Monday, September 29, 2008

Mahalaya - The first day of "Devi paksha"

"Mahalaya" is the day from which countdown starts for the biggest festival of autumn season in Bengal. This is the new moon day that marks the end of "Pitri paksha", that is the period of the Gods, and the beginning of "Devi paksha", that is the period of the Goddesses. This is the day to pay homage to our ancestors to seek their blessings before we get into the celebration mood of the festival days.

People flock to the nearby banks of the river Ganga to observe the rituals of Mahalaya. Priests come early to execute the ritualistic procedures for themselves and to look for opportunities to earn a few extra money by guiding others who seek to be their "Yajmans" (the customers). Others set up temporary stalls on the bank of the river to sell items related to the ritual.

It is the festive season knocking at the door. So everyone is eager for that extra money which they can earn on this occasion. Even the children living in the streets nearby get into their business of fishing out the coins thrown at the river Ganga as offerings. They throw a stack of ring shaped magnets tied with a very long nylon thread into water to pull out the coins for them.The preparation for the four days long festival picks up huge momentum from this day.

To see all the photographs of Mahalaya please visit my Picasa album.

Full story...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chinese Moon Festival in Kolkata

The Moon festival, also known as Mid-autumn festival, falls on the fifteenth (15th) day of the eighth (8th) lunar month of the Chinese calender. Mythological story of the fairy in the moon and a popular story, though historically unsupported, of overthrowing the Mongol rulers from China by the rebels are associated with this festival. On the whole it is a harvest festival when farmers celebrate the end of summer harvesting season and a get-together is organized with the family members and friends. Eating moon cakes and lighting decorated lanterns are some of the customs of this occasion.
In Kolkata the Indian Chinese community celebrated the festival, this year, on 14th September. A very close knit community of about four thousand members, they started the day with a special worship session at Sea Ip temple. Traditional rituals were observed with utmost sincerity. People offered some citrus fruits and mooncakes to the deities, and prayed for blessings. Some holy papers had been burnt by the devotees as part of the ritual. To satisfy the curiosity of the present writer the person maintaining the temple told that they were not simple papers, they represented money. However he didn't feel interested to explain the ritual to any detail. Mooncakes were sold in huge numbers in the nearby morning market.

The Indian Chinese Association organized a two days long programme to observe the festival at Sacred Heart School. On the first day, that is 13th September, a Fan Drawing competition was held. The children from the community were encouraged to run wild with their creativity to come up with beautiful decorating pictures for their fans. Frames made of bamboo were provided to them which they pasted with their drawings to turn them into nice hand fans. Seniors in the association chose the winners of the competition who were awarded in the function the next day.

The next day, that is 14th September, was the festival day and a colourful community get-together was organized. The Deputy Consul General Mr. Wen Zhencai was the honourable guest to this event. Children and youngsters from the community took part in the game shows and different musical performances to celebrate the occasion. The event was also a platform to awake curiosity in the mind of the youngsters about the culture of their forefathers and to strengthen community feeling among the Chinese living in Kolkata.PS: To see more photographs of the festival please visit my Picasa album.

Full story...