A Weekend, Amazing Weather, Rains And A Beautiful Fort!

I absolutely love rains! There’s just something so peaceful and serene in watching the raindrops fall all around you. And they just change the way everything looks so much. The leaves, the trees, the amazingly colored flowers, even the boring grey streets get a life. And on one such beautiful, rainy day, me and my friends decided to go visit the fort Lohagad. It was still dark when we took the 5.45 train to Malawli from Pune where I live. Lohagad is about 9 kms from the train station at Malawli.

As we started walking towards the fort, we were a little disappointed that there were gonna be no rains. The sky seemed clear. And then we saw this:

We were excited at the prospect of rains. We could already smell it in the air. The beginning of rains. The road was a nice, winding, upward slope adorned on both sides with luscious green fields, rice plantations and beautiful colorful flowers.

And this is what we caught on our way:

And then we saw the neighboring fort: Visapur.

Fort Visapur

The lovely, lonely tree. There’s just something eerie and beautiful about this one.

Now coming to the actual fort. This is the entrance:

A view from the top:

And another one:

This is as much as I could click the pictures. Beyond this point, it started raining so hard that it was impossible for me to take any pictures. It was so foggy that we couldn’t see beyond two feet in front of us. It was as if we were walking in the clouds.

The pouring rain, the 270 degree view of the surrounding and us, just sitting there not talking, not saying anything except enjoying the moment. We all knew right then what heaven must feel like!

The Indian Wedding: Part I

“I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,

A church filled with family and friends.

I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,

He said one that would make me his wife.”

Weddings are one of the most important parts of our lives. We plan for them, we wait to find the right person and we plan, we wait to tell our families and we plan, we decide the dates to our weddings and we plan, we plan, we plan. At least that is true with us, the species from Venus!

And as a country diverse and vast in tradition, India does not lack elaborate wedding rituals and traditions. So today, I’m going to talk about the “Big Fat Indian Wedding”. I have wanted to do this post for quite some time now, but I was waiting for the time when I actually attend a wedding myself. But I haven’t gotten a chance to attend anyone’s wedding recently, so I decided to take the help of my dear friend, Google Images for the snaps.

So I am gonna split this post into parts, starting with the Indian Wedding Attire today! We Indians are extremely fond of flashy wedding attires ranging from our sarees to our jewellery. Here are some snaps of the different kinds of sarees available:

Banarasi Shalu

This saree here is a Benarasi Shalu. No Indian woman can feel like a bride without one of these! These sarees come from a place called Bearas or Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Paithani

This saree here is a Paithani, made in the Maharashtrian town of Paithan. This type of saree boasts of embroidery in gold threads.

Kanjeevaram

This here is a Kanjeevaram Saree which belong to the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Gadwal Silk

The Gadwal Silk Sarees are a specialty of the State of Andhra Pradesh.

Patola Silk

Patola silk sarees are hand woven sarees from the place called Patan in the state of Gujarat.

There are a lot more types of sarees available in myriads of beautiful colors. The sarees combined with the traditional jewellery create an absolutely stunning combination.

The Maharashtrian Bride

This is a picture of a Maharashtrian bride with the traditional green glass bangles and mehendi (henna) on her hands and feet. I’m going to get to the mehendi ceremony some other time. She has an armlet on. I think the jewellery will also have to wait for some other time.

Nauvari

This is another type of Maharashtrian Saree called Nauvari. I know there are a lot of Maharashtrian things in here but being a Maharashtrian myself I think that’s the only part I know the best!

South Indian Bride

This is a South Indian bride with the tradition Kanjeevaram Saree.

This is a picture of a North Indian Bride in Lehenga. Lehenga is a long skirt usually adorned with embroidery and beads work.

Now, we’ll move a little towards the grooms.

The Indian Groom

Usually, the Indian groom wears a pagdi or a pheta, the headgear. The kurtas that are worn have embroidery or jardosi work. (Jardosi is a kind of stone work)

Shervani

The long coat is called a Shervani and is an integral part of Indian groom attire.

Dhoti

This is a traditional Dhoti worn by men below the kurtas. The footwear here is called mojadi.

