Festival - Varalakshmi Pooja or Vratham


Varamahalakshmi Pooja and Vratham (Varalakshmi nonbu in Tamil) Varamahalakshmi habba is one of the most important festivals celebrated on a Friday of Sravan month. It is considered more auspicious if there is a full moon also on that day.  We have different customs  traditions and dialects in India and so naturally women in various parts of India (  Andhra Pradesh , Tamil Nadu or Karnataka )  may celebrate this festival in different methods or according to their family customs through different languaages ( Tamil , Telugu or Kannada or Hindi ) .  This is also important because this is one of the few festivals where mother-in-law and daughter-in-law perform the pooja together.  How I celebrate this festival, Varamahalakshmi decoration ideas will be covered in this small article.

This post may have answers to - How to perform Varalakshmi Vratham or Puja at home,  to make a cotton garland,  to make flower decorations,  to make an aarti plate decoration,  to draw some rangoli designs,  to perform punar pooja, how to make kheer and poli, to make a simple toran or thoranam with mango leaves. For the mantras we may refer to any book of our choice.

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Varalakshmi Vratham  Pooja procedure and items


The following information may be useful in performing the Pooja and Vratham

Varalakshmi Vratham - Preparation and decoration of Mantap


Varalakshmi-vratham-mantap-decoration.jpg1. Preparation of the Pooja Mantap - We have an old mantap made from rose wood that has been used for Varalakshmi Pooja and Ganesh Chathurthi for many decades in our family.  The mantap is washed so that it becomes clean.  It is then decorated with rangoli borders on all four sides and at the centre we draw an auspicious rangoli - Hridaya Kamalam or Aishwarya Kolam with a kaavi border. To the front columns of the mantap are attached plantain plants and a maavilai thoranam.  If they are not easily available replicas made from brass are used.

Varalakshmi Habba coocnut face decoration

The fibres of a coconut which is naturally shaped properly are removed.  Water is mixed to turmeric powder and the paste is applied to the coconut thoroughly.  Then kumkum is applied the coocnut as shown in the image between two eyes of the coconut.

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Rangoli or kolam for Varlakshmi Vratham or Vratham muggulu


The following auspicious kolam are drawn for Varalakshmi Vratham mandapam



Hase rangoli

This rangoli or kolam is one the most favourite rangoli of our family for drawing in the Puja mantap in which the khalasa is placed.  It is called hase  It is similar to the padi kolam of Tamil Nadu.

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    Two steps of the above rangoli, to give an idea as to how the rangoli develops.
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The rangoli called hase  by my  mother is also her most favourite rangoli.  I do not know whether it is related to the original hase rangoli of Karnataka.  The actual hase rangolis are very beautiful and have many designs and borders. This rangoli has been used by my mother for decades. She believes it is one of the most auspicious ones for Fridays and is also Goddess Lakshmi's favourites in addition to Hridaya kamalam . It is similar to the padi kolam of Tamil Nadu.  The central square is drawn with parallel lines and the four sides of the square are decorated 
with petal like designs. The rangoli is now decorated on the periphery and finished with a kaavi border.  The other favourite rangoli of Goddess Lakshmi is the Hridaya kalam that is drawn with dots.  

Varalakshmi Vratham Pooja kolam - kalasam in kolam for 2016

One more option for kolam , an innovative idea may be drawing a kalasam in a kolam.  The images below show the steps for this simple and quick 7 by 4 idukku pulli kolam.  With such a small dot grid we can represent the kalasam , coconut , mango leaves and Lakshmi's feet . This kolam is a recent addition to this post for Varalakshmi Pooja 2016 

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Another option for a padi kolam under the category ezhai kolam ( drawn with thin lines ) for this festival is show through a series of images below.  After completion it looks like a complicated designs but the steps make it easy to draw.  If space permits we can draw patterns with five lines instead of four.


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A sample thoranam decoration for Varalakshmi vratham mantap, below.  The mango leaves have been cut so that all the elements of the thoranam (festoon) are of the same length.

