make a rangoli like using colored petals of flowers arranged on ground OR on still water. Rangoli is also drawn on sticky hot wax using sandy powders (where it is impossible to swipe the color powder once it is filled) and immersed under shallow water to get the 3D magnified effect. Some artists use the 3-D effect for borders alone while others create beautiful designs using grains and beads entirely. Coloured powder can be directly used for fancy decorations, but for detailed work, generally the material is a coarse grained powder base into which colors are mixed. The base is chosen to be coarse so that it can be gripped well and sprinkled with good control. The base can be sand, marble dust, saw dust brick dust or other materials. The colors generally are very fine pigment podwers like gulal/aabir available for Holi or colors (mentioned above) specially sold for rangoli in South India. Various day to day colored powders like indigo used for cloth staining, spices like turmeric, chili, rawa, rice flour, flour of wheat etc are also variously used. Powder colors can be simply mixed into the base. If the base is light like saw dust, it can be used to make floating rangoli on the surface of stagnant water. Sometimes saw-dust or sand is soaked into waterbased color and dried to give various tints. However that probably cannot be used on water. If a rangoli is to be made on water, the color should preferably be insoluble in water.

Funnel Rangolis/Kolams
If you find it hard to make diwali rangoli designs with hand, use a small nozzled funnel, control the flow of the filled rangoli with thumb or middle finger, and make desired designs easily. Do not use pure colours without rangoli in this way because they will not fall through easily. If you find it hard to make diwali rangoli designs with hand, use a small nozzled funnel, control the flow of the filled rangoli with thumb or middle finger, and make desired designs easily. Do not use pure colours without rangoli in this way because they will not fall through easily.

Tibetan Sand Painting or Mandala Sand Painting
This Floor Painting style is a part of Tibetan Tantric Art tradition. The Tibetans call it dul-tson-kyil-khor, which literally means "mandala of colored powders." Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks. The heartbreaking part of this ritual is that after days of determined hard work and perseverance the very monks who work on these paintings have to destroy them. The beginning of mandala sand painting is an auspicious occasion which is marked by a ceremonial ritual. In this opening ceremony the lamas, or Tibetan priests, gather in front of the painting the site and call forth the supreme power of goodness. This is done by the means of chanting, music, and mantra recitation. In the first day of the painting process the outline of the painting is drawn on a wooden board. In the consequent days the outlines are layersed with different colored sands. The sand is poured from a metal funnel called chak-pur. This funnel is an important part of the tradition too. The monks involved in the apintings hold a funnel in their hand and run a metal rod on its surface. The vibrations caused by the metal rod makes the sand flow like water from the funnel mouth. These paintings follow the prescribed Mandala motifs. A Mandala is a symbolic geometric pattern, which is a metaphysical or symbolical representation of the cosmos, a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective. The center of the Mandala can be used as the focal point of meditation. In fact the complex but symmetric web of structures around the center draws one’s eyes towards the focal point. Make dots on the ground using a small amount of flour. Connect the dots by using small amounts of flour to trickle between your thumb and forefinger but for children or people who find it difficult to use hands to do it or aren’t familiar with making rangoli before u can use a large funnel and tap the flour out of the end of the funnel to make the line. There are many items you can use to make a funnel, depending on your resources. For example:- Rework a sundae spoon by bending the handle inwards to form a funnel or tube, scoop the sand using the spoon side and tilt it to pour the sand through the tube. - Or glue a straw to a sundae spoon flaring it out into the spoon so that it catches all the sand in the spoon. - Or fashion your own sand painting tool out of soft metal like tin or aluminium or plastic or wood.

