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Halloween, South Indian style!

10/17/2018 12:26 PM

Borrowing from the Tamil legend on Murugan, son of Shiva…

pumpkins, act 2 - I love carving pumpkins for Halloween, and rarely pass up an opportunity to share a story or snippet from Indian mythology with my boys. As a result, we’ve had some unusual pumpkins over the years. This is the second of our distinctly Indian Halloween pumpkins.

Last year, I'd had enough of the boys’ favourite arch-villain Ravana, and wanted to introduce some diversity in their demons. I told them the story of Murugan, son of Shiva, and the festival called Soorasamharam (“the destruction of Soora”) which conveniently falls close to Halloween each year.

The legend talks about the demon Soorapadman (Sanskrit - Padmasura) and his brother Tarakasuran (Sanskrit – Tarakasura), both great magicians and warriors. They were devotees of the god Shiva, and after many years of penance and meditation, received a boon of immortality from him.

Like all divine boons, this one too had a loophole. They could not be killed by any animal or human being or god. They could only be killed by a child born of Shiva, but not to any mother. The brothers assumed that such a child was impossible, and that they would never be killed or defeated.

This went to their head, and they used their power with impunity to harass the rest of the world. Soon, the two demon brothers became so unbearable that Shiva decided to step in. He used the power of his third eye on his forehead to produce six sparks. Agni, the god of fire, and Vayu, the god of wind, carried the sparks to the river, and placed them on six lotuses. The sparks turned into six lovely babies. Parvati, Shiva’s wife, scooped up the babies and hugged them in joy. All six then turned into one special child, with six heads, and twelve arms!

This child was Murugan.

When he was a big boy, and the gods and people could not bear the misbehaviour of the demon brothers any longer, Murugan went to battle with them. The brothers used their magic to hide from Murugan. Tarakasuran created an illusory mountain around himself, but he could not trick Murugan and was killed.

Soorapadman used his magic to turn into a mango tree and hide at the bottom of the ocean. Murugan found him, and used his ‘vel’, or spear, to split the tree in half. Soorapadman realised how arrogant and wicked he had been, and apologised to Murugan. Murugan turned one half of the tree into a peacock, which became his ‘vahana’ or vehicle, and the other half into the rooster that sits on his staff.

This myth is celebrated as Soorasamharam each year. We "celebrated" by learning the story, and modelled our Halloween pumpkins after Soorapadman and Tarakasuran. And that is the story of our South Indian Jack’O’Lanterns which sport vibuthi-pattai (holy ash) and kunkumam (vermillion).

0 Comments | Posted in Festival By admin flamingo

Diwali + Halloween = Diwalleen

10/17/2018 12:06 PM

A Diwali and Halloween mash-up in London …

pumpkins, act 1 - I love carving pumpkins for Halloween, and rarely pass up an opportunity to share a story or snippet from Indian mythology with my boys. As a result, we’ve had some unusual pumpkins over the years. This is the first of our distinctly Indian Halloween pumpkins.

A couple of years ago, Diwali and Halloween were a day apart, which meant it was very difficult to engage my boys in Diwali prep. I was battling ghouls and ghosts and the solid advertising power of British commerce for their attention.

I wanted a Diwali party, the boys of course wanted to call their friends around for Halloween. Team Mum for Diwali employed diversionary tactics, while “Boys 4 Halloween” went for full-on horror. Both sides were evenly matched and equally determined, and it very much looked like there would be no party that year. Until…


…both teams arrived at the happy compromise of Diwalleen.

Star of the party was our pumpkin – not one, but TEN!

Inspired by the children’s Ramayana book with its fantastic illustrations from Sanjay Patel, we went for a 10-headed Ravana pumpkin. We decided no two faces should look the same, and had tremendous fun exploring all manner of frowns, scowls, and grimaces in our pumpkin carving. Fearsome moustaches and formidable eyebrows appeared from leftover black felt in the craft box.

Rampaging Ravana was a huge hit with our little guests, who took turns raiding the dress-up box for crowns, swords, and my entire stock of costume jewellery. Little Ramas, Sitas, Ravanas (and a lone little Stormtrooper!) staged spontaneous immersive Ramayana theatre on the spot, bringing our Diwalleen party to life better than we could have hoped.

0 Comments | Posted in Festival By admin flamingo

Heads will roll this Diwali

10/5/2018 8:45 AM

How a young Indian family living abroad revved up the excitement one Deepavali…

Exactly one year ago, Festoon was born. In my imagination rather than in reality, but this was the start.

It was 10 days to Deepavali, and as always with Indian festivals, I was busy dreaming up ways to make the festivities come alive for my boys. Living in London, with family dispersed around the world, we had to somehow churn up excitement within the four walls of home.

I had the happy thought to create a Deepavali advent calendar. Ramayana was the first piece of mythology my children knew, and Ravana with the dark undertones to his scholarly character was the baddest of baddies, and (naturally!) their favourite dress-up character.

Ravana, luckily, lends himself well to the theme of a 10-day countdown, and the children’s Ravana countdown calendar went up on the wall.

Soon, lights were up, cakes were baked and decorated, clay diyas and agals were painted, and my wedding bangles were sacrificed to create rangoli and kolam “installations” around the home.

Every evening, we came home from school and work to light lamps on windowsills, and await that moment of supreme excitement before bedtime – chopping off another of Ravana’s heads! This captured my children’s imagination like nothing else – my seven and four year old couldn’t believe their luck at this permitted naughtiness!

I loved how a simple piece of card on a wall made my children so invested in Deepavali that they immersed themselves in the preparations so whole-heartedly. I knew then that I would one day create a brand that brought Indian mythology and tradition alive for families and young people around the world, with fun, humour, and sensitive story-telling. One year later, I begin my journey….

0 Comments | Posted in Festival By Admin Admin
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