This post is similar to the theme movies that our channels telecast to go with the season :)
Tommorrow is Sivarathiri on which day Lord shiva is worshipped even during the night.
One is expected to be awake in the night and an elaborate plan is drawn to keep sleep at bay.
I am wondering how many households are still preparing for it in the traditional style.
It kindles in me memories of Sivarathiris we had celebrated in my grand-parents house as kids.
It used to be a kitty party of sorts.
All my aunts and their families would gather at my grand-mother's place to perform the pooja. So we kids had a good chance to spend an entire day together.
My grand-mother and her team would make a sweet item called "Thiruvadhirai uruvaakali' in bulk and after the morning pooja, used to take our help distributing it in the neighbourhood.
Viradhams were followed and poojas were conducted in timely intervals.
A big gang used to travel together to visit Shivalayams.
Neighbours and relatives would frequent the place and they would sit in batches and plan the agenda for the night.
All kinds of traditional games would come out of their hiding places and the coins were counted and boards were kept ready.
The evening started at around 7:00 PM when all the ladies would gather in a large hall (in my grandparents' place it was the outhouse).
(I always got the impression that they did'nt want to disturb the sleeping men in the main house..but in retrospect, I think that the men must have had their own kind of party!)
The dinner is part of their viradham of not having rice and the usual accompaniments.
(Please dont even think that the viradham as the name suggests had anything to do with fasting...infact its just the opposite :) )
It comprises of all the tiffin items and snacks that one can phathom.
Every relative would get something from her kitchen and it was one great pot-luck event.
Bunches of bananas and grapes, dozens of seasonal fruits would be consumed throughout the night, not to speak of payasams and other sweet-meats !
( If anyone asks me what kind of a viradham it is where you dont eat steamed rice but eat steamed rice batter ....I guess Idlies are light while rice and the side-dishes are heavy provided one eats just a few idlies !)
And the games event would start after the first round of dinner. Although we can see some groups already in progress even before the official trigger is pulled which in this case is my grand-mother sitting down to play.
Here I have to say that my grand-mother's aunt (mother's sister )- (Ranganaaya) who would be quiet during the day time would slowly creep out of her bed and join one of the senior groups.
Had there been a "Dhaayam" event in Olympics..this great-grandma would have bagged the gold.
As told by my mother (from her memories of Sivarathri at her grandma's place), Ranganaaya was part of the 'Bhajana Ghoshtee' that would sing devotional songs throughout the night. She was a great patron of the "Kadha Kaalakshebams" during her prime. Trusted sources even say that she was part of a "kolaatam" team and would dance away to glory, till the break of day. So a generation before my grandma's , kadha kalakshebams, bhajans and dances were the ones that kept them awake on Sivarathiris.
Some of the games that were played were...
Dhaayam: It was the most popular of the lot and it was the first preference to many. There is another side to this preference. It is believed that playing this game of chance brings ill-luck (can be tracked to mythology) and so is SRICTLY prohibited in the house.
The only exceptions to this rule are "Sivarathri" and "Ekadesi" nights when you are allowed to play Dhaayam to your heart's fill.
This game is a more complicated form of today's 'Ludo'. The player or the team that achieves to bring all their coins to a central "Home" first, wins the game.
The main attraction of the game is all the screams and yelling that go with it. You can hear the players shouting "Oru dhaayam daa" or "Oru panandu daaa" as if their very cry would roll the dice to the required sum . And also the opponent shouting the unwanted number to irritate the other person.People would take sides and there would be general cheering going on.
Pallaanguzhi: This is a game which requires a special wooden box with seven cups carved on both the sides along with little shells called "sozhie". The game starts with five shells in each cup on both the sides. The player who is left with less than five shells at the end, loses his game. There is a special game in which upto four playes can play...but I never got the hang of it and so stuck to the original two players game.
Paramapadham: This is nothing but our 'Snake and Ladder' but with a large printed sheet .It has lots of figures printed in it..a few of them quite wierd.It has snakes which roughly translated could range from one inch to 150 feet and the same goes for ladders too.
God help if one is bitten by the big one. This is also an exciting game where there are lots of twists and turns.
There are other games like 'Aadu puli aatam' and 'Sokattaan' and the only thing I know about them are their names.
So the ladies would move from one game to another and there would be general chatter . I would stay awake only till 12:30 or 1:30 AM. So I am not sure if they stay awake all night. I assume that the ladies would also
lightly doze off and then wake up again to resume the games.
What I like best about Sivarathiri is the way my grand-mother and her contemporaries who always appear all grown-up and matter-of-fact let down their guard and get into a carefree mood. It made me realise that there is a playful side to my grandma who does'nt otherwise appear so.
Sivarathiri is one occasion that helped me understand my grandmother and makes me remember her as a sweet, joyous and loving person though she likes to refer to herself as 'strict' .
Happy Sivarathiri to you all !!!