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MAKAR SANKRANTI

Jan 14th 

BAISAKHI

Apr 13th or Apr 14th 

DUSSEHRA, The End Of Evil
Oct 31, 2013
Happy Halloween!

NBC Today Nails the Spirit of Halloween 

NBC Today nailed the spirit of Halloween this morning as the anchor, Matt Lauer, dressed up as Pamela Anderson in the role of C.J. Parker from the popular TV Show "Baywatch" ran down the plaza complete in red one piece, blonde hair and the famous "Pam" cleavage!  Got to say, it wasn't just the costume, Matt's attitude and body language as he jumped up and down to the tunes of 'Vanilla Ice' as they performed at the plaza kept you glued to the TV. He definitely gets the biggest sport ever award! That wasn't all. Willie Geist was David Hasselhoff's character, Mitch and there was Carmen Electra from the same show to complete the homage to the show that gave the human male species of all ages something to ogle at unabashedly (yes, in India too- in fact, in India it was pretty much the first and the only show to do that) in the 1990s. 



The theme at NBC Today was their favorite classic TV characters. Al was Mr. T’s character B.A. Baracus from “The A-Team,’’ the 1980s hit show. Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb dressed up as cartoon best pals Betty and Wilma from “The Flintstones” and so were others- to perfection! It was certainly party time at the plaza!


What about your work place? Did you decorate and dress up? We're sure you kids certainly are all set with the costume for doing the rounds in the neighborhood for 'trick or treating'. Be safe and do share your pics with us- right here or email at desideewar@gmail.com

Wish You All A Very Happy Halloween! You all have fun! So what if it's not a 'desi' festival? It's the spirit that counts!

Mom's Laddoos For A Cause. Together. 


This Diwali order Gourmet Besan Laddoos made from Home Made Shudh (pure) Desi Ghee and help raise money for the kids!

$10 per dozen. 100% of the money raised will go to UNICEF. 

HOLI
(written by Sonal Kulshrestha. Copyright desideewar)


Holi, the festival of colors, is the second most important festival celebrated in India, the first one being Diwali, our festival of lights. Indians all over the world celebrate this joyous festival provided, (yes, there’s a catch) the weather is reasonably good. For although it’s a spring festival, the joy is dampened if the weather doesn't permit a full-fledged water play. The water play I refer to ranges from taking shots at each other with a water-gun/ soakers (“pichkaris”)/ power-soakers, to launching water-filled balloons at the neighbors/ passer-bys (openly or sniper style). In fact, include literally shoving people into a large tub/ tank of colored water or even into the pool. The cleaner the person is before this is done, more the fun, of course.

Apart from the colored water, the celebration also involves putting dry color on people’s face and hair (nobody likes the hair part, but hey, who’s listening?). The motto of the day is “Bura Na Mano Holi Hai” which means - don’t mind, it’s Holi.

Holi celebrations are also associated with good-natured teasing amongst men and women. And yes, you guessed what I’m going to say next. The Indian film industry portrays this flirting in all its glory. I’m sure every single Indian has seen and enjoyed Amitabh Bachchan’s “Khai Gori Ka Lal, Balam Tarse, Rang Barse”  in Sil Sila where he openly flirts with Rekha on Holi. Talking of which, the excuse in the Hindi movies for such flirtations and at times even obscene behavior is attributed to the effects of “Bhaang” (leaves and buds of the plant cannabis mixed with milk). The truth in real life is not too far away from what is shown in the movies.  We have all witnessed jovial light-hearted teasing between an aunty and another uncle or for that matter between the guy next door and that girl on the top floor.  Such teasing definitely takes on a new level on Holi. And talking of bhaang, practically the official drink of Holi in North India, you haven’t celebrated Holi if you haven’t tried bhaang at least once in your lifetime. I remember the first and the last time I had bhaang. My brother-in-law, who was a very fun spirited person, gave us “thandai” (pistachio milk) that turned out to be bhaang. It's said that bhaang brings out your true emotions- you laugh non-stop if you’re happy and cry non-stop if gripped by a sad thought. Happy to say, I and my sister laughed non-stop that day. I remember the accompanying hallucinations too. As the mind plays trick on the senses, saw the bucket of water move back or rise up on its own accord. Never accepted a “milky” drink from anyone again on Holi.

Unfortunately, the streets are no place for women in most parts of India on Holi. There are bad elements out on the streets looking for cheap thrills as well. I’m sure most girls have a story to tell on the topic. The beautiful vibrant colors have a dirtier variations too. Hard-to-remove paints and mud are used along with the colors as well, making its removal an arduous task later.

 

As with other Hindu festivals, Holi is inextricably linked to mythical tales also.  According to Kalyani Bhat, who has taught religious classes in the Dallas Fort Worth Hindu Temple for 8 years,  Holi festival originated during the Narasimha avatar of Vishnu from the DashaAvtara (10 births of Vishnu). Kalyani has this story to tell about why Holi is celebrated- the demon, Hiranyakshipu, through penance, was blessed with a boon from Brahma that he would not die at the hands of a man, an animal or a weapon, on earth or in the sky. His son, Prahlad, was a devotee of Vishnu and so his father did everything in his power to stop his son from praying to Vishnu. When Prahlad refused to do so, he plotted to have his own son killed several times with no success. Finally he asked his sister, Holika, who had the power to come out unscathed from a fire, to hold Prahlad in her lap and sit on a fire. The whole kingdom prayed for his safety to Agni, the fire God. The result was that when Holika sat in the fire with Prahlad on her lap, he came out unscathed while she was burnt to ashes. People were overjoyed and the custom of lighting a bonfire on full moon night (mostly the day before Holi) originated as a mark of respect to Agni for taking care of Prahlad and protecting him. Later in the story, Narasimha avatar (the half man- half lion birth of Vishnu) kills Hiranyakshipu with his claws, at twilight in mid air. There are other legends related to Holi too, many of them are stories of Radha & Krishna playing with colors. Many Classical Indian dances are based on it as well. They all point to having lots of fun with colors and water.

