Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Staff Post: Jonathan Pinckney on the Festival of Kolu

While we're quickly approaching the festival of Diwali, beginning next week, ISP Staffer Jonathan Pinckney wanted to share his reflections on the festival of Kolu (or "Kooloo") from several weeks ago.

{Photo from our recent visit to the Gujarati celebration for the same holiday, also called Navaratri.}

It’s fascinating to see how integrally Hinduism fits into every aspect of community life in India.  Even Christians will describe themselves as “Hindus by culture” and talk about how Hinduism is “not a religion, but a way of life.” Last week a group of ISP students went to the home of one of the BACAS professors to observe her family’s celebration of the Hindu festival of Kooloo (Also known as Navaratri around India).  Celebrated over the course of nine nights, Kooloo is a festival dedicated to the three most important Hindu goddesses, Durga, Laxmi, and Saraswati, with three nights of the festival dedicated to each goddess.  In Tamil Nadu Hindu families traditionally celebrate Kooloo by putting up a five to seven-tiered structure on which they place idols.  Traditionally the idols are of Hindu gods and goddesses, but more recently Kooloo structures have been expanded to include plants and animals and even idol sets which include a complete cricket team!  These structures are arranged in the family’s living room and decorated with lights like a Christmas tree.

On Saturday night, the family we visited had brought in a Brahmin (Hindu priest) to offer prayers in Sanskrit to the idols in an elaborate ceremony that involved incense, flowers, bananas, and sweets.  The family also joined in at points, putting their hands close to the Brahmin’s sacred fire and then bringing their hands across their faces to gain blessings from the sacred fire.  When the prayers were over we celebrated with the family by eating sweets.  The daughters each sang a song for us, and the family asked us to sing a song as well.  Searching for a song that all of us knew we had to settle on the doxology, a funny contrast with “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” echoing next to five tiers of probably over a hundred Hindu idols.

Kooloo is also a time for the community to come together – all across the city cultural celebrations and community meetings are held around Hindu temples.  Members of the community put on programs showcasing their talents, usually songs or traditional dances.  We went with our host family to the local temple and watched the program for a while before heading home. All in all it was a wonderful opportunity to be welcomed into a family's home and feel like a part of their society even across the religious divide

No comments:

Post a Comment