Goals of Human Existence: Lest We Forget

I’m quite new to Facebook. In fact, I’ve only had it for nine months, and so far  #cargoals, #housegoals, #makeupgoals and other related hashtags have been dominating my newsfeed. Which got me thinking: how much time do we spend thinking about the goals of human existence? If life is about eating, sleeping and gathering objects for survival, then aren’t we leading lives that are akin to those of animals? What makes human life so special?

I mean, let’s think about this seriously for a second. There are hundreds of thousands of species inhabiting the world and out of all the possibilities out there, we were born as humans. Texts of all religions converge on the fact that once man was created, there was nothing higher left to create. Which I think is pretty on point. Of all the species, man is the only one endowed with manas( mind), buddhi (intelligence), chittha(reasoning faculty) and ahamkaara(ego/identification of self with the body) whilst the ego aspect is predominant in animals. With all these extra endowments,  it’s pretty safe to say that man would be in a grave predicament if he too centred his life solely around needs and desires for survival, much like his animal co-habitants.

It is embedded so deeply within Indian culture that obtaining a human birth is the result of accumulated merit of millions of births, and not using it to discover our higher purpose is a travesty.This raises an important question: how do you survive in this world that requires you to earn money and pay  bills AND also think about your higher purpose in life?

According to Hinduism, the four goals of human existence are;

  1. Dharma: Righteousness
  2. Artha: Accumulation of wealth
  3. Kama: Fulfilment of desires
  4. Moksha: Liberation via knowing the nature of the self, termination of the cycle of birth and death

So the solution to this question is pretty simple, really: accumulate wealth only for the sake of upholding righteousness(i.e. providing for you self and your family) , and redirect desires you have for things that give you temporary happiness, to that which will give you everlasting bliss( liberation).

Hinduism also prescribes 4 stages of life, which makes accomplishing these goals a whole lot easier.

Stage 1: Bramhacharya(0-25 yrs)

Accumulation of knowledge and skills

Stage 2: Grihastha(25-50 yrs)

Marriage, raising righteous children and creating a household that is fit for God.

Stage 3: Vanaprastha(50-75 yrs)

Retirement

Stage 4: Sanyasam(75-100 yrs)

Giving up all attachments and desires and turning the mind fully towards God.

Combining the 4 goals with the 4 life stages, you can see that Stage 1 involves Dharma, Stage 2 involves Dharma, Artha and Kama while Stage 3&4 pertain to Moksha. Pretty cool right?

Every aspect of Indian culture is pretty much a chapter fit to be a part of a “Moksha for dummies” guide. It has literally all been laid out for us. All we have to do now is sit back, relax and follow the path so easily marked out for us by this beautiful culture. I suppose we could challenge the knowledge given to us by the ancients, and test the waters by going against what has already been prescribed for the sake of our own affirmations and fancies, but I’d much rather stick to the tried and tested method. Why lose energy digging up so many different holes for the sake of experimentation to strike gold when we can so easily strike the same by persistent digging in one spot? I don’t know about #cargoals and #housegoals, but I’m definitely all for #humanlifegoals :p

What do you think? Is it so easy to get caught up within the ephemeral in today’s day and age? Leave a comment down below!

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences and interactions with friends. Happy reading! – Divya

Musings of a born vegetarian

I’ve been a vegetarian since birth. I personally don’t think it’s a big deal, but the way people react to this statement is astonishing. If I were to describe their reaction in a nutshell, it would go something like this; eyes widen in horror. Jaw drops considerably. Brows furry in confusion. Then, the furious line of questioning: ” You mean, you’ve NEVER EVER tasted meat before? But, where do you get your nutrients from? Is there a  reason why you put yourself through this?” And of course, the inevitable concluding statement: “You don’t know what you are missing out on.”

All this before I reveal that in fact, in my household, we also do not consume eggs, onions or garlic! God knows what sort of reaction I would get then…I guess somethings are best left unsaid.Thankfully, these days, the vegan diet is very much in vogue and people are beginning to realise that it is quite possible to survive without eating meat.

