Raghuraman

~ Reflections of my inner self ~

Archive for May, 2007

A family holiday in a different world – Kairali

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During January 2004 we (Geetha, Arjuna and I) decided to go to Kerala for a holiday. We searched various destinations on the internet, and found that most of the destinations were quite appealing to our taste. Therefore we had a difficult choice to make! So we decided to look at it from a different perspective- why not make it a health holiday? The ayurvedic way and…. Bingo! Kairali Ayurvedic centre gave us exactly what we were looking for, a short health recharging programme at Palakkad in Kerala – Gods own Country. Besides Palakkad being my place of birth, I desired to show my wife and son my village, family temple and my old school. With this bait the approval was unanimous! So we packed for an overnight train journey after booking our programme with the centre who had given us a detailed plan for three days.

We were picked up at the railway station at five am (I was awake with excitement as early as 4 am). After a short drive of about 15 kilometers we arrived for a ceremonious welcome. Welcome greetings, with our programme file and a chilled soft drink (fruit juice). We were escorted to our cottage which had a sit out, a large living/bedroom and bath with a small garden with plenty of ayurvedic plants and flowering shrubs in front. They must have had over 30 cottages of varying size and the whole resort area was green everywhere, with fragrance in the air, situated in a sloping valley, with water ways in between, spacious lawns, and plenty of shady trees.

Facilities offered included a detailed health check up, done by a physician, who would then make a plan for oil massage treatments administered by experts. There were also hot and cold baths, a swimming pool, tennis court, library, reading room, an exhibition hall, yoga and meditation hall and simple but wholesome kerala vegetarian food offered through a buffet system.

A typical day started with a hot filter coffee served at the cottages at 5:30 am. We would then get ready to go for Yoga classes which started at 6:30. Experts explained the basics and took us through a simple programme of initial yoga postures, helping and guiding us all the time. I found performing as a group is good fun, being a rigid bodied person with little flexibility! I tried my best to cope initially but failed miserably! The teacher, a good samaritan, did not laugh but coaxed and cajoled my body to reach some degree of perfection. Arjuna and Geetha managed effortlessly, smiling at me all the time. There were many people from the UK, Germany and Australia who had come to the resort on a long term basis. Three weeks, six weeks and eight weeks plans, some with health specific problems, made for a good cosmopolitan group! After one hour we would go in for breakfast. We were served with cereals, corn flakes and some fruits like papaya and pineapple followed by a choice of Dosas, Idly, Aappam, wheat Uppuma with Kerala dishes and coffee. For people who had registered for short programmes, like us, the good doctor had not prescribed any food restrictions (thank you!).

By 9 am we would head to the hospital complex to meet the Ayurvedic physician for our review. There we would get our day’s prescription, recommendations to be executed by other staff and then head to the massage centre. We were well received. There are separate wings for men and woman and we handed over our bodies to them, literally speaking, for two hours. We lay down on a curved table with minimum dress and they applied different oils to our bodies, head, eyes etc and then they started massaging. A nice warm treatment by two able persons on either side, they would talk only to keep you awake. Most people, including myself, would go to sleep under the care of their hands. After some 60 odd minutes we were escorted to a warm bath followed by a cold shower. Then they applied a nice scented powder on our heads to prevent catching a cold. We marched off to the dining room with a roaring appetite. Back after a simple lunch we rested a while. Some would go for a swim, or to the reading room, or to play tennis as sleeping is not advised except for 30 minutes, if really needed.

By 6 pm we assembled for a meditation session for one and half hours. Various levels of meditation techniques, stages and principles were explained to us. We started with the first level, methods on how to deal with the wandering mind and candle light focusing methods. The result was we emerged as new human beings with a higher degree of confidence, recharged to face our problems and to arrive at sensible solutions without taxing our body.

A light dinner was served afterwards and we went for a walk around the resort through a softly lighted and well paved footpath. We settled down on a bench and began to reflect inwardly, no words were spoken. We could hear the crickets, grasshoppers, rustle of leaves and twigs under the canopy of a soft breeze and the gurgling sound of mountain streams. Our inner peace was reflected in our faces and we thanked God for creating such a wonderful world in which to retire to a peaceful sleep.

