Of Festive Cheer And New Hope


FRESH START: Flowers are, inarguably, among the best decor elements in a home.

Mark the first day of the New Year by giving your home a fresh makeover with floral arrangements, intricate toranas and artful decor elements. Radha Prathi tells you how

Can you imagine a world without festivals? Or a home without celebrations? There would be no home decoration tasks, no meals to feast upon and no bonding opportunities. Decor-wise, festivals offer a good excuse for some spring cleaning and bringing in new elements to your home. Every abode gets a moderate, if not grand, makeover and a new lease of life. The old goes out and makes way for the new. By doing away with clutter, we create a perfect space for happiness and serenity.

Today, as we celebrate Ugadi, it’s good to remember why, traditionally, homes have been spotlessly dusted, scrubbed, cleaned and spruced up to welcome the New Year. The ornate rangoli at every doorstep, beautiful toranas of lush green mango and neem leaves, the floral designs — all represent the festive spirit in its truest sense.

The joy of sharing

So, you have been busy with work and family responsibilities, and don’t have much time to spruce up your home for the much-awaited festival? Don’t worry. You don’t need to bring down the walls or go shopping for the latest decor trends. All you really need is the some basic essentials and your home is ready to welcome the new year in style!

The most important aspect of any decor makeover is decluttering. Don’t take up the mammoth task on yourself; involve your family members too. Make every family member responsible for their own stuff. Every member should take a realistic stock of his or her belongings and take a firm decision on what should stay and what should go. There is really no point in holding on to old clothes, toys, knick knacks, shoes or books that one has outgrown. Old curtains, bedspreads, electronic appliances, luggage items, cutlery items, containers et al. No matter what the article, please remember that there are many people out there who will be very happy to use your hand-me-downs.

So, just give them away to deserving individuals or charitable organisations.

Make a master timetable and allocate responsibilities of dusting, washing and cleaning to all your family members. Draw a list of things that can be recycled or need to be tailored, repaired, or are in want of new batteries, and delegate responsibilities. If you do stick to the schedule today, then be rest assured that your home will always be squeaky clean and tastefully done through the year.

Then comes the decoration aspect. If you find it cumbersome to draw a fresh rangoli outside your home every day, but at the same time hate the idea of using stickers, it’s a good alternative to draw your favourite design with a chalk and paint along the lines with colourful acrylic paints of your choice. This way, your home will always sport a traditional look throughout the year.

How about welcoming your guests with a big ‘Happy Ugadi’ sign written in colourful chalk at the entrance of your home? You can also do the same in your balcony, porch or living room. Get the kids to place flowers and mango leaves around the writing. This way, you will not only give a flowery welcome to the year, but also offer the young ones a wonderful opportunity to learn about their culture and traditions. In the evening, you can transform the same setup with some tea-light candles or diyas. Nothing like some beautiful lights to bring in the festive cheer!

Another idea is to look through your cupboards for old photo albums and select pictures that were taken during Ugadi and make a collage. This exercise will not only trigger a trip down memory lane, but also serve as a conversation starter when you have visitors at home during this festive season.

Saying it with flowers

Flowers are, inarguably, among the best decor elements one could ask for in a home. So, arrange some seasonal flowers in beautiful shapes in different corners of your home. Alternately, you could fill large terracotta or brass bowls with water, add a drop of rose essence, essential oil or eau de cologne and throw in some flower petals. Add some floating candles for instant illumination.

Every festival is marked with delicious and lavish meals. But why should only one person slog in the kitchen? This year, you could use this opportunity to bring your entire family together for ‘Project Ugadi Cooking’. Assign different tasks to all family members and enjoy the bonding that is sure to ensue.

One of the best things you can do this New Year is decide to grow a green thumb. Even if you have some potted plants in and around your home, there’s every reason to get some more this Ugadi. In case you are not sure how to go about it, read up on the Internet or consult your neighbourhood nursery. A green patch around your home will always add to its aesthetic appeal. And a greener world is the need of the hour.

It’s time to welcome the New Year with renewed hope in your heart and festive ambience at home. Happy Ugadi!