Because vegetarianism had always been a part of my life , I didn’t put too much thought into why meat was not a part of my diet, or why all my family members were vegetarian. It was only during my teenage years, when I was subjected to the line of questioning mentioned above, that I began reading into why a huge chunk of the Indian population is vegetarian.I suspected that vegetarianism was prevalent in India because, much like every other element of Indian culture, it was a tool that would aid spiritual progress. I was right.

For starters, Indian culture recognises that every person has three bodies; sthula(gross), sukshma(subtle) and kaarana(causal). When the physical body is fed with pure food obtained without harm to a conscious, living being, the subtle body which contains the mind, is satiated with pure desires. In turn, the causal body which represents the antahkarana(conscience) becomes the birthplace of sacred thoughts.

In essence, we take the “you are what you eat” adage pretty seriously. This is not to say that all vegetarian food is pure. Food is actually divided into three categories;

Sathvic: Food that strengthens the mind and the body ( not too salty, sweet or hot- all elements are present in moderation)

Rajasic: Food that excites or intoxicates(  too salty, too sweet, too hot, too sour, too odorous)

Thamasic: Food that promotes dullness of mind( meat, processed food, old food etc)

Consumption of Sathvic food is highly recommended for one who is pursuing the spiritual path. The importance of the types of food we consume is even expounded in the Bhagavad Gita, where it is said:

s’rî-bhagavân uvâca
tri-vidhâ bhavati s’raddhâ
dehinâm sâ svabhâva-jâ
sâttvikî râjasî caiva
tâmasî ceti tâm s’rinu

This verse alludes to the fact that holy,passionate and dull qualities within us are affected by our food intake and that it would be advisable to regulate the type of food we consume, so as to limit animalistic tendencies and promote holy ones.

Looking at it from a Vedic view-point, refraining from meat-eating is  due to Dharmic law, as non-violence is seen as an obligation to God and His creation. Karmic laws also suggest that we accumulate karma through directly/indirectly inflicting harm to another being via the consumption of meat.

Of course, all this does not mean that being vegetarian automatically renders one with the spiritual awareness of a saint. If in fact, one is so highly spiritually evolved, then what one eats does not matter in the least. Vegetarianism is just a small step in the spiritual journey of those who are still subject to the dictates of the body and the mind.

As for me, I think I’ll take all the help I can get as far as spirituality is concerned. And really, being vegetarian is not at all difficult. There are so many varieties of vegetarian food that you really do not feel like you are missing out on anything. Also, to all those who worry about our nutrient intake, trust me when I say that we do just fine. Some of us can even afford to lose a few kilos. Sigh.

Have you ever had any interesting experiences with vegetarianism? Leave a comment below!

Glossary: Bhagavad Gita (holy text),Vedic(Body of Hindu Sacred writings ), Dharmic(righteous ), Karmic(pertaining to the law of Karma)

 

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences and interactions with friends. Happy reading! – Divya

 

 

 

 

 

Amma, can I become Sita when I grow up?

It was during the summer of 2010, that my Visual Communications class embarked upon an assignment that involved choosing a role model and presenting him/her to the class. I chose mother Sita.

At age 15, I didn’t really think too much about the fact that I was choosing to present a Goddess as my role model to a society that is largely secular. I guess I could have picked someone that my teacher or classmates had actually heard of before, but Sita was my idol and I really wanted to share my admiration of her with everyone. It’s quite amazing that my teacher, a born and bred Australian, approved my choice of Indian Goddess because “she embodied virtue and chastity”. She patiently listened to my account of agnipariksha*, pativrata* and of course the Purushottama* himself, Lord Rama! And so it was, that the classroom of an Australian high school learnt about the greatness of Sita.

It’s hard for me to pin-point what it is, exactly, about Sita that I love. As a four year old, I was attracted to the way I saw her depicted in cartoons. I loved her waist-long hair and the demure way in which she carried herself. As a teenager, I admired her immensely because to me, she represented the glory of womanhood in its entirety. She was one of a kind, someone I would not be able to meet off the street. Indeed, in this day and age, it is very easy to forget the grandeur that womanhood entails.

