Tag: indian festival

How to celebrate Sankranti – A glorious picture blog

Hello everyone!

It’s that time of the year again! Err.. Ok I don’t want to start this post like that. Let’s start over.

Hello everyone!

Hope you’re doing good, enjoying the two days off that you got from work, or the one day – either for Eid/Pongal/Sankranti. I’m a Tamilian. Ideally I’m supposed to celebrate Pongal in all grandeur. But I learnt only today what the festival is about. To ‘pong’ in Tamil means to overflow. So the festival basically is a celebration of life, praying for/wishing that everyone’s life overflows with happiness, isn’t that nice? But I don’t like pongal. The dish I mean. So I won’t write about it.

What I do like, is sakkare achchu. And ellu. And the toffees and chocolates and little toys that people generally give along with the ellu bella. If you’re confused, I’m gonna give you a tutorial of this Sankranti festival. Not the religious bit, but the colloquial bit. I’ll tell you what all people do for the festival, and since I don’t wanna ramble on, I’ll show it to you in pictures.

Sankranti is a festival that’s celebrated to thank God for a good harvest. My mum says Samyak (Excellent) + Kranti (Revolution) = Sankranti. I have no clue if that’s right. Anyway, you’re generally happy about your good produce, so you feel generous. So you distribute things. Here are a bunch of things that are shared with others. All pictures shot on Malleswaram 8th cross.

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Sugarcane
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Sweet potato and ground nuts
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I have no clue what this fruit is. It’s called yelachi hannu in Kannada.
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Same fruit
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Turmeric, along with it’s stem.
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Of course, during every festival, there have to be betel leaves (to present to guests along with kumkum and turmeric) and mango tree leaves.
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Are flowers harvested? Don’t know. But it’s part of any festival.
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This man wanted to pose with his tulsi garland. : )

Those are a few of the things we share with everyone. Of course you want a box or something to put all these in. So currently, markets are FULL of colourful boxes and plates!

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Ok these boxes are boring
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These are more like it! These kind of boxes used to get me all excited as a kid!
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Tarle boys
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I think this is one of my favourite pictures from the day!

And of course! The festival is about ellu bella (essentially sesame seeds, jaggery, groundnuts, cobri and some sort of gram. Dad says donkey gram. Sigh.) When I said colloquial, this is what I meant. It’s what the festival is known for now. They even harvest ellu (sesame seeds), and share with their well-wishers.

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And women who make all these things are all excited this season.
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This colourful saunf is my favourite stuff in ellu bella! : )

The best part of the festival is, of course, sakkare achchu.

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Let’s hope the kid didn’t make that eh?
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A garland of sakkare achchu

So I found this garland of sakkare achchu. I’d never seen this before. I clicked a picture of it. And then the owner of the store came along and said “That’s not how you click a picture. Go stand there… Haan stop. Now as I’m explaining the garland to you, you click a picture.” This is what I got.

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“This garland is used on God’s idols and on children when an aarti is being done.” *Applause*

There are just too many varieties of sakkare achchus. You’ll get tired of them really. There are colourful ones also but I wouldn’t recommend them.

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I just don’t feel like eating these

Why don’t I feel like eating them? Because I get mom-made, melt-in-the-mouth sakkare achchu and those are the only ones I have ever eaten. And they come in the coolest shapes. Check these.

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The coolest ever! B-)
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I love getting my mum to pose for pictures. It’s such a laughter riot! Haha! Oh! Also, she means to say, “Look what I’ve got for you! (Provided you come home)”

I’ve titled this post as a glorious post for a reason. There are TOO many pictures. AND I’m going to show you HOW to make these achchus. So only those that have lasted this long in the post will get the secret, precious tutorial.

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Step 1: You have to get moulds that look like these or like in the picture before my mum. Without them, you’re going nowhere.

Step 2: Soak 1 kilo of powdered sugar in water overnight. The next morning, boil it and while boiling, add half a glass of milk. Strain into another vessel with a muslin cloth.

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Step 3: You’ll be making the achchu in batches. So take a small quantity of it, heat until it boils in a smaller vessel. (shown in the picture).