Welcome To A New Beginning


Radha Prathi, March 20, 2015, DHNS

Start the traditional new year with some decorative ideas to help take the rut out of long-followed festival traditions, says Radha Prathi

Tomorrow will see a change in the Saturday routine of most families – some will wake up early – to offer special prayers, to cook sumptuous meals and welcome or visit dear ones. But more importantly, all these activities will be preceded by (from tonight, in all probability) a round of complete and thorough cleaning of the house. Why?

Because it is Ugadi, the new year and a new beginning. Traditional Indians who follow the lunar calendar are all set to celebrate their very own indigenous new year. Since we spend the best part of the day at home on this auspicious occasion, entertaining our dear ones, it is always a good idea to do up our space to earmark the festivities.

Even if you happen to be living in a gated community or apartment complex and choose to celebrate the festivals in the common community hall or basement, you can still create an amiable and traditional atmosphere, which will give a glimpse of our culture and creativity. Here are a few ideas that you can work upon this new year:The ground rule for any decor begins with cleaning up the premises thoroughly.

Take stock of items like photographs, wall clocks, curtains, bedspreads, cabinets, crockery, furniture, among other things, and rearrange them within your home. You can feel a sense of freshness by simply changing their locations in your surroundings. If you have a pile of unused gifts and new items, bring them out of hibernation and use them appropriately. This exercise will spread a positive energy for it will make you realise how loved you are, whenever you associate the articles with the person who presented it to you.

Rummage your closet and fish out the photographs taken on previous Ugadis or rare pictures of family and friends, and display them at vantage points. If you have one too many pictures, it will be a good idea to make a scrap board of them. Creating a nostalgic conversation piece can prove to be therapeutic.

Add some colour

A colourful rangoli at the doorstep and one in front of the deities is considered a must in our culture. We will be welcoming manmatha samvatsara this Ugadi. So you will do well to include the name of the year in a semicircular form at the head of the rangoli. If you are pressed for time or ability, use it to your advantage. Draw the outline of the writing and design with a chalk or a crayon.

This method will help you erase and make corrections as and when necessary. Fill the outlines and segments with flowers and leaves or food grains. Sea shells, sequins, shredded cloth waste can also be used alternately. Light some traditional diyas or fragrant tea light candles around the rangoli towards dusk to enhance the ambience.

Put up a traditional thorana of fresh mango leaves and bracket it with a bunch of neem leaves at your doorstep. Long lengths of marigold or artificial flowers can be used to drape the frame of the main door to enhance the festive look.

You could arrange flowers in vases and intersperse them between the pots. Or you could very simply stick little bunches of neem leaves in the wet soil of the pots for a change. If you have potted plants and shrubs, place them around the living area and outside the prayer room. You could trail serial lights over these plants. Stick lighted incense sticks in the pots. Not only will this exercise create a fragrant atmosphere, but also keep the mosquitoes at bay.

Lay out the food

The prasada and food items that are meant for sharing and distributing can be arranged tastefully, adding to the decor. Clear your dining table, push it against the wall for a day and use it as your decorative handyman. Place several bottles of drinking water and some trays along the wall.

Display you prized crystal or silverware or some fancy bowl by keeping the traditional bevu bella (neem and jaggery) in it. Sliced and serrated mango slices could be arranged like the petals of a flower around a little bowl consisting of salt and chilli powder. The holige could be folded as cones and placed one over other forming little conical pyramids.

Dishes like payasam, pachchadi and kosambari will look very appealing if stored in glass or silverware. Keep a bowl of cashew nuts ready so that you can dress your payasam every time you scoop some out. Do not forget to garnish the pachchadi and kosambari with curry leaves time and again. Paper cups and plates could be placed along the borders of the table.

Traditional tamboolam items can double up as Ugadi decor with a little imagination. Clear a table for this purpose. Instead of using a regular table cloth, bring out that lovely silk sari with intricate zari work and spread it over the table. Cover the sari with a clear plastic sheet so that it will not get stained or damaged. It is time to use your silver, crystal, brass or fancyware to keep haldi, kumkum, akshata, betel leaves, betel nuts, flowers, coconuts and fruits.

Arrange the items tastefully in floral patterns on large plates or trays in the order of their use. You could leave a couple of beautiful trays alongside. These items have a tendency to leave some dregs behind. Make sure that you wipe the tray every time before the next use. If you are planning to give gifts to your visitors, remember to wrap them in happy colours. And how about stacking them on the table?