On our last day after a half minded goodbye and a heavy heart, but a nice feeling, we drove to Palakkad town. On we drove, further down, to our family temple at Manapully kavu Bhagavathy to witness and pray during the evening Aarthi – a glorious sight with a thousand lights round. We proceeded to our ancient village Tirunillayi and to the house where I was born. The present owners of the house received us well with happiness. Both Arjuna and Geetha were amazed to see their kindness and hospitality, simple folks with uncomplicated life styles. Happy gifted village folks, we prayed in our village temple and drove back to the railway station at Coimbatore in time to catch the train to Chennai. The resort people had kindly packed us some food for the night which was very thoughtful of them. We reached Chennai fresh the next day remembering to send a nice thank you note to Kairali for giving us such a memorable holiday. A note in my diary after this trip reads: “Try and do as many trips as possible to Kerala in future. There remains to be seen and enjoyed a hundred more places and your time is lesser by the hour. So make haste!”

Written by Raghuraman

May 31st, 2007 at 8:48 pm

Posted in General

My colourful college days (1962-1968)

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After doing my Pre-degree at the State Arts College, Coimbatore, it was time to decide on the future direction of my education. There were many problems and obstacles primarily because of the rules of the state Government which gave preference to students based on a caste system, an ill conceived biased policy which gave low priority to students, such as myself, who belonged to a forward class. In spite of good grades we had to fight for a seat on any professional course. My first priority was to go for medical colleges. I was not successful and therefore I focused all my energies to get on to agriculture courses. Thank God, with the help of my eldest brother Ramani and the state Agriculture Secretary, I managed to get a seat of admission at the Agriculture College, Coimbatore. After some nervous waiting I took a secret vow to get back at the authorities by excelling in studies far ahead of the 90% of the students who had entered through the back door. A performance which I was able to fulfill all the 6 years, with the support and guidance of the Gods of my understanding: Marudamalai Muruga and Vauputhra Anjaneeya.

I enjoyed a satisfying performance with awards, medals, recognitions, positions of importance in college committees and games teams. Whom should I thank for all these? My teachers, my gurus, my parents, especially my mother and my supportive brothers and sister. As they said, you do your part well and God will take over the rest- and it happened! Besides, it was a lesson learnt. Whatever you do, if you do it with your complete commitment and involvement you will succeed. Well proven all through my later years!

It was a resident course with a few exceptions given to students who had their residences close by and I was one of them. Our house was 6 kilometres away from the college and I had a bicycle to cover the distance, generally four trips. A typical day started at 5 am as we had field practical classes all week from 6-8 am in subjects like Agronomy, Horticulture, Animal husbandry and Civil/Mechanical engineering. We were required to report at 6 am in half sleeve shirts and trousers in field Kaki colour with our pocket notebooks and pencil. In a class of 400 students we were divided in to three batches AB, CD, EF and allocated per name initials. I was in CD group, the only Raghuraman. Thank God for it, for there were many students with the same name and we had to call them by their different initials. In the process I was also given the name TVR, easy to identify and address!

Let me talk of some of the colourful classes now. For Agronomy we had to report in the central farm of the college. There were four blocks in the farm each with 100-200 acres of land. There was a farm manager and field supporting staff, all separately treated as a profit/loss centre under the overall control of a senior farm manager. There were huge go-downs for storage of grain and harvested produce, stores for tool and implements, sheds for manure and pesticides and many rows of cattle shed with huge animals for field work and many tractors. After a quick briefing session by our teachers we would go to the fields for the days class work. It could be anything, any operation going on in the farms we would participate. We would undertake and learn the work. Sometimes it could be the preparation of the field involving bullockor tractor drawn ploughs, levelling, irrigation, sowing, weeding, interculture, fertiliser application, harvesting, packing and transporting to the yard. The animals were well trained and soft in behaviour and knew their jobs better than us. We had no problems with them after we overcame their initial fear. I was half the animal’s height and would look insignificant compared to their girth and stature! They sometimes bothered me but would listen to my direction most of the time. Some days I would quietly carry some treats for them well hidden in my pockets which would be gladly accepted!

