Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Festivals of India


Lohri is a harvest festival and is celebrated in the land of Punjab. Lohri is mainly a festival of Punjabis, but it is also celebrated by people of other Northern Indian States like Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh. Lohri is the most popular harvest festival of Punjab and is celebrated amidst great gaiety and splendor. Lohri marks the culmination of winter, and is celebrated on the 13th day of January in the month of Paush or Magh, a day before Makar Sankranti. In 2021, it falls on today. 

Lohri marks the movement of the son towards the north (Uttaryan) as opposed to the south. (Dakshinayan). It is considered to be an extremely auspicious time as the sun enters the Tropic of Capricorn from the Tropic of Cancer. It is a festival dedicated to the Sun God and fire. The Bhagawad Gita deems it an extremely sacred and auspicious time, when Lord Krishna manifests himself most tangibly. And so, across India, people celebrate the month and the prodigious harvest it brings - Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh and the Sankranti in Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The festival Lohri has a very old history. The festival marks the end of the cold chilly winter and welcomes the arrival of spring and New Year. It is believed that Lohri is the longest night of the year. After Lohri, the days become longer and the nights shorter. Lohri is celebrated in remembrance and praise of Dulha Batti. Dulha Batti was a Muslim robber who lived during the era of King Akbar. He was a robber but a good person. He would steal from the rich and distribute the wealth among the poor. He rescued girls who were being forcibly taken away. He arranged marriages of young girls with Hindu Boys and paid the dowries. He was a hero among the local Punjabis there who loved and respected him. Most Lohri songs are sung in praise of Dulha Batti which expresses their gratitude to him.

Til ke Laddu

There are many assumptions as to how Lohri got its name. Some believe that the name Lohri is derived from Loi, who was the wife of Sant Kabir. Some others believe that the word Lohri comes from the word Loh which is an appliance used for making chappatis in community feasts. Another belief says that the festival Lohri is named after Lohri who was the sister of Holika. It is believed that Holika perished in the fire while her sister survived. Some others believe that the items til and rorhi were merged together to form the word tilorhi which eventually got shortened to Lohri.

For Punjabis, more than just a festival, Lohri is also an example of a way of life. Like any other festival, Lohri brings together family, relatives and friends. People meet each other and exchange sweets. It is a harvest festival and especially important for farmers, but it is celebrated with great fervor by all Punjabis. On this day, they light a bon fire and dance around it. People throw rewaries, sugar-candy, popcorn, sesame seeds, gur, etc into the fire and sing and dance around it. 

People wear their colourful and brightest clothes and dance the Bhangra or Gidda to the beat of the Dhol. Lohri to farmers signifies the commencement of a new financial year. Every year Punjabis who are far away from Punjab and live in other cities of India also celebrate Lohri. In places like Mumbai, Punjabis get together to light a bon fire and celebrate Lohri.

The focus of Lohri is on the bonfire. The traditional dinner with makki ki roti and sarson ka saag is quintessential. The prasad comprises of six main things: til, gazak, gur, moongphali, phuliya and popcorn. There is puja, involving parikrama around the fire and distribution of prasad. This symbolizes a prayer to Agni, the spark of life, for abundant crops and prosperity.
The first Lohri of a newlywed bride and a new born child is considered very auspicious and important.

Image Courtesy (except Til ke Laddu): Google.Com

Friday, 30 October 2020

Festivals of India

Karwa Chauth
Karwa Chauth is a festival that provides an opportunity for all married women to get close to their in-laws. All married women observes fast that ensures the well-being,    prosperity and longevity of their husbands. This Hindu festival has a cultural and social significance and all Indians celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm.

The festival of Karwa Chauth is celebrated mostly by North India.This event is growing bigger with each passing day. In addition to the traditional items such as henna, beauty products and fashionable clothes, the demand of special eateries are also gearing up. Nowadays, Karwa Chauth is more of fun than a serious festival.

