Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bhagini Hastha Bhojanam, Bhai Dooj

During the last day of Diwali, which was November 07th; Harshi Bhayya handed me a bag and said that today is 'Bhai Dooj' so please take this bag. I had no clue what he was saying. I simply took the bag and went about my Satya Narayana Swami Poja. He came back to me in a little while and said, keep a 'tika' on my forehead and tie a 'rakhi' or any sacred thread you have on my hand. I did what he said making a mental note to ask my Mother In Law about this.

With My Brother Harshi Bhayya.

Later that evening when I asked my Mother In Law, she said that she did not know about the 'North Version' but in South India we celebrate what is known as 'Bhagini Hastha Bhojanam' more popularly known as 'Yama Dwitiya.' The story goes like this:  Yama and his twin sister Yamini also known as Yami had to be separated due to a curse on Yama. He had been declared the 'Lord of Death' and had to leave his home and part from his sister. His sister could not bear the separation and her tears caused the river Yamuna. She became 'night,' bringing sunlight and hope following the darkness. One day, a weary Yamaraj went to meet his sister Yami. She was overjoyed to meet him and welcomed him home. She did an aarathi to him to him and placed kumkum on his forehead praying for his safety. She took pains to prepare a special meal for her brother which they enjoyed together. Yama was very touched and became nostalgic. Both the sibllings remembered their childhood and simply felt blessed for the sacred relationship they shared.

On googling the internet, I found that Lord Krishna went to his sister Subhadra's house after killing the demon Narakasura. Subhadra recieved her tired and worn out brother with a lot of warmth and love that only a mother can provide her son. She did an aarthi for him and applied the sacred 'tilak.' She celebrated him and fed him a grand dinner.
My Brother Harsh Bhayya

In today's world, we still celebrate all these rituals with a lot of fanfare. Brothers and sisters take out the time to be with each other and recollect their past together. The bond becomes stronger and both feel very happy for this blessed day together. It is usually the role of a mother to make sure that the bond between a brother and sister always be strong. Once the children become old enough to realize the value of thier relationship, they start celebrating it by themselves.
           Dress, Chocolates, Bangles, Pearl Set, Gift Pouch with a Gift Card to Burlington Coat Factory.

Living abroad gets very lonely. We women miss our homeland. We come here to create our family and be totally responsible for the children, in laws, taking care of husband and so on. In this process we become very wary and keep looking forward to go to our 'maika' and be ourselves for a change. We love to see our children being celebrated and we ourselves love being pampered a lot. Those of us who have brothers have a lot more expectations. If the father is no more, then the brother takes on even more responsibility. The mother cherishes the moment her daughter and grand children get pampered. If the brother is married, then we sisters like to boss them around and our brothers simply stand back and enjoy the sight of his sister excercising her rights.

The brother showers the sister with a lot of gifts. He takes her to all the relatives' homes and shows her off. He takes her to his work place and talks highly of her. In return, the brother gets a sister who loves him unconditionally. Women are naturally attached to their birth homes and very supportive and sentimental about their brothers.

Living here in the states and not knowing anything about this festival, I was deeply touched by Harshi Bhayya's blessings toward me. The gifts he gave me are very precious and I will cherish them for a lifetime. I have a tendency of saving up all items given to me in love by others. I have every letter, every gift given to my children, and every email ever sent.  My prayers and blessings to all those brothers who are a pillar of strength to their sisters. One of my favorite movies of all time is 'Arjun' starring Mahesh Babu. It must be the dream of every girl to have brother who loves and protects her like that.

Here is another touching story that I really liked:

There is never a day that passes by where I miss having a daughter. I have been blessed with two wonderful boys, but my heart always searches for the little girl who will love my sons just as much as I do and will protect them. I want my sons to love, cherish, pamer, and protect their beloved sister. I beleive that dreams do come true.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

End of Diwali 2010

Extremely exhausted, but totally satisfied with the way everything turned out so successfully on Diwali day. Diwali 2010 was a grand success and I thank Lord SathaNarayana for guiding me and my lovely family in spirit.

Happy Diwali.

Bhuvana (wearing her bangles from the thamboolam), Iniya (wearing the dress presented to her on the occassion), and myself, thanking the Lord Satya Narayana for allowing us to do seva to him. None of the couples present on this occassion had ever performed Sri Satya Narayana Swami pooja. I thank all of them for coming to our humble home and participating in the auspicious occassion. It was November 07, the 5th day or last day of Diwali festival.

Rajan, the official photographer for the occassion.

During and after the Pooja

Getting started with the pooja. My husband went to break the coconut as required.

For those participating in the pooja, we gave a tray, a basket to pack the pooja items after they were done. On the tray, a sweet box which came in handy to support the image of Shri Satya Narayana, 3 bowls filled with sandalwood paste, Akshatha (rice), water respectively. A spoon and also a Mango leaf to serve as spoon was provided. A banana to conviniently insert the agarbathis, an aluminium foil holding Haridra Kumkum, a pan leaf with Turmeric Ganesh, 2 deepams, and a glass tumbler to support the image without blocking the diety's image to the ones offering the prayer. A Katori or bowl to use during pooja for offering water and rice to God, a bowl of colorful flowers, fruits, turmeric branches (pasupu Kommulu), Haldi Kumkum, Kaajal and other ladies decoration items, pan leaf, date, Okka (nut), and flowers offered in thamboolam.