I vividly recall a few incidences. Once we were given training in Guinea grass cutting. We were taken to a large lush green grass field where grasses were ready for cutting. We were given a plot each to cut, tie and shift to a tractor trailer. Even though they had drained the water from the field earlier the ground was slippery. It was fun initially, but after some time it became a little tiresome, so we were allowed a breather and a drink of water. Back to work, and in a mood of over confidence, I cut the grass and pulled it closer, far too close along with the sharp sickle and down went the blade of sickle deep into my leg about half an inch. I screamed in pain, was given emergency treatment at the farm and taken to a nearby hospital for ATS and a proper dressing. It took almost a month to heal and I was nicknamed “jumping jack”! After that I was fairly careful with implements, particularly the sharper ones!

Many a day I used to go to these classes in the early morning after a glass of hot chocolate. My mother had not liked this at all and was persuading me all the time to eat a breakfast which she was willing to make for me even at five am! But it did not work so she tried another way. It was a time when my elder brother, Das, had come home on leave. He was in the Foreign Service working for the central Government and had the opportunity to work in many places including the Far East, Middle East, Europe and US. His visit was one that all members in the family looked forward to, as he would bring utility and electronic goods for the home and many gifts to each and every one of us. Much to my surprise he had come one day early morning to my field class in Agronomy under the pretext of seeing our classes and was chatting with my class teachers. He smiled at me good naturedly and waved. I was working in the middle of a muddy paddy field. What transpired between him and my teachers I did not know until I was given a nice dressing-down by my teachers for coming to field work classes without having breakfast! Though I was annoyed with my brother initially, I gradually started to get up early enough to eat a breakfast before going to classes. In the process mother was happy, my endurance went up, and this habit came in handy for me in my later years as an orchard/plantations manager when early breakfasting became a routine!

For practical lessons in Animal husbandry we would go to the college veterinary hospital early morning and were taught procedures to diagnose sickness, medicines and administration techniques. The animals involved were cattle, goats and poultry. I learnt with fascination how the doctors there effortlessly treated other outpatient animals (dogs, cats and horses). I liked this subject and used to score very high marks in the class and won many prizes. However the civil engineering practical was a bore. The mechanical engineering was tolerable as it involved tractors, pumps and farm machines and this field knowledge helped me a lot later. I dearly liked chemistry and we were taught physical chemistry and organic and inorganic chemistry in both theory and practical forms. Horticulture was another subject I excelled in. It was a delight working with orchard trees like mango, sappotas, grapes, bananas, and lemon. For training in hill fruits like apple, pears, plums and pineapple we were taken to farms in hill stations.

Four years rolled along effortlessly, the bottom line being I came out with first class grades with many a distinction in selected subjects. I was among the first ten of a class of 400 students. Prizes and medallions were conferred which made my teachers, parents, and well wishers proud. I was also involved closely in college dramatic and debating teams. In field games I was the college cricket captain, and a reserve player in hockey and tennis teams. We won many inter-college cups in cricket and once we won a hard fought tournament called the Rukmani memorial trophy in Palakkad, competing with many colleges of Kerala. My college sports authorities awarded me the college colour in cricket for this achievement, an award which goes with some golden stripes that I had to wear for special occasions.

In those days jobs were given by the state department for those who had written the final exams, as there was a severe dearth of staff in the agricultural field. I received my order of posting to go to Ooty, a hill station, for a special project on a soil conservation scheme and a farm experimenting with hill vegetables. I was thrilled. A salary of Rs 300 per month felt great. Off I went to join the project, staying in a hotel/boarding house sharing a large room and bath with two other officers. All expenses including food came under Rs 200 leaving a surplus of money to buy things for my mother and father during my monthly home visits along with a big basket of hill fruits and vegetables much to the delight of my parents. It was a great pleasure seeing my mother fill up the fridge and kitchen shelves saying when Raghu comes home, the entire market comes home!

