Aug 28, 2015

Varalaxmi Vratam

My loving Mother-in-law and me on the occasion of Varalaxmi Puja

Being married inter-caste has its own excitement associated to it. Apart for the initial turmoil of adjustments, it exposes one to a sea of traditions that are beyond the regular. This is true to my own situation. I come from a 'Probashi-Bangali' home and married a Vaidiki Vellenadu Telegu Brahmin. Sounds so chatoic...

Well, not really. As a couple we have embraced our traditions with complete open arms and are happy that our son is being exposed to a series of traditions that will hopefully keep him anchored to his roots...

Here are some glimpses from my 'in-laws' home celebrating the auspicious occasion of Varalaxmi- a festival to propitiate the goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, one of the Hindu Trinity.

Varalaxmi- The one who grants boons!

Varalaxmi Vratam is the celebration of Goddess Laxmi in her 'Ashtalaxmi' avataar. It is believed that praying to her on the occasion of Varalaxmi is equal to praying to all 8 forms of her that are worshiped as Siri (Wealth), Bhu (Earth), Sarasvathi (learning), Prithi (Love), Keerthi (Fame), Shanthi (Peace), Santhushti(Pleasure) and Pushti(Strength). This is the 'Diwali' equivalent of the Southern States of India.

Laxmi has 8 forms in which she is worshiped. 

It is a regional festival performed by married women from states of Andhra, Telengana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Maharashtra. The puja is performed on all Friday's in the fortnight known as Sukla paksha, preceding the full moon day of the month of Sravan. The most preferred of the Friday is the one that is closest to the Poornima (full moon), and it is the one that my family celebrates.

Handcrafted idol of Goddess Laxmi, she is known as 'Padmasini- One who sits on a Lotus & one who holds the lotus'.

Day of the celebration:

Decoration of the Goddess and her mandapam is kept ready a day prior to the festival. On the morning of the Puja a collective time is spent in getting the Neivedyam and floral decorations ready. True to its nature, while the puja is performed by the women the family chips in only to get treated to lip smacking neivedyam which typically includes a variety of South Indian delicacies.

The face of the Laxmi is placed on a coconut adorned with Silk in the form of a saree. Once she is placed on her throne she is decorated with Gold ornaments and flowers. It is quiet a creative job and its amazing to see the devotee pour her heart into decorating her Laxmi. 

Once the rituals are completed the family gets ready for guests, typically married women who come home for 'Haldi-Kunku'. The lady of the house welcomes the other married women with the turmeric & vermilion powder followed by handing her guest fruits, a sari, neivedyam & a sweet smelling jasmine flower garland for her hair. The ritual is very warm and inviting especially since there is tremendous camaraderie among the community who celebrates this together. It is one time when all the women chit chat and catch up, a welcome break from the mundane.

My Mother-in-laws Varalaxmi in her full glory.

Evening Deepam

The 'Mushunuri' family after a happy Varalaxmi celebration- August 2015

I am journeying through a lot of these beautiful moments as the Daughter-in-law of the house and each passing year is drawing more intrigue & participation from me in this beautiful annual celebration.

As I continue to learn under the able guidence of my Mother-in-law, a capture from my Husband that defines my being!

Until the next one, signing off!


Aug 22, 2015

Shidoor Laal Dhakai, perhaps a choice of the new bride or maybe not!

Just the sound 'shidoor laal' (vermillion red) brings alive the imagery of a stunning Indian bride.In Bengal, it is the quintessential color of choice for the young bride and as custom has it, every traditional wedding concludes with the smearing of shidoor in the middle parting of the hair, customary to the Hindu brides. Kalighat, is one such place where you will find various shades of this color strewn across its aisles.

Glimpses of Kalighat: A newly married couple seek blessings of the Goddess& shidoor vendor with her wares.

Shidoor Laal Dhakai:

Coming back to my Dhakai, this shari was a Durga Pujo gift from my Mother to us, me & my sister (we are 3 sister, 2 of us married) in 2011. Red is the color of Shakti, a spiritual lineage followed by many Matriarchal communities in India and considered auspicious for the married women. This is one of my lightest and most glamorous Dhakai's and adds to the mood of 'RED' when desired.

Gold adornments that completes the glamour quotient of this shari.

Fish is very integral to Bengali culture. A Bengali Wedding is incomplete without fish!

