Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ayutha Pooja

When I was small, Ayutha Pooja was a festival which I looked forward to with great eagerness along with Diwali and Pongal. One of the reasons of course, was the holiday from school which we got. But besides that, the more appealing reason to me was that Ayutha Pooja was the one day when we could, thanks to tradition, with a very clear conscience, desist from studying :-D!

The festival of Navaratri (literally translated to "nine nights") preceded Ayutha Pooja. My family did not have the tradition of keeping "Golu", which is the most prominent feature of Navaratri in Tamilnadu. Nevertheless, it was fun to get invited to houses of various friends and neighbors who did keep golu. Back then, we mostly used to live in bank-provided apartment complexes where we knew a lot of our neighbors (all the houses had at least one person working in one of the various branches of the same bank as dad).

So almost every evening, invitation to one house or the other was guaranteed. Sometimes we were invited to visit multiple houses on the same evening. At each house, we got to see the beautiful golu setup of idols. We invariably got delicious sundal to eat. Additionaly, we got flowers, kumkum and an small item like a kutti mirror or kumkum container (traditional items - I don't know the reasoning behind giving these) to take away.

Most of the times, one or the other of the invited ladies (usually only the lady folks were present - I don't know if only women were invited or the guys just stayed away) would sing religious songs. Sis and me were also asked to chime in with the devotional songs. But in interest of the physical and mental well-being of the others, we used to politely decline!

The most interesting Navaratri celebrations happened when we lived in Calcutta. Durga Pooja, as navaratri is commonly referred to there, is a very big festival in West Bengal. You could see pandals housing statues of Durga and other Gods in every locality. Some of these pandals were so beautifully and artistically decorated. Each of the durga pooja evenings in Calcutta was spent outside the house, visiting the various pandals spread across the city. The whole city was lit up with the festivities and it was a joy to be among the happy crowds.

The last day of navaratri, Ayutha Pooja (ayutham = weapon in Tamil but in this context, it more implies "tools") was a full fledged celebration at home. The cleaning up of the house and the implements in it started earlier in anticipation of the festival. Sis and I used to pitch in - we split all the electronics between us (TV/VCR/Washing machine/refrigerator etc.) between us for cleaning. Mom would supervise the cleaning of the doors and windows of the house by the maid. Dad would supervise the watchman/driver in the cleaning of the car.

On Ayutha pooja day, we used to go around the house keeping dots of sandal paste and kumkum on all the doors as well as on the implements in the house.This was considered auspicious. A string of fresh mango leaves would be strung across the main entrance to the house. We also kept all our books, writing implements and other tools of trade before the pictures of God.

I remember, when I was in 12th standard (the all-important year of school life, thanks to board exams) I got completely carried away and transferred my whole book shelf of school-books to the pooja room. My mom had to gently remind me that just keeping the books in the pooja room would not ensure telepathic transfer of knowledge :-D!

Anyways, after all this set up, dad would conduct the pooja. Then we would all settle down to an elaborate and scrumptious lunch made by mom. *Yummy*! Since, as per the demands of tradition, we were not supposed to use any of our school-books (teachers at school also usually did not give us homework - we always made sure to plead "inability to do homework" beforehand :-D) , sis and I used to either play all day or watched TV till our eyes popped out :-D. !

The next day was Vijayadashami - the most auspicious day to study. I usually used to try to read at least some of my subjects - maybe a page from each book. With that, the navaratri festivities came to an end.

Last night, I was chatting with my parents. Dad told me that it was Ayutha Pooja for them as it was October 1st in India. He then added that he and mom were not too keen on celebrating it as both sis and me were not at home. But they were still going ahead with the pooja to maintain tradition. Oh, I miss celebrating Ayutha Pooja :-(! I wish I was back home :-(.

I started cribbing to mom about missing the Ayutha Pooja festivities. So she said that I should try celebrating it over here. She asked me to clean my house, my car and cook something nice today (October 1st and Ayutha Pooja according to US time). I said I would try.

Today was one of those cloudy yet beautiful days. I opened the blinds across both the patio doors and let the diffused sunlight flood into the house. Then I vacuumed the whole apartment, dusted everything and did laundry. Basically, full-fledged cleaning. Then, in the evening, I made sundal, lit my kutti oil-lamp and said a little prayer for everyone.

Oh, this is not a patch on celebrating Ayutha Pooja at home. But I feel a little happier now. Even though I know I did not clean the car :-D!

Happy Ayutha Pooja folks :-)!


spark said...

the sundal looks yummy. you must be a super cookie ;-) inga irukkum podhu no idea of time or festivals. good to note that you celebrated it! btw, did you do it alone?

enga veetiliyum no golu. but have had a nice time visiting all the veggie houses which go big on golu shows. nalla velai naan ponna pirakkalai ;-) i'd have to do all these girly things of attending bhajans

Saranya Kishore said...

Telepathy - I knew you would have blogged today :--D

Hey we lived in a Qtrs too, and we used to go around to everybody's home and eat all kinds of sundal everyday, and sing too! :-) Nice carefree days. Miss them. :--(
Today we went to the temple and had nice prasadham. I love temple food. :--))

Archana said...