How to make a mango leaf toran or maavilai thoranam for decorating Varamahalakshmi Puja mantap

A simple and easy decoration using mango leaves to get the traditional thoranam in the photos below.  Select leaves that are almost of the same length.  Cut the leaves as shown.  Place each leaf after folding it around a thread and staple it.  Staple other leaves also so that we get a thoranam or toran with elements of same length.  
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How to make a thoranam for decorating Varamahalakshmi Puja mantap


Take the cut portion of the frond on the left to the right from behind the mid rib as shown in the image below. There should a reasonable distance between any two elements of the thoranam.  This is to be decided based on the size of the element that is formed.

After bringing it around from behind the mid rib insert it in the part of the frond on the right that is folded on the left!.  Pull both ends extending on both sides of the mid rib to get the completed element of the thoranam.

Now press the thoranam gently to flatten the elements as much as possible.  Repeat the process till we get as many elements as we want.  The length of the thoranam depends upon where we want to use it.  If is for a mantap for festivals like Varalakshmi Vratham or Ganpathi Puja (Pillayar Chaturthi in Tamil Nadu ) the number of elements will be less.  If we want to hang it on both sides of a Puja room or at the entrance it can be longer.  The thin long mid rib that is left at one end as discussed at the beginning is used to tie two thoranams i.e two thoranams are taken and the long mid rib portions at one end ( at the top ) are tied to form a knot so that we can hang it from a nail.  Two such thoranam are hung on either side of the door way or mantap. Though it is a very simple craft idea for a decoration for Puja it actually enhances the beauty of a mantap or entrance. I invariably use it on both sides of the Puja mantap and also on both sides of the main entrance.
  

Varlakshmi Vratham - Performing the pooja


We place a plantain leaf  inside the mantap with  rice on it.  Then we place the khalasam on which the face of Goddess Lakshmi is carved facing east.  We fill it with,(sambha) wheat grains,  silver, gold, dry fruits, picholai and karugamani. The mouth of the khalasam is decorated with maavilai and  thazhampoo alternately.  Then we place a coconut on the top smeared with turmeric powder.  Kumkum is also applied on the coconut. This is then decorated with five types of flowers and gold ornaments
 Yellow thread (or dhaaram ) one for each lady member is placed near the Goddess.
A cotton thread is made yellow by applying turmeric paste.  Nine knots are made on the thread or nombu saradu ( compare with karadaiyan nonbu saradu ) - eight are made on the thread and the ninth knot is made with a flower - tazhampoo is preferred but it may be difficult to tie it

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 Pooja to  Lord Ganesh (or Ganapathi ) is done to an image made from turmeric mixed with a little water. Then the main Pooja is conducted according our family customs and traditions.  For those starting anew many books are available.  We  fast from the morning till the pooja is completed.
After completion  the yellow thread is tied to our right hand by another lady member of the family.  Kumkum is applied to the knot and on the forehead.  We have a betel leaf , nut and fruit combination placed on the right palm. . We do not fast at night.  We remove the yellow thread only after Vijayadasami.

varalakshmi-vratham-festival-1.jpgThe yellow petals are of thazampoo ( I understand it is called fragrant screw pine in English, kevada in Hindi, kedage or Tale Hoovu in Kannada).  As the name suggests the fragrance of the flower is divine.  We place five petals of thazampoo and five mango leaves alternately in the khalasam rim as shown in the photo.  The coconut is then placed in these leaves.



We use four types of flowers - marigold (saamandhi poo), jasmine (malli), mullai (also from jasmine family), winter jasmine (jaadhi malli). We use roses and kadhambam (a combination of flowers) for decoration

In the evening, aarthi is performed to Lakshmi , ladies nearby and relatives are invited and thamboolam with coconut is given. A glass of milk is also offered to them.  My mother used to place green colour bangles for all members of the family at the feet of the Goddess (i.e khalasam ) and that were distributed the very next day.  Since we were a big joint family, then, it was really a festive atmosphere.

Varalakshmi Puja images 

Varalakshmi Kalasam decoration ideas / ammavu decoration 

How to prepare kalasam for Varalakshmi Pooja or how to arrange Varalakshmi kalsam - some ideas that are part of our family tradition are shared here.