1. Choose a simple design and the appropriate colours.
2. You will need the following basic ingredients: A hard board of size 30 × 30 cm; Pencil/Chalk; Ruler; Spoons; Small funnel, with a very thin spout; sieve;
3. For even spreading, make a small cone or tube, and at the tip place a thin sieve/gauze. This will help considerably in even spreading of colours and minimise wastage. A stiff paper cone is ideal for margins, dots and borders.
4. Buy rangoli colours from Indian shops or from India. Alternatively, make them yourself.
5. Spread the colours by hand, tube or cone as necessary to make your rangoli.
P.S. I made a mention of the Tibetan Sand paintings as the Funnel Kolam is an idea inspired by this.

Bubble Rangoli/Bubble Kolam
Kolam as connected bubbles
The trick is to use the symmetry of the kolam. The typical symmetry used is the cyclic symmetry, as shown in the above figure. This is also the most complex and the most impressive one, apart from being the most common (the others are reflection symmetry between the halves). This reduces the problem of remembering the whole kolam, to one of remembering just one quarter of it. Of course, nothing stops us from creating a completely asymmetrical one, but I haven't seen it in daily use (maybe I should explore more of that, now that it is easy with this program).
I think this symmetry part has been used extensively by the kolam creators. But, this is not enough. You need more patterns to make kolam drawing as simple as connecting points with line. If you see the above figure, I've specifically shaded the closed areas that contain the dots ('Pullie' in Tamil). This way you can see clearly that a kolam is just a connected network of many 'bubbles' (if you can call these shaded parts so). This is important because, this way you only have to join different dots creatively, and the regulation part of weaving the curve around them could be automated. This is not to say that joining dots is easy, because traditionally only certain dot-connections are considered beautiful. You are free to explore, but don't blame me, if your mom gives an indifferent glance to your masterpiece. The above are some frequent and pleasing connections of dots.
You can see the connecting lines in green in the above figure. The darker shaded bubbles, is only to highlight that, if a dot is connected to one or more dots, the bubble will be connected similarly. I have highlighted one vertex each for degree 1,2,3 and 4.

Stencil Rangolis
This craft involves the cutting of an intricate stencil depicting scenes ... the use of this paper stencil is then made in creating a rangoli. The stencil Rangoli is a welcome addition for those people who don’t know how to put Rangoli or who have never attempted to do it but still want the real effect of a Rangoli. Since you are using colors it still stands as an ideal source of colorful welcome to the festive celebrations. For the beginners who want a beautiful rangoli can do so by getting themselves a rangoli color-and-stencil kit, now easily available, also available are roller stencils just put the color or plain white rangoli powder inside the pipe of the roller whose one side is open and one side is closed and roll it on the floor for beautiful patterns.

Portrait Rangoli
Portrait Rangoli means, portraits of people drawn with rangoli powders, it can be Portraits of Gods, people sometimes inanimate objects or nature. Portrait Rangoli looks very realistic and is more like a drawing on paper. We can see some portrait rangoli on the streets, where artists paint pictures of God on the pavement and collect money for their art.

Rangoli has evolved into many a beautiful forms. If any of the readers know of any more different types of rangoli please do share with me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


As we enter a new era, with the pressures of work and commitments and responsibilities towards work and family we are forgetting our glorious tradition and rich culture. The ma-kolam and arishi podi (rice powder) kolam were first replaced by readymade kolam powders and then have now been replaced with sticker decal kolams and also time saving devices such as rollers and moulds, all these indicate the modernization and evolution of the kolam, these devices indicate our desperate bid to continue with the tradition, without having to make the effort of drawing intricate designs and patterns outside the house. The Kolam marks the virtues of the Hindu woman who can maintain a morning tradition even while getting her family and sometimes herself ready for work and school. Unfortunately the practice of drawing the kolam is becoming nearly extinct in metropolitan cities where more and more are living in high-rise apartment buildings and among our people who have settled abroad.
The Kolam Tradition
Kolam refers to drawing intricate designs and patterns on the floor in front of houses and in front of deities in puja rooms. Traditionally, the women of the household would take their morning bath and then sprinkle the threshold with water or diluted solutions of cow-dung cake, this mixture was used to work as an antiseptic to kill any unhealthy impurities in the area and would also allow the drawing to sit more firmly and strikingly on the ground by giving it a darker background, the finely ground rice flour would then be taken into their hands and deftly released in a moving stream that hits the ground and forms the lines of the drawing. This ritual was done to sanctify the threshold and invite the blessings of Gods and bring in positive energy into the house. It is an age old cultural tradition of south indian families going back to many many generations. Young girls learn most of the artwork from their mothers, grandmas, aunties, other female relatives or friends.

