Traditions – I have to confess that I haven't been much of a stickler for the plethora of traditions that are practiced in my religion and community. Even as a kid, I used to be pretty much a non-conformist and a rebel – always questioning the rituals, the methods, the etched-in-stone kind of religious philosophies. My mom is just the opposite – very religious, faith-driven and finds bliss in following the rites and the rituals.
Having said that, I have to admit that though I don't see the rationale behind many of the elaborate rituals, I've always thoroughly enjoyed the festivities – the environment, the savouries, the flower decor, the rangolis, the traditional attires and some of the fun rituals associated with the festivals.
The fun rituals – mind you – and not the ones that are such a drag – long-drawn 'puja' (worships).
I also don't relate much with the devotional songs to connect with the higher power. I mean, what is the intention behind singing paeans about God? I don't think He seeks our devotion through platitudes and sweet-talk. I am not being judgemental but just sharing my perspective. I do agree though that devotional music can be so peaceful and overpowering. It can invoke spiritual feelings. It does with me.
I really resonate with the spiritual mantras. I have much faith in the Hindu Gayatri Mantra as well as the Buddhist mantra – Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. In our home, these two matras are etched in our souls. Even little Pari recites these every evening and at bed time.
What I love most about many of the traditions and rituals associated with festivals around the world is that they are intrinsically oriented toward art and craft and creativity. Take the rangolis for example. What better way to give wings to your artistic talent than draw colourful motifs on your house floor or walls?
Or, the mehendi (henna). Even the sacred art of mandalas. These religious/spiritual geometric patterns that are drawn with colour or sand before any worship can invoke your artistic bent of mind like nothing else can. You can do so many art projects on the theme of mandala. You can use leaves and petals, colourful sand, paint chips or store-bought stickers to make mosaic mandala like this.
I have been mesmerized with how a humble egg is converted into a canvas for great art during Easter, in the West.
These days, I am telling Pari more about the mandalas and their significance in simple terms that a kid can understand.
Talking about traditions, I cannot carry on without mentioning the religious and spiritual symbols used in Hinduism. The Swastic, the Om, the Trishul – they are powerful spiritual signs used extensively to invoke the universal energy. I've been telling Pari about these too and she's learning to draw and use these symbols as part of her art. More of this in another post.
I am writing about all this because many of you asked me to share our Diwali traditions and photos. (smiles)
The way we celebrate Diwali at our home is one of the many ways how Diwali is celebrated across India. In the South (where my hubby comes from) the rituals and ceremonies are somewhat different; in the East – where I was born – there are certain traditions that stand out. I am from North West India – Rajasthan. Hence, I bring more or less the Rajasthani way in our household.
But, honestly, I am anything but jingoistic about "my way of things". I like to merge the East, the West, the North and the South into our festivals and traditions.
So, enjoy the photos, dear readers. Some are from this year and some from archives to give you a glimpse of our festivities.
And, please share openly about your festivals and traditions in the comments section. :)
This is a tradition very close to my heart. On this day – called Roop Chaudas ('roop' means beauty and Chaudas refers to the 14th day of the Hindu Lunar calendar) the kids and the females of the home beautify themselves. The day starts with cleansing your body organically.
The kids are applied an 'Ubtan' (scrub) of gram flour, curd/cream and turmeric paste/powder on face and body. Turmeric improves blood circulation and is supposed to keep the body warm for the onset of winters. It also has anti-bacterial and cleansing effect on the skin.
After a scrub and a bath that's infused with essential oil/lemon drops etc. the mommies and kids dress up to look their best!
Here, I merge a tradition from the Eastern part of India where girls apply a liquid red colour on their heels.
This colour called 'Alta' is also used here by classical dancers to adorn their feet.
Photo from the archives: Here, I am wearing a traditional Rajasthani 'Kurti Kaanchli' with Pari in my arms.
Traditional clothes, jewelry – Diwali is the times when we dress up our best and brightest!
I love making rangolis with flower petals, saw dust, rice paste or colourful powder.
Besides lighting up the balcony and terrace, I like to place lamps in every corner of the house – including kitchen. This is to ward off darkness and welcome positive energy. Interestingly, this is also the philosophy behind the Chinese practice of Feng Shui. Feng Shui recommends lighting the dark corners and softening the edgy areas with plants and flowers.
Laxmi Puja is performed on Diwali evening. Laxmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity in the Hindu religion. Flowers, incense, rice, coconut, silver coins and vessels, clay lamps, moli (sacred thread) are some of the things we use to perform this puja (worship)
A file photo from Oct 2005: It's me (8 months pregnant with Pari!), my mom-in-law in mustard saree and my mom – enjoying the symbolic Diwali fireworks after the Laxmi Puja.
After Puja, the women folk get busy to give finishing touches to the food we so painstakingly prepare since morning.
And the fireworks! They go hand-in-hand with Diwali. That evening and many more evenings preceding and following Diwali, the skies are lighted up (and polluted) with these chemical reactions! We don't indulge much in these and hence like to watch from our balconies.
I think, this is one tradition that has been twisted in the wrong way over the ages. I wish we would do away with the crackers.
I hope you enjoyed this Diwali round-up. There are so many more aspects to this festival that I can't possibly capture in one post. But, here are a few links from the web that you can visit to know more about how Diwali is celebrated in different parts of India.
If you missed my earlier posts leading upto Diwali, you can view here:
- A Delectable Diwali
- Making Diwali Cards with Pulses and Learning Geography
- Diwali Fireworks in our Homemade Lava Lamp
- Our Artsy, Earth-friendly Diwali Fireworks
In our home, whether it is Diwali or Holi, Christmas or Raksha Bandhan – the festivals mean innumerable artful opportunities. And, no matter what the rituals, to us, they mean family connection, anchor and bonding.
I love these words in this context:
Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world. – Susan Lieberman