Wish you all a very boisterous Holi.

(Photo credit: Center image created by Rohun Kulshrestha) 

January 14th

Happy Makar Sankranti!
(Written by Sonal Kulshrestha)

  

14th of January is celebrated all over India by Hindus by various different names. It's Makar Sankranti in most parts of North India, Lohri in Punjab, Pongal in parts of South India, etc.
 
Those of us who are from Punjab or have friends from Punjab, have probably partied on Lohri. It's the Punjabi New Year, celebrated on the day before Sankranti. We do know that for the Punjabis, the first Lohri of a baby boy is celebrated with lot of pomp and flair. Thankfully most Punjabi families have extended the concept to celebrating the first Lohri of their girl child with equal jubiliation!
 
Being from North India myself, I remember my mother making a special kind of kichari on the day. And during the three years that my family lived in Hyderabad, we came to know the special kichari called 'Pongal' that is made by South Indians on this day and so the festival is called 'Pongal' in parts of South India, especially Tamil Nadu. Again most of us know the major kite flying gala that the festival is in Gujarat. Having lived in Gujarat for three years, I personally have witnessed the huge deal that kite flying is to the people of Gujarat! It starts days before the actual day and the 14th is really the grand finale of the festival. 
 

Endless hours are spent on the terrace of the homes. While kids start right after school, parents more often than not, join them, spread bedsheets and get busy eating peanuts, fresh peas and tons of different variety of chikkis and gazaks. Kite flying is almost a competition there, some going as far as preparing their own "manja", the thread, to ensure its sharp, to get the opponent's kids. Screams of 'Katyo che' (meaning we cut your kite) fills the air and you see kids runnign along the street chasing the stray kite.

 

So we know that the festival is called by different names all across India and it is celebrated in various different ways too. Now, getting to the whys. The festival symbolizes different religious sentiments across the country. We asked Kalyani Bhat, who has taught religious classes in the Dallas Fort Worth Hindu Temple for 8 years, why is Sankranti celebrated. According to her, Makar Sankranti is the day when the Sun begins its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere, Uttarayana, and so is considered very auspicious for attaining higher worlds hereafter. Sankranti also marks the day when 'Ganga', the river ganges, came to earth from heaven. People take a dip in the holy river to 'wash-off' their sins. Also, people do charity to get the blessings of their ancestors. Lohri in Punjab marks the celebration of good harvest, while kite flying in the West symbolizes moving away from darkness, towards the light, the Sun. 



 
Individual families follow their own unique customs too that are passed down from one ganeration to other. My mother-in-law believes in making 14 offerings to the God since this day, the 14th, is considered to be a very auspicious day. We follow that and with our kids, we have added our own custom as well- to donate some 14 items, could be anything from small toys to clothing. Hopefull they pass the tradition to their kids!
 
So have fun with the various different traditions!
Happy Makar Sankranti!!

Karva Chauth, a Hindu Festival for the Beloved

(by Sonal Kulshrestha)

[Photo credits: (Left) Sapna and Manoj Gupta from NJ;

(Right) Sangeeta and Sanjay Awasthi from CA.]

 

HAPPY KARVA CHAUTH to all the wonderful women all over the world celebrating this very glamorous festival as you pray for your husband's long life!

Yes, Karva Chauth is one of the most glamorous festival there is. And thanks to our Hindi movies, its been glamorized even more over the years! But hey, nobody is complaining! We love the karva chauth scenes in the movies and we love hearing about our actors celebrating the festival. In spite of having to stay without consuming a single morsel of food, nor a drop of water all day long until the very keenly awaited moon-rise time, women who celebrate this, love karva chauth. We love decking up, sometimes even bringing out our nicely packed-away bridal saris for the occasion! We love getting together with friends to do the thali (plate) rotations, we love playing cards or games while we all together wait for moon-rise. Of course, the splitting headache that often accompanies the festivities on account of not having eaten anything, is the only bummer!

Most of us who are from north India have witnessed the festival being celebrated with all its glory there! Growing up, we remember all the aunties getting together and doing the 'thali' and playing cards. We have fond memories of all the laughter and of course some whining too.

 

For those who live here in America, this is one festival that doesn't make us go, "India mein karne ke baat hee kuch aur hai". No, we might whine about Diwali not being the same here, but not karva chauth! For here too we get all dressed up in our beautiful saris, jewelry, gather for 'thali' in temple, plan a potluck, play games until moon rise, do the moon-watching and the "husband-watching" through the "chunni", husband's 'aarti', and yes, some of us even touch our husband's feet on just this one occasion, leaving aside the today's woman concept. But then, we do get extra amount of pampering from our dear husbands on this day.
 
While we, the modern women today, might go along with our age old traditions, these very age-old traditions makes karva chauth the most controversial festival as well. Like my white American manager once said, "My wife will hand me the gym bag and tell me to work out to make sure I've a long life rather than go without food, praying for that." But then we know, we do it because of course, we want our husbands to live a long and healthy life, we want to celebrate many more years of this festival (so we're praying for many years of married bliss), and also because, we do enjoy this 'bridal' festival. 

So as you all fast, with prayers for the long life of your husband or soon-to-be, have fun and enjoy the pampering, ladies! Because, that part is really all about us, isn't it? ;) End of the day though, 'KC' is quite simply about celebrating love (like the look in the eyes of the two couples in the pictures above proves) ...

 

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