Spark - My parents try make sure that I know of the festival at least on the day it happens :-)! Yup, yup - did it alone - now you can understand just how much I missed celebrating ayutha poojai at home :-)! Doing girly things is also fun you know :-D!

Saranya - :-D! Yeah, eating all those varieties of sundals used to be so nice! You must have entertained everyone with your nice voice - singing and me are light years apart, so I did not risk it :-P! Temple pakkam poi its been ages for me :-(! Good to know you enjoyed the prasadham :-)!

ROBBIE said...

My parents were also in calcutta till 10 years back and my bro grew up with them and they always used to rave about the durga poojas and stuff. I was on the other hand brought up with my grandparents in tamil nadu. Hmm... so you are also a tamil bong like my parents eh:P. hahah. hmm reading your post made me miss eating sundal!!! I did have some at my friends house but they werent chick peas though!

Inder said...

haha... sundal is one of the highlights of ayutha pooja :D

Prabhu said...

"Maami maami kolu vacha sundal" - the kids (which included me as well) used to go in our streets back then...

Eppdiyo un veeda clean panna vachutanga, unga amma appa :)

Me too did the same while in 12th, board exam-naala ellaa books-um saraswathi poojai-ku vachutten and it made it tuf to read the next day :(

Archana Bahuguna said...

Happy Ayutha POoja to you too! Cooked chick peas yesterday me too :-). Prayed and cleaned, me too :-). Felt nice, me too! he he ..

I too miss all the Navratras and all that festivity that goes on in India around this time, going into Diwali, into Christmas, New Year! Here, although people do organize stuff it still is far from comparable. :-)

Have fun! I think today is Vijayadashmi. (You know I was actually calculating that since Diwali comes 20 days after today and Rama and all his men actually travelled from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya in 20 days they would have walked like 75-80 km a day. Whew! :-)

PRIDERA said...

Happy Dusshera to you too Archana.
I distinctly remember keeping all my books for the Saraswathi pooja. It was as if the knowledge would flow uninterrupted if this was done :) We used to invite people to our house on atleast one day during Navratri.
THe best part about Ayuda Pooja was my dad got loads (atleast a dozen variety) of sweets from factory. It was the prasadam that would be distributed after the ayudha pooja in the factory. Miss all the sweets now :(

Archana said...

Robbie - I don't know if staying in Cal for 3 years in my whole life qualifies me as a Tamil Bong :-))! Yeah chick peas sundal is the "classic" sundal - not to worry though, I ate enough for everyone :-P!

Inder - thats true :-D!

Prabhu - LOL! Adhuvum correct - I had been postponing this vacuum task for ages!! Ellarukum rombavey kadavul bakthi varum in 12th standard I guess - :-D!

Archana - hey, thanks :-)! I guess since halloween/thanksgiving etc. don't hold special memories for us, seeing festivities for celebrating those occassions really does not compensate for lack of celebrations for the Indian festivals! Ooooh, I did not know there was some calculation fundae between Vijayadasami and Diwali - thanks for the info! That's _quite_a_bit_ of walking!!

Pridera - thank you :-)! Ah, so you too had the same belief - LOL! Yeah, I miss all the sweets too :-(. Generally in India, from Navaratri onwards, there used to be steady supply of sweets right till after Diwali! Nothing here - *sigh*!

Archana Bahuguna said...

Yeah, Dussehra(Vijayadashmi) is the day when Rama kills Ravana in Lanka, and then on Diwali he comes back to Ayodhya after his 14 years banishment. (M sure you already know that but couldnt help yacking)

Ginkgo said...

say that to arjun na..hez the one that did that movie :-)

The Kid said...

I got a sundal story too, Mademoiselle:

Since I was mobbed by girls with ratios as high as 1:12 (truly a ladies man!), all with shiny pattu pavadai s and the giltters, I got into the groove in my apartment complex and used to get more sundal than I could finish. Well, I used to sing well in those pre-pubescent days.

and then my voice box died on me and so did the supply of sundal... :(

Shilpa said...

Good girl !

I din't do anything spl for navratri except research work. :-(

rads said...

no fair at all! I wrote these exact words
" I collected so much of sunday over the weekend, that I brought in the remaining 2 for lunch yesterday. :D

Serious question - where do you find time to write? My time flies very fast :( "

It disappeared, I don't see it in your comment section? :O

Archana said...

Archana - I know the rest of the story, but did not know (or rather, pause to think about) this 20 days between dussera and diwali funda :-))!

Ginkgo - you had me for a moment! I was wondering how come Arjun from the Mahabharatha made his appearance in a post about Dussera :-))! Then bulb glowed!

Pratap - LOL :-D! Nice story - I imagined the whole scene and am laughing right now!!

Shilpa - ayo paavum :-(!

Rads - :-))! Ohh, I did not see your original comment at all :-(! Maybe blogger is eating up stuff :-O! And where do I find time to write? Simple, all my time is my very own right now and I am lovin' it :-D! Though weekends simply fly by! I have nth of Sunday leftover for lunch or ath else *sigh*!