For instance, do we know that the scriptures extol women as the embodiments of seven holy qualities (sathya (truth), prema (love), dharma (righteousness), shanthi (peace), sahana (tolerance), ananda (bliss), svanubhuti (spirituality), while our male counterparts have only three? As I listen to reports about the ill-treatment of women in India, I wonder how the inhabitants of such a sacred land have forgotten the pedestal upon which women are placed in our culture. Indian history has been filled with great women scholars and women of noble character. Did King Janaka not choose Gargi to confer honour onto him over many great men and sages of esteemed standing? Was India not the home of Savitri, Maitreyi and Chandramathi, who were all paragons of virtue and chastity despite the challenging circumstances they were placed in? Clearly, women have been endowed with strength to achieve great heights in whichever field they choose to pursue.

Of course, we have also been endowed with the great gift of motherhood. The lap of a woman is the first classroom of mankind. Whether we realise it or not, we play a crucial role in the formation of generations to come. We are responsible for instilling high ideals in our children and have the incredible ability to mould them into bright and virtuous members of society. In this way, we are not merely makers of the home, but the nation and  world at large.

As I thought about what I wanted to put into my Sita presentation, I realised that what I loved about her was a combination of so many things. I loved the fact that she exemplified the “simple living, high thinking” construct. I loved the fact that she stood up for what she believed in. I loved the fact that her grandeur was attributed to moral fibre and not the clothes she wore. Above all, I loved the fact that what made her so beautiful was the purity of her thought, word and deed. She represented good character and that to me, is worth more than all the things in the world put together.

It is so easy to be talented and intelligent, so easy to acquire material wealth. But, safeguarding one’s character, is not so easy. And that is why, thousands of years after Sita’s sojourn on earth ended, we are still talking about her. We belong to the lineage of women of great character and I think we owe it to ourselves to at least try and live up to our ancestry. And really, why not? We have nothing to lose! Being a modern day Sita would be pretty awesome…

Who were your role models as a child? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: agnipariksha( a test of chastity where the purity of Sita allowed her to emerge from a blazing fire unscathed), pativrata (chaste wife), purushotthama(ideal man).

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences and interactions with friends. Happy reading! – Divya

 

 

I figured that it would probably be a good idea to embrace my own culture before learning about everyone else’s

I love living in Australia. It’s a beautiful country filled with incredibly kind people and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’ve been calling Australia home for more than half my life and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt after all these years, it’s that no one looks down on Indian culture, except for Indians themselves.

Maybe this attitude is a by-product of leaving our own countries, fuelled by a desperate need to blend in and to be accepted by the people of a foreign land. Maybe it’s a side effect of the bombardment of social media that, let’s face it, dictates social trends for people all over the world. Or maybe, in light of globalisation, we are too busy learning about everyone else’s culture that we have completely forgotten to pay any attention to our own.

We are too busy telling everyone to call us Jenny instead of Janaki. We are too busy trying to imitate the Australian accent (which when mixed with our own just sounds like a garbled mess). We are too busy trying to adopt the lifestyle of our peers, foraying into worlds our ancestors would never have dreamt of.

Of course, everyone will agree that adapting to new surroundings is not only normal, but necessary. Adapting to change is good, but completely giving up on our cultural identity  is not. Learning about new cultures is enriching, but an utter disregard for our own is not.

I mean, we are totally up to date with Beyonce’s music career, but have no clue about the legends of our own classical music. We know how to tame our Indian curves to fit into clothes that are in vogue, but have no clue how to drape a sari on ourselves. We engage in cultural immersion exchanges to various parts of the globe, but have no understanding of the symbolism of our own traditions.

