Festivals And Customs of Jewellers From Vysial Street – IV

The people of Vysial Street were known for the festivals and customs. Come adi month or ashadam in Telugu, the women will begin to get busy. They will begin to purchase the essentials required for the festival season. Cotton, turmeric, banana fibre, cooking ingredients, oil and ghee for pooja, sambrani, rope needed for the tying up of plantain to the mandapams, bangles, arecanuts, fabric, blouse materials, kumkumam, turmeric pods etc., The women of the household will begin to assemble the hardware required from their lofts, storerooms, cupboards and lockers at home. Stuff made of gold, silver, diamonds, semi precious stones, wood, iron, brass, copper, bronze, fabric and clay would be kept ready. Repairs will be done and all the items would be cleaned and polished based on the condition.
Joint families used to be the order of the day and the larger houses used to have many residents. In some cases four generations of a family would live in one home. Grand mother in law, mothers in law, daughters in law and young unmarried girls used to celebrate the festivals together. One would have to be neat and clean during the entire process. If someone would touch or do things without a bath, the entire place would have to washed along with the items kept there. The women of the family used to plan it out well ahead. A budget of items would be made and the requisition would be given to the men. Thereafter, the men and women would purchase the items together. Perishables like plantain leaves, betel leaves, flowers, fruits and milk would be purchased on the moment. Since the festivals would be celebrated a bit early in the morning, the vendors would be requested to deliver the perishables as per the timetable. Onions and garlic would be avoided on the earlier day itself for one had be fully prepared to celebrate the festival.
In some households, items would be added year on year. The faithful felt that they add up something for God for they felt that merely adding new clothes, jewellery and items for themselves was not right. A number of charitable people used to ensure that the poor ate good food on the festival days. The huge number of festivals ensured that food was offered and then distributed. Festivals ensured that all the traders and service providers got a chance to share the goodies of the society. The celebrations made the progress of the economy inclusive. It was also an opportunity to showcase skill and talent. The making of garlands, food for the Gods, decorations like kolam and Rangoli, dressing up the kids, keeping the house aesthetic, dance, music and fellowship at the time of the festivals built much of love between people and communities. The priests used to common and they would form teams in order to ensure that each and every house was attended to. In some cases the pooja would begin at 3 am in some houses and it would become 11 am in a few. Irrespective of the timing, the grown ups in the houses used to wait without having breakfast. Only the infirm and kids would be given food. In some cases hot milk mixed in sugar would be consumed to retain energy. The Ekadasi vratam is usually done by just thinking of Lord Vishnu and food is normally avoided for the day. In the case of a special Ekadasi connected with Lord Bhima, the second among the Pandavas, even water is avoided. However if one follows this once a year it is supposed to be equivalent to following the rest. People normally stay up all night playing ‘paramapadam’ (snake and ladder game) on ‘Vaikunta Ekadasi’. The ‘Mahashivarathri’ is fruitfully spent by staying up the full night. Most people attend the six kala poojas in the neighbourhood Shiva temple. The format of the festivals are standard. Prasadam, pooja and sambhavanai to the priest. All the festivals have a story and the priest gives the story after the pooja. The fast is normally broken after listening to the story. If the pooja takes place on a Friday, the deity is left undisturbed for the day and the decorations are removed on Saturday. A sundal is offered for this maru poojai. The process of taking the deity from the assembly is called ‘Kadalinchedhi’. God and Goddesses are not supposed to be left alone and someone from the family used to stay back home while others go visiting. Earlier Subburama Iyer used to do the poojas in all the houses. His disciples used to share the duties and rewards along with him. He left Coimbatore around the year 1980 and thereafter two of his junior priests – Ramakrishna Iyer and Shiva Iyer took up his role. Nowadays quite a few priests are offering the same services. The members of the family used to seek the blessings of the priest after the pooja. All the priests came from Andhra Pradesh and used to be apprentices of senior priests during the beginning of their career. The community priests and the Vasavi temple priests used to be given accommodation by the community itself. Public properties were made available for this purpose. These priests normally are available for all occasions – birth to death. On receipt of dhanams, they were supposed to recite the ‘Gayathri Mantram’ a number of times.
The priests are invited to write the ‘Lagnapatrika’, a document which binds the marriage date along with the details of the bride and groom. Parents of the bride and groom sign this paper in the presence of their near and dear. This is prepared in Telugu by the family priest and read out to the gathering. The ‘Lagnapatrika’ ceremony is known as ‘Getti’ in their circles. It is an important occasion.
The ‘Oor Chetty’ is also involved and he is given an important space. The person is garlanded and respected on this occasion in the presence of everyone. The community used to celebrate a few festivals in the temple itself. Women used to reserve their spots by placing their palagais in the places of their choice. First come first served was quite common at the temple. The entire festival season used to be filled with joy, fellowship, sharing based on Satvik co existence. People understood that if we control our sense organs by ensuring that we eat food which keeps us calm and wise is important. For wisdom gives us joy, success and peace.
The life and times of these tradespeople formed an integral part of the Indian society.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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