On special Occasions like festivals or when there is a family function, the women would draw huge Ma-kolams.
Ma-kolam : refers to the paste made from rice. Rice is soaked overnight and then ground into a fine paste.
Tip!!!! : My mom used to add a little ulundhu (udad dal) to the rice so that the maa-kolam will look more striking and sit firmly on the ground like a painting.

Color powders add an additional charm. In the past charcoal powder, turmeric powder, red soil and powdered brick were used for colors, that’s not the case any more."

The kolam can also be decorated with different flowers like the kolams done in kerala for Onam.

History of Kolam
The religious meaning and function of these drawings is to honor Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, and to invite her blessings into the home. The designs are also believed to sanctify and protect the dangerous and small space of the threshold. This space (the threshold) is believed to be dangerous because it separates the auspicious, pure, protected, and safe world of the home from the inauspicious, impure, unprotected, and dangerous world of the outside. If the threshold is not constantly sanctified by the kolam inauspicious forces may trespass into the home and eventually disrupt the health and well being of the family. Thus this function of warding off inauspicious forces at the threshold by invoking the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi and sanctifying the space is the most commonly stated meaning attributed to the domestic ritual drawings.
Another legend of the kolam is, when the son of a King's high priest died, Lord Brahma, asked the king to paint the image of the boy so that He may revitalize him. And thus started the tradition of drawing the kolam, this was mentioned in the earliest Indian treatise on painting Chitralakshana.
Kolam has been developed as an art form - it is not uncommon to see very intricate street paintings (rangolis) with religious themes. In Bombay especially you see some very artistic drawings of Gods made by street painters on the street.

Significance of Kolam
Kolam is not an art that needs formal training. It is enough if one can draw and has imagination. Kolam skills are considered a mark of grace, dexterity, discipline and concentration. It also imbibes the value of patience in the person. Drawing the kolam is an important part of our rich culture and landscape.
The most common kolam designs start with dots which are connected to form lines and other geometrical shapes such as swastika, aum, stars, squares, circles, triangles etc. These geometrical shapes must be formed in continuous string of lines. Some of the drawing start with a certain number pattern of points (the numbers are such that they bring prosperity for eg. 3, 5 7 etc. usually odd numbers.) something like numerology where certain numbers hold significance, these numbers are followed by curly lines going around these points. Many of these are completed with a single line going in an elegant but zig-zag away around the entire set of points.

During Diwali and other festivals much more intricate shapes and designs are implemented, the kolams are even bigger in size.

The Tamil month of "Margazhi" (Dec- Jan) is particularly important when fairly large size Kolams are put in front of the houses, with additional decoration of Kolams with yellow flowers of pumpkin. Putting Kolams in front of the houses is very much in practice in south Indian villages.

The beauty of this practice is not its aesthetic appeal - but also its usefulness to even the smallest creation. The patterns are drawn in rice flour so ants, insects and birds can feed on them.
Cow dung is mixed with the water that is sprinkled on the ground prior to the kolam application not only for giving a darker background but also for its disinfectant nature.
Drawing a kolam early in the morning helps inhale fresh air. Drawing a big kolam can take at least a couple of hours, which is a good exercise.

Recent findings on Kolam
Kolams are also expressive of mathematical ideas. In the last few decades, kolam figures have attracted the attention of computer scientists interested in describing images with picture languages. Different picture languages have been developed to describe different kolam families.