We proudly embrace the culture of our new land, but are apologetic about our own. We call people who are traditional, FOBs (Fresh Off the Boat) and if we ever do attend an Indian function we post pictures of ourselves in Indian clothes signing it off with a meek #foblife. Of course the FOB term is used in good fun, but the underlying point is that we think being traditional is preppy and uncool. If we do embrace traditions once in a while, we feel inclined to point out that this is, not in fact, how we normally look, but a “look” that we’ve gone for temporarily.

When it comes to culture, ignorance is not bliss. We are missing out on the grandeur of our own cultural heritage because of the simple fact that we haven’t put much thought into it. We do not understand the purpose of all the rituals our forefathers performed and misinterpret traditions, which usually results in dismissing them as pointless or regarding them as archaic. And so, we abandon the wealth of cultural knowledge that has been passed down carefully from generation to generation in paltry timeframes of 5, 10, 15 years. It is so easy to lose what our ancestors protected with their heart and soul, so easy to throw away precious heirlooms of wisdom.

If there’s anything we should feel apologetic about, it’s the fact that we are victims of the conformity bug and all that’s left of our culture to be passed on to future generations might well be confusion and ignorance. All cultures are equally beautiful. They all deserve to be preserved. If we all gave up on our own culture to ape everyone else’s, the world would be an incredibly boring place.  No matter how long we’ve lived in Australia, no matter how Australian we are at heart, we will always be asked “so are you originally from India or….?”. Our Indian ancestry is not a costume that we can peel of at will. So, let’s spend some time getting to know our own culture whilst also learning about the other amazing cultures of the world.

What do you think? Leave a comment down below!

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading! 

The Tale of the Girl and her Holy Basil

Aum…..Aum……Aum. The celestial sound of creation filled the air as she cleaned the area around her precious Tulasi plant. The drone of the tanpura, ever so calm and soothing was the only sound she would allow her beloved plant to be exposed to. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She loved the smell of morning dew, crisp and fresh. But the fragrance that emanated from her beloved Tulasi was no less.  It was her most favourite scent in the world.

She began chanting her mantras and performing puja with utmost devotion. Namastulasi Kalyani… she chanted as she drew a simple puli kolam in front of the Tulasi. She pushed some stray strands of hair away from her face and placed sandanam and kumkumam onto the maddam. Namo Vishnu Priye Shubhe, she sang as she placed some kumkumam onto a leaf. She picked up her kudam and gently watered the Tulasi…Namo Moksha Prade Devi, Namo Sampath Pradayini….Aum Shanthi Shanthi Shanthihi. 

Birds chirped inconspicuously in the background as she began circumambulating her beloved Tulasi. She used to run around her Tulasi as a five year old kid and stare enviously at its leaves. How jealous she was of those blessed leaves who got to be ever so close to her dearest Lord Krishna. If only she could become Krishna’s Tulasi maala for but one day! Now as a young woman, she prayed only that she should possess a character that was unblemished and that she should be as pure as her Tulasi maata.

She picked up the bell lying on her puja tray and rang it softly as she waved the camphor that was slowly burning away without a trace. Her puja was now complete and she walked to the verandah where her grandma was laying out chillies to dry.

Her grandma gave her a knowing smile and told her, “unakku manampol mangalyaam thaan”. “Manna…what patti?”. “Mannampol Mangalyaam- it means that you will be blessed with a good husband, of your choice.Gayathri shook her head in disbelief as she placed a few more chillies on the mat lying in front of her. “Aiyoh Paati! Trust you to find some correlation between a plant and matrimony”. ” My dear, this is said in the scriptures also. Worship of the Tulasi is done by chaste women and confers auspiciousness onto the household. But that is not the only reason why generations of Indian women like us have worshipped Tulasi. Because it contains mercury, Tulasi  has strong anti-bacterial properties and the air surrounding a Tulasi plant will always be bacteria free. Tulasi is also the only plant that releases an extra molecule of oxygen. While other plants release O2, Tulasi releases O3. That is why we keep the plant in an open courtyard in the middle of the house. Immersing Tulasi leaves in water and drinking it prevents respiratory tract problems.Make sure you drink some everyday.”

