Tag Archives: festival

Enjoying with Colors

The festival of Holi happens when the season is about to change from Winter to Summer. There are warm days and cold nights. Many people fall sick. During my school days the final exam for an academic session used to happen in April. The month of march used to be full of internal assessment where our notebooks, workbooks and assignment books were checked. Falling sick had to be avoided because one may miss out on internal assessment.

On the day of Holi we used to prepare our bags with colors and pichkari. Pichkari is like a spray bottle. We would fill colored water in it and spray it on others. We would be given strict instructions to avoid water while leaving the house. Within 5 minutes of stepping out of the house, we would be colored and wet. In those days, cell phones were not common with kids so after 2 to 3 hours, it would be time for lunch. We would be so colored that it would be impossible to identify us. Calling up the neighbors to find out if we are near their house would not work. So our parents would come out in search of us. Once they found us, we would have to go home. That day we would spent long hours in shower. The rest of the day would be spent in instructions of being extra careful since we had exposed ourselves to the risk of getting cold by playing with water. The next day all of us would have colored faces. For a change, our school prefixes would be lenient in their checking. The amount of color on the face would show how actively one celebrated the festival. Although the festival of Holi would come right before the final exams, it would give us a colorful break from studies. I do pray those days come back again and we are able to meet everyone without the fear of getting sick. Wishing everyone a very Happy, Safe and Healthy Holi.

Celebrating simplicity

Today is Maha Shivratri, a festival dedicated to God Shiva. He is also known as Mahadev, the great God. It is also the day when God Shiva got married to Goddess Parvati. It is celebrated at home in my family. We get up early, clean the house, take bath and offer prayers to God Shiva. We offer fruits and kheer (sweet made of rice and milk). During my school days, the kitchen used to be full of the aroma of kheer. We used to help in getting the flowers and bilva leaves. In some places, the ceremonies are performed whole night. People fast and meditate. There are devotional songs meant only for Maha Shivratri.

We are brought up on tales on Mahadev. He occupies a special place in our hearts and lives. I have always been an ardent admirer of his simplicity. There are numerous cases where those benefited from him, have been ungrateful to him but that has never impacted his giving nature. He stays in Himalayas. Maybe that is why I love being in the mountains. The word meditation brings forth an image of him deep in meditation. With the rise in lifestyle diseases, I think we should take lessons from his life. Choose comfortable clothing over expensive clothing. Lead a physically active life. The more we can build immunity the better. A year of Pandemic has helped many of us to incorporate good habits and lead a simple life. On this Maha Shivratri, I do pray that the tough times get over. Best wishes of Maha Shivratri to everyone.

Celebration of Learning

Today is Vasant Panchami, a festival to welcome spring in India. It is celebrated on the fifth day of month of Magh in Hindu Calendar. It is either in February or last week of January. The celebrations are performed to welcome spring(Vasant). In East India, people worship Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Saraswati is called the Goddess of learning, music, knowledge and arts. We dress up in yellow, decorate the temples with yellow flowers. We put up our books and musical instruments at the house temple. With the exams scheduled for April, we pray to the Goddess to bless us with good scores. Community functions are organized where we all meet up. This is special for kids who are about to start schooling. A ceremony called “Hathe Khodi” is performed. The priest prays in the name of the kid and then helps him/her write a few alphabets with chalk on the slate.

During my school days we used to have drawing competition and poetry recitation competition making it a celebration of learning. The poetry competitions were very special. I learnt to face the stage from them. We used to be given a poem of one of the notable Bengali poets. The community hall used to be filled by members. We had to stand on stage and recite it. It used to be interesting to see different kids recite the same poem. The first poem I had recited was Lichu Chor. It describes the experience of a village lad while stealing lychee and getting caught. I was 8 years old. I could remember only 4 lines from the middle of that poem today. Funny part is these were the lines that I forgot while reciting on stage. There are music and dance performances. These events made me realize my love for performing arts. This year the celebrations were different with social distancing and mask rules in place. On this Saraswati Puja, I pray to the Goddess Saraswati the pandemic phase gets over and life returns to normalcy. Happy Vasant Panchami.

Support for festivals

Flowers at my house

Today is Diwali, the festival of lights. It always brings amazing memories for me. The house used to be cleaned thorougly before the festival. In the morning all the coushion covers and sheets would be replaced. The house would be decorated with lights and lamps. Special ceremonies would be conducted. One of the key requirements of any ceremony are flowers. My grandmother planted flower trees for this. We were scolded everytime we climbed those trees or hanged on their branches. During festivals, my grandmother would get up early, cleanup and pluck flowers for ceremony. We were not supposed to bother her at that time. The first few days were fine but after 4 days, the flowers at the lower branches were not there. At that time we were called to provide support for the festival. Then all the skills of hanging on the branches and climbing the trees would come handy. We would manage to bring the branches with flowers within her reach.

