Mahabali cannot be Dwarfed.

baliAs we were driving down from Panaji, to Margao I saw this banner that said, 37%  Goan have votes AAP, 27%BJP, and some X% congress, the conclusion was AAP leads, what occurred to me, is it could also be interpreted as 63% Goans are clear that they do not want AAP.

Ultimately every story is about whose story are you telling?

chalayasi vikramane keshava balim adbhuta vamana padanakha nira-janita-janapavana kesava dhrita vamana rupa jaya jagadisa hare.

When we were kids we were told the story of the benevolent Balindra or the Mahabali, who was an epitome of virtue that Lakshmi was chained to his dungeons. the story as narrated by Kittadoddamma, always told us how the Deva’s were jealous of Bali and Indra decided requested Vishnu to annihilate Bali he was then pushed down to the PatalaLoka, and each Onam he comes to oversee the harvest Bali or Mahaveli’s arrival I never could figure the solar calendar out, the only thing I know is it Sone thingalu… some day and she said and the festival after it was ananthan chaturdashi.

She would tell us about Bali Maharaja, his greatness and his kindness and how his persona is honoured by the word Bali meaning sacrifice, she talked of the sacrifice of the seed that shed its skin, the soil that gave the nutrients, the clouds that showered the rains, the earthworms and the snakes that kept the soil enriched and how all this combined bounty gave a rich harvest. When this mission was complete Bali returned to the Patala on the day of Balipadya after being sure that his subjects were secure.

The understanding of the sacrifice or the effort that went into bringing that abundance, she would tell was the secret which kept Bali alive  among his subjects, she would conclude Kings would come, Kings would go but Bali still ruled.., Vamana stayed dwarfed and forgotten.

When I got married my value system was questioned because the story here was Bali was arrogant he chained Lakshmi so the Deva’s were justified in sending Vamana, it putting an asura in place.It was the ballad of Vamana and not Bali.

As I learnt more of these and began the quest of understanding the untold story of the other, after all eulogies and history is always about the winner. Here is what came to me…Bali the King of an prosperous Agrarian society.

Here comes Purandara the destroyer of cities, choose to call him divine incarnate if you wish, but definitely King somewhere who coveted the prosperity, the riches of the land, in comes the conqueror, and relegates the indigenous culture down. He is potbellied at that, and he unchains Lakshmi the goddess of Prosperity that would mean either he grabbed the riches or he destroyed the assets.

The conquerors Ballads talk of Bali being an Asura could be for Asura of the Rig Veda is the Ahura of the Zenda-Vesta the Zoroastrian holy text and Kerala always sea connect with the middle east.

Like our Balipadya being traded for the bhaubheej or our Onam is being traded for Vaman Jayanthi, the conqueror is marketed our oral stories and histories relegated as the large wave of Hindaptations (adaption to Hindi culture) even Thiruadhira or the big wave will not be able to save us.

Mr.Amit Shah, this is the translation of what my grandmother used to chant about Mahabali, can you bring it back?  Till then let your Vamana stay the way he is  — dwarfed!!

When Maveli ruled the land,onam
All the people were equal-
Times when people were joyful and merry;
They were all free from harm.
There was neither anxiety nor sickness,
Deaths of children were unheard of,
No wicked person was in sight anywhere
All the people on the land were good.
There was neither theft nor deceit,
And no false words or promises.
Measures and weights were right;
There were no lies,
No one cheated or wronged his neighbour.
When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people formed one casteless race

I do not know which of the stories are true but the story of Bali narrated by my grandmother is definitely more empowering than the story of Vamana.

Chaitra Shukla Padya.

yugadi (1)
first showers after Holi

The first day of the brand new calendar year is  an empowered time to psychologically unwind to mentally find ones own life charged emotionally with refined energy and enthusiasm to create a beautiful growth paradigm within the physically defined laws of nature and rules of the game called LIFE.

Today is the onset of new year as per the lunar calendar  until I got married I knew it as yugadi, but the Marathi household call it Gudipadwa this falls on the day after the chaitra shuddha padya, and the when the moon transits into Aries which is the first lunar month.

