Diwali Lights are up!

People say India is the land of festivals. Despite that fact that all the Indian festivals have its own importance; Diwali (Deepavali) stands out as unique and most awaited. Diwali is celebrated for five continuous days at the end of the Hindu month of Ashwayuja and it usually occurs in October/ November. It is one of the most popular festivals in India. It comes exactly twenty days after Dussehra. In South India Diwali is a two day festival of Naraka Chaturdashi and Balipadyami. And in North India, Diwali celebrations last five days i.e. Dhanteras, Chhoti Diwali, Laxmi Puja, Gowardhan Puja and Bhai Dooj.

1st day of Diwali: Dhanteras – Folklore has it, Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with Ayurvedic medicine (promotes healthy long life) for mankind. This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations. On this day at sunset, Hindus bathe in the evening again and offer lit lamps (diyas) with prasad (sweets) to Yama Raj and pray for protection from untimely death. This offering is made near a Tulsi plant or a sacred tree that one might have close to home.

This is a big festival in Bombay. Actually, for that matter in all large Cosmo cities of India. The folklore of Ayurveda makes everybody dash to buy Gold as an equivalent of Ayurveda- i.e. Gold symbolizes purity & wealth as security for future.

2nd day of Diwali - is called Narak Chaturdasi or small Diwali. It is the eve of Diwali. On this day Lord Krishna destroyed the demon Narakasur and made the world free from fear. On this day, people bathe with oil to relieve themselves of tiredness, so that they feel rested in order to celebrate Diwali with enthusiasm and devotion the next day. On this night, diyas are not lit:) While ofcourse I have yet to see a home where chotti Diwali is not festive and full of flowers, diyas, crackers:) This day is also referred to as Bali Pratiprada. The word "Pratiprada" literally means "below the opponent's foot". According to the myth Bali was an immensely powerful king. When God felt that King Bali was becoming too powerful, Vishnu, disguised as a sage of diminutive proportions, appeared in his court. Bali offered to fulfill any of the sage's wishes. The sage asked for all the land he could cover in 3 paces. King Bali agreed immediately. Vishnu then assumed a gigantic form and claimed the world (Mrityuloka), and the heavens (Swargloka) in two paces. To keep his foot down the 3rd time, he asked for King Bali's head. Bali agreed. Thus, the reign of Bali was overthrown. Religion has its roots in Politics you’d agree? :)

The third day of Diwali: The Actual day of Diwali. Is celebrated when the moon completely wanes and total darkness sets in the night sky. Families and their priests worship the divine Goddess Lakshmi to achieve the blessings of wealth and prosperity, the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. It also is the day when Lord Ram wins back his wife Sita from the clutches of Ravan, and comes back to his kingdom with his wife and brother Laxman after 14long years in Vanvaas. Wow, how did they survive for 14years in the jungle beats me! This is the reason, why this festival is celebrated a day earlier in South India since Lord Ram traveled from the south to his kingdom in the north

Deepavali is a beautiful festival - you can feel the joy and happiness and smiles all around you. It is a night of sparklers, lights, rangoli. Much like rich
India :) Homes wear this lovely warm look of togetherness and purity and colour and gaiety. People celebrate this with noisy crackers, social gatherings and exchange greetings and boxes of sweets and gifts

The day of Deepavali has special significance for the business community, we consider this day to be the day to thank God for all that she has given us in this life to keep us comfortable. Some people also gamble with money on this night because it is a believed that the wife of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati played dice with Him on this day and therefore those, who gamble on this auspicious day, are blessed with prosperity :)

The 4th day of Diwali - On this day, Govardhan Pooja is performed. It is also called Annakut, celebrated as the day Krishna defeated Indra. Men present gifts to their wives on this day. It is also called Naya Saal for the business community of India where the financial books are opened to do business and this is the first day of the new financial year for them. A day of optimism and forward gazing indeed.

Gowardhan Puja folklore has it , that it was originally celebrated by the people of Gokul - a small town in Uttar Pradesh, used to celebrate a festival at the end of monsoon to worship Lord Indra and express their gratitude for the rains. However, one particular year, young Krishna stopped the people of Gokul from worshiping Lord Indra and persuaded them to worship the fields and the cattle instead as they help in creating wealth. Following the incident there was a heavy downpour in Gokul. People got frightened as they felt that Lord Indra was angry with them and has sent a deluge to submerge the town. To save the scared people of Gokul, mighty Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan (a small hillock in Braj, near Mathura) on his little finger and sheltered men and beasts from the heavy rain. Lord Indra accepted the supremacy of Krishna and from then on Lord Krishna also came to be known as Govardhandhari. South India celebrates the fourth day of Diwali as Balipratipada. It is believed that on this day King Bali come to visit the people on earth from Patalaloka (netherworld) as per boon given by Lord Vishnu.

The fifth day of Diwali is Bhai Dooj. This is the day dedicated to sisters. We all know about Raksha Bandhan (brothers day). Well this is sisters’ day. This is also known as Bhai fota among Bengalis. And Bhai Dooj amongst North Indians - a day when the sister prays for her brother's safety, success and well being. And in turn is rewarded with gifts and lots of good blessings.

Who wouldn’t love this country for the richness of its traditions and the good values this sanskriti has woven into the inherent fabric of daily life? :)

All that Jazz

Why do I love jazz so much? It’s soulful, and fits human moods brilliantly. It can swing from happy to a deep connection with in seconds and can even cry soulfully when pleading for help. Jazz rejoices like never has there been a moment of such a high and also can be fun and childish and impish and full of camaraderie when it chooses to be that.

Jazz came to America three hundred years ago in chains. From west Africa through the slaves. And New Orleans became the jazz capital. Jazz was a thriving form of popular music in the 1920’s after it caught on among the musicians who were paid to entertain clients in the brothels of New Orleans. And then the worlds greatest happened - up coming stars like Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke perfected the ‘hot’ style and made Jazz popular. Ella Fitzgerald pushed it notches onwards. And jazz music started thriving. So many genres came to existence - bebop, hard bop, Dixieland, cool jazz, free jazz, jazz-fusion, modal jazz, soul jazz, smooth jazz and boogie woogie. Fitzgerald, along with Louis Armstrong in particular, introduced jazz to a more mainstream audience with her vast repertoire, and her version ‘Mack the knife’ became a pure classic.

Am I a puritanical jazz lover? I don’t know what that means. I love music of all kinds and all genres. I love jazz and I love Madonna too. These days I love Bollywood and can tap to anything that sounds good to the ear. Am not selective about my music but am very appreciative of any music. Music to me, is food, for my soul.

Closer home, when I see Jazz and its introduction to my life, I relate all that Jazz to the now defunct Jazz Yatras. Interestingly, jazz pockets exist all over India like Capital Jazz (Jazz Yatra gave way to this) Pune Jazz Club, Bangalore Jazz Habba, Chennai Jazz Club, Jazz Goa, the West Coast Jazz Utsav in Mumbai.

Some jazz clubs are far more active than the others (pretty much like the Hashers) - for instance The Pune Jazz Club meets every month at the Max Mueller and share details on their fave jazz artistes. They also organize the occasional live jazz event at Shisha Cafe, Koregaon Park. The club members have a blast at every meeting that invariably turns into a party. Bangalore Habba features a four day jazz festival within the ten day festival. Some of India's most accomplished jazz artistes, including visiting international artistes come to perform here. Goan jazz musicians have always been at the forefront of the jazz scene in India. And Jazz Goa makes sure they stay in the limelight. Calcutta and Delhi too have a decent fan following for this niche music arena in the country. So its not surprising at all why they say All that Jazz for nothing.