Each and every father and mother give their best of what they can to their children and in the process endure many a strain and tension without a complaint. They expect nothing but a kind word in return. Every son and daughter should remember this all the time and ensure that their words, acts and deeds reflect a care and concern for their parents to make their life as pleasant as possible, now and at all times.

Written by Raghuraman

May 27th, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Posted in yesteryears

Memoirs of Wayanad – My green pastures of Kerala

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Wayanad, a land of hills and valleys is located in Kerala, Gods Own Country. The height of the hill towns range from 3000-5000 feet above sea level, the base town being Calicut. The Western Ghats as it is called is a very scenic place. Moderate temperature year round, thundering rains, slightly chilly winter and smooth summers are the weather indicators for these lovely towns. Agriculture is the main occupation, particularly plantation crops like coffee (Robusta), Citrus, Pineapple, Ginger, Bananas, Passion fruit and Avacado. Settlers, mainly British, were the owners of many of the plantations and even now some are managed by the descendents of early owners. Every now and then I go back to those days, pleasant memories, rich and recharging me all the time, any time.

Father, a medical doctor by profession, was in charge of the hospital at Ambalavayal, a compact hospital with 30-50 in-beds, an outpatient department and an isolation ward. He had a staff of 10 people under him, including a compounder, midwife, nurses, patient care staff, orderlies, drivers and security. We were given a nice huge bungalow close by. A white 6 roomed house with raised asbestos roofing and weather proof internal roofings and large yards in front and back. One of the rooms was father’s office at home to treat patients who called at odd hours. My father’s day would start at 8 am at the hospital with rounds of inpatients and then back to the busy and waiting outpatients. The hospital team would get busy attending to the needs of patients coming down from all over the hill towns surrounding the hospital. Lunch would be around noon. After some rest he would get busy with administrative matters, staff meeting, letters, reports, budgets etc and would get back home by 6 pm on non tour days. Otherwise on two days a week he would go to the primary heath centres (there were three of them) which were 2 hrs away, to attend to patients coming over there. Medicines needed for the first line of treatments were kept there and administered by 3-4 staff members attached to the centre. He was given a huge jeep (a military type vehicle) with a driver and cleaner to maintain this in condition. The tyres used to come up to my shoulder! On tour days he will leave Ambalavayal by 3 pm and return by 8pm. A very busy man, sought after by the community, a caring Doctor, for him every thing was secondary to duty and patient care. So my mother had a major role to play every day, and she used to do it equally well managing a busy man, school-going son (yours faithfully doing 7th grade), a grown up daughter (my elder sister) at home, and our favourite two cows and calves. Believe me, being the town doctor’s wife she was also an equally sought after person!

After a light breakfast and a packed lunch, I was required to leave by 7 am every morning 5 days a week to catch the bus going to Sultan Battery. A 45 minute ride by winding roads downhill, most of the school-going children use this bus, 15 to 20 of us from Ambalavayal and Meyppadi. We then walked 3 kms from the drop off zone of town Sultan Battery to reach school in time for the prayers, followed by 4-5 sessions/classes every day with a lunch break and back to catch the bus at 5 pm. Home by 6 pm, a quick change and off to our club. A semi circular roofed space of say 200-250 feet in length and 50 feet in width, it served as the officers club for the area. We had two outdoor badminton courts and card, carom, chess tables and a library in doors. My father would also join on non tour days, with other officers and staff from other state departments. Farm owners would also join in the action, relaxation, and fun for 2 hours. I used to be good in carom and would even get a chance to play elders. Sometimes bets will also be placed, the losers having to buy masala tea and hot vadas for all! Men will be all concentration in card games, “no noise please” was the message. 2-3 petrol lights illuminated the club. We all returned in groups taking the two main roads for home, a 10 minute walk for most of us. We had an elected committee of office bearers who looked after the administration of the club. We used to have matches played with other clubs in the nearby towns. All of us would help in the preparation of our team for the matches and we would go as an outing in hired vans with family members joining the picnic.

