Monday, January 28, 2008
Sankranthi is over and the sun has started its journey towards the northern hemisphere (uttarayanam). The days have started becoming a little longer and warmer and the birds are back chirping.
This time around I was in Hyderabad during Sankranthi. Though I did not get to see much of the Sankranthi celebrations of the people of Andhra Pradesh, I was invited to an interesting ritual and since it involved little children, I enjoyed it all the more.
We were invited for an Annaprasanam ceremony of our son’s friend’s baby on the 14th morning. Since we could not make it to the morning function, we visited them in the evening. “We have a function in the evening also,” they said. I thought there would be a function in connection with the annaprasanam of the little one.
This ritual is called Bhogi Pandulu. A mixture of regi pandulu (a type of berry that flooded the markets the previous day and I was wondering what these would be used for), flower petals, colored rice (Akshatha), coins, and sugar cane pieces were kept ready on a decorated stool. There was another decorated seat to seat little children below the age of 5. The house we visited had a 6 month old baby and another little girl, both dressed in their best and looking stunningly beautiful. All the ladies from the neighbourhood and older relatives of the family were assembled.
Around 5 pm, all the members present showered the mixture of flowers and colored rice (they said they did not include sugar cane pieces and coins as it might hurt the little baby) on the children, one by one. Even the male members of the family showered the petals. After this, Arathi was done to the children. The invitees were given thamboola with fruits, betel leaves, kumkum and soaked chickpeas.
This function symbolizes the seeking of blessings from the elders for a healthy and long life for the little ones and also to ward off all evil. I was reminded of a similar ritual called Aimpara, conducted in our tradition during the full moon day of the tamil month of Masi (between Feb 14th –March 14th). More about that later.