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The Maharashtrian Sari

Friday, April 02, 2010

I wrote about the Sari in my Blog yesterday----there seems to be a lot of curiosity about this garment---people know of it but not what it is.I'll try to clear up the confusion to the best of my ability.
From Maharashtra starts the reign of the nine yards Sari-----this is actually 9 yards of material and is common to most of the Southern States-----Maharashtra,Goa,Karnataka and Tamil Nadu----It is draped differently in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu---Goa and Maharashtra drape it in a similar fashion.It istied round the waist,and the folds are drawn back through the legs and tucked into the waist at the back.Wearing it thus ensures a lot of mobility of the wearer---in the old days this enabled a lot of women-----both Queens and Commoners to move about the strenous tasks easily----riding and climbing up the steep hillsides of the Forts on top of the Sahyadri range..
Both my grandmas---Akka and Aaji wore only nine yard Saris all their lives----it was fascinating to watch them draping it!!!First the sari would be pleated from end to end by hand----and the bunch of Pleats tied together-----after this it would be cracked like a whip in the Air-----this straightened out the folds and helped to drape it in a form fitting manner.The wearing would begin by draping the outer edge or "Padar" round the shoulder to desired length.After this the inner end called the "aatlaa Padar" would slid around the waist and knotted securely.The Sari would then be pleated into a certain number of equal folds------these would be tucked in at the waist in a certain way.After being tucked in the folds would be divided and a certain fold would be passed between the legs,pleated again and tucked securely at the waist in the back.The Sari would then be adjusted around the thighs and calves to fit snugly but demurely------a well draped 9 yard Sari was very flattering to the female form----it specially highlighted and emphasised every curve!!!!
As against this the six yard is worn over a petticoat-----tied at the waist.The inner end is to be tucked in first and the Sari would be tucked securely around the waist.The outer end called the "Padar" or "Pallu"is then be draped over the shoulder-------the remaining material is then pleated by hand into equal folds and tucked in at the waist in front.While this gives mobility and freedom of movement it also gives a lot of restriction----during the high Summer heat the cotton petticoats stick the legs while walking----thanks to the heavy perspiration we all suffer from---SPECIALLY in Mumbai.
I personally prefer wearing the 6 yards Sari---while I love the beauty of the 9 yard Sari I feel that a really good figure is necessary to do it justice-----both my Grandmas were pretty well proportioned even in old age---and thus carried the Sari gracefully.Today we all possess a nine yard Sari---a must in the Temples of Family Dieties in Goa---not allowed beyond a certain point into the Sanctum Sactorum without it!!!!While these are stitched to order these days our Temples still insist only on the Draped ones----that too of pure thick Silk only!!!
The names of the various varieties are many but the most expensive among both the 9 and 6 yards Saris are hand woven "Paithanis"----woven by hand on the loom with pure Gold or Silver thread---frightfully and exorbitantly expensive but breathtakingly beautiful!!!To possess one of these is the dream of every Marathi woman!!!The other varieties are the gossamer type hand woven Maheshwari and Chanderi saris----so fine and light----they're heaven to wear and have ranges to fit every pocket.There are the "Banarsi Silks","Jaamdaanis" ,"Irkallis","Ikats","Patolas",Kanjeevarams
-----oh soooo many----the list is endless!!!
Today most of us prefer to wear the "Salwar---Kurta" the Indian version of a pant and long shirt.Many young women prefer to wear Jeans and T-Shirts on a daily basis.These clothes make the movements needed to board Local Trains to work,college or just outings-----hence are more popular.However each Special Occasion or Event merits a Sari----the most beautiful of all Indian Wear!!!!

  
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ZANNACHAN 4/2/2010 2:31PM

    Thanks for the explanation! I don't know if I've ever seen a 9 yard sari; I'm pretty sure that what I've seen around here are the 6 yard ones. Hindu women may wear the 9 yard ones to the temples here; I wouldn't know as I've never been to a Hindu temple. The Salwar--Kameez are really common here too, among Indian women. I actually have one myself, though it doesn't fit any more--very pretty and very comfortable, especially in the height of summer.

One of my favorite memories is spending an afternoon with a couple of friends going through the saris that my friend and her mom had--all very carefully put away, with gorgeous silks and patterns. So beautiful. It was like a walk-in-closet full of rare treasures.

