Tag Archives: culture

The Great Wall and Time

The sun’s heat is scorching. We walk at a steady pace, completely awed. 

We are at the Great Wall of China.

 Before we reach the starting point, our guide briefs us about the Wall and its history, and loads us with many interesting nuggets of information.  We agree on a time to meet, and proceed on our long walk.

The valleys on either side watch us in silence, as we walk, stop and marvel. How was this feat even possible!

At every turn, the wall winds up and down into the rugged terrain, an off-white line that stretches away into places that the eye cannot see. 

We feel humbled.  We walk up steps, climb down others, pausing for breath, pausing to take pictures, wondering, only wondering.

We can picture the soldiers at their viewing decks, and the invading armies. 

My son and I sit down, as we wait for the others. There is a deep silence. Except from two crows that caw on and off, all is quiet.  Our hats give us some semblance of protection as the sun’s hot rays reflect off the stones.

I look up at the clear blue sky and smile. A merry little jet is whizzing importantly across the sky, leaving behind a fluff of white lace. 

Time seems suspended between history and the future. 

The Wall is unchanging, a witness to thousands of years of history, culture and human development.  The jet is too busy to stop, it is after all, busy carrying people to appointments and meetings.

The word ‘time’ as I know it seems pointless, as I sit on the Great Wall, knowing that even after we are all gone, this architectural wonder will still remain.

Welcome to my Golu (Doll display)

The last week has been so crazy, in a wonderfully beautiful way, as we celebrate one of the nicest festivals in India – Navratri.

Navratri means ‘nine nights’. While there is a lot of spiritual meaning to this festival, these nine days in most Indian  homes spell joy, fun, food, music and dance, and of course a lot of camaraderie and bonding, not to forget all the vibrant and colourful sarees.

So,  that was why I was MIA from blogosphere this week. The festival is nearly done, and I am back.

People from our community celebrate Navratri in a unique way! We put up a display of dolls (yes, dolls). Dolls that have been passed down from our ancestors, dolls that we have collected over the years, dolls of every possible type.

These dolls are arranged on steps (these stands can be assembled). The stand is then covered with a cloth and serial lights put on them.  On the eve of Navratri, the dolls are brought down from storage and put on display.

I have a few hundred dolls, mostly terracota dolls. Once we set up the dolls, we invite friends home to see the display and have food.  I had a lot of friends visiting this week, and had lots of fun.

One of the most important dolls in the Golu (doll display) is the ‘Marapaachi’ doll. These dolls are made of wood, and passed down from generation to generation. These dolls usually come in couples, man and woman, boy and girl.

We dress them up in different costumes, every year. Each year we add new doll sets to our collection. Over my next few posts, I will share pictures of a few special doll sets that I have at home and the story behind them.

This is a picture of my Golu. With new dolls, my Golu is expanding horizontally as well.  Below the picture of my Golu is the picture of the ‘Marapaachi’ dolls, that have been handed down in the family.

Each doll is special, each doll has a story and so many associated memories. I love my dolls, each and every one of them.

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        Main Golu, Sections 1, 2, 3 & 4

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                      The Main Golu

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                 Section 2 of my Golu

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             Section 5 of my Golu

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The Marapaachis – handed down from generation to generation.

Hope you enjoyed these pictures. Over the next few posts, I will talk about my favourite dolls and their stories.

I look forward to catching up on all your blogs too!

Glass bangles

I love bangles, glass bangles, to be precise. If you stopped to listen to the breeze in any part of the Indian subcontinent, you would hear the melodious tinkle of glass bangles, worn by women across the country.

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               Picture courtesy  http://www.geethafashion.weebly.com

In India, glass bangles are traditionally associated with most milestones in a woman’s life – engagement,  wedding and baby showers. After the wedding, most women wear a few glass bangles or at least metal ones everyday, as dictated by their culture and family traditions.

I love glass bangles for their rich colours and vibrant tones. Couple these with an elegant saree…and they look gorgeous.

In the south, many families host a small event called ‘Valaikaapu’ (The Bangle Ceremony), in a pregnant woman’s third trimester. Usually hosted by the girl’s parents, the day is filled with lots of fun, rituals and good food.

For this function, a few hundred glass bangles are bought. Women on both sides of the pregnant woman’s family adorn her with tinkling and beautiful glass bangles on both hands, usually odd-numbered. In addition, one thin gold and silver bangle each are put on each hand.  All women and girls, who attend the event, are gifted a few glass bangles. Usually there’s an assortment of colours to choose from.

The tinkling of the bangles is supposed to stimulate the baby’s senses. The bangles are usually removed, when labour sets in. 

These days, bangles are bought in bulk from shops, however, when I was a kid, a bangle-seller was called home. I still remember how excited we were when the bangle-seller came home with his huge bundle of glass bangles. We watched, as my grandmom and mom chose bangles for my aunt’s Valaikappu, and for all the women and little girls.

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                     Picture courtesy     
             varietybangles.weebly.com

Last year, there was a wedding in the family, and I stocked up on my glass bangles; colour coordinated with every saree I wore to the various ceremonies.

Simple tinkling accessories, that signify so much and that bring so much joy!

A feeling of timelessness – Siem Reap, Cambodia

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We are in Siem Reap, Cambodia, drinking in the beauty of a thousand years.  As we ride on the tuk-tuk from one ancient temple to another, a feeling of timelessness grips me.

The volcanic rocks that the temples are built from, stand proud and tall, one above the other, rising into the skies, majestic and filled with exquisite detailing and engraving.  The Sun beats down on us mercilessly.  The same Sun that beat down on the stone carvers a thousand years ago.

Some of these temples are being renovated. Some others are partly disintegrated, with huge slabs fallen in sudden piles, now here, now there, as we stroll across, taking in the legends and stories that are showcased on the walls; and imagining our own stories about the craftsmen and their craft.

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We take a breather after the long walk around Angkor Wat.  We sit close to a long wall.  The grandeur of the temple has to be seen to be believed.  I cannot put down in words the various emotions that surge through me.  As we stretch our legs and fan ourselves with our caps, tour-guides come in with groups of tourists from around the world.

The wall behind us has elaborate carvings from one of India’s greatest epics – The Mahabharatha.  Earlier in the day, when our guide showed us these panels, we were awestruck!  Awestruck by the fact that the stories we grew up reading, had been so beautifully frozen on stone, a thousand years ago, in a country far away from India.

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Japanese and Korean guides explain the Mahabharatha in rapid bursts, to their tour groups, who nod their head in understanding. I catch a familiar word here and there.  It feels good. That feeling of timelessness envelopes me over and over again.

“We are all connected, in some way, at some place, at some point in time maybe in the past or maybe in the future.”

The afternoon is spent at the Ta Prohm Temple.  As we walk around, we see the long tentacle-like roots of the silk-cotton, and strangler-fig trees.  The roots have taken over the temple.  In some places, the roots look like they are embracing the temple, while in some others they look like they are taking back the temple into their womb, to hand them over to Mother Earth.

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Our guide points out to a small ‘apsara’ (celestial damsel of great beauty), who is almost hidden by the roots of a tree. She peeps through the roots, smiling at humanity, as she will very soon be engulfed by this tree.  One last smile, till time takes over another bit of history.

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