Karva is another word for diya (a small earthen oil-lamp) and chauth means 'fourth' in Hindi (a reference to the fact that the festival falls on the fourth day of the dark-fortnight, or krishna paksh, of the month of Kartik). It is uncertain how the festival originated and how it came to be celebrated only in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. One hypothesis is that military campaigns and long-distance travel usually resumed around the time of the festival, as the area dried and numerous rivers of the region subsided from the effects of the monsoon. Women observed the fast to pray the Moon for the safety of their husbands at this time as they ventured away from home. The festival also coincides with the wheat-sowing time (i.e. the beginning of the Rabi crop cycle). Big earthen pots in which wheat is stored are also sometimes called karvas, so the fast may also have begun as a prayer for a good harvest in this predominantly wheat-eating region.

Karwa Chauth is an occasion that encourages people to gather and socialize with friends and family, exchange gifts and share home-cooked meals. The gifts exchanged on this occasion reflect joy, splendor, brightness and happiness of a married life.


 Sargi and Baya are the two most important gifting items, as without them the festival of Karva chauth is incomplete. These gift items are very traditional and are supposed to bring good luck in the lives of the married couple. It is Mother-in-laws who gift 'sargi' for their daughter-in-laws. This 'sargi' is a collection of sumptuous food consists of various types of sweetmeats and sometime clothes. 'Sargi' is given to the married woman so that she can eat them before sunrise, as the fast starts before sunrise and ends only after worshiping the moon at night. It is a tough fast, as the women do not take any food or water.


In the afternoon, mothers of newlywed girls gift 'Baya' to the parents of their son-in-law. This Baya contains few Mathris, Almonds and some gifts. This gift pack should reach the girl's house before evening. A small pooja to Gaura Ma or goddess Parvati is performed. Married women sit around Gaura ma and pray to her for the well being and long life of their husbands. A small pitcher or Karva with some water is placed in the center. While the story is being narrated, ladies circulate their Baya thalis. Apart from traditional gifts, nowadays there is a norm of showering various designers’ clothes, bindies and jewelries, especially to a newlywed woman.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Lockdown Saga


“COVID 19” – the word has changed the World around us! It just has shaken the World and all the systems, we have been following since birth. Mid of January 2020, my husband told me about the disease, when it became fatal in China. I was then not so much worried, because I couldn’t imagine that it could spread in India, too. After that day, one after one news were coming from our friends, who are settled in foreign countries like America, Italy, Germany etc. And finally, COVID 19 arrived in India, was first reported on 30 January 2020. The situation has deteriorated day by day. Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi, announced 'Janta Curfew', a 14 hour voluntary public curfew on 22 March; and ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, on 24 March, 2020.

I live in Malda, in West Bengal, with my husband and rest of our family lives in Burdwan, another district in West Bengal. I was very scared for my parent and in-laws, they all are aged; at the same time, I was afraid of the situation, we have to face. We were compelled to grant paid leave to our househelps from mid of March. I was just puzzled then. I didn’t understand how to manage all the daily chores! Here came my husband with his hands to help me out of this situation. I’m quite lucky I guess! Generally my hubby remains very busy with his works, but in this lock down period, he was instructed to do his works from home. So, he is sharing my loads happily. I really consider myself lucky and blessed, getting such a man as my buddy!

As the days go by, I discover we are getting closer. We enjoy the life by sharing domestic chores. I never can imagine my hubby to cook anything; but he now prepares breakfast daily! He helps me in so many work, that he never does before. But, I am really surprised, when a very morning, I find him front of washing machine with dirty clothes and Ariel Matic to do laundering! 

He was smiling, said – ‘why do always you take the responsibility to clean the dirty cloths both of us? I #ShareTheLaundry from now, so we can enjoy more time together!’ Although I felt emotional to hear the words, but I wanted to load the washing machine, because I was afraid about my cloths! But he did it all alone with the instruction, written on the packet of Ariel. 


After washing the cloths, when my husband open the machine and showed me the cloths; I was surprised! I think, he did it better than me and I congratulated him loudly! My husband was smiling like a king, who just won a battle!

