Monthly Archives: October 2013

How many reasons can you think of to celebrate? | Starting with Halloween

Mia and Daddy Celebrate

Mia and Daddy Celebrate

Thank you Monica for letting me guest write at your site.

And thank you for guest writing at my site - The fun of being Multi-cultural | Diwali | Halloween | Indian-American.

My daddy has been to India many times. And he says one of the most wonderful people he knows is from India. His name is Ajai Lall of Central India. And he and daddy have been friends for a long time.

Daddy also has many students from India at the university. And one of his key workers is from India – Parasshuram.

Daddy first became interested in India when Ajai invited him to visit the country.

While daddy was there, the story goes, his Indian friends locked him in a room one day because it was a festival day – HOLI.

“You can’t go outside Bill. You will get painted to death.”

So, daddy was locked in a room all day with nothing to do but watch cricket … of which he knew nothing about. But … by the end of the day he knew something.

Fast forward about 20 years and a lot of ‘LIFE’ in between and daddy and some of his writers started making a living and paying a lot of bills because of what he learned in a hotel room while many Indians celebrated outside.

Now, daddy is celebrating, too – the fact that what he learned from his Indian friends and by working along with an Indian colleague … his life is fuller and richer.

Now THAT! is worth celebrating, isn’t it.

The Ramayana | Invocation of the Muse | Valmiki | Part 2 of 2

 

Valmiki and Ganesha

Valmiki and Ganesha

(Go back to Part 1)

Such is the case for the Ramayana, the epic life story of Rama, the king of Ancient Ayodhya and who many believe was an incarnate of Lord Vishnu, who materialized on Earth to kill Ravana and purge the world of his evil.

Praise to Valmiki,2 bird of charming song,3
Who mounts on Poesy’s sublimest spray,
And sweetly sings with accent clear and strong
Rama, aye Rama, in his deathless lay.

Legend has it that the Great Sage asked Lord Ganesha to transcribe it while he narrated it to him. Lord Ganesha agreed on one condition: He would transcribe it only if Great Sage Valmiki tells the whole story in one sitting. The Great Sage agreed and the story began.   Every word that dripped from Great Sage Valmiki’s lips was so sweet that Lord Ganesha recorded EVERYTHING! In his excitement, the Lord broke his writing instrument.  Remembering what he had told the Great Sage before they started, He broke one of his tusks off and used it to continue writing.  It is said that this is how Lord Ganesha lost his tusk.

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The Ramayana | Invocation of the Muse | Valmiki | Part 1 of 2

Maharishi Valmiki

Maharishi Valmiki, writer of the Ramayana

In ancient times, only the great sages and seers were priviledged enough to hear the stories of the mythological demigods (Devatas) and demons (asuras). So,  because he wanted to share the Story of Rama with the rest of the world, the Great Sage Valmiki created a script, which we now know as Sanskrit, and recorded the story on stone tablets (similar to those found in ancient Egypt).  Because Great Sage Valmiki had the inspiration and desire to share this story with the world, he was called its Muse.  In Ancient Greece, they called this person a Rhapsode, as in the case of Homer, who originally recorded the epic poem, the Odyssey.  These ancient storytellers were called Bards in Old England, and  Reconteurs in Medieval France.  Today, this person is called an author, the originator of a written work.

If you were to look at a work of fiction today, you would notice that most have a page dedicated to the author.  You might call this page the Introduction to the Author, and you would generally find it at the end of the novel. In ancient times, they called this page the Invocation to the Muse, and they placed it at the very beginning.

(Go to part 2)

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Diwali quote | Live life like it’s a festival | Happiness

True happiness comes from within

Celebrate life. Your happiness is contagious.

“The truth is that existence wants your life to become a festival…because when you are unhappy, you also throw unhappiness all around.”

Isn’t this so true.  If you are not happy, you usually bring those around you down.  But if you are happy, the world looks like a better place.  Your automatic reaction are such that you are giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.  You assume the best rather than the worst.  You look for the good rather than the bad.  You smile, and make others around you smile.  Who we are definitely affects how people react to us, and how people feel when they around us.

