Wednesday, July 29, 2009
by Jennifer Kumar, Cross-Cultural Coach
Though I have only attended the Varalakshmi Puja celebrations in 2003 and 2004, the feeling I had while it was happening as well as when it completed has left lasting impressions.
This is one reason I have added this to the list of Hindu holidays I observe in my calendar, however, I only observe it, I do not actually do any puja at home. I do not know how to do a puja, but like to attend others pujas and learn about the rituals and culture.
What you will experience during Varalakshmi Puja
In the first minute of the video you will see the ladies decorating what is to be the idol of the goddess, Lakshmi. What I have seen in the past is the heads seen are actually decorations affixed (stuck into) to the top of a coconut. The body of the Goddess, under the skirt/dress is a coconut. Instead of placing a dress over the coconut, some may draw a face on the coconut using makeup, or 'golden eyes' (sometimes made of real gold), or drawn on with kajol (eyeliner).
Creative ideas to decorate the coconut kalash for Devi:
(I would have liked to post these photos here, but since they are not under creative commons, it is not possible.)
The video that was embedded here was disabled by user. Sorry.
You can not see the video, but try imagining the celebration by seeing the notes of the times below.
These notes detail the Varalakshmi Vratham celebration as held by one family- a video that was on YouTube.
1:10 The entire decorations are seen. The decorations above the devi represent mango leaves and fresh flowers. I say 'represent' as if this decoration is created outside India, where mango leaves aren't available, people may buy imitation leaves from India to use as decorations, or make their own from paper, cloth, or other available materials.
1:40 All female attendees are reciting slokas, mantras, and prayers. In this video, it seems a priest or a male present is reciting, and the women are repeating. If no priest is present, a woman does this. It is common in Hindu prayer sessions for one person to recite and others to repeat with or without having a manuscript in front of them.
What I remember women reciting is the Lalitha Sahashranama or the 1,000 names of the goddess. These names can be complicated for anyone to pronounce, even people who grew up hearing these prayers since childhood. Sometimes people need a teacher to help them with correct pronunciation. The most impressive recitation I have experienced is in the SriRajarajeshwari temple in Rush, New York. Here women of all ages and different ethnicities, including 'white American girls', have perfected the reciting of the names to such an art, saying them with such speed and precision that impresses even a person who cannot fully appreciate what is going on!
3:20-4 Time passes, some puja items (offering water, flowers), readying the food offering called prasadam.
4:25 Lakshmi Aarti. Aarti happens when fire is shown to the god/goddess and people take blessings from the fire (blessed by god) by placing their fingertips some distance over the flame, then putting their finger tips or the palms of hands to their eyes.
4:50 Tying of sacred threads. They are usually yellow in color. These are given to all women who attend the puja, to attract good luck, and repel negativity.
5:50 Women singing. To pass on the culture to the community, and children, women will often sing different devotional or popular songs. When I have attended this event, the women sang a selection of songs that were devotional or classic (carnatic) in nature.
The reason I chose this video to share is because of how they have showed every aspect. From the editing one can get a feeling this worship session and special occasion can take time. The prayers, slokas reciting, and singing can go on for hours, but all wait for the eating part, which can complete very quickly compared to all other aspects of the festival.
End Part 1
Part Two- Tutorial: Tips and Etiquette for Attending Varalakshmi Puja at Home or in Temple
Link to this post with a tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/lakshmivideo
Related Posts Sites:
Varalakshmi Vratham in Chennai, Raji Muthukrishnan. These photos nicely show decorations, prayer alter and thamboolam.
108 Aspects of Wealth – Lakshmi’s Many Attributes
Money is only one form of wealth we can pray to Lakshmi to help us increase in our lives.
Aadi Masam 2009 – Aadi Month in 2009 in Tamil Calendar
Details the auspicious days in the month of Aadi and some cultural aspects important to this month- family traditions, prayers, recipes and consumerism.
Varalakshmi Vratham - Summer's Tribute to Eight Forms of the Goddess
What are the eight forms of Lakshmi and how can prayer lead to wonderful things in life?
Vedic- Western Calendar
Tutorial on Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam calendar in relation to the universal Western Calendar.
Want to know when is Varalakshmi Vratham in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and beyond? Follow my India America Interfaith and Social Calendar!
Out of Alaivani
108 Names of Laxmi (Lakshmi)
Story of Varalakshmi Vratam – Varamahalakshmi Vrat Katha: Narrations of three legends, myths or reasons behind celebrating Varalakshmi Vratham: Charumati, Shyamabala, and Chitranemi.
Other Goddess Festivals
Mulaipari – Goddess Festival in Southern India
Vinzai Devi's Utsav, April 2007
Vinzai Devi's Utsav, April 2007 (Part 2)
Vinzai Devi Utsav - Hymn To Gayatri Mata
Vijaya Dashami Festival in Mauritius (Part 1 of 2)
Vijaya Dashami in Mauritius (Part 2 of 2)
Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar was an active member in the Tamil and Malayalee communities in USA. Jennifer lived in India and earned her Master's degree in Chennai. In 2011, Jennifer has returned to live in India a second time. She is a cross-cultural coaching helping people get adjusted to lifestyles between U.S.A. and India: Indians, NRIs, Americans and anyone else! If you'd like to know more about her, follow her on Facebook or see her coaching website by clicking here. Thanks.
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Copyright ©2009 Jennifer Jayanthi Kumar