Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Diwali - 9 November'07

Hard to believe that we've been in India for more than a year. "Time really does fly when you're having fun". We were in Mumbai during Diwali last year and I thought this year I should do a little bit of research to find out what this "Frestival of Lights", celebrated on the 9th of November is all about.

Like all the other Hindu festivals in India (too many to understand them all) it involves a lot of God's and Goddesses, rituals and pujas (prayers), gift, lights, food etc.

During Diwali, lights illuminate every corner of India and the scent of incense sticks hangs in the air, mingled with the sounds of fire-crackers, joy, togetherness and hope.

About The Festival of Lights:

Deepawali or Diwali is certainly the biggest of all Hindu festivals. It's the festival of lights (deep = light and avali = a row i.e., a row of lights) that's marked by four days of celebration, which literally illuminates the country with its brilliance and dazzles all with its joy.

The Origin of Diwali:
Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. Whereas in Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day.

Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshman from his fourteen year long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with diyas (oil lamps) and burst crackers.

These Four Days:
Each day of Diwali has it's own tale, legend and myth to tell. The first day of the festival Naraka Chaturdasi marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya, the second day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell. Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. It is on the third day of Deepawali — Kartika Shudda Padyami that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon given by Lord Vishnu. The fourth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj) and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.

The Significance of Lights & Firecrackers:
All the simple rituals of Diwali have a significance and a story to tell. The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of obeisance to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity. According to one belief, the sound of fire-crackers are an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods aware of their plentiful state.

The Tradition of Gambling:
The tradition of gambling on Deepawali also has a legend behind it. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva, and she decreed that who ever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuing year.

From Darkness Unto Light:
In each legend, myth and story of Deepawali lies the significance of the victory of good over evil; and it is with each Deepawali and the lights that illuminate homes and hearts, that this simple truth finds new reason and hope. The light that empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds, that which brings us closer to divinity.

Octoberfest in Bangalore "PROST"

Oktoberfest: Reason to Celebrate (Did you know...."I didn't")

Called "Wiesn" (which means "meadow") by local Bavarians, the German tradition of Oktoberfest started with a wedding party in October of 1810. The wedding was that of Crown Prince Ludwig (later known as King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, who graciously invited the citizens of Munich to join in the wedding reception celebration at Theresienwiese (Meadow of Therese). It was a rousing success, lasting an impressive 16 days, and inspired the idea to repeat a similar festival at the same time the following year.

And now, even in India....

On Saturday, 27 October at the Taj Residency in Bangalore, hosted by the 'Octoberfest Committee', German Cultural Society and their sponsors.

After a couple of months of negotiating, the president of the German Cultural Society agreed to sell me 60 tickets at their corporate rate, which we sold at the public rate of Rs.1000 per person for unlimited beer and food (Yep, they even had some German sausages). This allowed the OWC to raise funds for the 25 Bangalore based charities that we support....with hardly any effort or organisation from our part. I just had to design the ad/announcements for our monthly magazine (The Rangoli) and the e-mailers, manage RSVP's and sell tickets to the event.

Me with the organizers - Mr. Suman Sharma (Taj) and Mr. Haldar (German Cultural Society)

Then it was......

"Ein Prosten, Ein Prosten Gemuchlichkeit, Ein Prosten, Ein Prosten Gemuchlichkeit ...Eins Zwei Drei Zuffe!"

It was a great turn out with approximately 900 guests. The ballroom was decorated in true Octoberfest style: Benches and tressel tables with blue and white table cloths with the same and balloons all around the hall. Unfortunately they only had Kingfisher beer but everything else was as authentically German as it could get in India.
A 20 piece Bavarian Umpa band especially flown in for the occation.

You know it's a good party when people start dancing on the cheers...and when they start dancing on the tables; well, "PROOOOOOOOST"!

Marc enjoying the festivities....Ok, so he is wishing it's a good German beer in his hands ;-)

Many of the German Guests (I didn't realise there are so many in Bangalore) came dressed in 'Lederhosen' and 'Dirndl' which made the evening feel even more like the real thing.

We had a blast and will definitely be at the next one and hopefully the "REAL" one in Munich too!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Inidalicious week

It has been a busy week ...German lessons, painting, the Black Eyed Peas concert, all things Indian and a Springbok win.
We went to the Black Eyed Peas concert on Tuesday night and we loved it....Fergalicious!!!
We stood about 15m from the stage and was able to see it all.
The Dutchess - Shaking that thang.... "And she knows just how to shake it"! She also performed a couple of her solo hits in her very sexy school girl out fit that was sure to make "Big boys cry"...
Will.i. am had the crowd scatting and moving along to his "I got it from my Mama" solo hit...
Vanessa and Brendon

Marc and I had a terrific time and hope that the next band will be as good and hopefully not the usual Scorpions, Deep Purple or Iron Maiden ancient acts.

