Faith stories from the heart – 1

Faith comes to us in various ways but there is always a beautiful soul in the story of faith.

Do you know the Skanda Shashti Kavacham? Its a song or a sloka comprised of 244 lines, written by Devaraya Swamigal in praise of Lord Muruga, where he asks the Lord to protect him and grace him. Whenever Skanda Shashti Kavacham is mentioned, it is Sulamangalam Sisters who come to my mind. Their rendition of this slokam (the tune, music and the pauses inclusive) is what I learned from and it’s what I will remember forever. Kavacham means armor and the words in the sloka are the perfect armor to us.

I learned this Skanda Shashti Kavacham when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My appa’s cousin sister, Viji athai was the beautiful soul that brought this Skanda Shashti Kavacham to my life. She taught me and my sister in the same tune as what the Sulamangalam sisters have sung. When I think of Viji athai, all that comes to my mind is her beautiful eyes full of life, her long hair plaited and the simple down to earth attitude of hers. She is one of the persons I adore with all my heart.

Is there a reason for learning this slokam? Maybe there was which I understood much later in life.

As I hit puberty, along came the cramps which were very painful. Generally in a Tambram household, the rules were very strict and menstruating women were not allowed to go inside the house and touch anyone. They were not allowed to pray, cook or do anything inside the house.

But my paati was an angel. Even though we were not allowed to go inside the house or touch anyone,  I was so happy when my patti said that I can recite the Skanda Shashti Kavacham. To allow me to pray during the cycle days was indeed a great thing that my paati did. My thatha encouraged my paati to give me hot food, which again was not the norm. My paati was more broad-minded than others in many ways. Even though she couldn’t overcome her self-laid rules on touching us during those menstrual days, she did give us a lot of levy on other things. We, I and my sister, were attended to with much respect and taken care of nicely.

Reciting the Skanda Shashti Kavacham was a boon for me, as I saw myself being relieved of my pain. Whether it was my belief in the sloka or in Lord Muruga or the mere fact that I got used to the pain and in due course overcame it – whatever, I loved the recital of that slokam. It pacified my mind and maybe numbed me to the pain.

Even today, as an adult, I automatically start reciting the Skanda Shashti Kavacham the moment I feel there is a need to heal the body. Its a kind of faith in those 244 lines, which the brain accepts as medicine to heal. Its the faith of a small girl who healed herself to her greatest astonishment. And it is a faith with which I live.

Sunday musings – God dwells inside us…

With the birth of the Tamil month Karthigai, there begins the feverish activity all around the southern states, where people decide to take up the 48 days viratham before going to take darshan of the Lord Ayappan at the end of this mandala. Those people who undertake the viradham wear the customary mala around their neck and wear black or blue colored dress.

This year is special at my place, as my husband has taken up this viratham for the first time. And I keep hearing to the dos and don’ts during this period of 48 days. This period is actually a preparation time for the devotees to take up the difficult path via the jungles to reach the Ayappan shrine in Sabarimala. The walking of barefoot, restricting food intakes to two meals per day, sleeping on the floor are a few things that might look like the luxuries of life are being given up. Devotees abstain from drinking alcohol, smoking, usage of curse words and other activities which are considered a vice.

There is a saying that anything that is done consistently for 21 days becomes a habit. And when something is done for 48 days, it becomes a way of life. And then I wonder how these people, who have made it their way of life for these 48 days, leave all this and go back to their vices after the darshan of the God!

In all these days of observing these people, I noticed that they call each other as “Sami” meaning God. And everyone is treated with the utmost respect during this viratham days.

There is also a viratham for people to go to Melmaruvathur Adi Parasakthi temple. And here everyone is called “Sakthi”. Here also people treat other devotees with utmost respect, during the viratham days.

Even to the primitive mind, this will strike a chord that the God dwells in each and every human. And this is not restricted only to the viratham days – God is inside each one of us always. While people call each other Sami or Sakthi, during these viratham days and then later spew enmity at each other after visiting the temple, just proves their constricted thinking or rather no thinking at all.

The terms used to call others are not for just showoff during viratham days. It’s a direct implication to the God (conscience / supreme power) inside every human being.

Let us open our minds to accepting that each one of us needs to respect the other person irrespective of this viratham.

Microblog Mondays – God power

Recent statements in the media by a famous personality on the subject of God, didn’t gel with my views.

Where is He ?? This person, who everyone calls God ?? In Temples only ??

Nah…not at all.