The smile of my hubby made me smile; and I felt, the World around me became happier! I felt, that #ShareTheLoad makes relations better, happier and closer. All the lock down period, we leave together without any stress; because, we share our thoughts during work together. This lock down teaches me #ShareChoresMultiplyLove!

I will #ShareTheLoad and help in household chores in association with Ariel India and BlogAdda.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Festivals of India in the month of June

Urs Festival

Tomb of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti

The Urs festival is held at Ajmer, Rajasthan every year at the tomb of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, commemorating his symbolic union with God. The Urs, commemorative celebration is held in the solemn memory of Khwaja Muin-nddin Chisti, a sprightly respected Sufi saint fondly revered as the benefactor of the poor, popularly known as Gareeb Nawaz. The Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is the place where the Saints mortal remains lie buried and is the site of the largest Muslim Fair in India.

The Khwaja came from Persia and established the Chishtia order of fakirs in India. He is popularly known as Gharib Nawaz (protector of the poor) because he dedicated his entire life to the service of mankind. His spartan life spanned almost a hundred years and he embraced death in solitude while he had withdrawn to his cell for six days, asking not to be disturbed.

The shrine

The Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is the site of the largest Muslim fair in India. More than five lakh devotees belonging to different communities gather from all parts of the subcontinent to pay homage to the Khwaja on his Urs (death anniversary) during the first six days of Rajab (seventh month of the Islamic calendar.) Pilgrims from all over the world gather to pay homage. Qawalis (poems) are presented in the saint's honor and religious assemblies (mehfils) and 'fatihas' (mass prayers) are held. The lakeside town of Ajmer also called Ajmer Sharif (holy) comes alive during the Urs which attracts thousands of devotees irrespective of caste, religion etc. The largest Muslim fair in India that springs up at this time displays religious objects, books, rosaries, embroidered carpets and silver ornaments and much more.

Pilgrimages are carrying Chadar to the shrine

The Urs is initiated with the hoisting of a white flag on the dargah by the Sajjada Nashin (successor representative) of Chishtis. It is done on the 25th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir (sixth lunar month), with the accompaniment of music. On the last day of the sixth month, the Jannati-Darwaza (gateway of heaven) is flung open early in the morning. People cross this gate seven times with the belief that they will be assured a place in heaven. On the 1st of Rajab, the tomb is washed with rose water and sandalwood paste and anointed with perfumes. This ritual is called ghusal. The Sajjada Nashin then covers the tomb with an embroidered silk cloth.

The shrine receives a number of Chadars, Ghilaph and Neema, which are votive offerings from several hundred thousand devotees. These are brought by devotees on their heads and handed over to the khadims inside the sanctum. Outside the sanctum of the dargah, professional singers called qawwals in groups sing the praises of the saint in a characteristic high-pitched voice. People gather around them and listen attentively, sometimes clapping to the rhythm of their instruments.

Flow of devotees

Ajmer is 132 kms. Southwest of Jaipur and 198 kms. East of Jodhpur. It is connected by road to Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Udaipur and Kota. Ajmer is a railway junction on the Delhi-Ahmedabad section of the Western Railway. During the Urs, special buses ply from cities all over India carrying people to Ajmer and back.

Image Courtesy:

Monday, 10 February 2020

Destination India: Baranti - A World Of Romantic Tranquility

Love is the feeling that joins two souls and brings two hearts together; and, the day of love - we call Valentine's Day! When it comes to romantic times of the year, Valentine’s Day is number one on many people’s list. Traditionally, everyone goes all out to let their special someone knows how much he/she is appreciated on this day and every day. Some will say it with flowers while others will bring on the bling! Others will get creative with customized dates while some will play it low-key with an at-home dinner date and together time.  I can suggest you, this year, go for an outing to a totally romantic and calm place; and Express the wonderful feeling of love to your partner on the Valentine's Day!


