The book on Hindu customs and traditions puts together everyday beliefs, practices, observances, and etiquette of living a life enriched by thousands of years of living a life enriched by thousands of years of spiritual consciousness. Legend, history, philosophy, and folk-lore are intricately linked with customs and traditions. Hence the origin of festivals, and fasts is given through illustrations from the epics, Puranas, traditional. Folk-lore. These help to clarify prayers of fasts to deities, karmas or rituals associated with different stage of life, the physical and mental cleansing of life, the physical and mental cleansing of a pilgrim after an arduous pilgrimage, and the magnetic force extended by shrines and temples on millions of devotees throughout the world.
A large number of the festivals and fasts relate to the South of India, hence many common practice have been given, with additional information on local practices and customs.
Additional features are traditional festive recipes, puja offerings of prasadam, Slokas for special occasions, and rangoli designs.
The book will serve its purpose if younger generations, living at home or abroad, are able to nourish mental and psychological roots, and gain stature as individuals by living an enriched life. It is hoped that the book will help to arrange important family functions, and thus preserve social bonds.
Maithily Jagannathan's earliest years were spent in Sitamarhi, Bihar. Her father R.L. Narasimham was a distinguished civilian of the Bihar and Orissa cadre of the I.C.S. He became the Chief Justice of Orissa, and subsequently of Bihar.
Maithily Jagannathan was educated in St. Joseph's convent, and Stewart School, Cuttack. She did her Master's degree from the Presidency C College, Madras. Keenly interested in customs, traditions, handicrafts, languages and dialects of India, she is fluent in many languages. She married S. Jagannathan, and has a son and three daughters.
During her service in All India Radio, Ministry of Commerce, and Ministry of Agriculture, in the Government of India, she traveled extensively throughout the country. Based on her own observations, and dialogues with a variety of people, she has continuously presented features, picture stories, and interviews in the media, on India's socio-cultural scenario and changing life-styles.
Her work in Development writing was recognised by Awards from the FAO for Best Development Journalism. She was also awarded by the India Association of Economic Writers.
Her observations during her travels, and fluency in languages helped her in collecting and compiling the contents of this book.
It Gives me a deep feeling of satisfaction to introduce this book on festivals and traditions of Southern India. The book presents everyday customs and practices, social etiquette for different occasions, and describes the celebration of important festivals round the year.
The book does not propose to be a complete manual of customs, but to guide the reader on the demarcated path, for practising a way of life which nourishes our psychological and spiritual needs, and effectively offsets the mechanical drabness of a monotonous daily routine.
It is true that none of our festivals are just festivals. Very often their origin is lost in the passage of time. There has been an evolution, transformation, even the grafting of new customs on ancient ones. Without going into philosophical depths, the book shows how at every stage of life, we can derive solace, confidence and strength, from our traditions.
The spiritual nourishment derived from a fast, the magnetic pull drawing millions of pilgrims each year to shrines and temples, the celebration of festivals marking the journey of life, the significance of social etiquette like obtaining the blessing of elders, remembering and praying to ancestors, and the practical purpose of growing and worshipping the tulsi (basil) plant outside the house are discussed.
Sections on the designing and drawing of traditional rangoli, and numerous delicious festive recipes are useful additions.
Festivals, fasts, pilgrimages, pujas are living symbols of the Hindu way of life. They open up the spiritual self, and help to fulfil our role in the family and in society. They give us guidelines at different stages in the journey of life. The ritual loses much of its positive powers if practised as a routine. By understanding both the mythological and philosophical basis of a custom we not only gain psychologically but also evolve spiritually from its practice.
This book is planned as a handbook for understanding and practising many customs, traditions, and festivals common to South Indian communities. No rigid rules are prescribed for practising rituals, but an effort has been made to answer some of the Whys and Hows which arise for each custom. Once the purpose is clear, a reader can adapt the ritual to his or her situation, and can organise puja for different occasions.
The book is divided into three sections. In the first section on the journey of the spiritual self, the influence of the zodiac, karmas Of rituals associated with stages of life, and important family celebrations, observances, fasts, and some common beliefs are described. The linking of an individual's life to stars and planets, and the associated pujas are given, along with the social etiquette for some occasions. Charts show the Rasis with corresponding months in the Tamil lunisolar calendar, Sanskrit lunar calendar, and Gregorian or European solar calendar. Names of days of the week in Tamil with Sanskrit and English equivalents are given. There is an annual calendar of months in Tamil which is largely followed by all the great temples of South India, with corresponding Sanskrit and European calendars.
In the second section there is a calendar of major festivals celebrated in Andhra Pradesh, Kamataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The calendar starts with New Year celebrations and concludes with the observation of Savitri vrata or Karadiyar nombu. For each festival, the astrological day and name of the month in the Tamil calendar is given. To know the actual date in the English calendar, the almanac (panchang) for the current year would have to be seen.
In the third section, traditional recipes are given.
At a time when the younger generation, particularly that living outside India is feeling distanced from traditional roots, it is hoped that this book will give authentic and relevant information on the traditional and spiritual aspects of life. To the extent the book fulfils this need it will have served its purpose.
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