Gayathri nodded in response and thought about all that she had just heard. Interesting, she thought. “Funny how the little rituals we do daily and take for granted are deeply rooted in scientific knowledge. Patti, our ancestors really knew what they were doing!”.”Of course di, old is gold!” she said with a twinkle in her eye. The chillies were all on the mat now and they shared a hearty laugh as they went back into their home.

Do you worship Tulasi daily? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: Tulasi (Basil plant), Tanpura ( musical instrument), mantra(prayers), puja(worship ritual), (sandanam/kumkumam( sandalwood/vermillion), maddam: structure in which plant is placed, kudam ( pot), maala (garland), maata( mother), patti (grandmother). Meaning of Tulasi sloka: Salutations to the benevolent Tulasi,salutations to the holy darling of Vishnu, Salutations to the Goddess who grants liberation, salutations to the one  who grants wealth.

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading! 

 

The Jasmine Love Story ( Sticking to Tradition: No Visa Required)

I have no idea what it is about youths in Australia, but no one who is of marriageable age gets married. Or in the rare event that they do, the wedding is held overseas. In the ten years that I have lived here, I have attended a grand total of two weddings, and one of them was my aunt’s. One fine day we received a wedding invitation via mail and I stared at it in surprise. After confirming that the wedding was actually being held in Australia and that we would, in fact, be able to attend, I waited for the wedding date eagerly.

Finally, the day of the wedding arrived and I stood in front of the mirror listening to amma’s commentary on the techniques she was using to drape my favourite manjal coloured saree on me. I lined my eyes with mai, and placed a tear shaped bindi between my brows. The only thing left to be done now, was my hair. I measured the strings of the kunjalam against my waist-long hair to determine which point of my braid it should go onto. Ten minutes later the braid was complete, kunjalam and all. I walked towards the car, but stopped abruptly to do a double take on my reflection in the window just outside the front door. I glanced sorrowfully at the sorry sight of my long, empty jadai. My jadai was missing an essential accessory: malligai pu.

Oh! How much I do love the strands of those little flowers, as white as snow and as soft as silk. The sweet-smelling fragrance that they exude is , oh,  so heavenly and uplifting. Their very sight enthrals and the faintest whiff of their scent is enough to bring forth the image of my ishta devata bedecked in layers of jasmine garlands. It is a delightful flower indeed.

So why didn’t I just buy some malli pu for my hair, you wonder? Well, because it’s practically impossible to find it in the part of Australia I live in. Very few stores sell them and we are charged ridiculous amounts for  10  cm strings of yellowing, dried out flowers. Since buying flowers was not a practical option, we decided to plant a jasmine tree at home. It’s been five years since we planted the tree and it only recently started producing a decent amount of flowers. Sigh. It’s just too difficult to get jasmine here, which is why I turn into a mad, jasmine-hungry girl as soon as I land in India. No kidding.

We were having an interesting conversation with an auto-driver in Chennai who was insisting that the national language of India was Tamil and all other languages were “waste languages” when I spotted the sight of a flower vendor on the side of the road. I forced the auto-driver to stop immediately and literally bought out the flower store. “Divya, how much malligai pu do you want to put in your hair? People are going to think you are a bride or something” amma said as she rolled her eyes. Appa started complaining that he was getting a headache from the overwhelming strength of the scent.  “Shhhhhh. Everyone, just look at the flowers and enjoy.” I replied as I pinned the strands of flowers onto my hair. I mean, who knows how long it would be before I got to wear them again?  Our auto- driver finally dropped us off at out destination: the home of a family friend. As soon as the aunty saw me, she gasped. “Happa! Evalo lakshanama iruka. Oru nala paiyana paathe katti veppom”.

Oops. Probably shouldn’t have worn so much malli pu.