Getting ready to offer Aarthi to the lord.

My husband offering the aarthi and Mahaprasadam to all our dearest friends.

Little Princess Iniya. Shanmugam Anna and Bhuvana's little Fairy graced the occassion.

You can now see the Mango leaves thoran.

Getting ready for yummy coconut water teertham.

Getting ready to start Shri Satya Narayana Swami Vratam:

Decorated with Mango leaves on the top. The mantap has banana leaves adorning the sides. The bangles are for all the ladies present that day. All the Pooja Samagri and Prasadams were ready.

Panchamrutham, SHira or Keasari, Paramannam, Kolakatai, modak, or Kudumu, and somebody even put the plaintain curry I had made for lunch!

SatyaNarayana Swami before starting the Puja. My husband did all the decoration. Thank's to Pallavi and Harshi Bhayya's son Rahul that we got banana leaves (I'm very sentimental about it).We set up a 'Mantap' or the Emperor's throne for the Divine Lord. Lord Satya Narayana is an ' Alankara Priyudu' (one who loves lot's of decoaration). It does not require one to be very rich to afford expensive jewelry, the Lord expects one to do 'Seva' or spend time meditating on him while setting up and decorating 'Mantap' for him. The Mango leaves, Banana leaves, all the flowers, time spending making prasadam, drawing of Rangoli's to welcome the Lord is what counts.

My hubby and I had a whirlwind shopping experience trying to purchase items for all to participate. I usually have a stock of all things I need on hand to give to guests. But I guess that this year I ran out of a lot of supplies. We had spent about 6 hours buying various things for the pooja (flowers, fruits, bowls to serve, sweets to give away) and then a separate shopping list for everybody to participate (Bangles, tray, pan leaf, Haldi - kumkum and so on).

Applying turmeric to feet is a strong part of our South Indian culture. Turmeric stands for all things associated with prosperity and happiness. Turmeric is also considered very divine. In olden days, women did not have fancy footwear to wear, and especially it was not worn inside the house. Footware was and still is officially banned in the kitchen (the heart of a home) and the pooja room (where Gods reside). So women used to apply turmeric to their feet. Turmeric is a strong antiseptic which is also applied to minor wounds and cuts. Turmeric has 'curcumin' in it which is an antioxidant and also helps reduce inflamation in the body. Pure turmeric almost looks reddish orange, and my Mother in law is very happy with the high quality turmeric that we get in Indian grocery stores here. In the present world, we apply turmeric to the feet as 'shubh' only during festival times such as this.

Our dear friend Bhuvana.

More Diwali pics, Nov 07, 2010

Thanks to Shwetha and Rajan, they had snapped more pics for our sake.

My Great friend and my sister (like) Pallavi (in pink) busy with bringing deepams. I'm the one (behind Pallavi) running around making sure everybody has everything that they need.

Shwetha is creating the 'Swasthik' Rangoli with Rice Flour. It's tricky to work with rice flour, but she did a fine job of it.

This creation is by Harshi Bhayya and I think the kids helped fill out the colors.

Shwetha with my neighbor's daughter, Ellory who is dressed up in my Kurthi top and necklaces (which she got to keep).

Shanmugam Anna supervising all the kids, seven in all. The Rangoli went all over the place. If I had bought enough colors, I'm sure they would have decorated the whole city in lovely colors!

Great Art Creations!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Diwali Mela with Friends:

Hubby, as usually taking pics and supplying us with meals. My brother Harshi Bhayya who was the chief behind whom we all followed through the Mela. He supplied us with endless cups of chai and snacks through the entire time we spent there. We ate everything from ethnic ful meals to chaat to popcorn and nachos with cheese. I was all gassy by the time we returned home at almost 2 PM.

Satyanarayana Pooja on Nov 07, 2010

We had not taken any pictures from our Camera, I don't remember when we took this picture. I have more coming up from one of the friends who participated in the pooja. There were about 15 people including kids in the home and we were simply too busy. Must have paused to take some pictures.

I let the guests do seva to SatyaNarayana Swami by drawing the Rangoli. They found it tough to do it with Rice flour, but they did awesom with chalk piece. The Rangoli is by Shwetha and the kids filled up all the colors of the lotus. Deepam was placed by all the 'Grihinis,' housewives.

Friends and children drawing Rangoli all over the pavement, right onto the streets. I had bought an abundance of colors, so there was simply no stpping the over excited children. Even the nighbor's kids, wore my clothes and jewelry and participated in the excitement.

Lakshmi Kubera Swami Pooja on Diwali Evening, 2010

We lighted Deepams and kept it al over the house, several in the Rangoli and at all door entrances. The house was looking bright and beautiful . It looked like Deepavali. The children were all so excited, they were busy running everywhere lighing deepams and simply enjoying the spirit of the day.

I made prasadams, Arisalu, Soaked Dals for Kosumbari, Bobbatly, Vada, Sweet Pongal, Panchamrutham, and other things I don't remember. We ate up everything

We missed a taking a lot of good pictures as we were too busy having fun. This is all we managed to take to share with all of you. You must have seen the dinner spread, it was beautiful. People relished the meals. It was a very fruitful and satisfying day.

Mahalakshmi Pooja Nov 05, 2010

I had missed Mahalakshmi Vratam this September. So my mind was not at peace. My Mother In Law told me to perform the pooja on Diwali day and I listened to her. I felt a lot of peace of mind.