Once a month Father would take us to the big town Calicut, a drive downhill of about 4 hours and 29 hairpin bends. Key activities of the trip would be shopping of items that were not available in our area, special clothing needs for the season, maybe a movie, eating out in popular cafes or hotels, orders and purchases of special hospital needs and buying books/games/special food items. While we bought for the needs of our friends they would also do the same for us during their similar trips. A great fellow feeling prevailed all around.

Written by Raghuraman

May 16th, 2007 at 7:30 pm

Posted in yesteryears

Festivals – Faith, Fun and Feast

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A Hindu style of living means festivals and celebrations all year round, with the full involvement of all members of family and our relatives and friends. These rituals have evolved over thousands of years. Many of these call for detailed advance planning; therefore, the fun is in planning as much as in execution, particularly if the family size is big. However, it calls for lot of give and take, understanding, and appreciation among brothers and sisters in the family. Besides this, our festivals have an ability to unite people, age old differences are forgotten, egos are suppressed and a great fellow feeling emerges in the process. Our women-folk are the back bone to our festivals, their enthusiasm and high voltage activity triggers the men-folk to join and give a helping hand in the function and organisation. In the process the ladies get a lions share of new purchases made in terms of jewelry and clothing besides the presents they also get during the occasions.

If I were to make a formal index, the following pattern would emerge:

April

  • Tamil New Year and Vishu
  • Akshaya Thrithiyai

August

  • Pathinettam Perukku
  • Varalakshmi Vratham
  • Onam
  • Avani Avittam
  • Gayathri Japam

September

  • Gokulashtami
  • Vinayaka Chaturthi

October

  • Saraswathi Pooja
  • Vijay dashami

November

  • Deepavali
  • Ayyappa Festival

December

  • Vaikunta Ekadasi

January

  • Hanuman Jayanthi
  • Bogi
  • Pongal
  • Maattu pongal
  • Thaipusam

March

  • Maha Shivaratri
  • Karadai Nombu

Below, I have outlined the significance and celebrations involved for a few selected and more popular festivals.

Tamil New Year and Vishu

Tamil New Year is welcomed with joy and happiness; greetings and good wishes for the year are exchanged. Friends and relatives meet for a special lunch with a wide variety of vegetable dishes and sweets served over a banana leaf with rice. We also go to hear the reading of yearly forecasts done by Pundits in temples and community halls. The day starts with a visit to the nearby temple to seek the Lord’s directions and blessings year round.

On the other hand Vishu is celebrated among people with a Kerala background. Our day begins early morning before sunrise, when elders of the house escort us to see the Vishu kani arrangement kept the previous night in the house. We see in front of us a glittering and glorious sight with a backdrop of a mirror, an arrangement kept in the family pooja room. Small bowls of all grains used in daily cooking, major fruits and vegetables and flowers of the season, gold, silver, precious family heritage ornaments, jewelry, gold and silver coins and other Indian currency are all arranged neatly reflecting in the shine of lighted brass lamps! We pray to Goddess Lakshmi to bless us with needed wealth for us and a mind to offer to deserving causes and have-nots among us. We also pray to Goddess Annapurni, the provider of food, to continue to give us our daily bread. I recall that our forefathers did not eat their food without offering the same to an Aththi (guest or hungry) first.

A very interesting part of Vishu is the Kani neetam. Here the elders are required to offer a present of Rupee coins to the younger ones who come to greet them with Pranams/Namaskar. We start with our parents and the same is extended down the line. There is joy and happiness in the face of the giver and receiver. Being the youngest in the family I invariably ended up with the maximum collections and felt rich! This feeling would go on till the money was spent!