Jasmine flowers are one of the ornaments of Indian women. They are also used in the worship of Gods and are deemed to be auspicious. Modern day research confirms that jasmine has a subtle effect on hormones and promotes beta rhythms in the brain, resulting in greater mental awareness. It has a calming effect on the autonomic nervous system and  results in increased self- confidence, which is why jasmine oil is used to aid patients struggling with anorexia. Chemical constituents in jasmine flowers promote a positive mood and help eliminate emotional barriers one may have. 

Do you love jasmine flowers too? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: manjal (yellow), mai (kohl), kunjalam (hair ornament), malligai pu (jasmine flower), jadai (braid), ishta devata (favourite God form), “Happa! Evalo lakshanama iruka. Oru nala paiyana paathe katti veppom”( wow she is so traditional. We will find her a nice boy to marry).

 

Sticking to Tradition: No Visa Required

Namaste fellow tradition lovers!

Through my blogging initiative, I have come into contact with some pretty awesome people who hail from orthodox  families in India. Having had many conversations with them over the past few weeks, I realised pretty quickly that the idea of youths sticking to tradition (willingly)  in a Western country was so surprising to them. They did not think that such people existed, especially outside of India! I assured them that there are indeed some young tradition lovers out in the West 🙂 Our conversations got me thinking and I decided to make a new addition to my blog.

So…here it is. My first blog series! I will be writing a compilation of short stories under the heading “Sticking to Tradition: No Visa Required” to highlight unique experiences of Indians living abroad . I hope that you will enjoy this series and if there are any topics you would like me to cover, please leave a comment down below:)

A shout-out also, to my wonderful friends, the creative minds behind Ambireturns (ambireturns.wordpress.com), Iyerslife (meenuiyer1092.wordpress.com) and the IyerTips Facebook page. They have made it their life’s mission to share their treasure trove of knowledge of Tamizh/Iyer culture with me!

Happy reading,

Divya

The Rice Flour Artist…

The sun has not risen yet, but the Rice Flour Artist has. It is 5 am and she has already taken her morning shower. Her hair is freshly washed, still wrapped in a towel at the base of her head. She puts on her bindi, walks to the prayer room and turns on the lamp. She finishes her prayers, plays M.S Amma’s Venkateshwara Suprabatham* and leaves to find the broom. Her mind is as quiet as her surroundings and this is a source of great contentment to her. There is neither any one or any thing to disturb her. This time is solely for her. She thinks about the experiences this new day will bring her.

She steps over the threshold of the doorstep, armed with a broom, a vessel of water* and a container filled with rice flour of the coarse variety*. The area just outside the front door is swept, water is splashed generously and now,excitement kicks in as she decides on the magnificient design she is going to try out. Sikku/puli* or padi*? The decision is tough, but she finally decides to go with a padi kolam*. It will take slightly more time to complete and is a bit more elaborate, but it is after all, her sister’s birthday today.

She pinches the flour between her thumb and her forefinger and releases the flour onto the ground along with the depths of her imagination. Her lines are neatly drawn, the curves are smooth and her circles are perfect. Some extra swirls here, a few dots there and she is done. The sun rises and the stream of light that falls across her kolam reveals a few ants that are gnawing away at her creation. She smiles as she collects her things and goes back inside. Mission accomplished. The whole point of her doing this daily is to feed a thousand souls in the form of little ants before her day officially starts. The ants rejoice, for their meal for the day has been obtained and take the grains of flour back with them, leaving only gratitude and blessings for the soul that fed them at the threshold.

After her sister’s birthday is duly celebrated, the Rice Flour Artist accompanies her sister who visits the neighbours to distribute sweets and get their blessings. They walk past dozens of kolams, all beautiful and all so very unique. There is a huge, intricate padi kolam outside Anuradha maami*’s home. “What’s the special occasion maami? Special kolam today?!” She smiles and proudly announces that her daughter’s marriage has been fixed. “Aaaah that explains it…Congratulations! Have you seen Haripriya? There is no kolam outside her place. Is everything ok?”. “She is fine, but one of her relatives just passed away so she won’t be putting kolams for a while”.

