Aadi Maasam/Aadi Thiruvizha – Part II

On the day of the Paal Kudam, women assemble at a nearby temple (not the Amman temple but another one) with turmeric and kungumam smeared pots (sombu) filled with milk. After a brief puja at the temple which is sort of the Ready-Get-Set-Go, the women walk over (run rather) to the Amman temple where wooden barricades are put up to regulate the crowd. Policemen and police-women wait at the Amman temple bracing themselves for the “Om Sakthi-ParaSakthi” chanting women force. It is believed that if you pray for something and carry the paal kudam, whatever you pray for will happen before the next Paal kudam (within the next year).  That’s my husband and that’s me behind him. These paal kudam laden women are force to reckon with, they shove and pull in order to cut through the line. You’ll have to be strong and gutsy to get out of this crowd. When your turn comes, the milk from your pot is poured atop the Amman. After everybody’s milk has been poured, the Amman is washed, dressed up and adorned with jewels and a final puja is done.    The day we offer Koozhu is the most tiring, absolutely back-breaking day of the year. The cooking and preparation starts around 6 or so in the morning and goes on almost non-stop till night time. By now you should know that moderation is not one of my family’s strong points. Largesse and extreme entertaining are. We don’t have as many people over as we used to in the olden days! If we were to invite the whole clan, I think I’d have to be hospitalized for a day or two. I haven’t seen the full crowd myself in my 4 years of marriage but I can just about imagine and just thinking about it makes my head spin. The day’s menu reads like a Muniyandi Vilas menu. Kazhuvattu Kuzhambu (dried fish curry), Meen Kuzhambu (Fish curry), Meen Varuval (Fish fry), Varutha Muttai (Fried hard-boiled eggs), Chicken Korma, Pepper Chicken thokku (Pepper chicken semi-gravy) are just the non-vegetarian side of the menu. There’s a slightly shorter vegetarian menu that includes Murunga keerai poriyal, Vegetarian mixed-vegetable kuzhambu, Ragi and Jaggery based kozhukattai, Rice, Rasam, Idli and Dosai. Koozhu and its accompaniments – Murunga Keerai poriyal, Kazhuvattu kuzhambu and varutha muttai are served mid-morning once at home and then again at the temple. Return home to have a quick bite and then...

Aadi Maasam/Aadi Thizhuvizha – Part 1

Yesterday was the huge Aadi Thizhuvizha at Nagathamman temple, the culmination of 10 days of festivity and processions starting with Paal Kudam and ending yesterday with Koozhu in the morning and the final grand procession at night. I am tired, exhausted and totally beat but with a camera load of not magazine quality but really good Aadi-smacking pictures. Aadi signifies everything Tamil to me – Tamil music (Urumi), Tamil cuisine (Koozhu, Kazhuvattu Kuzhambu) and Tamil customs and having been ignorant of all of this for most of my life, I am finally waking up to these traditions. I finally sat down to write this long-pending piece on Aadi. At home, Aadi Maasam is THE most hectic, activity packed month of the year. Before marriage I had no clue about Aadi other than the Aadi thallupadi (Aadi discount sales) that happens at this time of the year. But Aadi is huge in my in-laws place. It’s the most important occasion of the year even more than Diwali. Aadi for other clueless folks like me is the fourth month of the Tamil Calendar and is usually considered in-auspicious for weddings. Newly married girls are sent off to their mother’s places during this month. Why? Thank Bhagyaraj who famously busted this Aadi-myth in one of his movies. It has nothing to do with Aadi, there’s a very practical though embarrassing reason for this. If women get pregnant during the month of Aadi, they’ll give birth during peak summer which is a very tough time for small babies (maybe not so relevant in this age).  Aadi is generally very special for women and for farmers. Amman (Goddess Durga, Shakti) temples are the centre of action during this month, apart from Lifestyle and Chennai Silks. Picture this: Huge speakers outside the temples blare L.R.Easwari songs, massive lighted Amman cut-outs flank the road leading to the temple, women march to the temple with turmeric smeared, neem-leaves wreathed milk pots (paal kudam) for abishegam, evenings the Amman idol is decorated and taken around the streets of the temple in procession, and then the culmination of all the Aadi festivities in the Aadi thizhuvzha, where Koozhu (Ragi porridge is traditional poor man’s food) is served along with Drumstick leaves poriyal and Kazhuvattu Kuzhambu. In cities, you’ll see the urumi only during the Aadi month. This is a traditional hour-glass shaped drum that is played at Amman temples when...
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