According to me, all the places of worship are great energy points where the enlightenment occurs as to the greatest power in this Earth, is our Mind.  There is nothing beyond the power of Mind and what we can do with that power.

Like how we connect with similar thought-minded friends, we connect with the different energies found at the temple or the mosque or the church !!

While there is only one Mosque and one Church, there are thousand and one different temples and therefore, Gods residing in them. So, who is the actual one ??

My theory is that they are places with different energy points. We seek that particular temple, based on the energy required in our life, at that point.  For example, we need courage, confidence, strength, we go to Hanuman temple. To seek prosperity, we visit Lakshmi temple. Its just our different needs that take us to different energy points where we can connect better with our Mind, to achieve what we want. (Thanks to my brother, for this amazingly simple explanation).

Its like how the body craves for certain foods at certain phases in life, the Mind craves for certain energies to connect with so that it becomes more powerful to do a task.

Sounds simple. So, what do you think ??

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Microblog_Mondays

Marghazhi masa bhajanai !!

When I see people with scarves around their head covering their ears or wearing sweater during the so-called winter months in Namma Chennai, I wonder if it’s really so cold here !!!  For Chennai is known for its hot-hotter-hottest kind of climate through-out the year !!! Probably December and January are just pleasant where the sweat is less !!

Marghazhi – The Tamil month that starts by Dec 15th and ends by Jan 13th.  Probably night temperatures dip till 20°C. While the people in Chennai call this month the coldest, I find it very pleasant and comfortable to go around the city. You will be surprised to see many a people with their ears covered with the new headphone like protective gear 🙂 And some even with a kind of head band, but that covers only the ears 🙂 What multipurpose stuff people make huh !!! 😀

But the same me, felt that Chennai is terribly cold during the Marghazhi, as I readied myself, 3 decades back, to a cold morning Bhajanai – a musical troupe singing praises of the God, walking through the roads in the quiet early morning hours.

There is this theory that one day of the God equals one year in the life of man.  People have already identified the correlation to God’s timings to the months of the year.

The month of Marghazhi is supposed to be the most auspicious time to pray to God, as it’s the time the God wakes up from his slumber.  And all that you pray with a sincere heart during this month happens for good.

It was my maternal grandpa, who insisted that I should go along with him for the bhajanai, that cold morning, 3 decades back. And so I awoke early, by about 4am, and got ready to go with him for the bhajanai. My cute kollu patti (my mom’s grandmother), came and gave me her sweater, which is basically a blouse and is to be worn with a sari. As I was so thin, it hung loosely on my shoulders. I was actually thrilled to be wearing that sweater and assumed to myself that Chennai is really cold during Marghazhi.

Probably it was misty during the early morning hours, but people here found that extremely chill. The changes in climate all over the world have had its effects in the mist of Chennai too. Presently, the Marghazhi is quite a pleasant month, where we don’t sweat much at this coastal city of Chennai. Tourists flock the city for the famous Marghazhi Festival in all the Musical Sabhas. It’s also referred to as the December Festival.

Getting back to my bhajanai group, I find that I am the only girl in the whole group of elders (all of them were my grandfather’s friends), each one holding a musical instrument like a Sruthi box, Tambura and other small instruments to maintain the rhythm.

The leader of this singing group had to be a good singer, so that he can guide this group to some sort of singing, without any mishaps to the ragam or the thalam of the song.

When the leader sang and all of us would follow him, while walking the people in the streets in a synchronised manner. Probably we woke many a people out of their deep slumber.  Some people come out and gave rice or dal to this singing group. All these collection of grains were used in making the prasadam at the temple the next day.

The thought of prasadam invokes a big smile from the bottom of my stomach, as I’ve gobbled many a cups of this awesome prasadam everyday. This is one of the main reasons that I didn’t feel bad getting up so early. And that prasadam is the fantastic ghee dripping Venn pongal. That taste is so divine that it still lingers in my mouth, after so many years.

I’ve absolutely enjoyed those bhajanai sessions and the accompanying prasadam sessions. While I don’t remember any of the songs I sang, I still remember the taste of the Pongal! 😀

Now, to learn how to make this awesome Venn Pongal, head over here !!! 😀

Hospitality “rules”

Being born in a typical Tamil family, the first exposure to stories were surely the Mythological ones and certainly not the Fairy Tale ones. Starting from Ramayana, Mahabharata, the stories would venture into Saivism, Vaishnavism….these are the age-old methods of teaching tradition, culture, religion to the children, grooming and molding them from young age.