Flower tray for the Ceremony

Today my mother called me for the same purpose. I felt like a school girl looking for the higher branches with maximum flowers and then calculating how to bring those branches within reach. It filled me with an amazing energy and excitement. Co-incidentaly today is also the Children’s day for India. It just reminded me how important it is to keep the child within ourselves alive. The enthusiasm to find new things fills life into the dullest of days. Keep discovering. Its never too late to start learning. Go back to your school days, pick up that skill you wanted to have and go for it. Today all classes are available online. Also the day after diwali is the New Year in many parts of India. The best time for beginnings. Get all the blessings and start working towards a better version of yourself. May this Diwali fill everyone’s life with lights of happiness. Wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous Diwali.

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations 2020

Today is Ganesh Chaturthi. Lord Ganesh is the lord of new beginnings and remover of obstacles. We celebrate his arrival from Kailash. People bring idols of Lord Ganesh in their homes. The entire house is decorated. The days are celebrated with Aarti (ceremonies) and prasad (sweets) are distributed. My home towns of Vadodara and Pune used to come alive with beautiful decorations of community ceremonies. Here the idols will be large and a pandal(temporary stage) would be set up. These festivals gave us an opportunity to meet our neighbors. Many people prepared the sweets for Aarti at home. We also have dance and music performances within the community.

The community festivals are for 11 days. There are many memories associated with this festival. My father would take my sister and me for a visit to all the Pandals in our area. My mother’s colleague used to send her home made sweets for us. If I came up with any resolution after June, I would wait till Ganesh Chaturthi and begin from this day. Praying to Lord Ganesh before starting anything is a part of life. I share my love for modak(sweets) with Lord Ganesh. The sweet shops would make different kinds of modak and put up for display. I used to visit all the sweet shops near temple and get the most unique modak. This year the community festivals are being conducted at a smaller scale because of the pandemic. This has not stopped the devotees but has increased their creativity. People have come up with different ideas of creating their own idols. Many of us have learnt to perform the ceremony ourselves and prepare modak as well. Let us come together and pray a vaccine is found soon, the sick are cured and we are all able to overcome this difficult phase. Happy Ganesh Chaturthi.

New Year with New Challenges

Today, 14th april’2020 is Poila Boishakh, the first day of Bengali new year. As kids, we used to get up early, take bath, offer our prayers, pay respect to the elders and hug our friends and youngsters. My mother used to stitch clothes for us for new year. Special dishes would be prepared. There was an image of Goddess Durga in our house. She is dressed up as a villager in it. It always reminded me, God is within us and we can always make ourselves better.

Poila Boishakh used to be just after the final exams of the academic session. So we used to start our summer vacations with new year celebration. This year is different. It is a New Year with New Challenges. The world is going through an extremely challenging phase. The thought of celebrating new year in this situation may seem strange. New Year is the time to identify changes that need to be made to improve oneself. The past year reminds us that time and tide wait for none. This Poila Boishakh, let us resolve to maintain social distancing, let us ensure that we will continue to grow even while enclosed in our houses, let us resolve to believe good times will return. This has created free time for many of us. There are people cribbing about how to spend this time. Internet is brimming with online classes be it drawing, music, dance or new language. There are many book clubs. Most of the libraries have their apps from which readers can read online. This time has brought out the creativity of many people. Some of my friends have started their YouTube channels. As we continue with the shutdown, life without social life, may seem boring and monotonous but we should trust the God within ourselves and persist. Let us ensure, when this phase is over and life is back to normal, we will all be better human beings. Shubho Noboborsho (Happy New Year) to everyone.

Diwali Beginnings

Goddess Kali

The festival of Diwali has a special place in my life. There are tons of memories associated with it. The holiday, cleaning of house, preparation of sweets, new clothes, decoration and every activity makes the festival even more enjoyable. The bengalis conduct big celebration of Kali Pujo. Goddess Kali is the destroyer of evil. We pray to her to destroy the evil within us and guide us towards enlightenment. It is the time to clean our hearts and minds, to forget the pains of the past and to brighten our lives with goodness and positiviy. Diwali also marks the New Year in western zone of India.

Fall colors in park

It is a good time to make resolutions. This year I made a resolution to not give in to cold and explore my city. One way to do it is to find parks and wander around. Parks in cities are generally around monuments and have their own history. I started off with Monroeville Community Park. Fall was in full bloom with the tree leaves displaying an array of colors. To add to that an event for Halloween Trick or Treat was going on. There were kids dressed up in their Halloween costumes. Both the trees and the kids displayed a plethora of colors which would fill any heart with joy. I roamed around the park which completed my daily walking schedule. Trying to discover something through a healthy habit motivates us to continue it. The trip helped me discover the Halloween event. Lets see what the next park helps me discover.Till then Happy Diwali and Happy New Year to everyone.