In an agrarian society it marks the end of one harvest cycle and the beginning of a new one.  the chandramana Yugadi forms one of the muruvare vajra, or the tithi, that is one of the three days and a half which is an universal auspicious day.

yugadi (3)
first mangoes of the season

Historically it is the day Shalivahana, or Gautamiputra Satakarni defeated the Saka’s to commemorate this, it is declared as the beginning of the New Year in the Shalivahana calendar. The BrahmaPurana claims that this is the day Brahma created the new world  after the great deluge. This is the time when Vasanta Ritu or the spring begins.

For us it seems like a real bountiful year  the parjanyavrshti or the downpour of rains, even if it is pre-pre-monsoon it is still in sync with the natural cycle.

Mr.D decided to get  mangoes, the first lot of the year.

The New Year does seem to herald a change.

Welcoming Spring–Hozhi Habba

“I’m pledging to #KhulKeKheloHoli this year by sharing my Holi memories atBlogAdda in association with Parachute Advansed.”

Shivrathri is over, the mists begin to clear and the days get hotter.

Some Years  it is the month of February, when everything around is dead, the trees are dark and chilled, that appearance of green shoots seems preposterous, the ground hard and cold, the  dry heat somehow turns everything messy, the apology for a winter seem to hanging on too. other years it could be March days when the sunshine is hot the winds are confused, the summer is in the light and winter in the shade, dying waiting to be put rest.

The humdrum of a house, pounding of the spices for the year.

pounding masala
pounding Masala -image courtesy Google.

Kittadomma and Bhagi and the rest of the women are busy drying the mixture of Raagi and spices these sundried cakes will be deep fried for snacks or as a savoury during the rains.

Then pickling is on, year after year I have heard the prediction, ”Shivratri aayitu, innu sekhe shuru,” Shivarathri  the day before the new moon of the month Maayi as per the Tulu calendar, these conversation would go on with  the increasing heat,

Then there was the impending doom of the oncoming exams, one had study schedules set up and revisions going on, some teachers would want to us to put in extra time to make of the classes the they did not take during the term. There were also moments of escape when we planned post exam bonanza of a holiday of course everything hung on the grades that we made.

“The police have been alerted,” this was the conversation that floated from the living room, where the principle of the medical college was in conversation with senior faculty.

holi“We have told them not do anything unless it absolutely necessary” came from the management.

“These girls no matter how many times we tell them they refuse stay in the hostel; they strut outside and invite trouble.” Then it did seemed quite logical, if you are not safe on the roads, then don’t go out.

The conversation in the living room now fades as we go down for breakfast,

“Bhagi illa ivattu,” that is Bhagi won’t be coming for work today

lat maar holi at mathura
LatMarHoli at mathura image courtesy Google.

“houdu, ivattu hozhi habba,” the festival is pronounced as an interesting combination of the phonetic la-yi.

My mother planning her evening visit to the Rayara Mutta, the chapel of Raghavendra Swami (who is believed to be the incarnation on Madhvacharya in turn an incarnation of Vayu Deva) Raghavendra Swami was believed to have been born on this day.

The first group of the Kunbi’s started trickling in, they would come in through the day, groups of young men and women, pleasantly tipsy just enough to knock the inhibitions off and they would play the “tamte” a percussion instruments the jagante, and do a hop skip and dance. After 3 minutes of this performance with a narration of the resurrection of Kamadeva in the Kunbi dialect, they would be given rice and coconut. This was interesting,

ritu pakshi
colours of various seasons– RituPakshi

But the lurking police vans, were not, they heralded the impending doom of a curfew, they reminded us of the drunken vandalism that took place before, of girls requiring treatment to recover from the trauma of being molested, they reminded us of the libraries and labs vandalized by students from the other side of the Vindhya’s high on Cannabis…

The distant cry of “Holi hai” evoked uneasiness, and discomfort a kind of anger for being a woman, I had to stay home, because some guy could not hold his drink. Maybe this is what inspired the LathMar Holi of Mathura.

parachute advancedThe sundown conversation would revolve round the invitation
from Pai-Uncle’s house for Shigmo, a very family oriented one unlike in Goa. the standard response to it, would be,”Howdalla innu hattu-hannedaru divasakke ondu male ittu” to the day I have not solved the mystery of why an invite for Shigmo elicits a response that in ten to twelve days we could have a shower. Then the conversation would drift towards the rain and other things, but yes I have noticed usually within a fortnight of Holi there is shower.

