Monday, January 25, 2010

Traditions- Part 1

I love the traditional food that Mom makes, the traditional attire that I think really suits Indian women, and I love all our traditions that go generations back. I guess, most traditions are linked to the great Indian festivals. The aftermath of one such festival, led me thinking about all the wonderful festivals and traditions that our culture had. While talking to a friend of mine, I discovered not everyone had the same enthusiasm for these festivals and traditions that I did! Much has been said and documented too on Indian culture, but I only hope the traditions that define our unique culture are carried on forever and with the same fervour as they are today. Afterall, what would life be without celebrations!

Come Jan comes Makar Sankranti, the kite flying festival. ‘Til Gul ghya god god bola’…that is so sweet to enemies or friends, we try to appease all with the good will gesture of giving the sweet concoction of til and jaggery as we ask them to be sweet to all! Flying kites is another great institution that is sadly dying down in larger cities. Otherwise hours of langorous gazing up in the skies at the multitude of colours up there was unadulterated joy. For married women, this season is yet another excuse to meet up under the pretext of ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ a tradition predominant in Maharashtra, where the married women of the house invite other married women and others, apply haldi and kumkum to them and give them little gifts..and then of course binge on hot samosas and snacks apart from the til gul laddoos or chikkis or gul polis while newly wed women, are decked up in ‘halwache dagine’, i.e ornaments made of sugar. Well, this festival is known by different names in different parts of India. It is known as Lodhi in Punjab, Uttaryan in Gujrat and Rajasthan, Bihu in Assam, Pongal in the south.

Well, come February, well Valentines day is not really traditional per se, but I guess, it is one in the western world, and I guess, we Indians have not remained far in keeping up with the traditions of wishing our loved ones if not more.

March brings another big festival in India, Holi, with the tradition of throwing colours at each other…I guess, I don’t really revel in this anymore, but I still enjoy watching other people playing it on TV or otherwise!...for me its my Mom making yummmmy Puran Polis with oodles of ghee year after year that makes me look forward to Holi! Alas, Holi also brings with it a long dry spell of fewer festivals.

Sounds funny but March ushers the Hindu New Year called as ‘Gudhi Padwa’ in Maharashtra. An auspicious day, there’s the tradition of tying a ‘Gudhi’—a bamboo stick or any stick, with a silk covered goblet embellished with flowers and sweet ‘gathis’ (caramelized sugar discs on a string) are seen popping out of windows and doors of Maharashtrian households. I've always found putting up the smallest of these tokens really festive and has always made me upbeat in the day! Well, like other festivals in India which are known by different names in different regions, this day in Maharashtra is synonymous with Ugadi of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka which starts on the same day, Baisakhi of Punjab, Naba Barsha of Bengal and Vishu of Kerela. I guess, all the states have one thing in common…that of making the best of sweets and celebrating the New Year!

Well, there are so many so many stories for each festival and there’s some logic associated with every tradition. For example, Black is worn on Makar Sankranti, since it absorbs heat in the cold. Tilgul given on Sankranti is something that gives warmth to the body. The gudhi symbolizes victory or achievement to look forward to in the new year. The Rangolis drawn in front of houses ward off evil from houses, but for practical purposes, look welcoming and pretty. I reckon, it’s the logic which came first and then these traditions that have lent so much character to all the festivals.
There actually is so much to tell out of just my own experiences and what I have been seeing my family do over the years. I ve reached only March so far…and still several months more to go! I guess, I’ll do that in a separate part to this blog!