25th August, 2008
Krishna is our favourite God.
Having read the epic of Mahabharata in my growing years and having read it many times, I have a full appreciation of the character of Krishna. He is such a charmer! He is someone every common man can relate to unlike other Gods that are too perfect to follow or even identify with.
He broke pots of butter and got beatings from his mother.
He ran away with the clothes of women while they bathed in the Yamuna.
He romanced Radha.
He befriended Arjuna.
He ate earth, played village games with the cowboys and took their cattle for grazing.
And he was so diplomatic! He even urged the ever truthful Yudhishthira to utter a lie in the face of Dhronacharya to save the Pandavas from destruction.
He is truly one among us!
Incidentally, Krishnajanmashtami is the most special festival for us.
Come month of August and there is a festive mood at home. The preparations begin. Chakkuli, Tenkolal, Murukku, Nippat and other sweets; the kitchen becomes full of these. Its not just mother who is busy, but everyone has some chore at hand. After all, everyone has the right to serve Krishna.
Father goes to the market and brings home big, fresh stalks of banana plant with leaves, several meters of Marigold, Sevanthige, Jasmine, Kanakambara and Rajanigandha flowers in strings, fruits – sweet lime, apple, pineapple, black grapes in small bunches, pomegranate, Seethaphal ………and we are all set.
It’s time for my brother’s contribution now. Both father and brother put together two huge bamboo poles (half the length and girth of electric poles outside my house ), a table, a crisscross rectangular wooden frame (specially made by order for this occasion), the banana stalks and ropes - for half an hour to forty minutes - to erect a beautiful mantapam in the hall.
It’s my turn now. The mantapam, whose framework alone has been set up needs to be decorated. The idea is to hang all the fruits and sweetmeats from the crisscross frame that forms the roof of the mantapam so that when the idol of Krishna is placed at the center, an assorted mix of fruits and sweetmeats sway right over Krishna’s head. Interesting. Isn’t it? But it’s not an easy task. It takes a good three hours. Believe me.
Firstly, it’s a challenge to tie the fruits. If the fruit is still attached to the twig, then it is easy. You tie the twig to a twine thread and other end of the thread is fastened to the crisscross wooden frame. But most fruits are bereft of any attachment….pun intended!
Sweet lime is one such fruit. One can always pierce it with a needle, pass the thread through it and tie a knot. But we don’t feel like hurting it like that. So we make a kind of cradle using a bangle and the fruits sit nicely in their cradles, probably showering upon us blessings for the mercy. The cradles are then hung from the wooden frame above.
The big fancy ones like the pine apple, coconut, black grapes, maize, a bunch of plantains are hung on the front along with the other fruits. After an hour the fruits have all been tied. And then the fried snacks and sweetmeats are tied in between the fruits.
Lastly, the mantapam is decked with flowers on all sides to hide the ugly bamboo poles, strings and all that. This is usually my prerogative. Not just this one, but also the drawing of floral designs with rice pigment on the floor before the mantapam.
Foot prints of baby Krishna are drawn with clenched fists using the same rice pigment from the main door up to the mantapam. This is to symbolize the coming of Krishna into the house.
Our house is inundated with pictures of Krishna and idols of Krishna. There is this really cute Krishna in his childhood digging from a pot of butter made of clay. There is a Radhakrishna made of plaster of Paris, a Krishna in boyhood playing the flute and another colourful Krishna holding the Govardhana Mountain with his little finger. But the most special of them all is a marble statue of Krishna, playing the flute. My father bought this idol 28 years ago in Brindavan for 400 rupees. It is probably the most valued article in the house. Through many transfers that took us all over the country, he carried the idol in his arm, carefully wrapping the idol in a soft cloth, too reluctant to put it in a suitcase, trunk or any other baggage.
It is about a foot tall. The expression on the face exudes peace and serenity. A perfect facial expression is every sculptor’s ultimate aspiration and ultimate challenge.
Lamps are lit. Pooja is performed. Dinner follows. A sweetmeat named Aappam is the specialty for the occasion.
The next evening there is Aarti for which women of the neighbourhood are invited. This is an occasion I look forward to because I get to wear sari on this day, some jewelry and look pretty. :-)
This year I lit some of those candles I brought from a Walmart store in California. What flavour was that? Warm Apple Pie… 9 red coloured candles… they looked exotic.
I don’t know if I am religious, spiritual, traditional…… I really don’t know…
But festivals are always nice to celebrate for the togetherness they bring about in a family, for the positive mood and vibes they create in the atmosphere, ....for music, food, lamps, flowers, fragrance, beauty, clothes, jewelry …and other good things.