As for how am I going to Khul Ke Khelo Holi this year, I am working on the inner child created by the scars of Holi, I have picked up a canvas to rework an old concept, the hues and colours of life, the six seasons represented in six colours, the navarasa and its nine colours this should herald the spring in my life after a long winter, creativity and energy without mess… of course I refuse to clean up.

Blame it on Bhaang!

“I’m pledging to #KhulKeKheloHoli this year by sharing my Holi memories atBlogAdda in association with Parachute Advansed.”

Parchute and BlogAdda and media have declared Holi as one of India’s happiest festival. Well, that depends, on

  • Your concept of India
  • Your concept of Happiness.

For me Holi is a festival of dread. One reason being it is the time of the year when every god damn channel screams holi hai and thinks it is a license to incorporate holi into every episode whether it fits in or not. Also we are made to see infinite telecasts of rang barase and other drunken bawdy songs. Well I do have the option of turning the television off.

As for my childhood memory  of holi I grew up in Manipal and my memories of Holi is about drunken misbehaving north Indian students who destroyed books and molested girls. I thought I was biased. So I did call some of my older relatives who live in villages asking them what their memories of Holi were. Their precise reaction was, “Holi Holera habba” that is it is a festival of the farm laborers who were usually migrant workers from up north.

Holi in south Kanara today’s Udupi and South Kanara district, or like I normally refer to as Tulunaad, was a festival of the Kunbi tribes.They would come in a procession singing and dancing they would tipsy but not drunk,.Each house would give them rice and coconut. The Marata community was another community that celebrated holi they of course did it within the community colours were not thrown and property was not destroyed. Kunbi’s and Marata’s are both migratory tribes from the north.holi

Temples would have a special puja since Holi is associated with the full moon. Some houses used it as an excuse to cool something sweet. Otherwise it was a quite festival.

Things like thandai, are and were unheard of .

These days with the television boom we know of gujiya since every channel worth its salt will have either a Sanjiv Kapoor, a Tarala Dalal, or a Vikas someoneorthe other demonstrating it. we called these as Karjikayi and was made on other occasions like weddings and deepavali.

Its only after I went to Dharwad did I actually witness a holi!

parachute advancedMy dread and dislike of the festival has increased over the past 25yrs, People begin throwing/ spraying colours from 7 am. Most of them come right into the house and mess up the houses. As for the family everyone is tired after the excitement, so they bathe and sleep off, but the festive, gujiya nonsense touted by the television has to appear, no one is satisfied with a Khichdi Khadi. 😦 .  oh! yes cooking begins only after a bath, whcih means after 12 noon, I do not think it is fair at all.

The actual nightmare begins the next day, when house cleaning, and laundry has to be done. I really do not see why I should get stressed about a festival that has no nostalgic bonding for me, it does not belong to my cultural ethos, and screws up my sedate present.

I rather turn on the television and look at the live telecast of lath maar holi of Mathura. I like to imagine that an domestic violence victim would use the opportunity to bash her husband up and get cheered for it. a young girl bashing her stalker up and blaming the bhang for it.

Saddula Bathukamma

bathukammaThe ninth day of Bathukamma is also the last day of the festival and is called Saddula Bathukamma.  On this day the Bathukamma is immersed into the water.

Conical creations of cow dung decorated with flowers is the Bathukamma, this is a folk art. The immersion is done with great devotion, accompanied by rhythmic drum beats throughout the state of Telangana.

The myth is that the Chola King Dharmangada had a wife after many years of being married. The girl child was believed to be the incarnate of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. The girl child survived many accidents, hence was called Life=Bathuku, and Amma= mother also used affectionately to address a female child.