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EACHDAYAGIFT 4/2/2010 12:28PM

    When Lloyd went to India, he brought me back an inexpensive set of the "Salwar---Kurta" made of printed cotton. The pants were so fitted at the calves, there was no way I could get into them! But the top fit. I am pear shaped, but still...it was very odd. Maybe these were made just for tourists with no regard for whether a person could actually wear it!! Laura and I warned him to buy us jewelry, not clothes, but maybe he didn't find any good deals. He did bring back two carved elephants that I love. One is made of wood, and the other, a really intriguing one, is carved of stone and has open latticework sides, through which were carved a smaller elephant inside, and a tiny one inside that! All of one piece! We love that little guy!

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SAASHA17 4/2/2010 12:27PM

    cant wait to wear sarees when i go to india..here i dont find a reasont o wear....even for indian parties, i end up wearing salwar kameez...maybe once i get married i cud do that:)...

even in andhra for the main muhurut we wear a white 9yard worn in the traditional way...man i really need to shape up:)...i dnt want to look monstrous in it as its pure cotton and white...arghh...unless i have a registered marriage..hehe...then no worries....i love kancheevaram sarees...esp the double colored ones...:)...

My cousin wore satya paul sarees for her wedding..they r ready made..she just pulled it up and zipped it...how stupid..huh..the whole point of the saree is to make the pleats and etc etc...and these sarees come ready made..all pleats and stuff..all u do is wear it like a skirt and pull the pallu..lol...

Manasa emoticon

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The Old Mansion at Saawantwaadi

Thursday, April 01, 2010

My maternal Grandfather's(Aazoba's) family hails from the tiny Principality of Saawant Waadi or "Waadi" as it is locally known in the Konkan region of Maharashtra.Full of thick Coconut and Areca Nut(Supaari)Groves as well as Mango,Cashew and Mangosteen Orchards-----this place also grows a Fruit called "Papnas"----belonging to the Citrus Family.Papnases are an acquired taste---this looks like an overgrown Orange with a pinky green skin and tastes like a slightly bitter Grape Fruit.This tiny place is also famous for it's Cottage Industry---it is the only place in India which produces the rare Indian Card Game----"Ganjipha" Playing Cards----these are round and with painted themes on both sides.The rulesfor playing this game are becoming a forgotten Art but these beautiful hand made Cards remain a Collector's item.Wooden Toys and Fruits too feature as highlights of this place---Aazoba's showcase still has a large variety of these made from solid Teak Wood and painted in realistic Colours----these have given me hours of pleasure as child!!!!
The old Family home here is a Palatial Mansion known in Marathi as a "Waadaa" .These used to be fortified homes with huge wooden gates studded with Brass Studs.A tiny Door used to be cut in one of the Gates for easy access---the Gates themselves only opened for Carriages and later Automobiles.This is a huge place and has four side entrances as well-----in Aazoba's childhood it housed the entire extended Family within it's walls------all the children grew up as siblings---there used to be no such thing as being first cousins---the blood ties were very strong!!!One of Aazoba's first cousins---called Akka Maami---had taken offence because he'd introduced her as his Uncle's daughter----her grouse was that he could have called her just his sister instead!!!Even today my three maternal Uncles-----each other's first cousins all------Nana Mama,Bal Mama and Dipu Mama----named in order of birth----look after the place.My profile picture is a Photograph of one of the Verandahs of the Old House-----there are other Photographs too of the old Home on my Photos page---for those interested in seeing these.
I love the Waadkari Culture---very strong Family ties bind this Community together and the language---it's lyrical cadences gently rise and fall according to the tempo of the conversations----extremely musical!!!!!I can't speak this dialect beyond a smattering but love listening to it---specially during my childhood when conversations used to flow around me as I slowly drifted into deep sleep!!!!When my Aazoba built his own Bungalow in Poona after he retired from Government Service,he let out parts of the Waadaa to tenants---who still live there. The Waadaa today hs been modernised with a proper Loo,Cooking Gas and Electricity------but retains it's old world charm.
Every year during the month of Shravan(mid-July till mid August)the Ganapati Idol is constructed in the Courtyard from scratch---using only traditional materials.This Idol is worshipped on the 4th.Day of Bhadrapad called Ganesh Chaturthi and the following day---Rushi Panchami.The Menus are traditional fixed---all the Vegetables and Courses never vary----my Uncles wear the Dhoti and my aunts dress in the traditional Nine Yard Saris. That day ancient Rites and Rituals take place as prescribed by centuries old trditions.My three Uncles take turns in performing this Pooja---whoever is performing the Pooja abstains from eating even Onion and Garlic during "Chaturmaas"----the four month period starts around the beginning of July and ends around first week of November with "Tripuri Pournima" that year.
This old place is beautiful---but terribly spooky and legends abound in the Family.Among us Hindus we observe a certain restraint during the Menstrual Cycle----during the first four days after the bleeding starts we'd be treated like untouchables in the old days!!!The Waada has a different Suite of rooms for living apart during those four days each month-----food would be left at the edge of this area and those occupying the Suite of Rooms would have their meals there.Even though after the Meals, the vessels would be washed by the occupant(s) of the Rooms----Water would be poured over them from a height to fully purify them!!!On the fifth day of the Menstrual cycle, the Girl/Woman in question would stand fully clothed in the Courtyard at Dawn and have bucket fulls of Water poured over her by the Well---this was the purification ceremony!!!After this she returned to the Family fold in the main house.
Mummy used to say tht this ritual was a must-----otherwise the whole place would be over run by Cobras------"Naags" as they were called.Mummy used to have a healthy respect for observing the ritual of "Sovalay" or wearing pure Silk Clothes which remain pure----Cotton is "defiled"easily by touch!!!My paternal Grandma---Akka---was one who just never bothered about this and nor did my Parents-----but my maternal Grandma Aaji observed this in a milder form----we were asked to steer clear of the Pooja room and the Kitchen---at Waadi---the rule was strictly enforced----nobody wanted a glimpse of those dreaded Reptiles!!!!.
Nearby is the tiny Hill Station of Amboli----legendary for it's association with Lord Parshurama---and is a quiet beautiful and restfull place---getting developed now.I promise myself a visit each year during the Vacation but never really get there----I'm proud of my Waadkari connections even though I'm an out and out total Ghaati!!!!