The thing I am talking about right now, here, relates to Saivism and the 63 Shiva devotees, who excelled in showing their devotion to Lord Shiva and attained Moksha or Nirvana. These 63 Shiva Devotees are called Nayanars and each one’s story is an amazing test on their bhakti quotient by the God himself.

Now, here is one story of Siruthondar Nayanar, which I would like to highlight upon.

Siruthondar Nayanar was a Brahmin, living in a small village, in the region of Kaveri river.  He was well versed in Sanskrit literature, Vedas, Ayur Veda and in the art of war.  His name originally was Paramjyoti. The Chozha King, on knowing his verstality made him the commander in chief of his army.   Paramjyoti went to Vatapi, for the war against the Chalukya King.  He defeated the king there and came back with a Ganapati statue, from Vatapi, called Vatapi Ganapati.

One day a Siva Saint, following the Baivara type of adoration, came to his house.  He told Paramjyoti, that he wanted to eat the human flesh of a young boy of handsome body and pious nature. Siruthondar decided to give his own son, as food, since he could not find any other boy.  He brought his son from the school and told his wife to cut him and cook him, as food for the Bairagi.  His wife did not hesitate even for a moment. He cut the son and cooked the body and kept the head separately. Soon, the Bairagi came to sit for food.  He asked for details.  When the lady said that the body of a boy had been cooked, he also asked for the head to be cooked!  A little later, the Bairagi sat for food after bath. He asked Siruthondar to come along with his son for eating.  When Siruthondar said that his son would no longer be available in company, he said that he would eat along with the Bairagi.   He was then told: Go and bring him!  Not willing to disobey the guest, Siruthondar and his wife, went outside and made a mock-call!   The son, Seeralan, came before them and said: O you are calling me.  I shall sit with the Swami.  As the parents were perplexed and excied, Siva appeared, with his son and Uma!  The family immediately merged in His Abode!

The above story taken from here.

As a young girl, I’ve been scared to hear this story first. And surely I had conflicting thoughts like…

I made a vow that I should never have a son – What if the Lord Shiva comes and asks for him ??? or

What if I don’t pray to Lord Shiva – then he’ll not come to test me like this !!!

It sounds silly to me now, but as a child, I was totally disturbed, whether to really pray to Lord Shiva or not…Lord Krishna with his merry-making seemed a better alternative.

This was the fear which was sown into the minds of a young girl, that we need to be totally hospitable to our guests and treat their every wish as our command.  And I’ve seen my amma slogging in the kitchen on her one day weekend break, Sunday, cooking and more cooking for guests, as that was the time when people visited us. Now, we see each other only in FB…thats a different issue altogether.

I am not telling that my mother shouldn’t have entertained guests at her home. It’s a lovely feeling….but I think she forgot to draw a line and the guests poured in weekend after weekend – see, my amma cooks damn tasty dishes.

Now, my question is, why didn’t my mother say that she’s not feeling too well to entertain guests, on a particular weekend ??? Is it a horrible thing to say – Dont come to my home, as I am not well ???

First, these guests are our relatives or our friends. If we can’t put the truth out about our health to our own relatives and friends, then whats the meaning of that relationship ???

I certainly feel that a person has all the rights to cancel a dinner or a lunch, when they are not up to it, health-wise or emotion-wise. This person should be the  deciding authority and certainly it’s not a decision of the guests.

Why don’t we learn this simple thing in life and learn to draw lines when needed and learn to say a NO, when required ??? Is that too hard a thing to do, when your health or emotions are concerned ????

Hospitality

It’s wonderful to entertain guest

Eat and laugh with them

Have a gala time together

Also there’s a line to draw

A No to say

When we don’t feel up to it

Probably this is better

Than ending in the 

Hospital.

Pleasure or Happiness

Some might pray for a good night’s sleep.

Others pray for a night full of tweets.

Prayers for school holiday looking at the black clouds

Is what the little ones always wish for.

There might be some prayers to meet a long-lost friend

And some might even pray that they never get to meet one.

The bus / train should be on time, prays the career person

All in all, these tiny prayers make us human.

Sachin should hit a century today

Mama should not blast me any day

Friend should return all the marbles today

Some of the few thoughts and prayers that happen everyday.

The blogger wants a lot of comments

The politicians don’t want criticisms

Vacations, dresses, cars, computers, cameras

Are a few among the prayers to reach God.

Don’t you think that all these are momentary

And after one thing gets done, the other becomes a priority ?

