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The festive mania

The Navaratri mania is over. Phew! Now, don't mistake me. I am all for the tradition and the festivities but when it goes beyond one's reasoning and ceases to retain its flavour to turn into just a mad frenzy of calling sundry maamis over and going over to another set of sundry maami's houses for "vettalai paaku", its time to take stock. With due respect to the intentions and sentiments that go behind celebrating a festival, I feel today the original custom has been twisted and contorted to the extent of dis-figuration.

The scene goes like this : some maami chances upon you at the temple/road/someone else's house and invites you over for "vettalai-paaku". You don't know her too well but you go nevertheless because of respect or sentiments. Its your turn then, you call the same mami with whom you have never spoken more than two lines in the chance encounter of five times in a year, out of courtesy. Another lady is very enterprising and decides that the usual tambulam is boring and decides to add colour to it by 'gifting' some article that could range anywhere from a steel-ware to trays to show-pieces to fancy handicraft items. This new practice is 'copied' by others and 'improvised' by few others to incorporate a sense of competition amongst people who give and take tambulams. The coconuts overflow on the kitchen counter and the same ones that were given to one are given off to some others.

What is the point and purpose of the this whole exhausting exercise where the recipient and the giver are out to "out-do" one another or are simply following the herd out of the need to 'return the favour'? The essence, joy and flavour of a festival is not only lost on needless rituals, on the contrary it only only brings in a distaste and a sigh of relief when the festival gets over. The customs need to be retained in their true form, rituals evolved to include helping needy people. Nothing fancy is required. Maybe you can offer 'bonus dakshinai' for your maid, cleaner or some such people who are in need of necessities instead of loading people of the same strata or upper strata with mindless rounds of coconuts and 'gifts' that are passed on like batons in a race and in the end, largely go unused or 'wasted'. If at all you feel the need to go out of the ordinary, you can probably distribute eco-friendly products that are cheap and reusable and encourage others to do the same. People can come home to pay obeisance to the deities and take part in the golu, if any, however discourage the urge to call someone only because you are 'guilty' of receiving the tambulam from that individual. That will ensure the true circulation of positive vibes that come from wish and not from compulsion. Just my two cents here. What do you feel?


  1. Phew! It's over.
    Too many caution warning by parents.

  2. giving and taking gifts has become a formality these days... gifts should be given only out of love and respect... not to return a favour... but... this is how our society is... i completely agree with you on this... n one ques.... what is tambulam????

  3. Hi Uma,

    This is my first reply in your site. Appreciate your honest post and the nice blog you have here.

    Agree! My husband and I are not religious and I get very nervous when this season begins. How to react when you get those invitations? I used to simply avoid talking to anyone or keep my head low in order to avoid any contacts.

    We are currently out of India but we will returning for good soon. I'm thinking hard about handling these situations smoothly without losing my peace.

  4. Prateek: LOL prateek! what warnings were issued?..:-)

    Radhika: very true..and tambulam literally means the paan that is eaten after food..and more on why we offer it is here:

    p.s. even i did not know the actual significance, we do many things because it has been done that way since aeons..;-) googled it just for you...:-)

    Vidhya: Thank you so much vidhya for the lovely words and welcome here!! glad, you de-lurked.
    seriously, nervousness is the word here..but don't you sure you'll find a way around this and maintain peace..:-) else rant about it like many of us do here..hehe..
    hope to see you around...

  5. Read that article... even i didn't know of so many things... thanks!!

  6. True, Uma. However I haven't ever encountered such things myself tho I know they do take place. Why, is it that bad where u live in Blr? Just askin'...:))

  7. Aparna: I am talking about my mom's place in thane. This is a huge colony with plenty of tamizh makkal, most of who are middle-aged and old maamis. Also when you stay in a place for 20 odd years you tend to have sooooo many acquaintances. A 10 min walk down the road will ensure you meet as many people. I am happy at blore with just friends for company..:-)

  8. Hey Uma,

    Can understand your sentiments, remember doing the rounds when I was young with my mom and wondering how much more sundal I would have to eat!!

    I'm one of the people who has not kept golu at home, so not participated in this give-and-take much since growing up. Only this year in the course of visiting for something else I came across this in full swing, literally coming back home with my arms loaded from what I thought was a casual visit !!

    The nice part I found was that people make quite an effort, and they even had something special for the kids which of course is very thrilling for them :).

  9. I see giving 'Vettalai Paaku' as the 'joy of giving'. When we try thinking of why it must have been introduced, maybe to bring in the 'Daana' concept.
    I hardly could celebrate this time. Was busy shifting to Pune!

    Uma, please remove the word verification from the comments. would be helpful and faster

  10. Aparna and Sahana: yeah, the socializing part seems good and also for the kids its exciting to get gifts.
    The "danam" part is the crucial part but "gifts" seem unnecessary. And when the same coconut or gift make a "recycle" entry to others house, the entire purpose of this give and take is lost. Hence my wish that the "vettalai paaku" is limited to its true sense of just that and not the "extra" features that people add these days.
    sahana, the word verification is gone now..:-)

  11. Uma, it could have been me writing this post:)!! Most practices are now reduced to just formalities! I have refrained from visiting people that I 'don't know'. Navarathri was probably devised to socialize.. just maybe.. or I think so.. Hope it retains at least that one flavour:)

  12. of course you are right! but then I am shameless..I just recycle and thengai to another mami and one comb from one mami to another...I know I know I am cheap!

  13. Vidya: yes, socialize..but now even socializing has taken on an entire different perspective. Hope the golu tradition remains.

    RM aww..didn't mean to offend anyone here. Just my two cents here..
    welcome here and thanks for commenting!


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