  
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ZANNACHAN 4/1/2010 9:18PM

    That almost sounds like something out of a book or something. What rich memories you must have!

A lot of cultures have similar practices for menstruating women. In my family, it was just invisible--not talked about unless absolutely necessary. Even with my mom, it was mostly addressed indirectly. At least no one poured cold water over me (in the winter especially--brrrr!)

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EACHDAYAGIFT 4/1/2010 8:59AM

    Thanks for explaining the pictures. The place looks amazing. I think I would have died of embarrassment every month in those days!!!! I guess women got used to it, but I've always felt very embarrassed about all my bodily functions. To be ceremonially doused over one of them might be more than I could take! emoticon

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My Parents-in-Law

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My parents-in-law, Atya and Baba were a very dynamic couple.Baba had taken his degree in Law and was an OS ---which was then considered a Degree equivalent to that of a Barrister from Lincoln's Inn in London.He was a reputed Advocate of the Bombay High Court and had given up his Judgeship because his conscience shied away from the Dealth Penalty.He went on to become a name to be reckoned with in his practice as a Counsel and had many renowned friends. Both atya and Baba were very popular---in fact Atya was a renowned hostess----her menus and parties were talked about for days after the event!!!!
Both were extremely emancipated considering the period----in fact my Grandmother-in-Law had encouraged Atya and her other co-sisters- in- law to wear the six yard Sari instead of the traditional nine yard one.Not just this,all the four daughters-in-law were encouraged to study further-----or do those activities that each one enjoyed and had an aptitude for.Atya studied further and took a "Vishaarad" in Marathi and Sanskrit.She and her sisters-in-law became adept in the Finer Arts---Knitting,Embroidery,Cooking------ea
ch one improved their skills according to choice. They played Badminton in Seva Ashram where they were members----Atya was a popular voice on the All India Radio as well as being a member of many Mahila Mandals(Women's Clubs)----she used to act in many Mandal plays too.
Both ----Atya and Baba-----were active members of the Sahitya Sangh----the Playwright's and Writer's Association of the time.Extremely fond of Music,Literature and Plays,both passed on their love for these to all four of their children---both my sisters-in-law---Kunda and Suhas as well as Milind and Sudhir are voracious readers.My brother-in-law Milind was a die hard fan of "Pu.La" as the Writer/Playwright/Director/Actor P.L. Deshpande was popularly known--
--Pu.La.was a family friend too.Both enjoyed the Movies and I remember the fun I'd have each time we visited Bombay---Baba was responsible for an inexhustible supply of Superman,Wonder Woman and a host of other Comics as well---he too loved the Sad Sack ones!!!
Baba's collection of Books had books by Lin Yutang---a Chinese writer of the medieval Era as well as Books by a host of contemporary Writers.I first read Somerset Maugham's book "Razor's Edge" at the old home in Bombay.Unfortunately Baba passed away in 1966---6th.November----and Atya changed totally.From being an outgoing and sociable person she turned into a traditional woman----restricted her activities completely!!!Till today the only explanation I can find is that she perhaps lost her motivation to live-----not that she moped around---she just turned into the traditional epitome of Indian womanhood.
Atya and Baba had a very successfull marriage---I feel proud of the relationship they shared---it was unique in that period--they were each other's best friends.Atya passed way in November 27th.1994---just a month before Meha's birth.The 30 years that she lived after Baba she devoted fully to her Family---her children and grandchildren.I am proud to be her niece by birth and daughter-in-law by marriage---it was a real privilege to be related to both these wonderful people!!!!

