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Ganagour Festival

The third day of the Hindu new year is celebrated as the ‘Ganagour Festival’ in Rajasthan and by all rajasthanis in any part of the world. The festival actually begins from the day following ‘Holi’ and is a sixteen day festival.

During this festival, goddess Parvati (as Ganagour), along with her husband lord Shiva (as Isarji), are worshipped by young girls and women. Young girls pray to the goddess so that they can get a good husband and the married ones pray for the long lives, health and prosperity of their husbands. Women offer prayers for sixteen days or just on the last day as they wish. Newly wed brides have to offer prayers for the duration of the sixteen days. During these sixteen days women get together, and programs are organized which includes a lot of singing and dancing. Ganagour fairs are also organized at many places.

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Women apply henna just before the last day of the festival.

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The last day is the day when Ganagour goes back to her husband’s home with him.  So women and girls keep a fast, offer prayers to the Ganagour, dress her up, offer sweets and tell each other stories about Ganagour and Isarji.

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Apart from all the colorful festivities, what I like the most about all our festivals is that how our ancient sages, philosophers and thinkers wove some social message or included an ideal way of life into all our festivals. Here, after the pooja (offering prayers), women tell and listen to stories of Ganagour and Isarji. These stories carry with them messages of how how to lead a happy married life without too many frictions or misunderstandings. They become all the more relevant in India because in India the marriage is not just between two individuals but between two families and the onus of maintaining a happily balanced relationship between the two automatically falls on the women folk.

Here, I’ve shown and written about Ganagour as we celebrate it, and it may differ from region to region. In some places idols of Ganagour and Isarji are worshipped whereas we perform the pooja on a wall painting.

Happy New Year!!!

Today marks the New Year according to the Hindu calender, the ‘Vikram Samvat’ and the year that begins is V.S.2070. The new year falls on the first day of the waxing moon of the month of ‘Chaitra’. This day also marks the first day of the ‘Navratri’ or nine days during which goddess Durga is worshipped. The ninth day or the Navmi is also the birthday of  Lord Ram hence the day is called Ram-navmi. So the new years brings a whole lot of festivities along.

In Rajasthan, the third day of the new year, is celebrated as the ‘Gangour Festival’. This festival is celebrated by the women- folk and is by far one of the most colorful festivals. The women pray to goddess Parvati, the consort of  Lord Shiva and the feminine power of the world (goddess Durga is the warrior incarnate of Parvati to slay the demons and restore balance to the world).

Wishing all a very Happy New Year!!!

Happy Holi!!!

Its Holi today!! The festival of colors, of joy and celebrations. It is a major festival of our country along with Diwali, and falls on the full moon day of the month of ‘Falgun’.DSCN0668

On the evening of the full moon day, bonfires or ‘Holika’ are lit. This bonfire symbolizes the victory of good over evil. The story goes that Prahlad, the son of demon Hiranyakashipu, was an ardent devotee of lord Vishnu, but his father considered Vishnu as his arch enemy. He tried to dissuade his son from worshipping Vishnu, but could not deter him. Angered, he then tried to kill his son but every time lord Vishnu saved him. Finally Hiranyakashipu’s sister Holika decided to do the job for her brother. She had a shawl that was immune to fire. She covered herself with the shawl and sat on the pyre with Prahlad. As the fire blazed, a gust of wind blew the shawl off Holika, onto Prahlad , saving him from death and killing Holika. Hiranyakashipu was later slain by lord Vishnu’s  ‘Narsimha’ avatar, in which he came as half man and half lion form.narsimha

On the next day, called Dhuleti or Dhulandi, people celebrate by coloring each other with colored water and gulal (dry colored powder). It is a mixed celebration of spring and also marks the agricultural season of Rabi crop.DSC_1800

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DSC_1812children playing Holi with colors and water guns

Holi of Braj, the land of Krishna,is the most famous and colorful. The  “lathmaar holi” of Barsana, the land of Radha (Krishna’s beloved) symbolizes the love of Radha and Krishna. The men from Nandgaon (Krishna’s village) visit Barsana on Holi. They sing songs, try to draw the attention of the women folk and drench them in colored water. The women, in turn, beat the men with thick staves or ‘lathi’ as they are called. The men have to save themselves from them using shields.18-lathmarholi

Special sweets and savouries are prepared in the homes.  Friends and family get together  to play holi and enjoy the special food with cool Thandai to round off with. Its a festival of fun, excitement and joy.