And so, pleasantries along with news were exchanged and the girls returned home. By this time, several people, animals and motorcycles had passed over the kolam of the Rice Flour Artist  and it was just a mere trace of what it had been. Not to worry though, as it is only a matter of a few hours before dawn approaches and the designs of the Rice Flour Artist reclaim the threshold. Every design is better than the last of course- practice makes perfect!

p.s. every Indian home has a rice flour artist. There are millions of rice flour artists around the world in the guise of mothers, daughters and daughter-in-laws.

What sorts of kolams do you like? Please do comment below- I am especially interested in the types of kolams drawn in the puja room/special occasion kolams and would love to learn about them!

Glossary: Venkateshwara Suprabatham- prayer played at dawn, usually sung by the famous singer, M.S. Subbulakshmi . Water is used nowadays although traditionally, an anti-septic, cow-dung mixture was used to keep infections at bay.  Kolam- rice flour design on the ground. Coarse rice flour- makes life a whole lot easier when doing a kolam(was used in image above). It flows between the fingers much better. Fine rice flour can also be used if preferred. Sikku/puli- types of kolam made using dots as a guide. Padi- freehand style of drawing kolam. Maami- married Brahmin woman.

 

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Any Brahmin influences on my writing a solely a product of my imagination and my interaction with Tambrahm friends. Happy reading! – Divya

 

Dating and Indian Culture- mutually exclusive ?

“Sure, you can go on a date with him, darling”…said no traditional Indian mother EVER. ” You can do all this dating business with your husband, AFTER you are married” is a more likely response! Times are changing and Indian families are more open to it, but dating is still somewhat frowned upon in Indian society. Here’s why…

#1 There’s no such thing as a transitory phase between student life and married life

According to Indian tradition, life is divided into four stages*;

  • Stage 1: Brahmacharya (0-24 years)

Period of life in which students equip themselves with education, spiritual knowledge and values that they will require later on in life. They are taught to lead a disciplined life, concentrate solely on their education and to remain celibate.

  • Stage 2: Grihastha (24-48 years)

This stage refers to married life during which the husband and wife unite to perform their worldly duties, raise children of good character and lead a harmonious social existence.

  • Stage 3 & 4 are related to retirement and the pursuit of self-realisation

* The stages were created in ancient times and were used mainly to refer to males. The timeframes are only rough guides.

# 2 Young men and women are brought up to eventually create a household that is a microcosm of heaven

Indian traditions revolve around one central idea: the purpose of life is to be liberated and attain oneness with God. The wife takes on the role of Grihalakshmi (Goddess of the home) and is given a high status as she is the first teacher of man. The husband is the Grihastha ( God of the home) and he is responsible for treading on the path of righteousness while supporting his family. Together, the husband and wife worship God and create an environment where love, noble thoughts and good character are paramount.

Dating, for the most part,  is not done with the intention of finding a future spouse that is going to complement your spiritual journey. For that reason, it is not deemed necessary and is not widely accepted in the Indian community.

#3 All life decisions of an Indian are ideally made with the blessings of their parents

Dating is derived from Western culture, which is individualist in nature. Indian culture, however, is collectivist and this is probably another reason why dating doesn’t sit too well with Indians. In Indian culture, the family of a spouse is highly involved in the married life of a couple. In fact, some couples stay with their in-laws after marriage to support parents who are ageing . In addition, parents are seen as representations of God on earth for all the sacrifices they undergo to bring children up and are given ultimate respect in Indian culture. The inclusion of parents in  selecting a spouse ensures that everyone is on the same page and makes life a whole lot easier for the couple once they are married.

By now, you are probably wondering how in the world people are supposed to find a suitable spouse if they don’t date them first. Well, that’s where the infamous Indian arranged marriage comes in! Usually someone that knows the families of both the bride and groom really well brings forward the proposal of marriage to the groom’s family after identifying that both families are of similar wavelengths and lead complementary lifestyles. The families meet and the bride and groom get to know each other to see if they can foresee a future with each other.