Step 4: After a few minutes of boiling, take it off the stove and begin to stir it, until it turns from a clear liquid, to a dense white liquid.

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Step 5: Pour the liquid very quickly and carefully into the moulds. You have to be quick because the liquid will solidify very quickly.
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Step 6 – Wait for around 5-7 minutes
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Step 7 – Once you think it has completely solidified, open up the mould and carefully take out the achchu.
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Step 8 – You have to be careful because the sugar is too delicate. It’ll break if you’re not handling it with care.
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Step 10 – And tadaaaaa! Look what you’ve got! A classy, tasty, melty, sakkare achchu! : )
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You can make it in any shape you like : )

So that’s that. Anyone who has eaten my mum’s sakkare achchu will know what I’m talking about when I say it’s out of the world! I don’t have a sweet tooth really, but I eat it anyway. My mum says the stirring bit (Step 4) is the key to the perfect sakkare achchu. Now I’d suggest you don’t completely rely on this blog post if you’re making the sakkare achchu. Call my mum if you have to or read up a proper recipe. But I hope this gives you an idea of how it’s made.

So go spread sweetness, with everything Sankranti-ish! I’ve spent an entire day on this blog post, not to mention, gotten a really sticky camera and a tanned face. So thank you if you actually scrolled down until the end. (Even if you didn’t read it, I’m glad you saw the pictures!)

Also, if you’re not celebrating Sankranti, go out and walk around the markets around you. I had such an awesome time clicking pictures of all those vendors on 8th cross. They are such a happy people.

Ok enough. I’m tired. Bye : )

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I’m a Hindu; I worship coconuts

Don’t assume I’m from Kerala. I’m very much a Bangalorean.
So here’s the story. We had a pooja in my office yesterday. Everyone was excited about it. Not the pooja itself, but the box of sweets they were going to get after it. That’s a ritual apparently. “Oh! It’s Dasara! We’re going to get that box of sweets! Yay!” was what I heard in office when I entered yesterday morning.

It turned 4. That’s when the pooja was scheduled. Everyone gathered. Even the Johns and the Alis. The Philips and the Parkers and the Clements as well. Of course there were Guptas and Chatrapathys also. It was a nice secular meet. That’s around 30 people. The men assembled in front and were all tall. I couldn’t really see anything, so I assumed a spot in a corner, leaned against a computer table and watched everyone. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. Fifteen. Twenty. The poojari went on and on with his mutterings. Everyone grew impatient. The crowd started scattering. Slowly a person or two trickled away. And then whole bunches of people went away. They took their boxes of sweets, without the pooja having ended, and left for home. I made up my mind to show swalpa respect and stay. I wanted to see which God needed such long prayers to be pleased. I moved a bit towards the centre, from where I could see the poojari and the deity he was throwing flowers on. I saw it. It was a coconut.

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We have always worshipped coconuts. Ever since I was a child I have seen coconuts kept on silver pots with a few beetle nut leaves on them. I don’t know why I struck me as so absurd! I realised I have never given it a thought. It seems like the most ridiculous thing to do. Devote so much of your time to a coconut when you’re going to get absolutely nothing out of it! The only thing you can get out of it is some elneer and cobri, which you can get in a matter of five seconds. I thought there must be a strong enough reason. So I looked it up. Of course I found a reason. (Someone thought it was because there was an abundance of coconuts in South India! Haha!) It’s actually supposed to be a coconut kept in a mud pot. The mud pot is supposed to symbolise the Earth. I have no clue why, in my house, we keep silver pots. Are we so rich to symbolise the Earth with silver? I don’t know. Anyway, moving on. The coconut, apparently symbolises divine consciousness. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I can’t imagine how a coconut can represent any sort of consciousness. It’s just so hard to understand! I mean, it’s alright to draw parallels between these things. It’s probably even fun and entertaining! But sometimes Hindus just push it too far with these things, worshipping cows and lingas (Gosh! And some Hindus complain that Islam is a patriarchal religion). I feel I sound a bit like my dad here, but instead of worshipping a coconut for an hour, you can go do something productive, which will probably make you much happier than putting all your hopes and prayers in a coconut. After all, happiness is the ideal end product of all your prayers, right?

