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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 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 known to be a practical & intelligent lot. Our pragmatic approach to changing times has helped retain our age-old traditions & rich culture & heritage.
Then.....
Working ladies would invite 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.
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.
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,
Offering expensive gifts and comparing who's gift is better than the other.
There's pressure in dressing up in certain colors.
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 efforts, go to many shops, buy gifts which can be used in the pooja room or house. Keep the cost economical as I give a lot of people (80-100 ladies). 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 packets too....but my friends love them.
No bangles, combs, pottu packets, mirrors😂🤣....they definitely get recycled.
Gifts are an integral part of the Haldi kumkum,
My mom used to say, "The more ladies you give, the more punyam you get".
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.
"Happy Navarathri to All"

*©Sukanya's Musings*

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