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varalakshmi-vratham-festival-3.jpgThe khalasam shown above has the face of the Goddess etched on it.  I am told that this is uncommon.Goddess is adorned with gold jewels to show our gratitude for Her blessings.

varalakshmi-vratham-festival-4.jpgThe images below give some ideas of the things required for performing this Vratham or Puja i.e fruits, flowers, the yellow thread with a thazhampoo petal.

Varalakshmi Puja Neivedyam images


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Varalakshmi Vratham decoration ideas 


We can also use artificial or imitation jewellery for Pooja. ( made for this purpose -  if it made by us - it gives us a lot of satisfaction) Some of the jewellery made by me and used in various decorations are in the image below.  Trinkets in various designs are available ready-made  They have to be assembled  into a necklace.  Our imagination is the key to get the final design.  Also, it is  time-consuming and needs lots of patience. I hope to have a separate post for these jewellery and that will be in the future. Navratri and Dasara festival season is also important for use of artificial jewellery for decoration.

From my YouTube channel on kolam 


Varalakshmi Vratham Pooja song in Telugu - 


Aarthi song for Goddess Lakshmi after the Puja




Kolam and craft ideas through videos for festivals 


       



Rangolisansdots - my Rangoli , festival related craft 
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Artificial jewellery ideas

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Apart from rangoli and few other craft types I try to create, I also try some artificial jewellery designs on my own.  All craft ideas I do are amateur attempts     However I would like to share most of them that are relevant to the idea of Rangoli-sans-dots - rangoli, kolam and some art and craft ideas to do it yourself.

artificial-jewel-1.jpg  Artificial jewellery - necklaces, ear rings are quite easy to make.  What we need is time and patience.
All the parts of the jewellery are available separately.  We have to purchase them and create them.

For the necklace design in the image above - Take a metallic wire preferably gold or silver in colour (polyester or similar threads can also be used )

The yellow colour metallic beads at the top  are inserted in the metallic wire. Yellow is preferred for jewellery because it matches with the designs we have chosen for the other parts of the necklace.  It is available in different colours and we can chose it according to colour of the remaining part of the jewel.

 We can have two or three beads  according to the gaps we require.  After the space created using the metallic beads one blue stone embedded in metal setting  is inserted in the metal wire. At the bottom of this trinket is a ring for holding a pendant.  The pendants come in different types.  I have chosen one with a set of pearls. The pearls have to be inserted one by one in the pendant through rings.  We can have one more set as shown in the image.  We can also add a locket or something similar at the bottom of the necklace.

I have tried with two rows of similar set of trinkets and pendants with the necessary accessories.  We can reduce the number of trinkets in each row , gradually reducing the arc of the necklace to get a beautiful design.  We can also have different colour combination in each row or in different rows.  The possibilities are infinite.      

ear-rings.jpgartificial-jewelry-2.jpg This is second necklace idea - an artificial or costume jewellery, of course.  It is simpler than the previous one.  The procedure is the same using a metallic or polyester wire create the design with green stones.  Ear-rings are the among the simplest we can do in artificial jewelry.  The stone setting in blue and white is readily available in the market (in India) with rings at the bottom.  We have to insert the pearl pendants one by rings that can be closed with pliers. Again there are different varieties of stones, pendants and the combinations that can be got are many.

Some simple decoration ideas for lamps that can be lit on either side of the mandapam .  The decorations may be as simple as possible so that it can be done at home easily. The lamps are painted using commercially available acrylic paints  in small glass bottles. The lamps are purchased ready-made and made from natural clay.


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 The  deepam design, I have done with a lamp  (something similar to a kutthu vilakku ). The paint I have used is pearl blue colour.  Designs (some lines ) have been added with gold coloured glittering colours, simple but cute.                                

We also use a poo jadai for the Goddess.