  
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ZANNACHAN 4/1/2010 9:10PM

    Atya and Baba sound like really special people. Thanks for sharing!

Dumb American question, but what's the difference between the 6 yard sari and the 9 yard one? Is the 6 yard one more comfortable, or easier to wear, but also more revealing or something? I know what saris look like, but I'm afraid I don't know much about how one is worn, if that makes sense--I wouldn't know how to wear one.

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EACHDAYAGIFT 3/31/2010 9:21AM

    What a gift to her daughters Atya's mother was, to see beyond what was expected , to see the potential and gifts her daughter's possessed and nurture and encourage them to dare to try what they were passionate about. What a rich family atmosphere to grow up in, and what good fortune that you, being so gifted a writer and having such a thirst for learning ended up marrying into this happy environment!

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MESSENE 3/31/2010 7:56AM

    emoticon emoticonfor sharing. emoticonblog! And Family too! emoticonBest wishes!!! emoticon emoticon

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Travelling with the Family

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vacations are fun times------sometimes more than one bargains for!!!!Sudhir is the youngest in his family of four siblings---he has two sisters and one brother.While his sisters accompanied us sometimes their children always were a part of out trips-----having all the children together------nine of them between the four siblings------ used to be great fun!!!!
Milind,Sudhir's elder brother was a regular prankster----the poor children would be his target all the time.We'd pack all our stuff the day before and would wake up early the next morning---at dawn actually.By 6a.m. we'd hit the road---stopping at Matunga(a suburb of Mumbai) for a lovely hot Breakfast of steaming Idlis,crisp Dosais and piping hot Sambaar----after which we'd again hit the road.The way out of Mumbai towards Pune(Poona) is via the 3 circles----Jacob's Circle at Dadar T.T.,then King's Circle at Matunga and finally Sion Circle.Milind would start circling the Sion Circle---asking the poor kids to choose---either Mumbai or Pune!!!!The poor kids would then wilt and look very sad and their long faces would prompt him to proceed towards Pune.
Those days we had to pass through the steep Khandala Ghat----this was very steep and the road had an incline of 60 degrees at times.At the base of this mountainous road was Khopoli---famous for Batata(Potato) Vadas from Ramakanth Bhuvan---a must on every trip.A halt would be called while the entire contingent gorged on hot,crisp Vadas and their special Chutney.Hunger pangs satisfied faces would turn onwards---towards ascending the steep Ghat.
When we hit the Ghat after Khopoli Atya,my mother-in-law would start singing "Bhajans"(Hymns) and all the children would join in with gusto.There was a reason for this.The steep inclines of the Ghats had a way of heating up the engines of our cars--overloaded to the hilt with Adults,Children and loads of luggage!!!!All this created a need for Divine intervention ------to help reach the plateau at the top----Lonavala.So singing at the top of our voices we'd let out a full throated cheer once we crested the steep road.
At Lonavala we always had a mandatory stop---the Matka Kulfi available here was a must---and the regular query by Milind----each year he'd ask each Kulfi vendor the same question"Soma tumcha kon?" or "Are you related to Soma?"the Kulfi vendor would reply in the affirmative---saying that Soma was his maternal or paternal Uncle----at this Milind would look him up and down very solemnly and say"but you don't look like him!!!"The ready witted vendor would reply that he resembled his paternal or maternal side of the family---but he was related to Soma alright!!!!
With a good laugh we'd proceed further to Pune------eating Lunch here at a place called Shreyas---this serves excellent Vegetarian fare-----and sometimes broke our journey here for 3-4 days---sometimes we'd push on to Kolhapur---depended on the availibility of accomodation in Pune!!!After Pune the next stop would be Satara----here the children loved to ogle the antique taxis---each was a vintage piece in top running condition---ferrying people up the Ghats to Mahabaleshwar on the Pasarni Ghats.
We mostly had the six girls in our car---and I'd point out the various Forts lining the road----this was the heart of the Sahyadri Mountain Range---and the base of the warrior Maratha king,Shivaji's empire.The entire area is lush with Sugarcane fields and Vegetable farms----due to the rich loamy black soil!!!We'd reach Kolhapur as the Sun was setting----our Uncle would be there to greet us nd our journey would end on the lawns of Opal--enjoying the cool Summer breeze!!!!

