Archive | October 2012

Navaratri Festival

It’s time yet again for one more major festival- the Navratri. If the month of Shrawan (according to Hindu calendar) is reserved for the worship of Lord Shiva, which may be considered as the ‘masculine power’ that governs the world, the Navratris is the time when Parvati, Shiva’s wife and the ‘feminine power’  or ‘Shakti’ is celebrated and worshiped as the various forms of Goddess Durga. Goddess Durga is worshiped all over the country during these days but it is celebrated as a major festival in Bengal (as Durga Puja) and in Gujarat (as the Navratri).

According to the Hindu mythology, the demons prayed to Lord Bramha or Lord Shiva and performed severe penance in order to get boons from them that made them almost immortals. Thus empowered, they started harassing the people, creating a chaos in the universe and harming the religion. Since the Gods were powerless against them, they asked Godess Parvati for help and she took the forms of Goddess Durga, and others like goddess Kali, Chamunda, Amba, etc. and destroyed the demons, finding loopholes in their boons. The demons actually represent the human fallacies like pride,ego, greed, anger, lust, etc. This festival is celebrated as the victory of good over evil.

In Gujarat, Goddess Durga is represented in the form of a perforated earthen or metal pot (silver, brass,steel) with an earthen lamp inside( which is kept lighted for nine days), called the ‘Garba’. The women worship the goddess in this form for nine days. At night they form a circle around the Garba or carry it on their heads, sing devotional songs for the goddess and dance(Garba)  to the beats of the drums while clapping their hands to the rhythm.

That was then. The festival grew out of the homes and small neighborhoods to bigger and better places. It took the form of the ‘world’s longest dance festival’. It has become more and more commercial with every passing year with traditional songs replaced by the more popular Bollywood songs, moved to bigger venues like clubs, farm houses, etc., more money being poured in to woo people to earn even more money from them, the dress code going from simple chaniya-cholis (long skirt, blouse and stoles) to more complex and costly chaniya-cholis and getting more fashionable. Emphasis has shifted, not totally but remarkably, from simple devotion to a parade. But since festivals are means of joyful expressions I won’t go too much into the criticism. It also happens to be one of my favorite festivals and I go Garba dancing almost all nine nights, aching legs not withstanding.

A Garba venue


Garba dancers at the venue


My friends and me(centre) doing the garba

The Shakti is worshiped as Navdurga (nine forms of Durga) on these nine days. The Navdurga are-


First day- Shailputri (Shail-mountain, putri-daughter) Parvati is the daughter of Himvana or the Himalayas and is worshiped as such on the first day.

Second day- Brahmcharini (goddess of purity and celibacy)

Third day- Chandraghanta( Chandra-moon, ghanta-bell) The goddess here is adorned with a bell shaped moon.

Fourth day- Kushmanda. With eight hands and provider of glory, strength, and healthy long life.

Fifth day- Skandmata. Mother of Skand or Lord Kartikeya.

Sixth day- Katyayani. With four hands and riding a lion.

Seventh day- Kaalratri- Dark skinned,fearsome and the destroyer of evil, riding an ass.

Eighth day- Mahagauri- with four arms, white clothes, riding a bull. The Mahagauri, brings peace and prosperity to all.

Ninth day- Siddhidatri. She is the ‘Ardhnarishwar’  or half Shakti and half Shiva in form.

As I listed the above names I realized that the goddess is worshiped as a daughter, mother and a provider, all qualities of a woman. But sadly in my country this worship is restricted to these idols only. The living daughters, mothers are treated worse than animals. Everyday we read about female feticide, female infanticide, physical and mental abuse to girls and women, crimes like molestation and rape, brides burnt to death for dowries, and worse, women forced to end their lives for not producing a male heir for the family.

In news yesterday- One young woman burnt herself and her four daughters to death as she was harassed by her in-laws for not producing a male child.

Last month, my house help had to take sudden leave and rush to where her daughter was married, because she got the news that her daughter’s mother and sisters-in-law tried to kill her. Thankfully she was saved by her neighbors who also informed the mother. The in-laws are now behind the bars.

In news, again- female fetuses found dumped in a garbage can behind a dubious hospital. The doctors (or butchers?) are now behind bars, their licenses revoked.

Some more- In the last 10 years, 20 million girls have been lost to inhuman practices of feticide and infanticide.

And then people donate huge sums of money to the temples of the Goddess, build elaborate ones at their homes, go for pilgrims, and splurge on pujas. I wonder if the goddess is really happy with such a show of devotion while her daughters suffer. True Navratri will be celebrated only when the women get their rightful place in the society. And for that women will have to awaken the Durga within them.


Weekly Photo Challenge:Happy

I am quite a bit late for this post. we already have a new theme on the block. But I do have a valid reason for that. The photo that I wanted to post for this theme is very close to my heart so I had kept it very safely, so safely that I couldn’t find it myself, something that always happens with me.