May this Holi fill your life with all colors of joy, happiness, love and prosperity!!

Happy Holi!!

Happy Women’s Day!!

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”

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jan 052For the girl child

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jan 087a young bride

jan 038 three generations of mothers and daughters-in-law 

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Happy Women’s Day!!!

Vasant Panchami : our own Valentine’s day

The world is in the Valentine’s day mode. Everywhere you look, you see red.. literally. Everyone out there is trying to woo out the moolah from your pockets by selling Love. The restaurants, the showrooms for clothes, jewellery, gift items, shoes, home appliances and even gyms and travel industry are going ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ reminding you constantly that you have to celebrate valentine’s day or else you will have wasted a year of your life. The chocolate makers (both company and home made), florists and card companies have gone into the overdrive, stocking up for the day!!

How the trend started in India I don’t quite remember, but as a child I have no memory of a Valentine’s day. It was around the time I was in college, that the winds of Valentine coated love arrived on our shores. It was limited to the bigger cities at first but the winds of consumerism and the idea of selling love by various industries quickly carried it to all parts of the country.

In the mad rush to follow this imported version of a ‘Love Day’ , we forgot that we have our own valentine’s day, that has been around for as long as one can think of. The colour of our Valentine’s day is- Yellow and its called the ‘Vasant Panchmi’.

Vasant Panchmi falls on the fifth day of Magh month of the Indian calendar. Vasant means- Spring and Panchami- the fifth day. It marks the official beginning of spring. It is one of the most auspicious day in the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated mostly in the northern regions of the country.

saraswati1[1]Goddess Saraswati (this image has been used so much that I can’t really trace the source)

Traditionally, this day is celebrated as the day of goddess Saraswati –  goddess of knowledge, wisdom and music. Prayers are offered to the goddess in all educational institutes of the country. Children receive their first lessons on this day. Years ago, as a child, I remember, people living within a particular area would get together and erect a pavilion for the goddess where we would offer our prayers. Music and singing competitions would be held in the evening for all age groups and it would be a major ‘outside day’ after the cold winters. Kites are also flown in many parts of the country.

This day is also celebrated as the day of ‘Kamadev’- the Hindu god of love and lust (aka Cupid). He brings spring to the lands and arouses the feeling of love into the hearts of the people. Nature itself celebrates the season of love as the trees sprout new leaves, flowers bloom and and the weather turns warm and bright.

Marriages take place on this day as it is considered auspicious for the couples wanting to step into matrimony and don’t need to consult the date of births, positions of planets and constellations for a suitable marriage date, as this day is  considered good for all couples.

kashmir beauty (121)Yellow Mustard Fields

Yellow is the color of the day, as the fields of Punjab and Haryana turn golden yellow with mustard blossoms. People wear yellow clothes, (women wear bright yellow shades and men, the much subdued tints of yellow). In our homes (we are from Rajasthan, hence Rajasthanis) the food prepared is also yellow colored- mostly sweet rice colored yellow with saffron and in combination with yellow seasoned and salted rice.

meethe chawalSweet Rice (source-madcookingfusions.com)

This year the Vasant Panchmi falls on the 15th February, a day after the Valentine’s day. Wishing everyone a Happy Valentine’s day and a Happy Vasant Panchami.

some links

calendarlabs.com

about.com

Hopey New Year

No, you aren’t reading it wrong!! Today, is the last day of the year. Normally, I’m planning to go out partying with friends, deciding what to wear, where to meet up, etc. But this year somehow that new year cheer is absent. The incidents of last few days have left me shaken up. During the last 15 days I wrote two or three posts that are lying in their respective folders. I’ve been unable to post them because I felt that no words  of mine could fully do justice to all that I feel after that heinous crime against that young girl in Delhi.

A young ordinary girl, who had simple dreams for her life, was savagely brutalized. A young life snuffed out. But what made me happy was the way the common people have taken up her cause, taken up the fight for justice. I’ve always been very skeptical about the people of my country. They’ve seemed to have very short memories, in the past. Surely, this isn’t the first case where a woman’s honour and her right to live with dignity has been brutalised? But once the hub-hub of the case died down, they forgot all about them and went back to their lives. But this time, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The people aren’t letting up, not even with all the attempts to put down the protests, by our insensitive politicians in the parliament and elsewhere in the country. In fact, they are the ones who have shamed me the most. Shamed, because I’ve been party to electing them.