With the added help of Indian astrology, which is in fact, more scientific than you might think, the charts of both the bride and groom are cross- matched to see if they are compatible in ten categories deemed necessary for a successful marriage ( longevity of marriage, good health, progeny, physical and mental compatibility etc). If they are, then the marriage is given the green light !

I personally believe that both love marriages and arranged marriages have equal chances at success, given that the marriage takes place for the right reasons. At the end of the day, dating or no-dating, we can all trust in the fact that we will only end up with the person we are meant to be with. Que sera sera- whatever will be, will be!

Do you know of any other reasons that contribute to the Indian dating taboo? Leave a comment down below:)

I am a 20 year-old University student living in Australia. As I was born in Malaysia, brought up in Australia and have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Ornaments of an Indian Woman: there’s a lot more to them than meets the eye…

Gifts of gold mark every important milestone in her life; the day she is born, the day she comes of age and eventually, the day she marries her soul mate. “Keep these ornaments carefully, my child” she is constantly reminded, “don’t leave the house without earrings on or a neck that is bare”. She is young, and so, she rolls her eyes. “All these beliefs are so outdated “, she thinks. “What’s the point of wearing all this gold?”.

Little does she know that this precious metal is being given to her as a form of financial security that she can cash in on if ever there was a need. The elementary composition of the metal is good for her health and accelerates healing processes in her body.

The bangles she wears on her wrists are colourful, circular pieces of metal that are oh so appealing to the eyes of the beholder. She takes pride in choosing just the right shades, to match the colour of her sari border. “Too bright” she thinks, ” maybe I should go for that peacock-blue colour instead”.

Little does she know that bangles only earned a place in the Indian woman’s jewellery box because the constant friction of the bangles against women’s wrists would help improve blood circulation and conduct energy towards the bones, which are naturally weaker in a woman than in a man.

She runs around the entire house, annoying her family members and escaping as much housework as possible, all the while filling the house with the sound of her anklets, laden with bells. This ornament, she has no issues with. This ornament is fashionable even in modern times. “Even people in Hollywood are wearing it” she thinks.

Little does she know that the soft, tinkling sounds she creates as she moves around her house dispel negative vibrations instantaneously.

She ponders over which earrings she should wear, the options are endless. “Should I choose something simple?” she wonders,” my sari is already pretty grand…”.

Little does she remember the ear-piercing ceremony that was held for her when she was an infant. But her mother does, of course. How could she ever forget the shrill screams of her beloved child lying in the lap of her maternal uncle, as the goldsmith pierced her child’s ears? She will never forget that. But she knows that it is best for her daughter, that the position of piercing is conducive to enhanced intellectual functioning and that it will promote a calm temperament in her daughter.

Her mother has several more pieces of jewellery that her daughter does not wear. She is married, you see, and around her neck lies her prized procession, her mangalsutra. The strands of this sacred necklace represent the qualities of love, faith and trust that she and her husband cherish. It is a symbol of the committed relationship she honours. The second toe of both her feet are enclosed by toe rings made of silver. In that toe, lies a connection to the uterus and the constant friction of the rings against her toes strengthens the system that brings forth life.  She watches her daughter, and realises that she is no longer a child, but a young woman who will soon fly the nest. ” I hope she knows which ornaments are most important”, she thinks.

“I hope she knows that the greatest ornaments an Indian woman can wear are not tangible. I hope she knows that the most essential ornaments of a woman are her chastity, noble speech and pure thoughts. I hope she realises that without these intangible ornaments, no amount of exquisite jewellery is of any consequence. The day she knows this, is the day my duty as a mother is done.”

A woman of culture never crosses the boundaries of modesty and sticks to the path of righteousness, no matter how inconvenient or difficult the path might be. Such a woman, requires no jewellery at all and will evoke respect and adoration unasked. Such a woman, in my eyes, has the most precious ornaments of all…

What is your favourite Indian ornament and why? Leave a comment down below:)

I am a 20 year-old University student living in Australia. As I was born in Malaysia, brought up in Australia and have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading!