Dasara (Navratri) celebrations in Mysore, Karnataka

Dasara / Dussehra / Navratri Wishes To All Of You

Navratri or “nine-nights” festival is celebrated in India in late September-early October to honor the many reincarnations of Goddess Durga. In South India, prayers are also offered to Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) and Goddess Saraswathi (the goddess of learning).  Symbolic of the victory of good over evil, it is celebrated differently across India. While the Durga Puja of West Bengal, and the Garba dance of Gujarat are very popular and well known, I wanted to share the details of the spectacular celebrations that go on in the southern city of Mysore, Karnataka. It is called DASARA in Kannada, the regional language.

Durga_Mahishasura-mardini,_the_slayer_of_the_buffalo_demon,_GermanyGoddess Chamundi kills evil Mahishasura (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

Originating in 1610 during the rule of the Wodeyar family, Karnataka will be celebrating Dasara for the 403rd year in 2014. Considered “Nada Habba” or state festival, Dasara (from sanskrit dosha-hara, meaning “defeat of ill-fate”) is also celebrated for nine days and culminates with Vijaya Dashmi “victorious 10th day”. Parades, exhibitions, royal durbar (audience with the king), music, dance, wrestling, prayers, competitions and many more events mark this grand celebration in Mysore. The word Mysore is derived from “Mahishur” or “Mahishasurana Ooru” – meaning ‘the town of Mahishasura’ in Kannada. Mahishasura was a half man-half buffalo demon who prayed to the Gods with such devotion that they allowed him to ask for a boon. When his request for immortality was turned down, he asked that no man would be able to kill him, and – betting that no women would be strong enough to defeat him – that if he had to die, it would be at the hands of a woman. The gods granted him his wish, and Mahishasura, thinking that he was unbeatable, began harassing the people of the world, and even the Gods. Finally, unable to tolerate this tyrant, Lords Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer), along with the other gods channeled their divine energy to create Chamundi (an incarnation of Durga) – a fearless and fiery fighter with thousand arms – each carrying the weapon of a different god, and riding a lion. After a brutal battle, the Goddess was finally able to slay Mahishasura on a hilltop, and good triumphed over evil. The people and the Gods then celebrated this victory for 10 days, calling it Dasara.Mahisasur_Statue_at_Chamundi_Hills

Statue of Mahishasura on top of Chamundi Hills in Mysore, Karnataka (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

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Chamundeshwari Temple on top of Chamundi Hills (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

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During Dasara, the Mysore Palace is illuminated with 100,000 light bulbs for 10-days. (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

An important tradition of Dasara / Navratri in Karnataka is Bombe Habba or ‘the display of dolls’. According to legend, when the Gods gave all their powers to Chamundi to go fight Mahishasura, they became powerless and stood still like statues. Once the demon was defeated, people commemorated the actions of the Gods by praying to them in the form of dolls. Many houses display the dolls through Dasara on odd-numbered tiered steps built specifically for this purpose. The most important dolls are the Pattada Gombe which symbolise the King and the Queen. They are always made of dark wood, simply designed and decorated with cloth or paper. On the display steps, Gods are placed high, then saints, kings & queens, next any depictions of festivals & celebrations, and finally, portrayals of everyday life. Women invite each other to come over each evening for prayers and aarti, and having the best dolly display is a matter of pride.

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(Pic: http://housedelic.com/tag/dasara/)

While the first few days of Dasara are a little low key, Saraswathi Pooja is celebrated on the 7th/8th day. Goddess Saraswathi is the Goddess of knowledge & arts. It is customary to place books and musical/art related supplies by her idol and pray for her blessings in mastering those skills.

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(Above) The Late Maharaja Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar performing Saraswathi Pooja.  (Pic: The Hindu)

On Vijayadashmi, the 10th day celebration, the main attraction is the Jamboo Savari (Elephant Parade). One of the many brightly decorated royal elephants is mounted with a 750-kilogram gold mantapa (altar) carrying the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari. After the King & Queen offer their prayers at the palace, the colorful and loud parade moves through the city.

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(Pic: http://gujaratirecipesallinone.blogspot.com/2010/10/colours-of-karnataka.html)

Tens of thousands of people line the streets and buildings to watch these regal elephants, horses, camels, musicians, members of the armed services, dancers, acrobats, school children and more march & perform along the way. I have spent many years as a young girl sitting on the sidewalk with relatives, waiting with bated breath for the procession to go by, and can’t wait for a time when I will be able to do it again.

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 Above, performers of traditional art forms of Karnataka participate in the procession. Below, the current Maharani Pramoda Devi of Mysore (center, in pink) and her family watch the festivities from a palace balcony.

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(Pic: http://gujaratirecipesallinone.blogspot.com/2010/10/colours-of-karnataka.html)

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(Pic: http://creative.sulekha.com/mysore-dasara-pageantry-deity-and-piety_609945_blog)

The procession ends at Banni Mantapa Grounds – the site of the sacred Banni tree. Legend has it that Arjuna retrieved his weapons that he had hidden in a hole in this Banni tree before being banished to exile for 14 years. The Pandavas then defeated the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra battle, and returned victorious on Vijayadashmi. Hence, the festival of Ayudha Puja (worshipping of weapons) is celebrated on the 9th day. Current day interpretation has made the festival one where all vehicles and tools are cleaned, decorated, and prayed to for safe and productive usage. Limes are placed under each wheel of the vehicles as sacrifice, and we drive/ride over it till it is squashed. It is not uncommon for businesses to shut down their computers and machinery so that they can be cleaned and prayed to. I remember washing and decorating my bicycle with flowers and balloons when I was a little girl and being so proud of my handiwork.

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(Pic: http://www.sangamprojects.com/pictures/festivals/ayudha-puja)

It is unfortunate that on December 10, 2013, Mysore Maharaja Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar passed away at the age of 60. For the first time in hundreds of years, Dasara festivities will be held without a king.

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Marinated Tomato Salad

Marinated Tomato Salad

With the mild summer this year, I’m sure most home gardeners are being blessed with a late but bumper crop of tomatoes this month. We got our first harvest in August, and there has been no looking back. The two cherry tomato plants we put in this year have  multiplied and pretty much taken over the vegetable patch like weeds. The one beef-steak tomato plant is thriving too and it’s fruit is humungous, juicy & delicious. After sharing plenty with family & friends, and freezing a couple bottles full of sauce, we are still going strong.

Today's Harvest

Today’s Harvest

Snuffles waiting for treats

Snuffles waiting for treats

Overgrown Tomato Plants

Overgrown Tomato Plants

Looking online, I came across this recipe for an interesting tomato salad. Although I didn’t have everything mentioned, I used the basic idea and tweaked it to suit our tastes. I must say – this is YUMMY!! Really easy to put together, this salad is made ahead of time and it must sit for a few hours at room temperature for all the flavors to come together. The marinade/juices can be sopped up with some crusty bread. I’ll definitely make it again when we have company for the last few barbecues this fall.

I had this for lunch with Cold Sesame Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce. I know – different cuisines, but it worked for me :).

Marinated Tomato Salad

(Serves 4-5)

Marinated Tomato Salad

  • 1 lb cherry tomatoes (or other red variety of choice)
  • 1 Tbsp parsley (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp basil (finely chopped)
  • 2 whole green onions/scallions (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp dry oregano (original recipe called for thyme, but I didn’t have any)
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional – I like my food spicy)
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt to taste

1) Wash & drain the tomatoes. Cut cherry tomatoes in half, or larger tomatoes into wedges.

2) In a large bowl, whisk all marinade ingredients until well incorporated.

3) Gently toss tomatoes and cover bowl.

4) Marinate at room temperature for several hours, stirring occasionally.

NOTE: Can be served with a piece of crusty bread to sop the juices. Next time, I might add a little shredded mozzarella too.

Where did summer go?!?!

Hello to HolyKhao readers. Hope all’s well and you’ve all had a wonderful summer. I’ve been gone a long time, and haven’t posted anything the last few months. Summer break was super busy but interesting – some traveling, family visits, hungry kids, play dates, sleep overs, pool time, and most importantly – a new addition to the family!

We were able to get away for a short visit to see my good friends in Seattle and I think I am in love with the city. Catching up with a good friend over cups of tea, eating out, hanging out with the kids, visiting sights – thanks to our wonderful hosts A&S. The spectacular views of Mt. Rainier from the city, the farmer’s markets, Pike Place, the scenic walking trails, wild berries on the side of every road just waiting to be picked and eaten, Hurricane Ridge, and ferry rides to Victoria to see the beautiful Butchart Gardens were some of the highlights of the trip.

Mt. Rainier

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We visited Mt. Rainier from the Paradise area, and enjoyed walking on snow in gorgeous mid-70s weather :). The picture above is of Paradise Glacier. For size perspective, we were told that the snow is hundreds of feet deep in some of the spots in this photo.

Narada Falls

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Narada Falls at Mt. Rainier

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(Pic: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Pike-place-market.jpg)

Pike Place is Seattle’s original Farmer’s Market, established in 1907 – nine acres of local, artisanal & speciality food and crafts. Absolute must visit if you are in Seattle.

The pictures below are of the many varieties of flowers for sale – bouquets were as cheap as $5 for a big bunch!!

Pike Place Flower Market

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(Photo: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pike-place-market.jpg)

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We found many interesting things at Tenzing Momo – “the West Coast’s oldest & largest apothecary and perfumery….”

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Fresh, local vegetables at Pike Place Farmer’s Market.

On our way to Victoria, BC, we stopped at Fat Smitty’s for milkshakes & fish n’ chips. Customers tack dollar bills to the walls and ceilings as donation, and it is taken down when full with the help of local Boy Scouts, and donated to charitable causes.

Fat Smitty's

Fat Smitty's

 If you get bored while you wait, you can read what’s written on the prominently placed refrigerator!!!

Fat Smitty's

Below is a small glimpse of beautiful Butchart Gardens – it’s story is simply amazing. Today, hundreds of varieties of plants bloom in dozens of different gardens on the grounds that were once mined for limestone to supply cement. 

Butchart Gardens

 

Hanging Baskets

The pictures above are of flowers in huge hanging baskets above our head.

 Of course, we did visit the Seattle Space Needle, the original Starbucks, Snowqualmie Falls, Pine Lake Park, and many other sites.

We arrived back home from a wonderful trip, and two days later brought home 7-week-old Snuffles.

Snuffles 7 weeks

IMG_3813Snuffles at 11weeks.

He turned 14 weeks on the 5th of September, 2014. This little puppy has been gaining 10 lbs every 3 weeks!!

The last 8 weeks have been so much fun, but has revolved around Snuffles’ eating, sleeping, walking, pooping schedule. It’s like having a baby all over again! With the kids finally back in school, I have had some sort of routine and am back to blogging. I will be posting some healthy and fun recipes soon. Enjoy the last few warm days before winter sets in. Is it true that the whole country is going to get slammed with a wet and snowy winter again?