So I usher in this new year with great hope, despite the sadness in my heart. I hope that the un-named girl and all the other girls/women who have suffered the brutality on their bodies and minds, get the justice they deserve, swiftly. I hope we grow into a nation who is more sensitive towards their women-folk. I hope that our politicians and lawmakers will treat  the people, protesting for a just cause, as the citizens of this country who elected them to power and not as terrorists. I hope that we become a nation where a girl will be safe in the womb AND outside it. I hope that my daughter will be safe in this country.

Hopey New Year to everyone!!

Some links about the incident

wikipedia

hindustan times

reuters

the hindu

the guardian

Nilanjana roy

going bananas

 

Stop Polluting The Rivers

A few weeks ago read an article in the newspaper, with the headline -‘Ganga now a deadly source of Cancer’. The holy Ganga; Ganga who washes away all our sins; our mother Ganga- it is a poisonous river today.She’s a dead river and who does she have to thank for her sad demise? Her own sons and daughters- the people of this land, who on  one hand give her the status of a Goddess, performing puja and Maha-aarti and on the other hand dump all the poisonous wastes, garbage, and worse, dead bodies, in the name of religion- have murdered her. And this is not the condition of the Ganga alone. Take any river of this country- they are either dead or dying a slow painful death.

I have an incident to narrate. Soon after our marriage, my husband and me, along with my parents-in-law, went for the customary pilgrimage to the holy lands of Lord Krishna- Mathura, Vrindavan and Mt.Govardhan. Holy river Yamuna- beloved of lord Krishna- flows through these lands, and is revered by the people just as equally as the Ganga.

One day, after performing puja on the banks of river Yamuna, the priest asked us( hubby and me) to take some river water in our hands and put it in our mouth( Aachaman). Looking at the water infested with floating garbage, plastics, mosquitoes and other insects, I was horrified at the idea. All the pious feelings flew out of my head. I could not put that water in my mouth and on the other hand did not want to look bad in the eyes of my in-laws so early in the marriage. I stole a glance at my husband and was relieved to see him equally disgusted. We both made an act of putting our hands to our lips and completed the puja. And this was 22 years ago. I dread to think what its condition might be now.

Not going very far- we live on the banks of the River Sabarmati. As I mentioned here ,(its looking clean in those pictures because that was just after the monsoons when the river had a lot of water flowing. Now with the lower levels of water the garbage has all come to the surface), its being developed as a river-front, and that’s where I go for my morning walks/jogs.The cool morning breeze, the variety of land and water birds that I get to see, all give me joy, but the condition of the river distresses me. The other day just as I was warming up for my jog, I saw two polythene bags filled with garbage land in the river, thrown by someone on the bridge.

Now, people of my country believe that anything that has been used for puja must not be thrown into the garbage bin but into a river or a major water body. So the river is full of floating flowers(at times, neatly packed in plastic bags), coconuts,pieces of fabric and all other kinds of materials- all in different stages of decay. making the river look like a giant dumping area.

I don’t claim to be a scholar of our holy texts, but I would really like to know where our religion tells us to use our rivers as a refuse dump.

During the last occasion of of Ganesh Festival, the government initially put a ban on immersing the Ganesh idols( mostly made of poisonous and non-biodegradable POP) into the river.Immediately all the Hindu outfits rose up to protest, to allow them to exercise their religious rights. The government had to relent but thankfully they prepared huge tanks on the river banks , filled with river water, where the idols could be immersed without causing too much damage to the river.

But I ask, is it also not the duty of the Hindus to take care of their rivers, to keep them clean and pristine, so they can really be called ‘Holy’.

And we can’t just leave the responsibility of keeping our rivers clean on the governments or the civic bodies. They can only do so much.We, each of us, as the sons and daughters of the rivers, have responsibility towards them. They give life to people,they nourish and sustain us. If all of us do our little bit towards keeping them clean, they will once again regain their glory. I have vowed never to throw anything into the river again.

So this Diwali, I simply collected everything after the puja and instead of throwing them into the river (as I did every year), I threw them into the bin. Feeling satisfied having done my bit, even if that means I have to burn in hell for eternity.

Posting some pictures of the river. I did not want to, because I felt it was like showing my ugly side to the world that is normally kept hidden away.DSCN0163

DSCN0168the garbage becomes a perching site for the pond heron

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