Religion, I believe, controls man too strongly, stronger than it should. I’m glad my generation is a little more level-headed than our parents’. I’m not saying I don’t like religion. I’m not an atheist. I’m not agnostic either. I’m a Hindu. But religion is a man-made thing. You can bend the rules. You don’t have to follow what someone made up 30,000 years back just for the heck of having something to follow. I’ll tell you where I’m getting at.

For the past few days I have been seeing big, healthy, furry sheep all over the city. Ideally I’d be so happy to see them. But it just depresses me. It even pushes me to the extent of crying sometimes. WHAT is the point of breeding sheep with so much love and care and chopping their heads off so heartlessly in the middle of a crowd as part of a festival? I haven’t ever seen the ritual happening, but it just angers me and makes my throat clog, thinking of the sheep’s cries when its head is about to be chopped off.

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Oh don’t you just want to hug them!

Just to be fair to Muslims, I decided I’d read up about it before ranting on. I typed “Why do Muslims kill- ” on Google, and Google’s first prompt “Why do Muslims kill each other?” Lol. I have nothing at all against Muslims. I’m just sharing what I read, so don’t get mad! So yeah, I read that Ibrahim offered to sacrifice his son Ishmael to Allah. But Allah sent a sheep instead. So they now sacrifice sheep instead. Alright it’s your religion, it requires you to do a few things, so go ahead. But before doing it, think. Religion is man-made. You can design it how you want it. I feel like shaking everyone and asking them to go back to the basics, back to when man had just evolved. Do you think he knew anything about religion back then? I doubt it. He was bored of the usual faces he saw everywhere, so he let his imagination run wild, and drew a few out-of-the-world things on walls of caves (like a half-animal, half-human figure). The epics are all scriptures that a lot of men and women put together over a period of time, just like today’s fantasy fiction books. Back then, man had never seen or heard of such fantasy fiction and began to worship it. That’s where man went wrong. He took things a bit too seriously. Oh look at me ranting on! These are my thoughts on the origin of religion. You can absolutely ignore them.

Now why I’m writing this post is, I know a lot of you Muslims don’t strictly follow your religion. It requires you not to drink, not to smoke and a lot of other rules that are pretty difficult to follow. So if you’re breaking those rules anyway, then please don’t participate in sacrificing helpless sheep. I’m not asking you to turn vegetarian. Don’t do it in the name of religion, that’s all. Because after all, a sheep is just a sheep. Like a coconut, is just a coconut.

PS: I don’t mean to be a killjoy, I just finished ayudha pooja and wasted lots of lemons. Still keeping it festive! Hope you read this post in a light-hearted manner, like all my posts are meant to be read. Cheers!

The making of Dasara

It’s that time of the year when you climb on stools, creep under beds, cough and sneeze at dust-laden dolls that you fished out, and give some part of your house a makeover. Yes! It’s Dasara – those ten days of holidays, Durga Pooja, Dandiya oh well! Those ten days of doll-keeping, putting-series-lights-outside-the-house and calling-fidgety-kids-home. My sister came over, to help arrange the dolls, because she was in this whole loop of excitement, having called 100 people home and done up a mini Amsterdam in her own house. It was 10pm when we got started.

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STEP 1

Step 1 – Pull out old, extremely heavy trunks from under the bed. To do this, you require utmost strength. Or you require utmost ego to not back off while your show-offy skills have failed. You must go ahead and manage it, you’ll crack a hip, break your back, not much else. And not to mention, you must click a picture with shaky hands. (All this, thanks to a completely non-helpful dad who chooses to watch rubbish TV instead).

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STEP 2

Step 3: Unveil Toy Land. The dolls may shade their eyes because of sudden bright light. Hence, to protect them, carry out this process during the night if possible. You are also likely to be in awe of rediscovering the same old dolls again.  Calm down. You have a lot of work left. You’ll see them for the next ten days whether you like it or not. So move on.

