I have beautiful memories of how we celebrated Diwali in my family when I was a child and growing up. The aroma of food, the colours of rangolis, the textures of flowers – marigold, lilies, lotus, jasmine; the light and fragrance from the rows of clay lamps we call ‘Diya’, are all so so prominent in my heart that I can’t help but keep reminiscing over those pretty pictures around Diwali time – year after year…and keep narrating those tales to my children and hubby and go over all over again with my brother!
Yet, in the last few years, I’ve yearned to create some new family traditions and refashion some of the old ones that we as a family resonate will with; that will tell OUR story reflecting what we value at this stage in life, what fascinates us, what’s fun for us and what’ll create strong memories for our children down the lane…
This Diwali, an idea sprung in my heart with such spontaneity that I almost felt it was my inner voice – my heart and soul speaking in unison.
It’s about the day before Diwali which we call as ‘Roop Chaudas’. Roop meaning beauty and chaudas is the 14th day of Krishna Paksha in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.
Traditionally, Roop Chaudas is considered a day to focus on (enhancing) one’s beauty and charm. This is sought by cleansing your body with a paste of gramflour, turmeric and oil. It’s advised to used essential oils and other herbs. Since, we’re talking about beauty, it was assumed that it’s a day for women to look more beautiful and attractive. Somewhere along the way, Roop Chaudas became women’s ‘beauty’ day. This is an interpretation from North and Western India, where my family’s roots lie. Other regions in India have various other interpretations.
This ‘beauty (of only the body) day’ interpretation doesn’t sit well with me as it is. My question is, is “beauty only skin-deep”, as the maxim goes? It is, if you don’t consider the spiritual inner beauty to be real beauty. Then, why not cleanse ourselves inside out. Why not beautify the beautiful within? Well, yes, you cannot assign a day in a whole year to cleanse yourself inside out, but then, this day can be a starting point for some. Or, a great reminder for others to begin now.
For me, cleansing yourself inside out means cleansing the outer body and its aura, filling your inner body with light and sound vibrations so as to help open up the ‘chakras’, and then feeding your soul with energizing mantras, artist dates, and soil therapy (read gardening!). This is one way of doing it. My way. There are various others.
One more way I look at cleansing is consciously letting go. I take some deep breaths and as I exhale I allow all the tension to leave my body. I do this exercise as I lay on the bed before drifting off to sleep. I focus on relaxing each and every body part including the face, the scalp, the tongue, the throat and then down to the arms and hands and back, abdomen, pelvis, legs and feet. I’d come across this exercise years back in a book by Louise Hay. It’s called You Can Heal Your Life. Once the body and mind is relaxed, I say to myself, “I’m willing to let go. I release. I release all tension, all fear, all anger, sadness, old limitations. I’m at peace with myself. I’m at peace with the process of life. I’m safe. I’m the soul – a beautiful, aware soul.
So, that is another way of internal cleansing. Like, Eckhart Tolle says in ‘The Power of Now‘, we don’t need to change the ‘what’, we only need to look at the ‘how’. If the ‘how’ is working for us, the ‘what’ will be successful.
To me, this beautification seems more apt. It seems more holistic. Taking care of just the bodily beauty without including the inner realm is a superficial effort. Likewise, not taking care of the body in which your beautifully cleansed soul resides, is not fair either.
So, this Roop Chaudas, we had a bowl full of paste to scrub away the tired cells and polish the skin to a glowing perfection. A paste made with organic raw turmeric, organic gram-flour and curd (you can use coconut oil too).
An interesting and loving facet to this ceremony was that it was also my Sufiana’s birthday as per the Hindu (Lunar) calendar. Though her birth date is November 2, it was Chhoti (small) Diwali (Roop Chaudas) on the day that she was born, in 2013. So, it seemed all the more relevant that I applied a paste of Turmeric (considered the elixir of life) on her face and body.
So, without any more delay, here’s a photo essay of those moments, clicked by Manish Jaju (my brother).
The morning sun flooded the interiors through the main door and lit up the artful wall where our handmade paintings, yarn decorations and paper mache creations lay.
The aroma from the turmeric paste, and aggarbatti (incense) and marigold flowers heightened our senses to a new awareness…
The vibrations from the Tibetan singing bowl, the tambourine and the djembe filled the winter air raising our consciousness to a new level….
The spontaneous sounds of belly laughs, guffaws, giggles and chuckles encircled us all in a bond of lively amusement. (Hey, families, don’t drift apart…don’t drift apart when you can have so much fun and frolic together!)
The heat and energy from our own bodies as we sang the various mantras with fervour and devotion melted the blockages, if any…The mahamrityunjaya mantra, the Devi mantra, the Buddhist mantra – every-time I chant these, I’m transported into a realm where fear, doubt, mistrust, envy has no place. Only trust and love resides.
The hugs and kisses and ‘pranams’ helped channelize our love for each other…
The lights from the clay lamps (diyas) shone our own light even brighter….
And, some spontaneous loving, chuckle-some gestures that lit up the heart much more than any lights or candles or diyas ever could….
The energy from the mango leaves may have helped ward off any negative energy stuck indoors, in our bodies or in minds…
And…a warm water bath after this beautiful cleansing of the mind, body, soul helped ease and relax and get set for the Diwali celebrations! New clothes, renewed mind, awakened soul and lit-up interiors and outdoors…
To add to all this, since the onset of the new season, we’ve been sipping on dozens of cups of lemongrass tea day in and day out to heal our guts, cleanse our stomach and keep any sore throat, congestion or fever at bay. I can’t tell you enough how amazing is lemon grass as an everyday drink. The range of benefits that it provides merit a dedicated article and I’m going to post soon enough.
Besides, lemongrass, I make various herbal drinks from fresh Indian borage, mint, sweet basil, raw turmeric and various others. I’ll try to post those recipes soon too.
So, it’s been a cleansing and cleaning season alright! And, we all loved this new tradition around Roop Chaudas. The four girls – these sisters (Pari, Sufiana, Sarah, Myra) – I’m going to invite them every year into my house to partake of this lovely celebration of family cleansing and bonding time. Next year, I feel like adding even more elaborate acts of cleansing our body and soul. One element could be a week-long green juice cleansing accompanied by chanting and meditation. (On this note, here’s an account of our Diwali two years back.)
I hope you all had a very joyful and blessed Diwali and Halloween!
What family traditions do you enjoy? Did you create any new ones that portray your family priorities, values and fun? Please do share.
P.S. Putting a word out there for the one who clicked all those gorgeous pictures! Mannu, as I call him, does magic with his camera. An artist at heart, he’s a risk-management consultant with Accenture but his true calling is photography. He does assignments covering weddings, cultural and musical events, family portraits, child-birth and such. The beauty of his photography, I feel, is in how he captures the spontaneity in the moments and makes the picture tell a story in itself. If interested, you can reach out to him for a photo shoot. He’s willing to travel outside of Goa.