  How to make the poo jadai or alankaram for decorating Varamahalakshmi

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Floral decorations can be done in innumerable ways and along with rangoli form an art form that is creative in nature.  Alankaram as we say in Tamil is an important art.  Traditionally decoration of the braid with flowers and hence floral decorations have been given importance particularly for weddings.  Poo jadai as it called is a simple yet beautiful floral decoration.  Add to it the fragrance of the flowers.  These floral decorations are not only important in traditional functions but also for some festivals like Varalakshmi Puja.   
 The following images show how a simple poo jadi is made.   Usually we use three flowers of different colours choosing at least two fragrant varieties.  As shown in the first image, jasmine flowers are Not tied following the traditional method of stringing ( There are videos in my YouTube Channel showing how to string the jasmine and rose and other floral decorations ). They are tied on one side only so that all the stalks are on one side . The method followed for stringing the flowers is the same as that we follow for tying flowers on both sides of a string, only in this case all flowers will be one one side.   The strung flowers are cut into three equal parts, in the image I have shown.  The number depends upon the length of the "jadai"  The ends are tied so that they form circles.
  Similarly another flower like kanakambaram (it has bright orange colour and so it is chosen.  These flowers are also tied following the same method that is used for the jasmine to get a circular floral arrangement.
  A very thick paper or cardboard of suitable length is taken and cut to get a rectangular shape.  Place jasmine on the cardboard and tie using a needle and string so that it is firmly in place.  Next place the kanakambaram (firecracker flower ) flowers on the jasmine and tie them to the cardboard through the jasmine .  The result is as shown in the second image.  The third flower can be a rose or "maru" leaves ( that have been used in this poo jadai (braid decoration) ).  The circular floral arrangement should of decreasing diameter so that the poo jadi tapers from the top to bottom ( it is wider at the top than at the bottom )
  Then, the extra projections of cardboard are cut using a pair of scissors, carefully so that only the floral decoration is visible.  
 A smaller version can be used for festivals like Varalakshmi Vratham (Amman Alankaram ). Using a needle and thread make provisions at two or three places,  for tying this decoration to the braid, taking into consideration the weight (!) of the flower jadai.  
This is a simple combination of flowers, we can use different combinations to suit our taste and availability of flowers.
We can also change the order of flowers, having jasmine at the top instead of the bottom.  

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Poo jadai was an important decoration for children few decades back for Navratri festival! A simple poo - jadai for Varalakshmi Vratham - cut a thick board in the form of a "jadai " - place already strung jasmine or similar flowers and sew to the board.  On either side sew colourful roses ( yellow, orange etc ) as shown.  The result a beautiful decoration for Goddess Lakshmi.
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Also, readily strung flowers are available in the market ( in India) stringing the flowers ourselves and using them for pooja gives a lot of satisfaction. 
Another floral decoration that can be used to decorate for Varalakshmi Vratham or Krishna Jayanthi with three flowers .  One is the tube rose, the yellow one is the petal of carnation flower and the green fern-likes taken from a bouquet 
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Stringing jasmine or similar flowers for Varalakshmi Vratham decoration

What I had written earlier  on jasmine is a very easy and simple method of making jasmine garland using a needle and thread.  In fact what we get is a densely set floral garland.  Stringing of roses is difficult due the fact that the petals are very delicate and tend to fall when we try to string roses.
                                                         
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 The roses should be fresh and used within a few hours.  Hence it is better to string roses when they are fresh. Of course for stringing of jasmine, roses and jasmine garland videos are there in Rangolisansdots my video Channel.  If the explanation and images shared here are not sufficient, the videos may help.

Coming to jasmine, stringing them is difficult because the stalk is thin and small ( initially it is better to learn stringing leaves or flowers with long stalk ). The images show the steps in a series of photos taken while stringing jasmine.
First place two flowers opposite to each other ( 180 degrees apart ) so that the stalks overlap.   Let the string go around the stalks of the flowers.  The next  make a knot using the index finger and middle finger.  First the string is rolled over the index finger and then the middle finger.  The loop formed is inserted on the flower at the top so that it gets seated on the overlapping stalks.  The string is pulled to form a knot.  These steps are repeated again and again to form a garland.  This is the traditional method as compared to the method using needle and thread.