There are a lot of things that make me happy. My husband, my daughter ( she makes me mad also), books, painting, a smiling child, dancing, spending time with friends and family, scrabble, nature’s beauty, oceans, mountains, solitude and many more things. But one that is closest to my heart is this-


This is a picture of me, all of nine days old, with my mom, who was herself barely 20 years old. This is one picture that makes me happy every time I look at it. It is very close to my heart. I can never tire of looking at it. My mom’s expression says it all- the happiness of being with her first born and at the same time harboring the apprehensions of being a mother for the first time. HAPPY!!!!


This time it’s a DIY post. As I mention earlier here, my home (the living, dining area) was undergoing a complete makeover. I’m glad and happy to announce that the work is finally over. All the agencies have moved out of my home and it now once again belongs to me. I can once again do what I want to, eat where I want to, sleep when I want to. But I also had some amazing, and sometimes eye opening experiences during this period. Now coming back to the DIY project.

I was looking for a simple yet interesting frame for the mirror that would go at my wash space above the basin. I checked out quite a few home décor stores here. Most I saw were not what I had in mind. A few that I did like were either too big or too small or too expensive. At one store I saw something I liked and realized that maybe I could make it myself. As the carpenters were still working at home I had all the required material at my disposal, so finally came up with this ‘best out of waste’ frame for the mirror.

To begin with I asked the carpenters to make a simple wooden frame the size of the mirror, which they did.


The carpenters had used some pieces of wood roughly cut into squares or rectangles to keep the formica in place while the glue dried. They had kept aside all these pieces to be thrown away later. I asked them to hand over those pieces to me which they did willingly but were also curious as to what could I need those useless pieces of wood for.


The next was to arrange these pieces of wood and then glue them on to the frame.


After the glue dried up and the pieces were firmly in place, the final touch had to be given. I was divided between giving it a dark polish or to paint it. Finally I went with painting it dark brown which also went with the scheme. Also, I left the pieces rough, which if one wishes can be sand papered to smoothness. Once dry, my carpenter, much amazed at what had been done, happily fixed the mirror in the frame, on the wall above the basin. This is what the finished product looks like-


And the complete view


Feels really good when something is created by you. A time well spent.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mine (1)


When I think of ‘Mine’ the first thoughts are of my books. They are an important part of my life. Just reading them is not enough, I want to own them. So every time I buy a new book I also buy one that I’ve already read (from library during my school and college years).

I am very possessive about my books and cannot bear any harm to them. One thing that I’m not proud to admit is that I tend to judge people from the way they treat books, specially mine. Only my close friends and a few who I can trust get to borrow books from me. And heaven help the person who damages, or worse, loses my book. He/She is forever blacklisted.

On display are a few of my books.

Happy Birthday Bapu!!

Today, 2nd October, is Mahatma Gandhi’s 143rd birthday. Have been contemplating for the past few days to pay my tribute to the ‘Father of our Nation’ but couldn’t come up with anything good enough to do justice to the great man. I skipped through his autobiography ‘The Story of my Experiments with Truth’ ( I’ve read it before) for inspiration. I’ve always admired how candid he has been about his faults and failures in the book but I still couldn’t think of anything special. On a whim, I decided to visit his Ashram, on the banks of the Sabarmati river.

The ashram was built in 1917 on the banks of the Sabarmati river. Initially it’s name was ‘Satyagrah Ashram” but  later came to be called the “Sabarmati Ashram”. It was home to Mahatma Gandhi from 1917 to 1930. ‘Khadi’ was born here and it served as the main center for freedom struggle. It was from here that Gandhiji launched his famous “Dandi march” on 12th March,1930. He walked 241kms to the port town of Dandi to break the ‘Salt Law’. On the same day, Gandhiji vowed never to return to Ashram till India attained Independence. Although India achieved Independence in 1947, he was assassinated in 1948 and thus never returned to the Ashram.

When I reached the Ashram, it was teeming with people, both from India and other countries. All there to try and understand the Mahatma that he was. The place itself is well preserved. It is fascinating to imagine the part History played here. How Gandhiji would have gone about doing his daily work around the Ashram, how he would have met leaders and people in his room and planned strategies for the Independence movement. Just thinking about it all makes you feel like a part of the history.

some pictures-

the front view of Gandhiji’s cottage at the Ashram

the rear side of the cottage

the central courtyard inside the cottage



Bapu’s room(office) where he met leaders, politicians, British officials and people


Ashram Rules- the topmost row has the rules handwritten by Gandhiji in Gujarati. The subsequent ones are typed in Gujarati, Hindi and English

Steps leading down to the Sabarmati river

The Sabarmati


Some more buildings of the Ashram-





A few things belonging to Bapu-


this one is a replica




The other part of the Ashram is the new building that houses a museum dedicated to the life of Mohandas Gandhi.


Picture of Bapu and Kasturba


A photograph of Gandhiji’s signatures in all the major languages of India


Hand-written notes by Gandhiji


Picture of Mahatma Gandhi with Rabindranath Tagore


A beautiful message by Mahatma Gandhi


And to close this post with-