The festival connects and celebrates nurturing. The girls are made aware of their own nurturing energy. There is of course the prayer to the goddess of health and wealth to bring prosperity to their families.

There are other legends and myths that are either around this. Some are adaptations of the mainstream religion. Like one that says it is the spirit of Parwati, since Parwati is the re-incarnation of Sati and Bathkuamma is the mother who came back to life.

Another popular myth is that the Goddess Gauri who is fatigued after her fierce war with mahishasura the demon, goes to sleep on the day after the new moon, and the celebrations are to awaken her, she awakens only on the day of Dashmi.

The variation to the Chola legend is that the Chola king Dharmangada and his wife Sathyavati lost 100 sons in a battle before the goddess incarnated in their house. the seers and sages who came to bless the child blessed her with immortality, ”Bathukamma or live forever.”

The Bathukamma is believed to be a lover of flowers, so flowers are arranged on a square wooden plank or bamboo frame of tapering  sizes to form a pinnacle on top. This resembles the shape of a temple or gopura, the symbolic idol of Gowrie in turmeric is placed on top of the flowers. This becomes the Bathukamma

Thambula set
Thambula set

For nine days this is worshiped and Nivedyam make of different dishes are offered. The general ingredients being corn, sorghum, bajra, black gram, Bengal gram, green gram, groundnuts, sesame, wheat, rice, cashew nut, jaggery, milk.

On the day of Saddula Bathukamma, Maleeda is prepared and distributed. Maleeda ( )is a combination of roti and jaggery.

In general there is lot of joy and gaiety that goes with this. Dance performances, music, drama and variety entertainment happens, Jataras or fairs are held during this month long celebration.

Bombe Habba@ Navaratri.

Bombe Habba-- display by Dr.Tanvi M.D.
Bombe Habba– display 2015

Naada Habba, the land gets festive, the triumph of the Durga over Mahishasura Mardini, this was what navaratri meant to me, it meant the best of music Kutcheri, the vibrant classical dance festival, visiting friends to see the doll display. most important the ten days of holidays.

Navratri is back and it is rather sad that the Dandiya has been so advertised and commercialized the navaratri has got equated and trapped in Dandiya. The worship of the divine feminine and the cycles of nature have completely got side tracked.

Growing up, my mother did not bother too much about the Bommbe Habba or the doll festival that was prevalent in the Malanaad and highlands of Karnataka. But since my grandmother grew up in Penkonda in Andhra, and was very influenced by the Tamil culture she would talk to me about the dolls,

I used to have a doll display in my bedroom. My mother did not discourage me, she actually gave me some constructive inputs, yet she was hesitant to have it annually. When I got married into a Mysore family, and my daughter was born, I decided to have the Bommbe Habba. My daughter incidentally enjoyed it and she helped me put up the display.

As kids I remember going to my friend’s house for Bommbe Habba and then discussing who had the best doll display etc. etc.  But over the past few years since I was bed-bound the enthusiasm totally vanished. This year my daughter decided to do it on her own and she said she was going to break traditions and display the dolls the way she wanted it. I had to let her because my display dolls are missing.

Bombe Habba display for Sharada Puje 2013
Bombe Habba display for Sharada Puje 2013

The Bommbe Habba traditionally begins on the first day of Navaratri, after kalasa Avahanam, or the ritualistic welcome of the three manifestations of the divine mother, Saraswati, Parwati and Lakshmi.  Then wooden planks of odd numbers that 3-5-7-9-11 are kept. This is the mettalu or stairs.  On which a sari is draped. Over this the deity is placed on the highest plank, and thematic arrangements are made on different planks. Stories from the Puranas, or royal processions, village or temple layouts and other everyday scenes are done.

Miniature living rooms, kitchens were all part of it.

Most of the toys and dolls displayed are from traditional toy makers. Like Kondapalli or Chennapatana.

Traditionally Pattada Gombe or a Bridal couple doll made of teak wood gets the centre stage. These are traditional given to the bride during the wedding sometimes the display figurines are handed from generation to generation. I remember my grandmother Parwati telling me, a story with the miniature tallboy that she gave me to place on my Bommbe-mettalu.