Closer look at the mantasha design. Compliements the lota (leaf creeper) of the body.

The 'kamar patta' that jingles every time one walks. All sounds of joyous celebration & festivities.

Summing up the look for my RED Dhakai.

Well, not so much the bride, yet sporting the look. :)

A shari of this type fits in perfectly for all those traditional moments of life including ones like weddings. I am a big fan of contrasts and combinations of brokades, tissues or even bandhni would make this quiet a dramatic wear. Sharing some glimpses of this weave.

Resting a while post the Shondhi Pujo, the occasion for which Ma had gifted us the shari & a closer look at the weave.

This concludes my Dhakai Shari series. Now that you have read through my RED best, do flip over and look through some more in my collection:

Next up will be some silks that I just cant live without. Some looks that compliment these weaves and also 'Shari acquisition tales' that I keep pouring into you!

Until the next one, stay tuned and 'shari-lucious'!


Dhakai Shari- some more colors, some more hues...

Last week I shared a collection of 3 my favorite Dhakai's (that's how one refers to these beauties in Bengal) from my wardrobe. Today I am showcasing my Yellow-gold and Oriental Lilly Pink, both bought in the year 2008.

Gifts of labour! :) Literally...!!!

Poila Boishak (Bengali New Year) indulgences: All full of sentimental values!

Most of my shari's have a huge sentimental value woven into them. The 2 I share with you today were gifts from my Husband when I was carrying our son. Still recall the warm summer breeze setting in, the Shari-wala (Bengali's have designated Shari Vendors from Calcutta who come home to sell special wears every year) displaying his collection while a I choose my best pick. The occasion was Poila Boishak (Bengali New Year) and I was sure of buying 1 but who wouldn't give into the lure of the 2 I eventually picked up. The colors were just so perfect given the weather outside.

Yellow-gold Dhakai Jamdani    

This Jamdani is my constant companion for many occasions. I have worn it for a friends Mehendi, wore it for Pushpanjali mornings during durga Pujo, sported it on a summer evening get together and even worn it for official meets. An universal base color that can be contrasted with moods. Many many moods... :)

Multi-purpose wear.

Contrast, works best with this color.

:) One of the looks with the contrast at play. 

Oriental Lilly Pink, the perfect choice for the pregnancy glow!

Well that's how my husband referred to this shari but even today it adds to the glow. The color is just so pretty evenly contrasting with the mango yellow work, again one weave that ends up being an universal wear. I have carried this one with me on several travels especially knowing that I may end up going for a formal evening or even visiting extended family which usually ends up being unplanned! The universal best choice for that day when I need to look coy yet me!

Tropical Lilly Pink

Spread out 'lota' (leaves) design adds to the grace of this shari.

Same 'shari' but numerous hues.

Shidoor Laal, the show stopper.

"Dhakai Shari- The most excuisite muslin!" and this post bring out the best of my Dhakai collections (I have many more but will bring them back to you on another day). However, the stunning 'shiddor' red (vermillion red) is an exquisite post in the making. That one will follow as an exclusive post following this read.

Stay tuned for the Vermilion Red!

Also, if you have liked my shaari series don't miss my post "Dance to my souls content" where I have given a sneak peak into my dance costume and a small collection of temple jewelry.

While you read some more about me do stay tuned for the 'RED' that is yet to surface. :)

Until then...


Aug 16, 2015

Dhakai Shari- The most exquisite muslin!

Dhakai Muslin, considered as one of the most aristocratic fabric of choice, a symbol of luxury. Originating in ancient Bengal, muslins became famous during the Mughal rule when they were exported from Dhaka to the Middle East and much of Europe.

The choice of fabric of the Royals & Aristocrats:

Having grown up in a Bengali household which boasts of Shantiniketan lineage- Mother and Masi (influence of elite students from Dhaka with royal lineage studied in this institute), it was impossible to miss the exotic variety of Dhakai Jamdani at home. While superficially it looked like coarse sheets of fine paper but when laid out open, it would leave one in absolute admiration of the intricacy of art that each of these 6 yards unfold.

Muslin is fine quality of cotton originally found to have deep historic relevance to India.

Buying a Sari of this nature is nothing less than a ritual. The color, design lineage, weave count, the fineness of muslin and most important of all, the jewelry that will eventually be adorned with this weave are the most important decision that tips over the eventual buy. This is one exciting purchase and the feeling comes closest to the sentiments one has while buying the bridal trousseau!