So, if we treat life like a festival, we become happier, and the world around us responds.  In a festival things do often go wrong.  But people are having so much fun they fix the problem and move on.  It doesn’t dampen their mood or ruin the day.  At a festival we just feel good.

Diwali is the festival of light over dark, good over evil.  The festival of your life could be the celebration of joy over unhappiness.  Do you think it’s possible?  What if it?  What would your life be like if you lived it that way?

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Diwali | Let your inner light, the supreme Deepavali, shine brightly

Be the supreme Deepa within.

Be the supreme Deepa within.

“The sun does not shine there, nor does the moon and the stars, nor does lightning shine. All the lights of the world cannot be compared even to a ray of the inner light of the Self. Merge yourself in this light of lights and enjoy the supreme Deepavali.”

We hear it said so many times.  Happiness comes from within.  And there are certain people we meet in our lives that we think “Wow, that person just glows.”  Or “Wow, that person seems to shine from within.”  Those people allow their inner light to shine through.  Our inner light is the brightest, most beautiful light of all.  It’s the hope for the human condition.  It’s the light of joy, compassion, love, forgiveness.  It’s the light that inspires us to be our best.  It’s the light that guides us when life gets difficult.

And yet, even though this light is the supreme light, most of us focus so much more on the light outside of us.  The Sun, moon, stars.  The bright lights of a city.  The lights on a dark highway.  Those lights can light our physical world, but they don’t brighten the whole world, the way a joyful spirit does.  So take some time to nurture your inner light.  Feed its flame.  Give it love.  Light your own deepa and celebrate your own supreme Deepavali.

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Rangoli during Diwali | Deepawali | Kolam | Alpana | Mandana – Part 2 of 2

Peacock Kolam, Rangoli

Peacock Kolam, Rangoli

This is a continuation of the discussion of rangoli.  (Go back to part 1)

On a mythological level, they are created to welcome Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, into their homes and businesses to bless with good fortune throughout the coming year.  On a metaphysical level, these designs act like sieves to filter the energies in the atmosphere and allow only the positive ones to enter. On a philosophical level, rangoli symbolizes the Hindu concepts of the Impermanence of Life and the Interconnectedness of the Universe.

For many, rangoli is a form of meditation, used as a tool to redirect the mind from worldly concerns to the singular task of creating a rest stop for Divinity. Other people, like those who live in Shanti Niketan (a city which was founded by Rabindranath Tagore over one hundred years ago) near Kolkata, study it as an independent subject in school.

Rangoli is known by different names in different parts of the subcontinent. For example, in Maharashtra, it is called rangoli, but in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, it is known as kolam. Bengalis call it alpana, and the people of Rajasthan call it madana. Whatever people call it, this traditional art form is rich in symbolism.

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Rangoli during Diwali | Deepawali | Kolam | Alpana | Mandana – Part 1 of 2

Beautiful Diwali Rangoli depicts an oil lamp

Beautiful Diwali Rangoli depicts an oil lamp

Rangoli is made up of ornamental lines and figures drawn with various powders on the floor, the walls, in front of the house, or in front of the idol of a deity.     -Rev. Kittal

 

Rangoli is a traditional Indian art form, which is made up of dots and lines, and is created with rice powder, flour, chalk powder, or sand.  It’s an ancient Indian art form that is practiced to celebrate Diwali (Hindu New Year) and other auspicious occasions throughout the Hindu calendar year. In a secular sense, Rangoli is decorative in nature and designed to welcome visitors and guests. In a religious sense, it serves as a metaphor for the Hindu concept of the Impermanence of Life and the Physical World.

The term, Rangoli, originally comes from the Sanskrit words, ranga, which means color, and avali, which means rows or lines. When put together, Rangoli can be translated as the expression of artistic vision through the creative use of color.

Intricate designs are applied onto the ground in front of homes, temples,  and businesses to welcome visitors.   Whole parties are thrown for the auspicious event of creating beautiful, original rangoli design for all to see.

