Our Journey

our experiences

The Green Bird!

Written By: Ruchi - May• 31•14
Last December, Tushar, Anil and I were roaming around the Qutub Minar when suddenly Tushar exclaimed, “Ma look, the green birds”! I turned around perplexed, what is he talking about. He points to a huge tree, “Look there”. I looked and spotted a bunch of parrots on the tree. I laughed and dismissed it rightaway, “Oh those? Those are parrots, a very common bird found in India”. “But it’s so green. I have never seen a bird like this except in the zoo”, insisted Tushar but we laughed it away.
The green bird
Later in the day something struck me. We go to the bird sanctuaries wishing to catch a glimpse of some exotic birds (which we never find, BTW) and here we are with these brightly colored beautiful birds right in our own backyard and we don’t even look at them twice. In fact this applies to everything in life. We discount everything we have and crave for the things that are ever elusive.
Don’t know if I can start seeing everything through this new found lens just yet but I definitely have a new admiration for this little green bird. They are so beautiful. How silly of me to ignore them for so long. Thank you Tushar for giving me a new perspective.

Deepawali

Written By: Ruchi - Nov• 02•13
Deepawali is popularly known as the festival of lights. For Hindus, Deepawali is the most important festival of the year. Deepawali means the row of earthen lamps. It’s celebrated by lighting the rows of earthen lamps in the house. The most popular story is that on this day Lord Rama came back to his kingdom after fourteen years of exile so his people welcomed him by lighting a lot of lamps. It is celebrated on the amavas (new moon) of the Kartik month of the Hindu calendar.
Diwali Lights
The celebrations last for 5 days.

Day 1: Dhanteras
Day 2: Choti Deepawali
Day 3: Deepawali
Day 4: Annakoot
Day 5: Bhai Dooj

Dhanteras
Dhanteras is the first day of celebration. This day is also referred to as Dhanwantari Triodasi or Dhantrayodashi. According to the Hindu Calendar, Dhanteras is celebrated on the thirteenth day of the month of Kartik. As per western calendar, Dhanteras usually falls in the month of October or November.

Dhan refers to wealth and teras means the thirteenth day. Therefore, Dhanteras is literally translated as the wealth on the thirteenth day. On this day, prayers are offered to Goddess Lakshmi, asking for her blessings in the form of the wealth.

Since Dhanteras is considered to be auspicious with regard to the wealth and prosperity, the purchase of a precious metal is said to bring good luck to the home. Women buy gold or silver ornaments on this day. If this is not possible, they at least buy a new utensil for the kitchen. Alpana or Rangoli designs are drawn on the pathways including the footprints of the Goddess to mark the arrival of Lakshmi.

Choti Deepawali
The next day is called Choti Deepawali. On Choti Deepawali, two earthen lamps with ghee (clarified butter) are lit at dusk in front of the pooja in the memory of the forefathers. At least seven more earthen lamps with mustard oil are lit, one for each room of the house and rest for outside.
Deepawali
Next day is Deepawali. This is the main day of the festivities. In the morning, Hanuman pooja is performed. You need Churma (a hearty sweet made out of poode), two puris, a desi ghee lamp, incense sticks, dhoop, sindoor, a thali (a big plate), a small pitcher for water and a dry piece of cow dung.

Some Churma is put on the puris and puris are kept in the thali. Rest of the Churma is kept in a bowl on the side to be distributed as Prasad in the end. A thin paste is made out of Sindoor and water in the thali. A Hindu Swastika is made on the water pitcher with the Sindoor paste. The sacred thread Kalava is tied on the pitcher. Desi ghee lamp is lit, its flame touching the dry cow dung and kept in thali. This is called Agni Pooja (worshipping fire). All men lit incense stick and dhoop, do Hanuman tilak with the Sindoor paste, sprinkle some Sindoor paste on the puris, offer some ghee to the cow dung, offer Churma and water to Hanumanji and bow. Hanuman Chalisa, Sankat Mochan and Hanuman Aarti are sung. All men tilak themselves with the ash of the burnt cow dung and bow in front of the idol of Hanuman. Puris and Churma from the thali are offered to a cow. Rest of the Churma is eaten by the family members as Prasad. Pakka Khana (puri, kachori and curries) are prepared for lunch.

Hanuman Poojan
Deepawali Evening

In the evening, Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped. A lot of things are needed for the pooja: Kheel (puffed wheat), batashe (sweet made of sugar only), sugar toys (toys made of sugar), regular sweets, flour dough, beetle leaf, silver coin, Hoyi paper (used in Hoyi Pooja) for the wall, kalava (the sacred pooja thread), idols of Lakshmi and Ganesh, a new utensil, new postcards, incense sticks, a big earthen lamp (saurati ka diya), red paper, Ganges water, tulsi (basil) leaves, a low stool (chauki), a pooja thali (a big plate), Roli, rose water, many small earthen lamps and flowers for decoration.