  
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ZANNACHAN 4/1/2010 9:06PM

    That sounds like a great time! I have only once had a chance to go on vacation with my brother and his family, and my husband couldn't come with us that time. Traditions like yours sounds wonderful.

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MILLISMA 3/31/2010 1:04AM

    Sounds like such a wonderful time! Thanks for sharing.

Mary Anne emoticon

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ASHLESHA1 3/30/2010 3:56PM

    I am coming with you the next time...

emoticon

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Ammi's Wedding!!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

This weekend attending a Wedding turned out to be the highlight in my week-----worth all the effort of fetching my Jewellery from the Bank Locker and dressing up to the hilt----and travelling to the other end of Town on a hot Sunday morning.The after math of this excercise has left me with a very warm feeling-----I'm feeling so happy and good!!!This was a truly happy and joyous occasion----one to reflect on very happily with great satisfaction in the coming years!!!!
We have known Ammi or Shweta almost all her life---she was just 5 months old when she came to stay next door to us----she was a part of her maternal Grandfather's large family.Her mother Vijaya had lost her husband and Ammi her father just a month or so before they shifted here to our Condominium and I came close to this family-------I couldn't have asked for better or more loving neighbours.
Vijaya and I are the same age and like me she too is the oldest---followed by three younger brothers and three sisters. Aunty and Uncle treated me like another daughter and showered a lot of affection on me and my daughters.Vijaya did not want to remarry---instead she finished her Master's in History and did her Master's in Education and became a High School teacher.As time passed all the younger siblings got married and slowly moved away---into new environments and homes.Vijaya and Ammi remained with the old couple.
Ammi turned into a very shy but sweet natured child,then adolescent and then into a beautiful young woman.She was always my best bet as a "Kumari" or Virgin to worship after my nine day Fasts and this continued till her age of 12---then she attained puberty and turned uneligible!!!!A very studious and sharp child she was always good in her studies----she did her Master's in Commerce and then passed the Chartered Accountant's exam to become a full fledged C.A.(C.P.A.) working with Morgan and Stanley.
Ammi belongs to the Bunt Community----a very clannish and closed community.These folks do not inter marry with other communities easily and very few of their menfolk study further than the Batchelor's Degree--------this community is very rich and prosperous and own all the South Indian Food chains in Mumbai.Poor Vijaya tried matchmaking within the community but in some cases the horoscopes didn't match---other cases Ammi was way too educated for the prospective grooms!!! Finally they met this Marathi boy through a Marriage Bureau---and the Wedding was fixed!!!!
It was a beautiful Wedding---Ammi was the glowingly happy Bride-----and was covered with loads of Gold Jewellery----and Jasmine flowers!!!!The sumptous Lunch was delectable and delicious-----consisting of so many dishes that I gave up counting!!!!Vijaya gave her only child a very beautiful Wedding----a truly memorable ceremony----full of moments of Love and laughter----the best day of Ammi's life so far!!!!
For me the most poignant moment was when mother and daughter hugged each other after all the religious Ceremonies were over-----Vijaya's face reflected the satisfaction of all the years of hardship that had gone into giving Ammi this gift---and teary eyed at the thought of parting with her daughter-----this beautiful moment made me cry in empathy -----I too wish Ammi all the best for her future with Sudhanshu-----may all their dreams come true!!!!

  
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RAIN454 3/29/2010 6:13PM

    Komal, you did it again!! How you manage to get my eyes welled up with every blog is beyond believable...i dont cry easily. But very beautiful story in deed! You are awesome and Vijaya and Ammi sound like an awesome duo! Good luck to Ammi and Sudhanshu!! Wishing them years of happiness!!


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ZANNACHAN 3/28/2010 11:52AM

    Aw, I love weddings! It sounds beautiful. Best wishes for the bride and groom--may they have a great future together.



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MILLISMA 3/28/2010 9:25AM

    Komal, I'm crying tears of joy. What a beautiful story and wonderful day. Please give Ammi my wishes for a long and happy future with Sudhanshu. Also, give Vijaya a big hug for me - what a wonderful mother.

Mary Anne emoticon

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