Kolam is also known as, Chowkpurana in Northern India, Madana in Rajasthan, Aripana in Bihar, Alpana in Bengal, it is the ancient Hindu religious floor art.

More recently, kolam drawings have moved into cyber space where new designs are created and sent by electronic mail to female relatives or friends.

Can you imagine!!!!, drawing the kolam had so many gains. Not only was it done for ones own benefits like getting fresh air, exercise, developing the qualities of patience, dexterity, grace, concentration and discipline but also for disinfecting the courtyard of the house so as to create a healthy atmosphere and even for feeding smaller insects.

The Hindu woman is torn apart between the worlds of tradition and modernity. In today’s challenging world the woman often has to manage her home and work, with pressures and demands on both sides, if she makes the time to draw kolam in front of the deities in the pooja room or at the threshold of the house, if not in the morning atleast in the evenings, it will not only help her to de-stress, but also give her a moment to herself. It is a creative art, which will develop her mental skills and at the same time serve the dual purpose of saving and retaining our age old tradition and rich culture from dying.

Saturday, September 20, 2003


Lighting The Evening Lamp

I have always seen my mother light a small silver lamp in the mornings and evenings in front of the deities in our small pooja room at home. It used to set me thinking that in the days of electricity what was the significance of lighting the lamp. As far as my knowledge goes people in the olden days used to get up early and sleep early. As there was no electricity in those days lamps were lit. I am sure most of us would have questioned our parents. I want this article to enlighten people on why we light the lamp.

Lamps are lit during prayers, festivals, celebrations, religious ceremonies, at opening ceremonies/events where it is usually kept burning up to the end of the ceremony/event.
Lighting lamps is considered auspicious.
Clarified butter (Ghee) or oil is used to light a lamp, it is believed that the clarified butter or oil represents the ego within us, and this needs to be removed or burnt off.
Light represents knowledge and darkness represents ignorance. Lighting one oil lamp enables the lighting of countless number of lamps, just as one knowledgeable person can enlighten others with his knowledge.
Light represents the presence of God as we believe that he is the authority that gives us knowledge and removes ignorance ( as in the Bhagavad Geeta, where Krishna advises Arjuna).
All of mankind is in search of peace and this ultimately comes from the realization of ultimate truth and knowledge. A diya or deep is an oil lamp lit such that everything outside and below the rim of the lamp is dark. The inside of the lamp glows with the flame of the wick, and the trajectory of the light is upwards. Each diya represents a human being.
Once the lamp is lighted, the darkness recedes to bottom of the lamp but does not go away. By lighting the lamp, the individual not only illuminates himself but also everything around him so that the inflated ego is put in its proper place. The ego is not destroyed but transcended by the light of patience, compassion, love, and respect for all beings.
In the darkness of night, all one sees from a distance are the identical flickering lights of the lamps, not the lamps themselves. The row of lamps indicates a row of people. It tells us that it is the illuminated part.
Patience, compassion, love and respect for all beings that unites us in a world of darkness.

Why do we do Aarti?
Aarti being performed with Camphor has a spiritual significance. Camphor burns itself out completely without leaving a trace. Camphor represents our Vasanas, unmanifest desires. So also if we were to take refuge in the Lord, obtain knowledge, these desires will get burnt out. Although the camphor burns itself out, it emits a nice perfume. On a human plane it means that we should sacrifice ourselves to serve society, in the process spread the perfume of love and happiness to all.
We close our eyes while performing the Aarti as if to look within. The Self or Atman is within us. Self realization can be achieved by knowing thyself, with the flame of knowledge.
At the end of the aarti we place the hands over the flame and touch our eyes and top of the head. It means that may the light that illumined the Lord light up my vision, may my thoughts be pure and beautiful. With the Aarti comes the flame which signifies light. There can be light in our lives only if we have knowledge. In an era of darkness there would be ignorance, we would be perpetually running to fulfill our vasanas resulting in unhappiness and stress all around


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