Kheel and sweet toys
Hoyi paper is stuck to the wall (if you celegrate Hoyi, you would have done it then, otherwise do it now). The chauki is placed in front of the Hoyi on the wall. It is covered with red paper or cloth as red is considered auspicious. The idols of Lakshmi and Ganesh are placed in the middle of the chauki. The beetle leaf is stuck on the Hoyi paper using the dough. Roli is kept in pooja thali and a thin paste is made with the help of the water. A Hindu Swastika is made on the Hoyi paper with the roli paste. Shubh Labh (good profit) and shri mahalakshmiji sada sahay is also written on the Hoyi paper. Silver coin in washed in a new vessel using the Ganga water and then it’s stuck on the beetle leaf using the dough. Then a batasha is stuck on the coin using the dough. In the new vessel, 5 batashe, some kheel, tulsi and rose water is mixed to make charnamrita.

Lakshmi Poojan
Then the lamps are lit and incense sticks are burnt. Kheel and batashe are offered to the idols, roli paste is sprinkled on the idols and then water is sprinkled. Lakshmi Aarti is sung. Some roli paste is sprinkled on the postcards too. Postcards can be mailed to friends or relatives. Five handful kheel, batashe and sweet toys are separated out for the fore fathers and given to the poor.

Everybody bows in front of the idols, drink a spoonful of charnamrita and eats kheel, batashe and sweets. At night before sleeping, an empty earthen lamp is kept on top of the burning lamp so that it gets burnt, to be used as kajal later at night.

After Lakshmi Pooja, everybody goes out and lights the fire crackers.

Fire crackers
Annakoot
The next day of Badi Deepawali, Annakut is made for lunch. Annakut is nothing but a vegetable made out of a lot of raw vegetables, as many as you can find. The vegetable is eaten with roti, rice and dal.
Bhai Dooj
The next day is called Bhai Dooj. On Bhai Dooj, the sisters do Tilak to their brothers with roli and rice and pray for their long lives. They offer Nariyal and sweets to their brothers. Brothers in turn give them some gift. And this concludes all the Deepawali festivities.
Significance
On Deepawali we clean our houses thoroughly, light the lamps, meet our friends, distribute sweets, start new ledgers and pray for the wealth. At the spiritual level all these things actually mean something very different. Cleaning of houses signifies cleaning our thoughts and belief systems of any negativity we have. Lighting the lamps signifies lighting the internal lamp, meaning reminding ourselves that we are nothing but a soul (point of light) in a body. When we become soul conscious, we think beyond the materialistic bodily things, which solves most of our problems. Meeting people and distributing sweets signifies blessing other souls and spreading happiness. Starting new ledger means closing our old karmic accounts and starting the new ones by forgiving all those who did something wrong to us and starting with a clean account. Praying to Lakshmi for wealth means praying for the wealth of knowledge.

If we really think about it, Deepawali is much more than a festival of lights. So let’s try to inculcate some of these things in our lives and change it for the better.

Hoyi (Ahoyi Ashtami)

Written By: Ruchi - Oct• 27•13
The festival of Hoyi is observed on the eighth day (ashtami) of the Kartik month of the Hindu calendar. The festival is observed mainly in North India. Mothers observe fast for the well being of their kids.
Hoyi Devi
How is it celebrated
Traditionally the fast is kept for sons only. Mothers don’t eat or drink anything the whole day. In the evening around sunset, they dress up in auspicious colors like red, pink, yellow and green and prepare a pooja thali. Thali contains a small clay lamp, Roli, Poode (a sweet made of wheat flour and sugar), a gift for mother in law and a small pitcher with water. The Hindu Swastika is drawn on the pitcher with the help of the Roli paste. The sacred thread, Kalava is tied around the pitcher and around Hoyi Devi (with the help of the soft insides of a Pooda). Fourteen Poode are prepared and kept in the thali and the lamp is lit. They take a couple of Poodas in the hand and then listen to the Hoyi story in front of the Hoyi picture. The story can be told by anyone in the family or they can recite it themselves. Once the story is finished, the Roli paste and the water is sprinkled around the pooja thali three times. If their mother in law is around, they touch their feet and give them the gift and the Poode. The gift and Poode together are also called Bayana. Then they go out and see a star, sprinkle Roli paste towards the star three times and pray for their sons to become as glorious as the stars. Then the pitcher water is offered to the star and the fast is broken with pakka khana (Puri/Kachori and a couple of curries).
Pooja Thali
Philosophy
In olden days, men were the sole bread winner of the household, so most of the fasts were to pray for their well being. In the modern times, women play equally important role in the family, so now mothers should not differentiate between the sons and the daughters and pray for both. It’s interesting to note that on Karva Chauth women break their fast after seeing the moon and on Hoyi they break their fast after seeing a star. The reason is that moon is only one, just like a husband and kids may be many, just like the stars.
The Story
Once upon a time, there lived a woman in a village. She had seven sons. One day she went to the forest to bring soil for the renovation and painting of her home on the eighth day of the month of kartik just before the Hindu festival Deepawali. She started digging the soil and wounded the children of the worms in the soil unknowingly. The woman felt bad but couldn’t do anything and came back with the soil.
As time passed by, all her seven sons died within a year. She was devastated. One day she narrated her woes to the old ladies in her village and they suggested that the woman should pray to the Ahoyi Devi by sketching the face of the worm. So the next Kartik Ashtami, the woman kept the fast of Ahoyi Devi and prayed for her to return her sons. Devi was happy and brought her sons back to life. Since then, all mothers started praying to Ahoyi Mata for the well being of their sons on the Ashtami of the Kartik Month.