Happy Holi

The festival of Holi is an opportunity to bring out the mischievous side of a person. It occurs towards the end of winter in the month of march. This is the last festival of the academic session before the exams. Its the best time to say sorry. The dry colors are ready a day before. Traditional sweets are prepared in every house. We visit each house, put color on each other’s faces and have sweets. Its the only festival where one does not need to dress up.

My colleague mentioned his daughter has given him the list of colors to bring. This reminded me of the Holi when I was in Sixth grade. A new liquid color was in market. We (me and my sister) had requested our father to bring us that color as well along with the dry colors. My strict grandmother declared no liquid colors. My mother tried to pacify us by saying those colors don’t get removed easily. On the day of Holi, we had played with dry colors and visited everyone’s houses. Still the feeling of enjoying the festival was not there. My sister was almost in tears for the liquid colors. My grandmother had a long list of activities which included cleaning the prayer area, taking a shower, plucking flowers and then performing the ceremonies. The moment she started these activities, my father, who was quietly watching us, handed us the packets of liquid color. He always had a solution for all problems. After that me and my sister had the time of our lives, coloring each other and all our friends. My mom was right, the color didn’t go easily. Even after multiple washing and scrubbing the next day I went to school with one ear red and one ear green. My sister had a red cheek and blue chin.

Holi, the festival of colors, is the time to forget the wrongs of the past and make new beginnings. Even if people dont speak the same language, you can simply put color on each other and hug. As if to start life like a blank canvas and fill it with colors of joy, happiness and love. I hope this Holi fills everyone’s lives with colors.

P.S. Just incase you are wondering what happened in school, the teacher had a hard time controlling her laughter standing in front of a class of students with Rainbow colored faces.

Meeting Santa Claus

One of the most cherished events of Christmas is arrival of Santa Claus. His loud ‘Ho Ho Ho’ and the jingling bells can bring smile on any face. As a kid, I used to wonder what might be there in his big bag. I always thought he dressed in red and white. While walking across downtown, I came to an exhibition in Winter garden. Although it was -4 degrees Celsius outside, the presence of warm smiles drew me towards it. The place was every child’s fantasy. A huge Christmas tree with ginger bread houses all around it. A live orchestra playing Christmas carols. But the most amazing part were the Santa Claus of the world. It seems he is known by different names in different countries and each culture has its own representation. But the sparkling eyes, genuine smile and the adorable personality was common in all of them. As I walked past each of them, I felt as if I am transported to that country, waiting like a child for my Santa to arrive. It seemed as if I was meeting Santa Claus differently. The aroma of cakes, muffins, biscotti and hot chocolate added the festive flavor to the event.

Santa Claus can bring smile even in freezing temperatures. It reminds me, a genuine warm smile can win our hearts even on the coldest day. Often we are so carried away in our day to day issues that we forget to smile properly. Sometimes a smile from a dear one is all we need to solve the biggest of problems. Maybe that is why festivals are held, just to remind us to smile, meet our dear ones and be happy. They are also the time to go out and enjoy the city. So the next time if someone asks you to describe Santa Claus, make sure to mention the smile because his outfit may be different but the smile is the same genuine, adorable one.

Magical Light up Night

On a lethargic morning last week I was browsing through Facebook, when a notification popped up. It said about a light up night in Pittsburgh downtown on 17th November’2017. On further inquiry I found it was a tradition. So me and three of my colleagues decided to visit downtown on that day. First we had planned to come home after work and then start but one of us suggested, that would result into further delays due to co-ordination. So we started from office right after work at 6:00 pm. The first route we took had a traffic jam so we took a detour. Once we reached downtown, we felt like we are on a festival night. The streets were decorated with lights and people were happily roaming around. The next challenge was to find a parking space. Luckily we found one after searching for a small time.

We walked till Market Square, there we were greeted by a European market. There were shops for Christmas decoration articles, gifts and food. It was freezing cold but the market had a warm atmosphere. People had come with their families. Soon the Christmas Carols started. It reminded me of the fairs during festivals in my hometown. My colleague suggested having strudel which was unknown to all of us. I had a delicious apple strudel. Surprisingly we felt warm after having it. The cold winds reminded us of hot chocolates. We spotted a Starbucks but one of us came up with an idea of exploring something local so we went to Nicholas Coffee.

The Coffee shop

We were amazed at the variety of coffee seeds there. The aroma of brewing Coffee welcomed us. We had hot chocolates with whipped cream.We came out just when the Christmas tree was about to be lighted and witnessed the amazing lighting. We even met another colleague.

The lighted Christmas Tree

After the lights we went to the Duquesne Boulevard to see the fireworks. A rock concert was going on. Luckily we got a parking from where the fireworks would be visible. It was 0 degrees celcius but the wait was worth it as the sky was lit with colorful crackers. The sky appeared like a palette of glittering colors. We watched the entire show and then returned. I thank Pittsburgh for this magical evening and my colleague for taking us to this event. So the next time you are in Pittsburgh around Thanksgiving, make sure you see the Light up Night.

The Fireworks

The Colorful sky