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STEP 3

Step 3: Collect the dolls in a coloured basket. They like colours. They love colours. If you use a plain brown basket, it’ll just feel like a normal day and none of the dolls will smile. If you use colours, you’ll also get nice pictures.

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STEP 4

Step 4: Get these guys out. They are the heart of the set-up! Without them, there is no Dasara. Why? No clue. Wait. Let me read up… Ok found nothing on the Internet. But my uncle says, “Raja Rani only signify Lakshmi and Narasimha.” He speculates that it could also be because the concept of celebrating dasara with dolls originated in Mysore, 403 years back (1600’s), which was then ruled by kings and queens. And then he randomly went on to explain to me that Tipu Sultan was a greedy fellow who did fight for independence against the British but at the same time wanted to be the monarch of Mysore, which back then, extended till today’s Bellary and on the other side, till Sultan Bathery, which is now in Kerala. Phew! That’s something! Moving on.

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STEP 5

Step 5: Bring out ALL flat objects from every nook and corner of your house. Cardboard boxes in which your dad has stored Castrol Oil, the box of the microwave oven you bought eight years ago, CAT, 2nd PU and Engineering text books, the table on which your massive keyboard is kept (because nobody cares about me having to find a tiny spot on the bed to sleep on, since I’ve to share it with this giant musical instrument), a few of those remaining metal planks you specifically got made for Dasara but your dad decided to take them to the garage, store his tools and make them immovable, all these help you form the steps that your dolls are going to sit on. Do remember that superstition has it that you must NOT have an even number of steps. It has to be either 3, 5, 7 or 9 steps.

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STEP 6

Step 6: Cover it up with a white bed sheet. Nobody generally uses these white bed sheets except during Dasara. If a rat has chewed a nice hole through it, then go buy a new one, because a coloured cloth will just be non-Dasara-ish. You could also go lift one off a hotel room.

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STEP 7

Step 7: Have a broken gramophone in your display.

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STEP 8

Step 8: Ok just kidding. Get your dad to fix it. Give him some work. Seriously!

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STEP 9

Step 9: Make up stories with each toy. Here, for instance, is a routine sighting in India. A pretty girl riding a bike, and a creepy guy ogling at her, sitting in his Vespa. (Supriya don’t get mad. I know you gifted me that creepy guy in sixth grade).

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STEP 10

Step 10: Give him a girlfriend, shut him up.

Step 11: Add a few traditional dolls to the set-up. They’re the highlights. All these psuedo foreign made-in-China dolls are all just fillers. Dasara is nothing without the Dashavatara, the aforementioned Raja-Rani, a few dolls that constitute a village of some sort, showing daily activities like the churning of butter, etc, people bigger than the houses they live in, animals bigger than the forests they live in, a few dolls of Gods and Goddesses and whatever else you can think of. I, personally, would encourage you to keep absolutely anything you want, even something as absurd as a toilet paper roll or a broken cell phone, if you find the necessicity to, or if you can weave a story with it. My mom, though, wouldn’t encourage that so much. So I suggest, to keep everyone happy and satisfied, you confine yourself to that Harry Potter wand you made in tenth grade or giant tarantula toy you once bought to gift to your niece, but decided to keep it yourself, or your toy reptile collection.

Also, here are a few pictures from my sister’s and my cousin’s houses. My sister, like I said, was full enthu and made a mini Amsterdam, full with a hidden RLD and some marijuana and everything!

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Study the photo slowly. Take your time
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The traditional Golu

Also, my cousin made a cute little village, where babies are as big as cows. Oh the magical fantasies of Dasara!

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The sign board says “Way to Gaavadagere village”

That is what Dasara has been like for me this year. Would love to know how yours has been. Ok I’m kidding. Don’t bore me. Ok kidding again. You can show me pictures. :P

You could also read this blog that a second cousin of mine maintains. It’s REALLY good. She has written about Dasara and has some mindblowing pictures!

Ok go now! Go have fun at Dandiya or Durga Pooja! Keep it festive! :)