(Go to part 2)

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The Celebrations of the Month of Scorpio | Halloween | Diwali

 

 

As October draws to a close, us Indian-Americans wait in anticipation for the upcoming festivities.  For us the portion of the calendar that marks the sign of Scorpio hosts two holidays, not just the one that either American children or Indian children get to enjoy in their own cultures.  For this reason, Indian-Americans are lucky indeed!

American families spend their Octobers anticipating and preparing for Halloween.  Indian families spend their Octobers anticipating and preparing for Diwali.  Indian-American families get to celebrate both!

The festivities are surprisingly similar.  In India, everyone wears a new outfit (which they actually call a costume, even though it’s just normal fancy clothes) for Diwali.  In America people celebrate by dressing in some fancy costume also.  In India families prepare lots of homemade sweets to surprise and delight their family and friends.  In America, families purchase or prepare lovely delights for the children that will visit them on Halloween

Diwali Burfi Cookbook
Diwali Burfi Cookbook (click here to purchase)

 

night.  Indian children run around their neighborhoods asking for all the treats available in their neighbors homes.  American children run around trick and treating.

So what do Indian-American children do?  They dress up in fancy costumes one evening, and crazy costumes another.  They indulge in Indian sweets on the evening of the new moon in October-November, and then gorge on party size treats on the 31st of October.  And they enjoy two really good reasons to run around house to house visiting friends and neighbors sharing treats.

There are so many blessings in being from dual cultures.  You can see why being Indian-American is such a pleasure in October-November.

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Story of Diwali | Rama, Sita, Laxmana, Ravana, Hanuman | Deepavali – Part 4 of 4

Rama, Sita, and Hanuman

Rama, Sita, and Hanuman

And here is the final segment of this story…

Soon they came upon a great monkey sitting under a tree and singing devotional hymns. The two brothers approached him and asked him what he was doing. When the great monkey (Hanuman) told them that he was singing the praises of the exiled prince of Ayodhya, Rama stepped forward and introduced himself.

Rama and Hanuman, great friends

Rama and Hanuman, great friends

After learning of Rama’s dilemma, Hanuman offered to help. Over time, he located Sita and informed Rama of her whereabouts. Then he helped Rama and Laxmana build a mighty army. Together, they constructed a floating bridge from the forests of Kosala to the island kingdom of Lanka, and then waged war on them.

The war lasted seven days and seven nights. In the end, Prince Rama killed King Ravana and won the war. After Rama and Laxmana reunited with Sita, they all returned home.  Upon arrival, all the people of Ayodhya decorated their homes and the whole city with little oil lamps to welcome their beloved Rama and Sita home.  After great celebration Rama took his rightful place as King.

And ever since then, people all over India light lamps on Diwali to remember that light always triumphs over dark, and good always triumphs over evil.

(Go back to part1, part 2, part 3)

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Story of Diwali | Rama, Sita, Laxmana, Ravana | Deepavali – Part 3 of 4

Here we continue the story of the first Diwali.

Rama left in search of it, leaving his brother, Laxmana, to look after his wife. When Rama didn’t return, Sita became nervous and sent Laxmana out to look for him. Alone, Sita took pains to stay close to the house.

Ravana stealing Sita Devi

Ravana stealing Sita Devi

Shortly thereafter, Sita was approached by a friendly mendicant, who requested her to give him something to eat. As Sita was serving him, the mendicant transformed himself into Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, and abducted her.

Rama and Laxmana met up in the forest and returned to the house immediately.  When they arrived, they found Sita missing and things scattered about as if there had been a struggle. Alarmed, both the brothers went in search of her. But their efforts turned out to be futile.

Meanwhile, King Ravana took Sita back to his kingdom, Lanka, where he kept her under the watchful eyes of his servants. Sita was scared and missed Ram terribly, so she began to weep. Soon, her weeping grew tiresome, so Ravana tried to console her with thoughts of marrying him. When that didn’t work, he resorted to threats. When her disposition still didn’t change, he became confounded.

Meanwhile, back in the forest, Rama was frustrated and had grown despondent. With Laxmana by his side, they combed the forest.  (To be continued…)

(Go to part 4)

(Go back to part 1, part 2)

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