This is all I have today on the Indian Wedding Attire. As you can see, there are very few pictures of the attires of grooms as compared to the brides. The reason could be, one, women are more enthusiastic about weddings, need more variety, need something that is unique at least for their weddings and number two, even Google agrees. Even if you search for Indian Grooms, you still end up with a lot of pictures of the brides!

Disclaimer: As we all know India is a huge country with 28 states and 7 union territories with people majorly following about 7 to 8 different religions. Covering the weddings of all the people from these myriad backgrounds seems a little difficult. So the series of posts on Indian wedding is just sort of an overview of the big fat Indian wedding as I understand it.

The Wari of Pandharpur

I am going to start this journey with a pilgrimage. I’m going to write about the Wari of Pandharpur because it is happening right at this moment, in the Indian state of Maharashtra where I live. It is one of  the many Indian traditions that was started  long, long ago, somewhere in the ancient past. Some  say it was started about 800 years ago, others say it was about 500 years ago. In any case, it’s been around for longer than the USA!

I happened to pass the procession on Friday and was mesmerized by the spirit of the people! It was a beautiful, cloudy day and the Warkaris(We’ll get to who they are in a short while) looked so serene and at peace with what they were doing. The beauty of that morning made me want to write about it, and here I am!

The Hindu religion has its own calendar. Ours is a lunar year, with months following the waxing and waning of the moon.  Every year on the eleventh day of the  waxing moon in the Hindu month of Aashaadh, several thousands of devotees of the Warkari clan, singing and dancing to the beat of cymbals and the Mrudunga (a traditional Indian drum), reach the temple town of Pandharpur, to pay homage to the Hindu deity Lord Vitthal. The clan, which had only a handful of followers about half a century ago, today boasts of four to five hundred thousand pilgrims or warkaris as they are known. Songs are sung, stories told, strangers become companions and friends. It’s a scene straight out of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and it happens every year.

The Warkaris in the ghats

The warkaris walk to Pandharpur for about 20 days every year with intermittent stops at different places. The local people at these stops make arrangements to lodge and feed the warkaris. The pilgrims sing, dance and chant bhajans (devotional songs that praise the Lord, kind of like psalms). Reaching Pandharpur in the hundreds of thousands, the warkaris represent an enigmatic unbroken tradition, which has cut across centuries and barriers of caste and creed, despite the austerity and hardships involved. In this procession, a wide variety of people from all social and economic backgrounds join the sea of Warkaris and worship with same fervour & devotion. Professors, doctors, businessmen and administrators rub shoulders with poor farmers, labourers and artisans. For those 20 days at least, there are no differences between the pilgrims.

This pilgrimage has loads of positive effects, quite apart from the spiritual satisfaction of doing it. People get to know about diverse regions, social variety and change. They also try to bring about a social change by banning narcotics, like alcohol and tobacco. Most importantly, this helps people to realize how to live life on just the bare necessities. People who have experienced  a lot of sorrow in their lives can achieve a sort of detachment from everyday life and  get at least a temporary relief from it. This detachment from the material world and concentration on the spiritual world is central to the Indian concept of Moksha, the state of mind that leads to Nirvana, or heaven. In their own small way, the pilgrims aim to reach heaven, at least during the Wari.

The Warkaris sacrifice all pleasures and comforts while on their way Pandharpur. They uphold a strict vegetarian diet throughout and observe fasts during the pilgrimage. Warkaris wake up early in the morning, take a quick bath and get ready for the day’s journey. Women rise earlier than men to complete other chores. A Tutari or wind instrument is blown thrice to signal the start of that day’s pilgrimage. Warkaris divide themselves into small groups called Dindis.  Each Dindi is lead by a flag bearer, followed by women carrying sacred Basil plants and pots of water for the pilgrims on their heads. Each Dindi prepares food for itself, erects tents and has its own water tankers. People who gather along the road to witness the procession offer fruits, vegetables and other essentials to the Dindis. A true sense of brotherhood grows among complete strangers, reflecting the true spirit of Wari.