Christmas Décor


Christmas is round the corner.

If you have still not decided about the decoration for the coming event, here are a few eco-friendly and cost effective ideas to do up your place. Make sure that your attempt at beautifying gratifies all the senses.

Collect the outer leafy covers of maize and sort them out in terms of size. Bring out your water colours and brushes and streak the leafy covers in various hues and leave them to dry. Staple each whorl to the tip of the last whorl to desired lengths and hang them up as festoons.

Collect coconut husks and tear them apart with your fingers till they appear uniform in texture.

Spread them evenly on a newspaper. Bring out your turmeric or powdered food colours. Sprinkle the colour over the husk. Repeat the process with various colours of your choice. You can use the coloured husks as the flooring of the manger.

Bring out all the Xmas and New Year cards that you have received. Tie a string across the manger area and clip the cards on the string at equal intervals. You could fasten balloons in the gaps to add to the festive look. Bring out all the unused plastic water bottles and cut them in such a way that the conical part is separated from the rest.

Fill the cylindrical base with different coloured waters (use food colours or paints) and place them strategically in the main décor or as a border. Float multi-coloured sequins in them during the day and lighted candles in them during evenings.

When placing lit candles in open areas, place the conical section of the bottle sans the cap over them so that they serve as a unique transparent lampshade. Fill small plates with chocolates and toffees wrapped in bright colours as little mounds and place them between the candles. These can be given away to young guests and refilled from time to time.

If you have interesting pictures or posters relevant to the holiday season tape them onto the background wall tastefully.

Flower arrangement need not always translate into bouquets; buy a couple of yards of strung marigold or chrysanthemum which are likely to last for a couple of days in this weather and hang them as festoons. The smell of these flowers will keep the mosquitoes and flies away.

Light incense sticks and place them in potted plants, so that the ash can spill into the soil besides making the area fragrant.

Play soft instrumental music to please the ears while filling the home with harmony.

It is Festival On A Plate



Radha Prathi shows you how to make beautiful designs on your aarthi plate for a festive occasion.

Festivals, weddings and traditional rituals are great occasional excuses to highlight your creativity and lap up the appreciation that gush forth from your guests. While rangoli and flowers are the traditional decorational elements to go on the aarthi plates, there are still many other ways to ornate the plates. The most important thing to remember is that these plates need to be readied a few days in advance and kept aside for use later.

Here are some ways to make your aarthi plates a highlight for the next festival:
n If you plan to use a plate with engraved or embossed work on it, clean the plate thoroughly and get it polished it if it lacks luster. Apply a coat of coconut oil on the inner area of the plate and use a sieve used to filter tea leaves and spread bright red vermilion (kumkum) onto it evenly. You can also use different Rangoli colours of your choice, ofcourse. Use a new ear bud and trace the outline of the existing design with an even hand. You will find the ear bud wiping out a thin line of vermilion to reveal the design on the plate.

* If you have sparkle colours, you can clean up the polished plate and apply sparkle colours as a thin line along the existing design. Then, allow it to dry completely before use.

* You could make sugar syrup by dissolving two teaspoons of sugar in half a glass of water. Then, dip a new ear bud in the syrup and trace the outline of the existing design on the engraved plate with an even hand. Then gently pour sugar on the plate such that it covers the surface, without disturbing the plate. A couple of minutes later, pour out the sugar gently. You will find sugar crystals stuck along the design, making the plate appear as if it were bejewelled.

* If you want to use flowers, use rose petals and tulsi leaves or dhavanam leaves as they can lend fragrance with beauty. Wet the plate that you plan to use with water and place the petals and leaves in a pattern of your choice.

* If you wipe the plate with a drop of rose essence or attar before wetting the plate the Aarthi will turn out to be more aromatic.

* Take plain rice and add a drop of enamel paint in a colour of your choice and mix it with the rice such that the rice colours uniformly. (If you use fabric paint or food colour instead of enamel paint make sure you add a drop of cooking oil to the rice to give it the requisite sheen.)Then use a sketch pen to draw a design or Rangoli of your choice on the plate and fill each portion with different colours.

* Colourful bindis or radium stickers, of different shapes and sizes, which glow by night could be stuck in floral and geometrical patterns along the borders or restricted to the centre.

