Vani’s Musings

Archive for the ‘Customs & Traditions’ Category

Hi People,

It’s been ages since I wrote anything here, what with a bout of seasonal illness and the consequential extra work at office……………

We celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi today on a moderate scale, partly because we are not in our permanent residence and partly because a very close relative is in hospital.

After the feast in the afternoon, I was browsing, and stumbled upon this beautiful explanation regarding Ganesha.

Here it is for all of you, courtesy


May the good Lord shower all his grace on all of us for the coming year. Hope you all had a wonderful festival too.


According to the Hindu calendar, the year is divided into two halves, Uttarayana and Dakshinayana. Uttarayana commences from Makara Sankranthi and Dakshinayana from Karka Sankranthi.

Uttarayana begins in January and ends in July. Dakshinayana begins in July and ends in December.

Shastras prohibit the celebration of events like marriage or Upanayanams during Dakshinayana. Climactically speaking, this period is the time of heavy rains.

 In the olden days, heavy rains rendered people immobile. The Parivrajakas or missionaries who went around the whole country, as part of their religious propagation activities would stay put in one place for the duration of this period. As such, they spent this time in austerities and devoting their time to God.

The weather reflected on the food they ate, giving rise to a wholly different cuisine to be followed during Chaaturmaasa. The practice is still continued by our religious missionaries and conservative families to this day.

 The Vrathas commence on the Shuddha Ekadashi of every month and go on till the Shuddha Ekadashi of the next month.

 In the first month, the ShaaKha Vratha is followed, wherein the usage of vegetables and dicot plant produce is prohibited.

In the second month, the usage of curd and buttermilk and buttermilk extracts is not allowed.

In the third month, usage of milk products is avoided.

In the fourth month, there is a restriction again on the usage of dicots.

Sounds tough and hard to digest, doesn’t it? But the varieties that can be prepared without the use of the above food products are simply amazing.

I have sampled a few of the special dishes that are prepared during Chaaturmaasa and found them heavenly.

Want to try some at home? Wait for my coming posts.

A Bit of background: The Girl’s picture, bio data and horoscope have been forwarded to the groom’s family for tallying. After some half a dozen follow-up calls, the groom’s family suddenly decides one day to “see” the girl. They usually give half a day’s notice, and insist that the girl be present, her office, her deadlines and her project commitments notwithstanding.

 Scene I 

The setting is a typical Scene in any Indian Household with grown-up daughters.  House all spring-cleaned with no trace of cobwebs. Interiors scrubbed very neatly. Glass and Crockery sparkling. Furniture draped with the best linen of the house. Fresh Flowers in the Vases. No one allowed to park themselves on the Sofas for fear of creasing the covers. Who, pray, is the visitor today for whom the house is being so beautifully decorated?

 The President of India ?


The President of USA ?


A Minister?


A God Man?


It is …… a prospective groom for the daughter of the house.

The men are all busy with the last minute cleaning and polishing. Half the women are in the kitchen, preparing goodies for the groom and his party, the smell of sweets and savories wafts through the air, while the other half is helping the girl get ready.  

It is seldom an occasion of joy. There are protests from the girl about her choice of dress; she preferring something simple, elders suggesting something more grand. After some ultimatums and crying by either sides, a ceasefire is reached, and some go-between is suggested.

 With some amount of reluctance, girl is ready to face yet another groom. 

Scene II 

Sudden scurry of activity outside. The whole family, excluding the girl rushes out to meet the party. Some forced smiles and un-necessary pleasantries done, the party is welcomed inside. Here starts the fun. Boy’s mother starts a minute inspection of the house. From inspecting the little cracks and crevices in the walls, to the broken chips in the tile flooring. There is an immediate damage control done, either by spreading a mat on the floor, or by hurriedly placing a picture on the wall to hide crack. 

This done, men start off on some random topics like cricket , or if both the families are in the same domain of work, they start talking shop.

 The ladies on the girl’s side, usually an elder aunt or grandma starts and dominates the conversation on the women’s front. It is usually a getting to know of the backgrounds of both families, and trying to find a common link between the two families, which will become an easy reference for both.

 If there is no reference point for both the families, the talk is usually current affairs or politics.Sometimes this is dangerous too, because each person’s political view is different, and arguments may soon follow if things are not controlled. 

At some stage, suddenly, one of the women on the groom’s side realizes that the girl has not been shown to them yet.  She orders “Bring the girl, we are getting late”. 

The ladies on this side fall apart to bring the girl soon. It is at this juncture that the boy’s face must be seen. It will be a myriad mix of emotions, ranging from….”Haa, here is another one” to “God, why have I been forced into this” to “how boring! I wished my parents listened to me at least once’ to “Hey, this seems interesting”, to “Here comes the girl of my dreams” to “How I wish I could murder these people” depending on his age, experience, aspirations about his wife, his mood on that particular day and the whole process in general.

 As the girl walks into the room, she is scrutinized from top to toe. Every aspect of the girl is examined; only thing lacking is a magnifying lens. She is seated in front of this crowd of strangers whose main intention is a close scrutiny and decision of whether she will make a suitable wife to their boy or not. 

Then begin the questions to the girl: The sentences in brackets are what she would actually want to reply, but keeps mum for courtesy’s sake. 

  1. What is your name?

         Girl: XYZ (Did you come all this way without bothering to know my name?) 

    2.   What is your educational Qualification?

         Girl: B … (Why? Are you planning to give me a job?) 

    3.  What is your salary?

       Girl:…. (You want to better or match that? Or your son wants to quit his job?) 

