These are some of the pictures from our Golu 2018 captured by some of my dear friends and well wishers. The theme was FLORA. Natural plants, arts and crafts of a varied range have been worked on and have been used to depict the world of flowers and explore its overwhelming global presence in mythology, history , literature and architecture.
I had the privilege to handcraft the jewellery and the accessories of goddess Sree Vasavi Kanyaka Parameshwari using Kundan stones, pearls and mirrors. The idol in the sanctum sanctorum has been adorned with the same on Friday, the 9th of February 2018.
10th February 2017, Friday
Today the goddess is wearing a quilled dress.
Paper Quilling has come a long way from the Renaissance period in Italy and France to the craft classes of school children across the globe.
The art which involves rolling strips of paper and pinching them to shape ranges from the simple to the complicated has been employed to adorn the goddess.
Every festival is celebrated with grandeur in our country. So isDhanur maasa which falls between December and January. The south celebrates this season both spiritually and musically.
One cannot miss the mellifluous music that rise from our temples early in the mornings.
Sabhas and music halls compete with each other to provide a stage for both the established and upcoming artists alike. Similarly, one can not miss the art of rangoli/ kholam designs either, which are drawn in front of homes at the crack of dawn.
These days one sees them drawn out even in apartment complexes and gated communities. Some commission rangoli artists in their social circles to draw different rangolis for each day of the month.
If you are wondering what is special about Dhanur Maasarangolis, VR Bhat the Archaka at the Ganesh temple on New BEL Road explains, “Ideally a rangoli should be drawn in front of homes every day, except when the household is mourning. Creative and colourful rangolis can earmark special days in the family and festivals. Patterns based on dots, instil a sense of harmony and connectivity.”
Dr Shatavadhani R Ganesh explains the origin of rangoli, “What we call rangoli today, has its origins in the Sanskrit word Rangavalli. It means creeper-like lines on a stage. They have been a part of Indian art and culture ever since Vedic times and have been used as embellishments and as an expression of aesthetics and faith.”
On the origins of this art, he says, “The lines are blurred between the classical and folk form of the art, leaving us guessing. The geometric Mandalas of Vedic times paved the way for some of the Rangoli patterns drawn to this day.”
The constellations with their relationship to the cosmos, the power of the forces of nature have been symbolically, geometrically and graphically represented as a rangoli, which are also called Yantras.
Sheela Sankaran, a student of Indian Art and Aesthetics, Mumbai University notes, “The Margazhi month in the solar calendar has been earmarked for the art because south India is at latitude of 32 degrees from the Equator. Since this solstice brings the earth closest to the sun, our ancestors decided to highlight the season by infusing music and art in the Rangoli form to celebrate the season.”
It is heartening to see that a few homes in our city still draw out these intricate designs in front of their homes.
Syamala Subramaniam, a 77-year-old home maker reveals she has “not missed drawing a kolam outside my home since I was seven. I enjoyed making huge designs as I had time and space. Ever since I shifted to Bengaluru, my rangolis have become smaller.”
Long strings of jasmine buds would be woven around it. Once, a special day was earmarked for me to wear a moggina jade (a readymade pad with jasmine buds and an occasional rose fit on the back of the head and the plait). This red-lettered day was preceded by elaborate preparations.
My mom sourced fresh mehendi leaves, ground them into a fine paste, and applied it on my palms and feet before the event. The following morning, I was given a traditional oil bath and the fumes of frankincense were waved over my drying hair to perfume it. Then, I wore the traditional silk skirt, some pieces of antique jewellery, and got ready to get my hair braided and wear moggina jade. After receiving glowing compliments from all our guests, I was relieved of the same with equal care. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise while it lasted, and have ruminated on it many times over.
As the years rolled by, I used to feel a little vexed with my parents for not having photographed me in my moment of crowning glory. I would be tersely told that the enjoyment was the reward, while photographing it would have amounted to merely documenting it. Their explanation used to irk me all the more because it sounded like a lame excuse for not having thought of it.
I entertained uncharitable thoughts about their miserliness until one day, when a family friend began showing us her holiday album.
The pictures were glossy and beautiful, but the smiling lady who was ever-present in all of them had little memory of the place or its distinction, or even the names of the other members of the group, because she was always grooming herself to look good in the shots.
It was then that I understood the meaning of what I had been told. A photograph of my long braid would have merely retained the visual. I might have been happy and proud of the picture, but might have relegated it to an album and put it away safely.
However, the fact that it was not photographed possibly preserved the memory of the smells and sounds associated with the event.
Surprisingly, quite a few of them who had seen me enjoying my moment in the sun also seem to remember it quite well, and have since shared it with their spouses and children.
It happened long ago. Few people wielded the camera then. Yet, special moments of the privileged were captured on camera. Since they were far and few, they attained the status of precious family and national heirlooms. Today, technology has made photographing a cake walk. However, we must remember that if we spend all the time behind the lens, we may not have memories attached to them when we look at them at a later date. Let us not miss the woods for the trees.
If we want to call ourselves a civilised society, we must understand that the position of women forms the cornerstone of a healthy and happy society.
It is only when she is respected as an individual and free to take her own decisions and live with dignity and grace can we hope to be called so. The Ramayana documents Ravana’s encounter with Vedavathi which speaks on the subject.
Once when Ravana was skirting around the Himalayas, he saw an exceptionally beautiful young Tapaswini. He tarried to have a conversation with her. He learned that the young lady was sage Kushadhwaja’s daughter. Many demigods sought her hand in marriage.
But, her father had wanted her to get married to Maha Vishnu. Shambhu, the demon king, who felt highly offended by the announcement, killed the young girl’s parents. Ever since, she lived an altruistic life, hoping to fulfil her father’s wish.