* If you are good at free hand drawing you could use permanent markers to draw intricate designs of your choice on the plate. When erasing the same, apply oil on the plate and allow it to soak for a while before washing it off.

* If the Aarthi plate is large, you could buy small sized glass bangles in different colours and pile them up tastefully and divide the pile into two and place them on opposite ends of the plate and then gently let the pile fall so that the bangles fall over one another forming small ellipses. You could adjust the space between the bangles so that they cover the entire area.

Tip: If you implement these ideas on a silver or brass plate, the effect will be ethereal when you place a pair of lighted lamps on them.

Christmas Clean Up and Colour


Radha Prathi explains how articles and accessories available at home, can be used to create an economic, yet, new look for Christmas.

Recession or not, month end or year end, money crunch can do nothing to dampen the Christmas spirit unless you will it to be otherwise. The season’s spirit can be expressed in many different ways. For instance, sprucing up your home could be one of them, especially if you happen to do it yourself.

All of you at home, no matter to which age group you may belong, can see through this process with a little planning and co-operation. This thrifty move will work on family bonding, will go easy on your purse and will give you a better understanding of the place you live in, and the people around you.

Using the occasion

It is said “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Use the occasion to spring-clean your home, room by room, till it is spic and span. First of all, take stock of all the items in a given room and decide what you need to retain and what you could give away or trash.

Then clear the place of cobwebs, dust and insects. If you have cupboards and shelves with metal or wooden interiors, you could give them a fresh coat of paint, laced with insecticide. Feng shui and Vaasthu Shaastra also emphasise on this facet. You could always give away the things you no longer need, to the ones who can put the same to good use.

If you are clumsy with hammers and nails, then do not be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Avail the help of a professional mason or a carpenter to set right the little anomalies around the home, and also to fix nails and accessories like magazine stands, mirrors or little shelves that have to be fixed on to the walls.

Allotting the right space

Once your entire home is cleaned up, begin your Christmas décor. The size of your home should not prove to be an obstacle to your endeavour. If you have a large home, allocate a room for Christmas décor, but if you happen to be living in very small quarters, apportion a part of a room or living space for the décor.

Free the area of furniture and the usual items of décor that highlight the place, in order to make a remarkable difference when the place is done up for the occasion.

Decorating with saris

Once the Christmas spot has been decided, check the walls and the windows of that place. It should not matter if they appear a little faded or old. Look upon them as an opportunity to implement your creativity. Bring out some colourful lightweight synthetic saris from your wardrobe. Use your elementary needlework skills and attach three or four saris with a running stitch, from end to end, so that you have a good length of fabric with a good contrasting colour scheme. The length can be increased or decreased according to your requirement. Fix vacuum holders in zigzag points with an approximate distance of two feet along the walls of the decided Christmas area, at least eight feet above the ground. Then pleat the sari length wise and pass the pleated sari at even intervals over these fixtures and clip them on with a clothes pin to keep them in place. You could tie blown balloons or pin multi coloured tassels at strategic points on the curtain. Once the walls are draped with waves of bright and beautiful fabric, you can be rest assured that you have set the stage for the rest of the decoration.

Bring out your potted plants. If the pots appear old and mossy, apply a coat of white or red lime, to give them a facelift and line them along the wall at equal distance to give a green, eco-friendly touch to your decor. Since the pots are likely to be indoors for at least a week or so, you will do well to place them on terracotta plates so they do not soil your floor when they are watered. You can place the flower bouquets you receive during the festive season in the intervals, to brighten the area. Just in case you do not plan to have a Christmas tree, you could weave the glittering ribbons or serial electric bulbs over these plants. If you do not have many or any potted plants, do not lose sleep over it you can always buy some of them from a nearby nursery or from the plant vendors who are constantly strolling around the city, selling their wares from push carts. After all, Christmas is a season for ringing in the new and you will be appreciated for ushering some greenery into your home.

Natural settings

Place your Christmas tree amidst this setting and decorate it with festoons and little bells or wind chimes. Though readymade synthetic trees are available in the market, which can be dismantled and used again in the following year, it is preferable to buy a real live potted tree. You can plant it in your own garden or gift it to someone who has a garden.