These are certainly prayers

Which bring pleasure, not happiness.

The pleasure is for the moment

After the moment of enjoyment, loses its charm.

The heart starts yearning for something else

For which prayers are on like a bee swarm.

But happiness is something

Far beyond the circle of small pleasures

The heart is happy to be alive

To enjoy every moment of life

So, lets pray for happiness

Even in the threshold of difficulties

Let the heart learn to distinguish

Between the pleasures and be happy.

Give me Happiness, whatever may come

Give Happiness for the loved ones

Oh Heart, Learn to be Happy

Every moment of your waking life.

Give me the strength to walk through

Difficult times of struggles and woes

Let happiness cover me like a fog

To keep me going, strong and long.

The gates to Heaven will open, BUT…

Sr : Knock !!! Knock !!!!!

Sh : Who is it ??????

As though there is a dozen ppl living in this house.  S never knocks, when he knows that his daughter is inside.  It’ll be either me or Sr.  And when I knock, I’ll always call out her name, while knocking.  It’s only Sr who knocks and waits.

Sr : Open the Door !!!! Now !!!!! I need something urgently !!!!!

Sh : What do you want now ????? I closed just 2 mins back.  If you are inside the room and I knock on the door, you never respond and neither you open.  Just imagine how hurt I felt.  Now, its ur turn. Wait.

The conversation is flowing without opening the door.

Sr : Knock !!!! Knock !!!!!

Sh : Maaaaaa !!!!! Look at her !!!!  Sr is not even allowing me to change !!!! Can’t she wait for just 5 mins ?????  Do you remember how much I waited outside the room the other day ?????

Ma is just neutral – She has learnt better not to take sides during such arguments and especially when they are leaving for school.  I try to keep up my cool with a great effort by doing Kapalabati Pranayama (the breathing exercise, which does wonders to your body) !!!!!   🙂 🙂

Beauty bath and changing to their uniform, is the most important and only thing they do, before going to school everyday.  And so, the bathroom is occupied for long times.  Not only the bathroom, the bedroom too is gone for changing to their  uniform.  And My God, how much time these girls take, to just change into one dress ?????   And when one of them is inside, the other just cannot wait outside.  Exactly at that particular instant, the other one will remember of something and will knock the door down, till the other opens it !!!!!

So, dear God, when will my daughters learn to do things smart and fast ??????   And what’s this funda about closed doors ??????   🙄

It looks like there is a LOC near the entrance to their room and a prior permission (VISA) is required for valid entry.  And I certainly don’t think that I’ll be given a VISA so easily !!!!   I may have to bribe her for that VISA.  😉

For them, closing the door of the bedroom and doing their STUFF, is the way to live.   And when all the cousins get together, its madness !!! All those teenagers are IN, but we, elders are all OUT of the room !!!!

I wonder what goes on behind the closed doors !!!!!   🙄

Are they dancing ????? Singing ??????  Are they preparing for their exams ????? Why can’t they do it in front of me – after all, I am their Mother ??????  I think, I’ll enjoy those stints too !!!!

Dear God, I pray for the doors (to my girls’ room) to open !!!!!   🙂

But God feels that is quite a difficult wish to grant me !!!!  🙄

Instead God grants me this wish – The doors to Heaven will be open for YOU, BUT I can’t open those Doors, to your Girls’ Room !!!!! 🙂   🙄

I guess that behind the doors to my daughters’ room lies my forbidden area  !!!!!!  🙂 🙂

Gayatri Mantra

By reciting slokas everyday, will God help me to write my exam well ????? – My daughter’s innocent doubt.

Yes, by reciting slokas, you’ll become more focussed and mentally strong that you’ll write your exams very well – is my answer to her.

Have you seen Khatron Ke Khiladi ??????  Before every stunt, all the participants along with Akshay Kumar, recite the following prayer :

Even though, I don’t advocate so much, my daughters who were watching this show with me, were quite impressed.

In their school, this Gayatri Mantra is the main prayer, everyday. And every day at school, begins with this wonderful mantra.

Yeah, the girls have learnt the mantra and they recite it everyday at school, but have never realised at the importance – that importance came into the picture, after Akshay Kumar insisted that all the participants recite it before every stunt.

Is this Mantra so great ???? How does it help those participants in doing the stunts ??????