   4.     Can you sing? C’mon, sing a song for us.

         Girl: Smiles and mumbles something like “I have a sore throat….” Or so (Why? Just in case we go  bankrupt, you want me to sing in railway stations or traffic junctions?) 

   5.    Can you thread a needle? Go ahead and thread one for us.

Girl: Doing it , looking daggers at her mother, who is giving her a pitiful look (Thinking, how she wished she could poke the needle in the groom’s eye) 

Then there is the usual question to the boy “Do you want to ask the girl anything?” The groom stammers and stutters and mumbles something incoherent to the tune of “ That’s not necessary…”or so. Both the boy and girl are stared at alternately, and both smile uncomfortably. 

By this time, the eats are brought out. The groom’s party is served a rich spread, and the ladies on the girl’s side take this opportunity to impress upon the groom and his family, the girl’s cooking prowess.  Usual dialog is “XYZ cooked all this today…” Girl is thinking that if they knew she couldn’t even hold a ladle straight, what would be their reaction.


After this rich meal, the groom’s family rise to leave, as though this phase of the program was most important on the agenda. The groom’s mother often leaves last, pausing to tell the girl’s side “We will let you know in a couple of days”.

After this, the groom’s party leaves, and a calm descends on the household. There is anticipation about the result. In case things turn positive, it is fine; otherwise, it is back to scene I every time.


This is a program that happens across society. It does not consider social and economic status, but is common throughout India.

I feel it is time both boys and girls realized the futility of this exercise. After all, how much about the girl’s character can the groom gauge or vice versa in the 45 minutes or 1 hour that they spend in front of a dozen people?

Isn’t it high time both boys and girls opened up to their parents about any particular choice or if they are actually ready for marriage?

Can’t this whole exercise be made more informal?

The winds of change have touched everything in India, but this is one system that seems to go on and on….even 50 years from now, maybe my children will be doing this for their children.


 Ramaya Ramabhadraya

Ramachandraya Vedhase

Raghunathaya nathaya

Sitayah pataye namah

Sri Rama Navami is being celebrated all over the country today.

Rama is the epitome of how a human being should lead his life.

“Ramayana” means Ways of Rama.

This Tulasidas Bhajan describes Lord Rama’s antics perfectly as a child.


Thumak chalat raamachandra
Thumak chalat raamachandra
Baajat painjaniyaan

Kilaki kilaki uthat dhaay girat bhuumi latapataay
Dhaay maat god let dasharath kii raniyaan

humak chalat raamachandra
Thumak chalat raamachandra
Baajat painjaniyaan

Aanchal raj ang jhaari vividh bhaanti so dulaari
Tan man dhan vaari vaari kahat mridu bachaniyaan

Thumak chalat raamachandra
Thumak chalat raamachandra
Baajat painjaniyaan

Vidrum se arun adhar bolat mukh madhur madhur
Subhag naasikaa men chaaru latakat latakaniyaan

Thumak chalat raamachandra
Thumak chalat raamachandra
Baajat painjaniyaan
Tulasiidaas ati anand dekh ke mukhaaravind
Raghuvar chhabi ke samaan raghuvar chhabi baniyaan
Thumak chalat raamachandra
Thumak chalat raamachandra
Baajat painjaniyaan

The Meaning of the Bhajan in English

Baby Ram walks, swaying unsteadily
 His anklets ring in tune with his steps

Laughing joyously he stumbles around on the ground
He is fondly picked into the laps of King Dasharatha’s queens

Baby Ram walks, swaying unsteadily
 His anklets ring in tune with his steps

They cover him with their saris, dusting the dirt off and caressing his bruises
They offer loving and reassuring words of devotion to make him feel better

Baby Ram walks, swaying unsteadily
 His anklets ring in tune with his steps

Baby Ram’s ruby red lips speak sweet melodious words
Ornaments decorate his nose and waist

Baby Ram walks, swaying unsteadily
 His anklets ring in tune with his steps

Poet Tulsidas is thrilled at the face of Ram, which has the glory of the Sun
Baby Ram is exactly what he had imagined him to be

Baby Ram walks, swaying unsteadily
 His anklets ring in tune with his steps

People from the west, when speaking of the orient, generally think that we are an ignorant and superstitious race. But we are not alone in being superstitious. Here’s a look into some of the common superstitions followed in the west.
When people are hoping for something, they say ‘…touch wood’, and find something wooden to touch, to guard against bad luck. For example, ‘The business deal is finalized next week… touch wood’. This dates back to Celtic times. A tree could take evil spirits down into the earth, like a lightning conductor.
Friday the 13th
An unlucky number and unlucky day. The reasons are lost in the mists of time. Various religious explanations are given (the fate of the thirteenth guest at Jesus’ Last Supper, Jesus crucified on a Friday, Noah’s flood started on Friday etc.) none of them provable. Some hotels omit Room 13 and occasionally people reschedule business meetings mistakenly set for a Friday the 13th, but the date is usually ignored.
Four-leafed clovers
Clover has three leaves, so finding the rare mutation with four leaves is very good luck.

People don’t walk underneath them. Some sources say this is because a ladder was traditionally propped up against the gallows; others, that a ladder against a wall was a triangle and therefore the sign of the Holy Trinity.
It is good luck to have one nailed up over the door. Horseshoes in a bedroom protect people from nightmares. Possibly the good associations come from its shape, like a new moon. Finding a horseshoe in the road is exceptionally good luck. If it has come from a grey mare, this is doubly good.

Black cats
If a black cat crosses in front of you that is bad luck.

What I want to convey through this post is that no race or relegion is free from some beliefs that have passed through the ages. Probably there was a rationale in following them at that time. They may seem meaningless now, but followed they are, fearing some untoward consequences, and followed across all strata of society.