Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sewing 'Patiala' Salwaar

I just wanted to share a new project I completed yesterday. A couple days back someone asked me if I could make those really baggy salwaar pants or patiala salwaar. It's been a while since I made a salwaar so I decided to refresh. I have to say I've outdone myself, its a comfy fit with just the perfect ease. Here's a photo Krishna Chandra took of me modeling the new famously baggy pants. I'll have to post photos about this topic detailing how to make a patiala salwaar later. That and other cool projects such as a gored skirt, lengha/gopi skirt, choli and possibly churidaar.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Diwali Lights

Rangoli/ Alpana designs on my porch.
Different parts of India celebrate Diwali or Dipavali a little differently but what remains constant are lights. Lots of frickin' lights.
In Bengali culture, Diwali coincides with Kali puja and typically it is a huge affair. Everyone gets dressed up in the evenings to walk around the neighborhood and take darshan of the local Kali thakur, clay forms of the Goddess and decorates their homes with candles, ghee lamps and electric lights. While I do enjoy Kali puja, I love decorating the home with lights and alpana even more which is why my favorite festival has to be Lakshmi puja.
In South India women decorate their homes with rice flour mandalas or kolams daily and ancient kolams range from the simple to ridiculously elaborate and intricate designs.
My last edition was my sloppiest, my back was aching.
In North India the use of a wide variety of colored powders, sand and flour are used to make rangolis. Vivid and bright-- red, yellow, green, orange and blue are not only beautiful to look at but also liven up the atmosphere and look very festive.
Tealight candles illuminate the walkway to my doorstep.
I prefer the traditional rice flour method as it is bright enough to show on even dark surfaces and will stay longer when dried. You make a paste by soaking some rice flour in water preferably overnight. When you're ready to use your paste, simply add more water to your desired consistency. I like it thin and apply it with a cotton ball or my hands but you could use pretty much anything from your hands to a paintbrush, or even a stencil blotter..

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Grhastha Mahatma

Alpana decoration for Karttik/Damodar Month

The other day a reader emailed me about my last post regarding a woman's disappointment in old age. He asked, "Is there anything she could have done differently or is it a matter of perspective?" The answer is yes and no. There's a saying that "Prevention is better than the cure." There isn't anything she could have done differently but she could have thought differently. The spiritual masters advise us to uphold our duties but with a sense of detachment. Her distress and lamentation was the result of expectations and attachment to fruitive work. If she had endeavored without any expectations to be rewarded or attachment to the final results, she would not have anything to lament. This is real self-less service and the path of spiritual advancement. In essence, the scriptures are advising us to donate our time and energy voluntarily and to view our actions in that light. When you give in charity, first off, you give to one who is deserving, you give without expecting a reward or credit and you relinquish emotional attachments. Essentially grhasthas, both male and female, are being guided in an ideal consciousness: to view your life as an opportunity to selflessly serve others, the real goal being attachment to the Supreme Lord and knowledge of the Absolute Truth.
Srila Prabhupada mentions the qualities of a liberated person and the principles he lives by within householder life:

So if you want to find out a mahatma within the society, not as a renounced sannyasi, then these are the symptoms. There are other symptoms. Nunam pramattah kurute vikarma [SB 5.5.4], that we shall describe later on. These are the general symptoms of a mahatma grhastha. He is not interested in this bodily concept of life, or maintaining very opulently his family members, or talking very seriously with persons who are simply materially interested, dehambhara, just to maintain this body. Of course we require to maintain this body. He is not neglectful. There is no question of negligence. He takes care of his children, of his wife, everything, but without any attachment. That is recommended by the Gosvamis. That, anasaktasya visayan yatharham upayunjatah. You give education to your children, that is required. You maintain your wife, that is also required, no negligence, but no attachment at the same time. No attachment, that I shall sacrifice everything for my wife, and children, and home. That is not a mahatma's business, because he knows that he cannot improve the destiny. Everybody has got his body with certain destiny already settled up. That you cannot change. Otherwise everyone is trying to become very rich, very important, there is no scarcity of endeavor, but not that everyone is becoming like that. That is called destiny.