Akshaya Trithigai

It’s our belief that gold, silver, precious ornaments or coins purchased this day will bring prosperity during the rest of the year. In our puranas and epics we have writings to prove this. It would seem that it is this day when Lord Krishna gave Draupathi the Akshya pathram (vessel) which would give a never-ending supply of food till it is washed and kept inverted for the day! It is also on this day that Kuchela, who was suffering from poverty, went to meet his childhood friend Krishna, and even without his asking was endowed with riches by the all knowing Lord. So our women-folk will make good use of this opportunity to demand gold and silver ornaments from their men-folk and we cannot say no! The jewelry shops in town will entice the buyers with massive discount offers. A Gold rush season! Only God can save the poor husbands from getting a deep hole in their pockets.

Krishna Jayanthi or Gokulashtami

This is a day of reckoning, welcoming the birth of Krishna, an Avatar to destroy the devil Kamsa. Stories of Krishna’s childhood, the wonders he did to protect his followers, the devotion of Gopies and his music through the flute are legendary. Sri Krishna is welcomed in to each home on this evening, footsteps are drawn depicting his steps walking in, detailed poojas are arranged, with offerings of his choice (most favorite being butter) and little ones in the family are dressed like Sri Krishna. There are two famous temples for the Lord; one is at Udipi at Mangalore district in the border of Kerala and Karnataka, and the other being at Guruvayoor, near Trichur in Kerala state.

Sri Krishna, Gurivayurappa, Narayana, Madava and Govinda are some of the names he is addressed as. We have prolific spiritual leaders among us today who have offered their life, wealth and time to the spread of Sri Krishna’s message to humanity through Bhagavadam or Bagavat Gita, like Mata Amirthanandha Mayi and Professor Prema Pondurangan. Both have thousands of followers all over the world, and their Ashram is a great place for any religious minded to visit, stay and participate in the routines. A soul enriching experience!

Vinayaka Chaturthi

Many Ganesha idols can be seen in our houses in metal, ivory, wood, mud plaster or as paintings. He can be seen everywhere for there is no place without him, no function or ritual starts without offering poojas to him first. It’s our belief that he will guide and direct our every endeavor to success, so Hindus love him, respect him and take him where ever they go, the bare minimum being his picture in their wallets.

Sri Ganesha’s festival is celebrated as a community festival in Maharastra, giant sized images are made of mud plaster, and formally get installed with decorations in popular, central locations. People make it a point to visit as many as possible to pray and give their offerings. On the last day he is taken in procession through the main streets with music and dancing for immersion in the sea.

Ganesha is very easy to please. He accepts anything offered with a pure mind, even a grass garland. He has a thousand names and his favorite dish is Kolukkatai, a rice ball like dish cooked in a steam oven. In all our temples there is a special place for him and he is worshipped first as soon as we enter the temple. Need I say more about the respect we have for him?

Navarathri

A very important festival celebrated over a period of nine days, worshipping Sri Durga for the first three days, Sri Lakshmi for the next three days and Sri Saraswathi for the last three days praying for strength, wealth and knowledge respectively. Members of the house help create an arrangement of dolls in structured steps of 5-7-9 and the same is decorated with lights. Children also create a garden, or a zoo, or museum, or even a cricket match scene on the base as an added attraction. Ladies of the household take the lead in this function. Evenings are allotted to receiving invited friends and relatives who participate in the poojas, group or individual singing and aarathi. Every day a dish is made as Prasadam and, after offering to the presiding deity, is distributed to invitees in a pre made container or packet (Men usually do this job). One can witness colourful evenings with ladies wearing their best jewelry and clothing. We have to buy new silk saris (if possible nine, one for each day) for our lady wives, and daughters. Note that no excuses are allowed here as they would claim that it is an act done for the welfare of the family.

On the last day after the poojas we are expected to read some chapters of our important books which would earlier be kept in the pooja area. The next day is Vijaya Dasmami day, a day to teach basic writing skills to the young ones by the elders in the family. Many families admit their little ones to school this day.