According to the Warkari ideology, the soul is the essence of every being’s life. God is a part of this essence. So, the sole objective of a Warkari in life is to ensure that the divine remains a part of the living experience. The warkaris have always worked  for social causes like women’s rights and liberation, or fighting against alcoholism. Lately, they have tried to tackle more modern problems like AIDS through awareness.The pilgrimage ends when the Warkaris reach Pandharpur and bathe in the Chandrabhaga River. They then proceed to worship Lord Vitthal, thus completing their magical journey.

 

Photo Courtesy: Shalvika P and Google Images

What this is about

Every country has its own treasure trove of beliefs and traditions and customs. And I have always found it enriching to read about cultures across the globe. It always fascinates me to find out about different societies and their customs. And  I’m lucky enough to be from a place that’s abundantly rich in culture and traditions: India.

I am going to keep an account of all the unique traditions and customs that are so peculiar to Indian life, here in this space.  I want to share the beauty and the expanse and the unbelievable richness of India’s culture with all of my friends here who haven’t gotten a chance to experience what  our life is like.

I hope you all will find this experience as intriguing as I did. And I would really appreciate your opinions about this section.

 

Photo Courtesy: Google Images

Satyamev Jayate!!!!

We are a country that lives on bollywood!! We need our “stars” to endorse everything for us, right from underwear to shampoos to phones. Especially us, the people who were born in the 90s. For us there was no Doraemon or Shin Chan. We had to make do with the Salmans and the Shahrukhs. And oh, I loved them all!!! But now that I’m 22 and have seen the “World (Movies???)”, oh how much I despise the likes of Ra One and Dabangg!!!! I pity their lameness, their tackiness, and their ummm…. bollywoodness (Is that a word??? Well, there should be!!!). But there is still one man for whom I’ll never lose my respect. He’s a perfectionist, an intelligent moviemaker, an amazing actor who gives exemplary performances one after the other. Yes, I’m going to talk about the one only Aamir Khan today. More specifically, his show that everyone is talking about, Satyamev Jayate.

When the program started, I was wondering if it would just end up being any other talk show. But I was wrong. I think it was an intelligent attempt to address one of the vices that torment Indian society. It talked about female foeticide in a detailed sort of way that you can expect Aamir to come up with. And believe me, the statistics are shocking!!! The sex ratio has apparently lowered to 914 girls for every 1000 boys. But what is more shocking is the reason this is happening. It’s us, the humans. With our intelligence, our technological advances, our sophisticated machinery and the most important of all, our qualified doctors, we believe that we have the right to decide who lives and who doesn’t. It numbs me, and I’m sure the rest of us too, to think about those women who are tortured because they carry a girl in their womb. As I sat there with tears in my eyes, watching those three women (One of them actually had her face bitten by her husband because she delivered two girls!! I mean how horrible is that???), I couldn’t help but wonder the extent to which humans are capable of inflicting atrocities on one another. I remember reading this sentence once by this philosopher (I can’t remember the name!!! Aargh!!):

“Think of the worst thing you possibly can. Someone, somewhere has already done that”

As hard it is to believe this, I think it’s quite true. And believe me, I was horrified and I felt like screaming out watching that woman with her scarred face. How would any man, though not carying the child in him, even think of doing that??? How can a woman who herself has carried a child at some point of time or other, kick her own granddaughter down the stairs??? How could those doctors, who we entrust with our lives, be actually responsible of killing unborn girls and still live with it???  How could we be so ruthless, so heartless???

And then someone told me to look at the positive side of it. To look at the fact that those women fought back. To look at the incredible human capability to face, to overcome and to survive. To even decide to become independent after so many years of living a sheltered, protected, dependent life. To respect their guts. And the guts of all those who believe that change is possible, that change should begin with them. Its very easy for all of us to sit back and watch it and write about it but extremely difficult to actually make the decision of getting up and trying to bring about a change. If we can’t do that, let us at least take a pledge today that we won’t be those humans, that we would never decide who lives and who doesn’t, that we would love whoever that comes in our lives equally and try to make this world a better place to live. Because better place means happier lives. And all we want to do in this world is be happy, isn’t it???