Flower arrangements can enhance the loveliness of the area. Since Christmas decorations will have to last for a week or ten days, make sure you buy more of longer lasting flowers like Chrysanthemums, Rajnigandha, Zerberas Zinnias or Lavenders, apart from the regular roses and your favourite flowers. Make sure you replace or remove the wilting flowers on a daily basis, otherwise they are likely to spoil the show.

If you plan to have a crib, then place the Christmas tree towards a corner and spread the hay on a low divan or a mat as the stage for the crib. The divine scene of the birth of Christ in a cattle shed in Bethlehem, can be spread on the segment of the floor covered with hay. Place lighted candles in candle stands randomly or set them afloat in large earthen bowls, to give that ethereal look with relative safety.

You will realise that one could still have a wonderful Christmas with minimum expenditure and maximum involvement, which will not only make your Christmas merry but can pave way to an organised, healthy and happy new year which lies ahead of you.

Lighting Up Your Lives


A woman arranges oil lamps and flowers around a Rangoli during the celebrations ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Ahmedabad. Reuters

The effect of tiny gentle flames quivering in the dusky hours of chilly November nights has the power to warm up the cockles of the most indifferent hearts. Diwali perhaps could not have cast a similar spell on the Indian populace across the globe, had it been scheduled to be celebrated at some other time of the year.

We are fortunate to be living at a time when we have the choice to pick and choose from a plethora of lamps that come in all shapes and sizes, not to mention the range of materials. Traditional oil lamps, diyas filled with candle wax just ready to be lit, electric lamps, gaily coloured serial bulbs, lamps that flicker on the strength of batteries, LED lights, neon lights, we have them all. All you have to do is, pick the ones that please you best and light them up in every corner of your hearth and home and create a festive atmosphere.

The humble lamp made from baked clay looks best when they are put on pedestals or decorative lamp bases. They serve the practical purpose of keeping your floor from soiling, in case the oil spills. Besides, they also act as an aesthetic caution to people who may stumble over them inadvertently when placed all over the flooring.

Traditionally, colourful Rangolis made flour and flowers form beautiful lamp bases. Yet these days, not many people have the time or enough space to make several Rangolis in and around the house.

When you give a personal touch to the decorations, the result will be not only be unique but can also be a very fulfilling experience. You can achieve this end by decorating all the odd plates using ornate sticker bindis, flamboyant wedding cards, plastic flowers, laces, ribbons, sea shells, sequins, mirrors, marbles and several such trinkets found around your home.

* Lamp bases for oil lamps and candlewax diyas are best made from plates of non inflammable material.

* Paint a beautiful colourful rangoli on a large tray or plate and use it as a base.

* Bring out all the old and faded artificial flowers in your home and wash them clean. Pluck out the petals one by one and paint them using a bright fabric colour. Once the petals dry, they can be pasted very close to each other along the circumference of the chosen plate. If you have artificial leaves at your disposal, they too can be used for decoration in the same way.

* Bring out all the marbles at home and arrange them in a design of your imagination, before placing a lamp on it. You need not worry about accidental oil spills, because marbles are washable.

* If you have pistachio shells or sea shells around the home, paint them in different hues and paste them along the circumference of the plate. If you have little mirrors used in embroidery, toss them in the inner circle. They will enhance the brightness of the flame by reflecting them.

* The Aishwarya Rangoli (If you do not know the design, refer to it on the internet) is traditionally used on Diwali to usher in the wealth bestowed by goddess Lakshmi. A few meters of golden coloured lace pasted along the lines can lend grandeur to your lamp.

* Bring out a brass plate, polish it well, and paste kundan stones, ornate bindis or sequins on it in a pattern of your choice, before placing the lamp on it.

* If you have a sundry collection of coins, wash them clean using a dishwash soap and sort them out in terms of size and shape. Arrange them in the pattern of a rangoli on a plate and place the lamps. This is quite a creative way to represent goddess Lakshmi, and with some luck, welcome more of her.

* The lamp bases of electrified lamps or battery operated candles require less caution and give more scope to creativity.

* Painted ice cream sticks can be arranged aesthetically on hard boards or handmade paper and embellished with laces.

* Cut out the border designs of wedding cards and make a collage of them on hexagonal cardboard cutouts.

* Colourful paper can be cut out into petals, assembled as a large flower and glued together before using them as a base.

* Cups and plates made of betel leaves can be painted upon, and placed at even distances before placing bulbs of a serial light or LED lights in them.