On Wednesday the OWC attended a "Diwali Fiesta"at the Asian Woman Spa in preparation for India Night on Saturday, 20 October. We entered a garden oasis filled with sweetmeats, colourful bangles, bindis and costume jewellery. The ladies could have their hands painted like a bride with henna, learn how to drape a saree, have their fortunes told as well as enjoy a fashion show and a scrumptious Mughlai buffelt lunch.

I was one of the 5 models that had fun moddeling a Mumbai designers clothing line...kurti's, sarees and evening wear.
Vanessa and I in very detailed and colourful kurti's.
Erika, Kathleen and I in sarees.
The 5 of us ending the show by carrying a plate with a burning flame and rose petals which we tossed into the crowd.
The fortune teller used shells to answer life questions... Very funny!

On Saturday night I got to dress up for "India Night" with my Mehndi painted hands, bangles, tika and nose ring all matching my beaded outfit.

It was an evening of celebrating all things Indian... 120 Guests all dressed in their best Indian wear enjoying food from 5 different regions, bollywood dancing and a Hookah lounge.

And at 11:45pm we were on our way to Jacki and Martin's house to watch SA win the Rugby World Cup. Well done, BOKKE!

The perfect end to a busy week!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dumpling (Jiaozi) Party

We were invited to a Dumpling Party on Saturday. I was very excited to learn how to make Jiaozi/Dim Sums (dumplings). Unfortunately or should I say fortunately I will have to attend another one of these to actually learn how to make them from scratch. I found out that it is a little more complicated than just folding the filling into the dough, which is what I got to try...and I had fun trying.

We had a fun evening, Asian style with delicious dumplings, mooncakes, chengteng, barley ginko, chocolate brownies, bak-kua, pandan-cake and more.

The shoes lined up at the door was the 1st sign of a true Asian party.
Our hosts Liam and Vivian

We took turns trying our hand at folding the dumplings.

A professional demonstrating how it should be done.

Chef Lina preparing "yummy" fried and boiled dumplings.

1 dumpling, 2 dumpling, 3 dumling...more!! Yummy!

Vivian, me, Lucy (Assistant Chef), Kathleen, Monique, Kayoko and Mei

Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations

Over the past couple of weeks we couldn't help but notice the Ganesha Chaturthi Celebrations that have been going on around Bangalore. Lots of Ganesha statues, flower, music, dancing and lights all around. On Saturday night we drove past such a festival procession and I decided to do a bit of reading up, to understand more about this popular festival in India.
About Ganesha (The Elephant god)
Ganesha (Sanskrit: गणेश) is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in Hinduism.
Ganesha is widely worshipped as the Remover of Obstacles and more generally as Lord of beginnings and the Lord of obstacles (Vighnesha).

Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations
The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and many other parts of India. Started by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and nationalism, the festival was revived by Lokmanya Tilak (a freedom fighter) to spread the message of freedom struggle and to defy the British who had banned public assemblies. The festival gave the Indians a feeling of unity and revived their patriotic spirit and faith. This public festival formed the background for political leaders who delivered speeches to inspire people against the Western rule. The festival is so popular that the preparations begin months in advance.

Ganesha statues installed in street corners and in homes, and elaborate arrangements are made for lighting, decoration, mirrors and the most common of flowers. Poojas (prayer services) are performed daily. The artists who make the idols of Ganesh compete with each other to make bigger and more magnificent and elegant idols. The relevantly larger ones are anything from 10 meters to 30 meters in height. These statues are then carried on decorated floats to be immersed in the sea after one, three, five, seven and ten days. Thousands of processions converge on the beaches to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This procession and immersion is accompanied by drum- beats, devotional songs and dancing.
It is still forbidden to look at the moon on that day as the moon had laughed at Ganesha when he fell from his vehicle, the rat. With the immersion of the idol amidst the chanting of "Ganesh Maharaj Ki Jai!" (Hail Lord Ganesh). The festival ends with pleas to Ganesha to return the next year with chants of "Ganpati bappa morya, pudcha varshi laukar ya" (Hail Lord Ganesh, return again soon next year.
Click here for more about Ganesha and the Ganesha Ganpati Festival.