Articles by anuradha

Rangoli – colourful Indian chalk paintings

The word comes from the Sanskrit word Rangaavali – which itself is a combination of two words – Rang, meaning colour and Aavali meaning creepers or lines. Rangaavali, or Rangoli, as we call it today, thus, literally translates into ‘coloured lines’ and that is what it essentially is – lines drawn in colour – inside or outside the house. It could be a celebration of a festival, an expression of happiness, a sign of welcome, a symbol of cleanliness and purity… but all it is, essentially, is lines of colour.

Rangolis are something you can see in every corner of India, no matter where you go. It is mostly a Hindu tradition, but I have seen Rangolis outside churches in southern India too, and some of my Muslim friends are as adept at it as I am!

A typical Rangoli pattern

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December 5, 2012 4 comments

The complexities of India’s ID system and how it is changing

The first time I needed a document to prove that I was indeed a resident of Mumbai, I had to make umpteen visits to a local administrative office, had to struggle to understand the dialect of Marathi he spoke, convince him that I did not have a surname, and finally, after much sign language, understood that he wanted a bribe. Yes, all that rigmarole had nothing to do with all the forms (in quadruplicate) that I had to fill, but a simple matter of making a state government employee’s wallet fatter. I stormed out of the office in anger, refusing to grease anyone’s palms, and the officer didn’t even shrug… he simply went on to the next applicant, who was probably a lot less naive than I was, and ready to cough out the sum required to get the required document. Needless to say, I still do not have the document in question.

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June 27, 2012 2 comments

Not the 1st January: New Year Celebrations in India

Calendars come in many forms, from huge ones hanging on walls to pocket-sized ones and today, digital ones on the computer or mobile. No matter what changes, one thing remains constant – the calendar itself. We have become so used to the Gregorian calendar that no one needs reminding about the day the New Year begins – the first day of January. It is difficult indeed to think of all the calendars which preceded the one we are so used to today.

However, one place where the ancient calendars still survive is in India, even though we follow the Gregorian calendar in our day to day life. When it comes to family celebrations, be it birthdays or weddings, a sacred thread ceremony, or even a death in the family, the first thing we hunt for is the Hindu calendar. Here again, there are so many versions, depending on the region we belong to. While some of us follow the solar calendar, others follow one which is called the ‘Luni-solar calendar’. Confused? Well, it is rather confusing even to those of us who have grown up with it. Just to give you an idea of the similarities and differences, let me tell you about two different new years that we celebrated this year. (more…)

May 12, 2011 1 comment

A Tamil Brahmin Wedding from India

A wedding is the binding of two hearts… preparation for a life to be spent together. An Indian wedding not just binds the bride and the groom, but two families, in a union which lasts forever! All over India, irrespective of region, caste or language, a wedding is a reason to rejoice, and it is a boisterous occasion filled with pomp and splendor, rituals and traditions, and of course, a huge number of people!

While some basic traditions are the same all over the country, there are a lot of differences in the way marriages are conducted in the northern and southern parts. In the south itself, there are subtle differences in the marriages conducted among the four southern states, differences emanating from cultural as well as regional differences. Let me describe to you a typical Tamil Brahmin marriage, celebrated in the Vedic style, where importance is given to the traditions and rituals which have been passed on over centuries.

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March 3, 2011 10 comments