The Gayatri Mantra consists of twenty-four syllables – three lines of eight syllables each. The first line (Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah) is considered an invocation, and is not technically a part of the original Gayatri Mantra as it appears in the Upanishads. Gayatri is also referred to as a Vedic poetic meter of 24 syllables or any hymn composed in this meter. Hence, there exists a whole family of Gayatri Mantras, which serve as meditative aids to pray for the blessings of a particular personal God.

Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah, Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat

ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व: तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं । भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि, धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् ।।

A basic translation can be given as…

Oh God, the Protector, the basis of all life, Who is self-existent, Who is free from all pains and Whose contact frees the soul from all troubles, Who pervades the Universe and sustains all, the Creator and Energizer of the whole Universe, the Giver of happiness, Who is worthy of acceptance, the most excellent, Who is Pure and the Purifier of all, let us embrace that very God, so that He may direct our mental faculties in the right direction.  (Source : Eaglespace.com)

I am really in awe of this wonderful Gayatri Mantra.  As is rightly told in the last line of the meaning – it directs our mental faculties in the right direction, thereby making us mentally strong.

OK !!! Just by reciting this, how does it all happen ??????

This is my understanding.

The Upanishads and the Vedas, which form the core of the Hindu Religion, are all written in Sanskrit.   And every syllable of the slokas in these great collections, are meant to be pronounced properly, so that they reverberate in the air and thereby produce sound waves in the air. All the syllables used in our slokas, produce sound vibrations around us, which in turn creates a lot of positive energy.  And it sure is powerful positive energy, which can change our pessimistic mindset to a more optimistic one.

And when postivity surrounds us, anything is possible.

The one and only AUM has got such power, as it produces absolute positivity around the place, it is recited.  Thereby the mind is calmed and the focus is better, for any given work.  The whole place reverbrates with positive force.  People who listen to this will also get benefitted.

Just try this – Close your eyes. Use both your hands for this exercise. With your right hand, index and tall finger, gently cover your right eye and at the same time, cover your right ear with right hand thumb.  Do the same with your left hand for your left eye and ear.

Keep reciting AUM slowly and steadily and feel it vibrate all over your head and body.  Its an amazing feeling and you certainly will feel energised by this whole exercise.

In effect, by reciting The Gayatri Mantra, people can become more positive and work towards a positive goal.

Marghazhi Thingal

Today is the first day of the ninth month of the Tamil Calendar year – Marghazhi.  It starts today on the 16th Dec 2009 and ends on 13th January, 2010.

Even though this month is considered inauspicious for conducting weddings (Shoonya Masam), it is one of the months which has a festive fever attached to it.  From the early morning hours till the end of the day, it is festivities of various kinds.

I am just walking down my memory lane, to remember those days of unending fun.

Generally we get up very early, as early as 4am in the morning, as our first task of the day is to decorate our house entrance with wonderful kolams.  And I must tell you, at this point, that we used to fill in the streets also with kolams.  The moment we get up, we first go out, clean the entrance and first draw the border for our kolam to block that entire space for us, much before our neighbours get up.  The team consisted of myself, my sister, my Mom and My grandmother.  We would have all practised the kolam the earlier evening very well. So, as one person starts keeping the dots, the others keep drawing the kolam.  Then we do the beautification and the border too in the form of kolam. By 5.30am we finish the kolam project for the first day.  We light a single Agal Vilakku (Diya), outside the house every  day of this month, in the early morning hours.

Then its time to make the yummiest dish of all – Venn pongal.  It’s actually a khichdi of rice and moong dal, with tadka done in ghee.  This Venn pongal is a must on all days and we used to love it all time.

Then its time to go to a temple.  All the temples are open from early in the mornings for the devotees who throng to visit their favourite God. And the favourite God of this season is Vishnu / Krishna. There are bhajans happening from early morning hours. The bhajan group even goes around the nearby streets waking up the sleepy lot.

There’s an interesting story, which I am reminded at this juncture.

My maternal grandfather was part of a bhajan group. And so, I’ll tag along with him, on those early morning hours.  Actually, my interest was in the prasadam, which we get after the bhajans are done with. Then one fine day, I asked him, why should we do this bhajans so early in the morning ?????

His answer really surprised me.  And the explanation is as follows.

One year in the life of an ordinary man is considered as one day in the life of God.  So, this marghazhi masam, being the ninth month, is considered to be early morning hours in the day of God.   The previous months, where we have the monsoons, are the time, when God is sleeping – maybe.  So, in order to wake God in a nice way, we sing bhajans and please the God.  And there is this particular day in this Marghazhi called the Vaikunda Ekadasi – where the God gives dharshan through the Swarga Vasal (Heaven’s entrance, if I literally translate).  Maybe that’s the day, when God wakes up and blesses his devotees.

