Sunday, January 17, 2010

Harvest festivals

Last week was full of harvest festivals, celebrated in different ways. There were some other festivals/rituals at the same time -- Feast of the Infant Jesus for Christians, something about bathing in the Ganges -- but I'll focus on three festivals that I got to participate in here in our neighborhood in Bangalore. We have neighbors from all over India, so we get to see a wide range of practices, and foods.

The Punjabi harvest festival, Lohri, is a more lively affair than the southern Sankranthi (here in Karnataka and in Andhra Pradesh) and the Tamilian Pongal. A bonfire marks the end of the cold winter and heralds to the harvest of the wheat to come. More about it can be read at of the things I don't like about most of the get-togethers here (except for Southern weddings) is that the men sit in one area, and the women in another, as seen below.The women:Hot topic: Orkut vs Facebook in terms of ease of use, coverage, and fun.But here you can see the mix of popcorn, peanuts, and sesame treats that you throw into the fire before you walk around the fire three times. Lots of lights, drinks, music and food. Amartya had school the next day, so we went to bed at 11, before dinner was served, and long before the dancing that lasted well into the night/early morning.
The southern versions are more subdued. Our neighbor lit his house, and did very elaborate rangoli for several days.All the women in the family, and the female servants, were part of the process.These neighbors speak Telegu and are from Andhra, and come from a rural area, so this is a serious festival. A new thing for me was the addition of cow dung, and decorated little turds at that, as part of the presentation.Sub decorated with colored chalk in front of our house for Pongal.
Pongal is celebrated by eating many types of rice, including a sweet one with sugar. The drawing here has the sugar cane at the far right, and on the left you can see the earthware pot that has a tumeric plant and sometimes ginger wrapped around it, and for this festival you are supposed to let it boil over. Funny, I do that all the time, generally as a mistake, but that is the ritual for Pongal. Sub made a few kinds of rice, and we offered the sweet pongal to neighbors. Some of them brought their sweets to us too -- in Karnataka it includes a chunk of sugar cane and some sesame/sugar mix.The cow has to be in there of course too.

One thing that is common in the south is the hanging of mango leaves. First folks string them and then hang them.I guess that now our housed is blessed.

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