If you ever want to get away from urban life, try ‘Baranti’ for a refreshing change. Baranti is a small picturesque hamlet surrounded by hillocks. It is situated in Purulia district, West Bengal. It takes just 4-5 hours to reach there from Kolkata.

Baranti, due to its effortlessly serene and peaceful environment has become one of the most famous gateways for people who seek to indulge in the virginity of nature and rejuvenate their souls by becoming one with the Mother Nature. It is a perfect spot for a short break from the hustle and monotony of city life. This place is one of those very few locations which remain fresh and evergreen in the memories of people who witness its beauty.

Baranti is located in the midst of two hills; Panchet hill at one side and Biharinath on the other. A water reservoir has been constructed by erecting a small earthen dam between Muradi Hill and Baranti Hill. The tribal village is named after the Baranti hill and the lake is named after the Muradi Hill. The water of the reservoir look like a large blue painted glass mirror reflecting the vast expanse of sky over it. 

The view of the sunset at the lake is awesome. The area is shrouded with trees like Sal, Mahua, Piyal, Palash etc. the lake is filled with seasonal birds in the winter. 

The hilly forest often transforms into different colours during the change of seasons. It is intensely thrilling to hear the wild cries of nocturnal birds wafting out of the hills in the dead of night. A walk through the villages like Jibanpur and Dandahit is a pleasant experience.

If you have some extra time, visit some interesting places near Baranti:

Joychandi Hills

It is About 12 km away from Baranti. The hills provide good terrain for a moderate trek. The hills were where a portion of Satyajit Ray’s ‘Hirok Rajar Deshe’ was shot.

Garh Panchokot

Panchkot was a part of an ancient East Indian kingdom known as Rajchakla Panchkot, locally known as Panchet. Damodar Sekhar, established Panchkot Raj probably during early 90 AD with the help of Sardars of Jhalda and expanded his kingdom over several other parganas. To give recognition to the main five (panch) clans (khunt) of the locals, the kingdom assumed the name Panchkot. A group of temples are still standing as mute spectators of the rise and fall of the dynasty. The Pancharatna temple still carries some depleted but exquisite piece of presumably pre-muslim period terracotta work on its arches and pillars.

Maithon Dam

Maithon also known as 'Kashmir of Koyalanchal’. The Dam is Independent India's first Dam Project (one of Nehru's dreams). The Dam is the biggest dam of damodar valley corporation and was built for flood control and power generation. It is a very famous picnic and weekend destination.

Kalyaneshwari Temple

The Kalyaneshwari Temple is famous as the “Temple of the Lady of Fulfillment”.  It is a 500 years old centre of Shakti worship. The present temple, however, is not very old and was constructed by Panchakot Raj. The temple of Goddess Kalyaneshwari is believed to fulfill the wishes of childless women. The worshipped deity in the temple is Maa Kalyaneshwari, who is present in the form of Shakti or Goddess Kali.

Also, you can visit  some more places like Panchet Hills, Panchet Dam, Susunia Hills, Kashipur Rajbarij (palace), Raghunathpur Tasar Silpa.

It is surprising that this unique tourist spot is not much known to tourists, even though it is located so close to Kolkata. If you are a nature-lover, you must have a trip to Baranti

How to reach:

By Train:

At first, reach Kolkata by train or flight. Then reach Asansol by any train from Howrah/Sealdah/Kolkata Railway Station. You can find so many cabs at Asansol Railway station. Hire one of them to Baranti. Also, you can go to Muradi Station and reach Baranti village either by Cycle Rickshaws or by hired vehicles.

By Bus:

Many buses are available from Kolkata to Asansol. They depart either from Dharamtala or Salt Lake Bus Stand (Karunamoyee) to Asansol in the morning. Tourists can avail either Volvo service or any other Express bus service to reach Asansol within 4 hours and can proceed described above.

Where to Stay: 

There are so many family Resorts at Baranti – Baranti Wildlife & NatureStudy Hut, Palashbari, Akaashmoni,  Ankhaibari, Aaronnok etc. You can book online any before you go there.