As a kid, I was totally amused and surprised by the fact how one year of us would equal one day in the life of God !!!!

Marghazhi masam is not complete without the mention of Thiruppavai – which is a collection of 30 hymns sung in praise of Vishnu by Andal Nachiyaar.  The musical version of this is just so soothing to the soul.  Andal Nachiyaar, calls out to her friends to get up early morning, have a bath and go and worship Vishnu.

Another important festival in this month, is the Thiruvadirai – which is of great importance to the Saivites.  Also known as Arudra Darisanam, it is a celebration of Lord Shiva.  This day, we make the yummy Vella Kali and all the more delicious Kootu to go with it.

And not to forget the fact, that the December is the month of Art Festival in this city of Chennai, which is a must visit for all art lovers.  You can read about it all here.

So, on the whole, it’s a month of festivities, singing, kolams, art festivals, visiting temples, not to forget the yummylicious prasadams.

It’s a month I look forward to.  Today morning, I did the kolam, lighted a single agal vilakku, made venn pongal, sakkarai pongal and I am very happy to welcome this Marghazhi masam.

Marghazhi Thingal – the title means the month of Marghazhi.

Navarathri for me…

We are at that time of the year, which is very close to my heart – yes, the Dussherra  !!!!

I know, yeah, I am writing about this very early….Dussherra is another 15 days away !!!!

Since I am from Chennai, I would love to relate it to the way we celebrate and that is the Navarathri or the Kolu, which starts this friday on the 18th of September.

It’s the most awesomest festival, which I love so much.   The colours, the music, the beautiful kolams, the sara sara pattu pudavais, the fragrant malli poo, the wonderful smile on everybody’s lips is enough proof that heaven is here among us.

Navarathri, as the name suggests, is celebrated for 9 days, the first 3 days for Goddess Durga, the second 3 days for Goddess Lakshmi, and the last 3 days for Goddess Saraswathi. The Saraswathi Puja on the last day and the Vijayadasami on the next day marks the end of this wonderful festival.

The other name called Kolu comes from the fact that there is a display of beautiful dolls during these 9 days.  On the Amavasya day, we set up the steps – always it is an odd number of steps – and start arranging the wonderful dolls.  We also make parks/ zoo  around the steps to display our toy animals !!! Beautiful colourful kolams (rangoli) adorn the houses. The colourful lights and lamps will add more sparkle to the whole festival.

All the ladies in their best sara sara pattu pudavais, the little girls in wonderful pattu pavadais, going around to visit friends, relatives and singing till the throats ache are just a few insights into this fantabulous festival.  I still remember how I used to go from one house to another, for inviting them to visit our kolu. Without even being asked, I would start singing, eagerly waiting for that aunty to come and give me the sundal packet. Then I am off to another house and its the same story again. (Sundal is a wonderful dish – it’s sprouts done with tadka and garnished with grated coconut. Everyday it is a different sprout and so it is all the more fun).

Chennai is colorfully decorated and there are contests happening to rate the best Kolu, too !!!  So, people are more keen on displaying their Kolu based on a theme, so that theirs is unique.

When I go blah blah about all this wonderful festivities of Chennai and how I miss them all, staying here in Hyderabad, my sweet husband decided to take us all to the wonderfully old city of Kolkatta, to show off his childhood places and how Durga Puja is celebrated there. So, last year, for the Dussherra vacation, we were in Kolkatta drinking in the delights of the pandals and the awesome foodies that go along with it.

Even though the Puja is only for 5 days, it is just  a wonderful experience to see it all live in Kolkatta.  The grandeur of every pandal will take your breath away.  The unique designs and the money spent on every pandal is just overwhelming.  But it is all worth it, finally.  Even though the city was maddeningly crowded and didn’t show any levels of developments after the British left us – none of this mattered to us – we were hogging on luchis and aloo dums for breakfast, rasogullas, kachodis, singada, puchka – the list is just endless…such mouth watering delights.

One of my favourite moment was when we all walked up from our room to the nearest puchka-wala, at midnight, and had a dozen of them each. I can never forget that super bhog prasad which we had in one of the pandal. It was absolutely fabulous.  Although, I’ve tried making it at home, I’ve not yet reached that taste level.

A few pandals for your visual treat – they are my favs too !!!! 😆