These dolls were symbolic of prosperity and fertility.

Socially the festival coming when the rains decline, heralded the relaunch of the social interactions. Women invited each other home, there would be singing and some small games, then there would giving of the thambula or the take away gift. This year my challenge was having to go around collecting the various stuff, for the gift. But came to my rescue, I picked all that I wanted paid online and it was delivered nice and safe at door steps 48hrs later. God bless them.

The Bommbe Habba, became relevant in an agrarian society as it encourage de-silting of irrigational canals and river beds, as the Bommbe Habba raised the demand for clay.

The guests are offered sundal, and some sweets. When I was a kid the sweet used to be shira, and eventually it turned to gulab jamoon. This time my mother suggested Carrot Kheer since I could make it before I left for clinic and it would be cool by the time my guests arrived. And unlike custard it would not be heavy.

Thambula set
Thambula set

Not a bad deal at all.

It has been fun having all my friends home for a change. It has been a long time since I really made a guest list and sent out invites.  Well check list of all the things required. I feel here is what I did—

  • Guests list—with their telephone numbers—delegated to my daughter
  • Menu and quantity supervised by mother
  • Biodegradable disposable bowls called “donne(drona)”
  • Disposable paper cups for kheer.
  • Two large garbage bags. To collect the disposable stuff.
  • Finally setting the thambulam bags and remembering to give it.


entrance of the Udupi temple
entrance of the Udupi temple

Lakshadeepa is one of the much awaited and celebrated festivals of Udupi, Krishna ashatmi and Pariyaya being the other two. This begins on Karthika dwadashi-triodashi and ends on Hunnime, that is the 12thand 13th day to the full moon of Karthika month of the Hindu calendar.

admar mutta voni
admar mutta voni

Twelve days after the Deepavali Amavasya, is the Tulasi Puje. I do not remember anything happening in our houses, maybe because it is not so much of a ritual or maybe because our families dispensed it off. But most likely because it was a huge event at the Udupi temple.

kanakana kindi
kanakana kindi

The ekadashi or the 11th day after the Amavasya is the Prabhodhini Ekadashi which marks the end of chaturmas. Which is the four month hibernating period of Vishnu. The temple at Udupi commemorates the deification of Vrinda to the healing-purifying herb that is revered.

kanakana kindi
kanakana kindi

The temple town celebrates this occasion by placing wooden stands around the temple square and small lamps are lit.

The rituals begin at the Madhwasarovara, where the idol of the Lord is taken around on the pond, then ritualistic prayers are said and hymns are sung. The deity is then brought out to the road and placed in the “ratha” the chariot.  This is the moment when people light the lamp.

"Ratha" ready for the yatra of Ratha beedi
“Ratha” ready for the yatra of Ratha beedi

As a child I remember rushing with my cousins to wait along the stands to light these lamps. During our teenage years it was below our dignity and “superior knowledge” to be associated with such fun, or rituals.

After marriage and getting immersed into day to day existence Lakshdeepa was a forgotten adventure. Until this year, my brother Ravi insisted that we attend the occasion.

People lighting the lamp
People lighting the lamp

We did what used to do as kids, go to the main gate of Krishna temple, say hi to the lord from Kanakana kindi, and then rush near the Puttige mutta where the “Tattiraya” or huge wooden man would be placed. Someone who slip inside the Tattiraya and walk so it would appear like this huge doll walking. Then of course we would go to Airodiyavara paatra-angadi, pick up some things for the house of course this time it was just for old time’s sake. Then Dinakar Bhat next door to pick up fragrant sachets. And wait for the moment to light the lamp.


Today the streets were live with young girls buying bangles, people eating charumuri the tradition street snack… vendors selling rangoli powders, gooseberry. Vegetable vendors trying to shoo away their clients so that they could light the lamps in peace. Young couples holding hands. Kids with their parents scuttling round the Tattiraya


Suddenly the streets come alive with sparkle of excitement that shines in the reflection of the flickering flames of the traditional lamps. No electrification can match either the beauty of the mystic power of this. I am so glad that I could connect to something that meant so much to me, but I never figured out.