Have you heard of Champa Shashthi? In my Maharashtrian side of the family it is associated with a ceremonial pooja the beginnings of which are somewhat obscure. This winter I was visiting friends who celebrate this day with special prayers. In their family, the day of the pooja marks the end of a period of abstaining from certain foods such as eggs and meat, and brinjals (eggplant). Minor ceremonies are observed on the two days preceding Shashthi as well.
The celebration of this festival in our family has an interesting story. This festival is not traditional to the Konkanasth Brahmin community to which my husband’s family belongs. A long time ago, and I mean a really long time ago, traveling was an activity associated with uncertainty, hardship, and unknown risks, undertaken only for essential business or pilgrimage. At such a time, a family embarking on one such pilgrimage handed over the Champa Shashthi Puja to their neighbour and friend in the village, V’s ancestor, like a precious thing for safekeeping. They never returned to claim it back, and that is how we have this untraditional ritual as our heritage. Our family continues to fulfill a promise made a very long time ago. I remember my mother-in-law asking me if she should perform the udyapan, a special puja to mark the end, but I assured her I wanted it to continue. How could I not want to be part of this beautiful legend, our very own legend!
We, my husband, son, and I, are hardly religious people but I do believe that without religion, you may end up distancing yourself from what is your culture. Food is very strongly tied to culture and religion. One day, several years back, I realised we had not cooked sabudana khichdi in a very long time (years!). Since my mother-in-law’s passing no one in the family was observing any fasts anymore! We brought back the Janmashtami fast and now observe it as a family. The much loved sabudana khichdi is on the menu at least once a year. Read the rest of this entry »