Buying muslin is incomplete if the final look is not planned.

Here is a collection I have managed to preserve and maintain over the years. It is after all my indulgence of choice. :)

Pista green body with pastel pink and purple jamdani work:

One of my oldest muslins that dates back to 1998. Nearly 2 decades old and has been my companion during many beautiful wears. Over the years, this beauty is yielding to softness, which during the initial days used to be the perfect 'taut and stiff'. Recently noticed that some parts of the saree is beginning to give way to tear. Still trying to save this beauty in my collection and though she is fading I wish to give you a closer peek at this weave.

Traditional jewelry for my pista green dhakai.

'Doodhe-alta' Red Dhakai with gold tinged jamdani:

This was a gift from my Husband after my Son was born. A product of 2008, this is one wear that is perfect at every possible occasion. It looks elegant when draped for festivals, perfect for an evening party and fits in just as well in a sophisticated art show. The unique differentiating factor for this weave is the variety of jewelry and accessories that compliments this wear for various occasions. One of my favorite in my 6 yards collection.

With Hyderabadi Pearls to bring out the elegance of this weave.

Accentuate the drama with larger beads.

Keep the traditional look with Gold and minakari.

Saffron body with green and gold jamdani:

A birthday gift from my sweetheart mother, this sari is a product of 2012. Very unique combination sets this one apart. It is a classic day wear sari and when accessorized can be worn for various occasions. A heavy Gold set makes it perfect for a day wedding, a dark pearl lets me wear it for a tea party and the Gujrati -Kutch bead work makes it perfect for a theater break.

Keep it plain, drop a gem or simply pair a dramatic dangler. This one stands out just as it is!

Apart from these 3 in my Dhakai shari collection I have a few more in vivid colors and designs, which I shall share with you as another post on another day.

Meanwhile, do drop in your thoughts on this read.

For more read on Dhakai Muslin, you can click here. To feast on more designs and styles you can find some in my Pinterest Posts else just google 'Dhakai Jamdani' in Goggle Images and enjoy the feed.

Until the next time,



Aug 1, 2015

Dance to my souls content!

Dance is devotion. It helps me express my desires, allows me to emote my being and most importantly connects me to the divine.

Dance is devotion.

As a child when I danced I did it just because I loved it so much. Though I went for classical dance classes through a large part of my growing up days I was unable to connect to it spiritually. All I liked about dancing were the colorful attires and waited for a time when I could adorn those beautiful jewelry for a stage performance.

As a child, I was drawn to the 'shringaar' of a beautiful dancer. The colors she wore, the jewelry she flaunted, the expression and the grace of the art.

The quest for dancing kept evolving over years and for a very long time I yearned to get back to formal training format. I did try a few times but failed in connecting with the guides and thus got totally disheartened.

Almost as if the forces up there were watching, much later (after my Son was born) about 6 years back, I discovered my current day Guru. She is a person who has the most calming effect on me. Someone who encouraged me to dance and this time I have found a person who has answers for all my quests. I seek meaning in what I perform and that is my way of meditating, coming closer to the Divine. My Guru makes it even more desirable with her able direction.

Nataraj in my Dance studio. It is belived that the origin of Nritya dates back to his tandav.

However, the dazzle of the 'shringaar' continues to mesmerize me and true to my childhood dreams, I live it through my own wardrobe of costumes & jewelry now. Interestingly, the science around 'shringaar' is unfolding its mysteries as I am engaging deeper with this art. Here is a glimpse of some of my collection from my ever growing treasure chest of dance costumes and adornments.

My Lakshmi series: the long necklace studded with white stones to balance the purple attire.

Gaja Lakshmi Temple Jewelry: A must have in every dancers treasure chest.

The graceful spread of the costume with the essential adornments.

Jasmine flower, a culture that is so intense and fragrant!

Jari, originally used to be weaved with pure Gold thread.

Feminine romance (lysya) invoked by Jari, Gold, Diamond and Flowers

Ruby, pearl and diamonds: A girls best friend!

Jasmine buds open up to immerse us in its freshness.

Magical transformation of the mesmerizing Dancer.

Concluding shot of the attire and fragrant jasmine makes me want to hit the stage this very moment. :)

Hope you have enjoyed this visual journey, a passion and quest I want to dedicate my life to.

Until the next blog.