Deepavali

Deepavali is a festival of lights, sounds, new clothing, new jewelry, great feasts and new account opening by traders. Happiness and joy prevails all around. A fitting celebration of good prevailing over evil. A lot of pre-planning and pre-budgeting is done for this festival. It is a major cash outflow festival with shopping involved for all members of the family, purchase of new dresses, firecrackers, sweets , houses cleaned and redecorated and in many cases decorative lights are placed in position. Business houses order gifts for their clients to be delivered on this day.

Typically the day starts early before sunrise, with a holy bath (we call it Ganga snan), the new dresses are handed over by the elders in the family to all, and we in turn seek the blessings of the Lord, and family deity for our health and happiness. We seek the blessings of our parents, elders and gurus and off we go in groups to burst firecrackers. For breakfast we are served many sweet items followed with traditional Idli, chutney, podies and steaming filter coffee. A great family feast is cooked for lunch, joined by friends and relatives. The day moves to evening for temple prayers, and another session of firecrackers. A very busy day for all.

Ayyappa season

Dharma Sastha, Manikanda, Kaliyuga Varadha. Saranam, saranam , saranam, Swamiyea Saranam Ayyappa will be the words in every Ayyappa devotees mind and lips from mid November to mid January, during which period the devotees, after taking a vow and wearing the symbolic mala, observe certain austerities and practices for 41 days before embarking on the journey to Sabari mala hills on the banks of river Pampa in Kerala. A very sacred journey done normally as a group will follow the longer route of 41 kms or shorter route of 12 kms through the forests and steep hills to get a Darsan of Lord Ayyappa ,the presiding Deity in Sabarimala. The pre-season preparation of 41 days prepares the body and mind to undertake the great journey on foot. Strict vegetarian, simple food, mala with saffron or black dress, prayers twice daily morning and evening after bath, a temple trip daily, attending group chantings are followed during this phase.

Gurusamy is the name given to the group leader who normally would have experienced the trip more than a dozen times As a friend and guide he would help other devotees (called Ayyappas) in the preparatory phase, actual trip and return. We carry offerings to the lord on our heads packed in Irumudi, a cloth packing with two compartments, one for the lord containing coconut shells filled with ghee, pooja items and rice, and the other for ourselves with other offerings. Dharma sastha accepts all without distinction and reaching Him at Sabarimala is a divine experience. As per last year’s count over 12 lakh devotees made the trip during this season. The temple with gold plating, is surrounded by 18 hills. Two important days are the Dec 25[Makara Vilaku] and Jan 15 [Jyothi] when millions of devotes seek His Dhrasan. The temple with its Holy 18 steps is also kept open on a selected few days every month which is announced in newspapers. I had the benefit of making over 4 trips to Sabarimala, and each trip is an experience. A great fellow feeling, simple living, acceptance, concentration, leaner bodies are some of the incidental benefits that one accrues during the process. No day goes without a Saranam to Ayyappa.

Maha Shivaratri

This is the day for Lord Siva, Parameswara, the starter and ender of all. The presiding deity in all Siva temples with his consort Ambigai/Easwari. Poojas and night long prayers are conducted with offerings of sandal paste, milk, coconut water and fruit mixes in honey. Many devotes observe fasting during this day. A very important day in the Hindu calendar.

Pongal

Celebrated as a three day festival mostly in Tamilnadu coinciding with the first harvest of rice, a farmer’s festival, when the family cooks the first grain in a new pot and offers the same as thanksgiving to the Sun God. The house is cleaned and decorated on the first day. Bogi, the second day, is the festival day of offerings, joint prayers and a good feast. The third day is allotted to the cows and cattle in the farmers shed. They are bathed, dressed and decorated and taken in ceremonial processions to temple, their favourite foods are given to them. They are given ample rest during this day, a way of saying thank you!

Festivals are our pacifier, preserver and path finder for our inner self which also needs reconditioning once in while like a well used engine. The more we try to relive and enjoy such events the more we stand to gain and in the process learn and live like a human being which is the least expected of us.

Written by Raghuraman

May 12th, 2007 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Indian Culture