Ravana was very happy with the information. He tried to charm Vedavathi. When Vedavathi spurned him, he tried to violate her. The enraged maiden was aghast at the decadence of Ravana. She told him categorically that he would have to pay for his misdeed. She declared that she would be his nemesis in her next birth. Ravana grabbed her by the hair.
The damsel retaliated by cutting off her hair and immolating herself. Ravana exited from the scene remorselessly.
It is believed that Vedavathi was reborn as Sita and Ravana had to pay with his life for his ugly demeanour.
Vedavathi was no match to Ravana’s strength. Yet her goodness, dignity and resoluteness failed to impress Ravana. She had to destroy herself and garner her spiritual power to invoke retribution.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?”
Every age has had its set of villains and heroes, its share of violence and injustice, if we want to break the pattern and usher in a happy new age, we must raise worthy men who know the worth of women and respect them accordingly.
The following piece about my mother was published in Deccan Herald at
Most people love to splurge on clothes, movies and food when they get some extra money. But how many actually invest it in a hobby?
Syamala Subramaniam is one such person who has been collecting diyas and oil lamps since the 1960s. The then newly-married homemaker would use the money her mother sent her every year during Deepavali and Karthikai to buy diyas.
She reveals that she had always wanted to collect diyas and started working on her hobby post marriage. “During the festive season, it’s a tradition for the parents of the bride to give her some money to buy new diyas,” says
So she would combine the festival money with the money she got in the
tambulam (a traditional gift consisting of betel leaves, limestone paste and coconut to name a few) during occasions throughout the year to buy extra diyas for her collection. “I have been collecting a pair every year since 1965,” recalls the 75-year-old lady, who is also into tapestry work, embroidery, knitting, beadwork and origami to name a few.
So it’s not a wonder when you see a range of gorgeous earthen lamps in different shapes and colours in her house. And it’s not just the terracotta diyas but also brass oil lamps of different sizes displayed beautifully in a showcase created specially for them. “Earlier, we lived in a rented house so I didn’t have a place to display my collection. So when this house was built in 1982, I got this showcase created specially for the lamps,” she narrates.
Ask her which is her favourite from the collection of over 60 oil lamps and hundreds of mud diyas and she says she likes them all. Yet she makes a special mention of the oil lamps as tiny as a button displayed artfully in her showcase. “They are too small to be lit but they look so beautiful that I had to have them in my collection,” she notes. Another lamp quite close to her heart is the kuthu vilakku, which is one of the oldest in her collection. “I dress this up during auspicious occasions as well. During the kuttu vilakku puja, which I generally do during Navaratri, the lamp is personified as a devi.
So you either dress one or three of these up as Durga, Saraswathi and Lakshmi,” she explains. She also has a wooden lamp with a bulb inside, which is the only electric lamp in her collection. “The kubera vilakku, which is a silver lamp with a glass base, is also a part of my collection,” she says.
Some of the earthen lamps are in the creative shapes of Santa Claus and Ganesha. In fact, some have been carefully painted by her in vibrant colours. One would notice that most of the brass lamps in the collection come in pairs and are displayed in an organised manner as Syamala is quite finicky about symmetry. “While most of these lamps are from Palakkad, some of the kuthu vilakkus are from Tamil Nadu,” she explains. In Bangalore, she buys most of these from Pottery Town.
Syamala makes sure that her collection is cleaned and dusted regularly. “Nowadays, I wash the oil lamps using Pitambari but in the olden days, I would wash them with tamarind,” she informs.
However, this hobby, which has continued for over four and a half decades, has slowed down now due to the issue of storage. “I give some of the unlit diyas away to family, friends and guests coming home. In fact, I gift them to anyone who I feel will care for them,” she sums up.
You can create a special mantapa for your family deity if you spend a little time and employ a little patience and creativity.
You need to buy 4mm glass and one gross of smallest sized glass bottles (Usually available in shops selling laboratory material), some colourful marbles, a glass marker pencil and a tube of glue. Get the glass cut into five squares measuring. Two of which should measure as a twelve inch square and the other three measuring 10, 8 and 6 inches respectively. Even if you happen to choose some other geometrical shape, keep in mind that the proportion should not alter. Two glasses meant for the base and the dome should be identical in size and the other should become smaller in uniform proportion. Get the edges of the glass ground so that they do not cut your hands while working on them or cleaning them later.
Wash the glass and the bottles in soapy water and allow them to dry and wipe it clean so that the dried up water droplets are not seen. Remember while pasting the glasses one on top of another, the opening should always face upwards. Draw diagonals across all the glasses with the marker. You can wipe the markings off with a swab of cotton after the completion of your work. Mark points on the four ends of the glasses with the pencil so that the point is exactly one inch away from corners of the glass and appears on the diagonal.
Take the twelve inch square glass and paste three glass bottles on each corner and let it dry.
They will form the cornerstones of your relic. Turn the glass over and work on the plain side. Place a glass bottles on each marked point and once you are satisfied with the symmetry glue it on. Place the next four bottles on the previously pasted bottles and repeat the process till it reaches a height of eight inches. They will form the pillars of the mantapa.
Place another glass measuring twelve inches on the four pillars and glue it on.
Once again place the glass bottles on the marked point, check out the symmetry and glue it on continue working on the new pillars till they measure two or three inches
Place the ten inch glass on the newly formed pillar and repeat the process and then place the square glass measuring eight inches and glue it on.
Now you have reached the topmost panel of your mantapa. You can place the bottles all around forming a small corridor on the terrace and glue them on.
You can use your imagination and pile the bottles in several ways to build the dome according to your taste. Usually a pyramid shape compliment a square base best.
Paste the marbles on the open ended bottles to give it that touch of glamour.