chitta chatter

moon over Mysore

Posted in food, India, photos, things that make you say "whaaa?", yoga by Nancy on January 16, 2010

All the lunar shenanigans of late have made for one crazy week.

Starting with the yoga. Now, ashtanga ain’t for sissies. And when you practice every day for weeks at a time (and are no longer in your 20s), injuries are bound to happen. At Wednesday’s class (my 12th in a row), I pulled something in my lower back during supta kurmasana.  So I’ve been out of commission the past 3 days and probably will be again tomorrow. But Friday’s class was canceled anyway because of the new moon*, solar eclipse and the Makara Shankranthi holiday.

Makara Shankranthi is a harvest festival that starts January 14th and continues through the afternoon of the 15th. Rice and cows are the featured attractions, but the cows definitely get top billing. The locals wash the cows (mercifully) and paint them yellow (with the same powdered pigments they use to paint each other during other festivals), their horns and hooves painted red. Then they adorn them with flowers and bells, have them blessed in a “cow puja” and, for the grand finale, make them run through streets that have been lined with hay and  set ablaze. And these are the animals they like.

how bob became bessie:

looks like there should be a floating craps game going on in this alley… nope, just painting farm animals:

watch out fer them horns, cuz’:

Shankranthi Yellu

Aunty had invited us for a special festival lunch and served up my new favorite rice dish, pongal, made with jaggery (a natural sweetener) and raisins and/or cashews. Daniel hates the stuff so I ended up eating all of his, too. Aunty must’ve noticed he wasn’t shoveling it in as per usual and asked if he didn’t like the food. Fortunately, he had an alibi that satisfied her: he had been invited to a fire ceremony by his meditation teacher that morning and after the ceremony there was food (including pongal) so he had already eaten before we got to Aunty’s. When we left, she gave us a bag of seeds and nuts and sugar that was molded into little figurines. She said it’s prasad (blessed food) and it’s traditional to share it with friends and family.**

Later that evening, we went to Nagarathna’s Yogic Supplies for dinner. We had gone by her place earlier to check on an order Daniel had placed with her… part of the order had come in, but she had forgotten to place the other part. So when we returned for dinner, she told us that, because it was a holiday, she could not charge us for dinner (which was dee-lish, btw). I think it was more that she felt badly about having forgotten part of D’s order. But whatever… free meal!

Afterwards, her husband told us we should go to the Mysore Palace to see the festival spectacle… he said they would light the palace (which they usually only do on Sundays) and there would be music and a lot of people would be bringing their painted cows. “Good for snaps” (snapshots), he said. So we hired a rickshaw and headed over.

When we arrived, two little boys dressed like scouts (school uniforms?) greeted us and seemed to be trying to strike up a conversation to practice their English. Daniel offered them a few “country coins” (coins from one’s home country) and they went berserk over them. Later, one of the boys found us and thanked D for the coins. D thought it was odd that he would go to the trouble, but I told him the kid’s mom probably made him. Sure enough, we ran into them again at the Ganesh temple and his mom was with them. The kid went on to explain how “very, very old” the temple is and how “people from all over the world are coming to see it”. He’ll make a hell of a tour guide someday. (Like tomorrow.)

Anyway, as promised, the palace lights came on not long after we arrived and it is, indeed, quite the spectacle. Walt Disney would be proud:

But the unlit Palace is truly impressive, especially for dingy little Mysore (eat your heart out, Marie Antoinette):

It’s one of the few Mysore attractions that consistently make it into the India guidebooks. Daniel’s friend Sean is actually helping to organize a yoga event on the Palace grounds to benefit the Odanadi Project.*** The location alone should help them generate plenty of press.

Sean invited us to his house in Gokulam yesterday morning for his birthday breakfast bash. Great timing, since everything was closed for the holiday. And quite a spread—croissant, fruit salad, eggs, French toast, muesli, yogurt, chai, coffee—not to mention a gorgeous house. Seems accupuncturists can do a brisk business among the well heeled ashtangis who converge on Gokulam like lemmings to study with Sharath (Pattabhi Jois’ grandson and heir to the cult/throne).

Later, I went over to the Mandala for (another) fruit salad, but the café was closed (power outage). As I walked through the gate I found Kumar (the cook, whose wife makes some righteous chocolate candy), Shanthala and the rest of the staff out front, looking up at the sky through a piece of glass that had been painted black. They asked if I’d like to see. It was my very first solar eclipse. A phenomenon at once enchanting and hazardous to your health. Not unlike India herself.

– – – – – – – –

* No class on moon days is traditional in ashtanga yoga. The belief is that your body is more affected by the tides or gravitational pull or some such natural phenomenon during the new moon and full moon, so it’s best not to practice on those days. But Iyengar—because he is a workaholic or because he’s 83 and reckons he’d better make hay while the sun (or moon) shines—still teaches on full moon days, though not on new moon days. Personally, I don’t mind that a bit… my practice usually sucks during the new moon anyway, but during the full moon it positively rocks.

** Daniel was given some of the same stuff by his meditation teacher. D is his only western student.

*** In March, a few of the Odanadi girls will lead hundreds of hardcore ashtanga yogis through sun salutations on the Palace grounds, kicking off what they hope will be an internationally coordinated effort to benefit the Odanadi Project. (Last time Daniel was in Mysore, he produced the soundtrack for a documentary about the women and girls being helped by Odanadi.)

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3 Responses

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  1. Peter said, on January 17, 2010 at 2:53 am

    I was reading this on the bus by IPhone when I got to the yellow cows.
    I busted up and needless to say received a few looks.
    Shared w/ a couple across from me, they cracked up so of course a couple of rug rats wanted to see…
    yellow cows are the answer

  2. nancy said, on January 17, 2010 at 2:57 am

    They really should be the new Lucky Charm.

  3. Lora Glazer said, on January 17, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Thanks For Posting Those Wonderful Photos of The Cows From Makara Shankranthi , I’ve heard of this Festival, but have not seen the painted cows until now, Very Cool!

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