The Rooh Afza Story

Written By: Ruchi - Oct• 24•13
Barley Saplings

This is a funny story from a long time ago. I moved to Delhi after I got married. It was summer time. My husband’s 2 younger brothers used to live with him at that time. These guys used to drink tea in the evening. I on the other hand was used to drinking something cold. I was also a little shy so I didn’t ask these guys to get me my favorite orange squash bottle. I looked around in the kitchen and found a Rooh Afza bottle. At that time, I used to hate Rooh Afza because I found it to be too sweet but ‘marti kya na karti’ I thought at least I can have something cold. So I started drinking Rooh Afza.

The routine continued for a few days and the bottle was almost empty. I thought that when it finishes, we will go and get an orange squash bottle because by now these guys were well aware that I like cold drinks. I was patiently waiting for it to finish when something unexpected happened. One day my husband came back from the office and handed me a new bottle of Rooh Afza. He noticed that the bottle was almost over so he bought another one before it got over. I was speechless. I did not know what to do, be happy that my husband is so caring or be upset that now I have to drink that same stupid thing for another month or so?
I couldn’t bear the thought of drinking another bottle of Rooh Afza so I told him that I absolutely hated it. He was surprised but understood when I explained. Anyways, we went back and exchanged it for an orange squash bottle. It was soooooo funny.

Dushehara

Written By: Ruchi - Oct• 15•13
Dushehara is one of the most important festivals celebrated in India. Dushehara is derived from the Sanskrit words Dasha and Hara, meaning remover of the bad fate. This day is celebrated as the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana. Dushehara is also known as Vijay Dashmi, which means victory on the tenth day. In Bengal this day marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demons.
When
Dushehara is celebrated on the tenth day of the Hindu autumn lunar month of Ashvin, which falls in September or October of the Western calendar. The first nine days are celebrated as Sharad Navratri meaning nine nights that culminate on the tenth day as Dushehara.
How is it celebrated
Following items are needed for the Dushehara pooja: Rice kheer, lauki raita, two rotis, water chetnuts, radish, sugarcane, cow dung, sweets, a notebook, a small bowl of steamed rice, a handful of wheat grains, barley saplings, an earthen lamp, kalava and incense sticks. On the first day of Sharad Navratri, barley seeds are sown and watered every day except on the eighth day. By Dushehara the seeds grow in 6 inch saplings.
Barley Saplings
Ten small balls of cow dung are made. One can even use the dry balls by making them in advance and drying them in sun for a few days.
Cow dung balls
On Dushehara, all the preparations are done after taking bath and without eating anything. The cow dung balls are kept in two columns about one foot apart parallel to east-west direction.Some seasonal vegetables like water chestnuts, radish and sugarcane are kept in the middle of these two rows. In a big plate barley saplings are kept along with roli, dry rice, work instruments and sweets. Kheer is poured in 10 small bowls and kept next to the cow dung balls. In a separate plate two rotis, steamed rice and lauki raita are kept to be given away. A small bowl of water is also kept on the side.
Dushehara Pooja
Incense sticks are lit along with earthen lamp. Kalava is tied on everybody’s wrist. Head of the family writes down the date and with whom they are celebrating Dushehara. They also write down the prices of some common day to day items in the notebook, whatever is applicable to them. Then the barley saplings are kept on the notebook and roli mixed with water is sprinkled on the notebook and the cow dung balls.
Price Notebook
Sisters do Tilak to their brothers with roli and rice. They also put barley saplings on one of the ears of their brothers. Then everyone eats the kheer and the sweets.
Barley Saplings
In the evening the effigy of demon king Ravana is burnt in public places, which signifies burning the ten vices.
Ravana
Significance
Dushehara is the victory of the soul over 10 vices – kaam (any kind of desire), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (attachment), ahankara (ego), irshaya (jealousy), dwesh (revenge), chal (lying), hath (stubbornness) and aalasya (laziness). In the beginning of the Dwapar Yug, when the state of the souls was declining, authors wrote the stories of Lord Rama winning over demon king Ravana, where Ravana had ten heads. Ravana means the 10 vices, each head symbolizing one vice. Sita means the soul, captivated by Ravana (vices). Rama means God or the Supreme Soul, who kills Ravana (vices) and frees Sita (the soul) by hurting the naval of Ravana (the body consciousness). So Dushehara tells us to worship the Supreme Soul and become soul conscious to win over our vices and to free up the soul.
Dushehara is also the celebration of the onset of the new season. In olden times, most of the people used to be farmers so sowing the barley seeds and seeing the strength of the saplings was the test of the quality of seeds for the coming season. Traders noted down the prices of the day to day items to see the market trends year over year. Other workers worshiped their instruments because those instruments were the source of the bread and butter for their family.
Knowing all this, it is up to the individuals to decide exactly how they want to follow these customs in today’s context.