It is easier to string the jasmine flowers when they are buds.  Once they bloom it is slightly difficult as the petals interfere with stringing process.  Usually, the jasmine buds are strung and the garland is stored in a piece of clean cloth made slightly wet with water so that the flowers bloom the next day.  Too wet a cloth will result in the flowers getting damaged.  There is a variety of jasmine called mullai in Tamil for which the stringing process is also the same except the cloth is made very wet for the flowers to bloom. Nature has its own way for different flowers! Jasmine is white but is one of the most fragrant flowers and hence used for festivals. I have four jasmine plants that bloom every day. I get a few flowers and I offer them during regular prayer. In Tamil Nadu Madurai is famous for jasmine and Madurai malli as it is called is quite popular.
The flower shown in the image is kakada that is some what similar to jasmine but has almost no fragrance

To have a recap - the first image shows to flowers placed one above the other with stalks over lapping and with the string at the bottom

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The next image shows the flowers being held with the left thumb, with the string going around the stalks so as to hold them.

The third image shows the beginning of the formation of the knot using the index finger and middle finger and rolling them over the string first along the string then with the middle finger supporting the string roll the wrist around the string to get the position shown in the fourth image. This is the most difficult part in this process as it involves rotating the fingers and wrist in different planes.
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The fifth image shows the formation of the ring which is inserted on the top of the flower as shown in the sixth image so that the the ring is over the overlapping stalks.
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The final image shows the string being pulled so that a knot forms around the overlapping portion of the stalks. We can see flower vendors doing this quite fast and mechanically concentrating on some thing else while stringing flowers.  That is practice and experience for us !
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Cotton garland an important part of  Varalakshmi Vratham Puja vidhanam

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Apart from  stringing flowers and decorating Mahalakshmi, we use simple cotton garlands made from cotton  available in shops that sell pooja items .  It is useful  in places where it is difficult to get strung flowers.  Take a suitable length of cotton and gently pull it and twist.  Repeat the same process a little below  so that we get a small ball.  We make a garland with 25 cotton ball for Varalakshmi Vratham and Navaratri and Tulasi Pooja with kumkum mixed in water as shown in the image. For Ganesh Chathurthi, Naga Chaturthi and Panchami it is with 21 nos with turmeric powder mixed in water instead of kumkum.

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Cotton  garland is commonly used in festivals for decorating the deities. This is a simple, hand made craft that can be used for decoration.  Unlike some  artificial garlands that are available the cotton garland is eco-friendly so were many of the traditional methods of decoration that were followed (and that are being followed ) - like the rangoli with rice flour.

Tradition has it that   a garland of 25 cotton spheres for the festivals  Varalakshmi Puja, Navaratri and Tulasi Pooja with kumkum mixed in water . For Ganesh Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi  Festival, festivals called Naga Chaturthi and Panchami it is with 21 nos with turmeric paste. So the garland used in the first case has alternate cotton ball and a cotton strand red in colour while the latter has cotton strands yellow in colour due to the turmeric paste. ( I write what I follow or practice). Tradition and customs can vary even among families.  

    The three images  give an idea of how this simple cotton garland (panju  malai in Tamil it is also called gejje vastra or vastram ) is made for some festivals listed above.  First the seeds are removed from the cotton purchased from the market.  The cotton is then made into a long (near! ) cylinder in shape . This is held at the top and gently pulled till it nearly comes apart.  Stop at the stage and using the fingers roll the area of reduced diameter gently to get two small spheres of cotton with a thin but strong strand.  When this process is repeated the result is alternate spheres of cotton as shown in the third image.  Kumkum or turmeric powder is applied between the spheres.

Now that the mala or garland is ready, how to we fix it.   The two ends of the garland are stretched so that we get  thin, strong cotton strands at  both ends.  To these affix two pieces of cotton dipped in turmeric powder or kumkum mixed in water.  They become wet and so it is easy to stick the cotton garland on to them as also on the photo or deity.   We can also have two or three such cotton garland intertwined to form a simple yet more beautiful garland.  In case you would like to see how this is made please view the relevant video on my YouTube Channel Rangolisansdots.                             


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While rolling the cotton vibuthi or sacred ash is used to make rolling easy.





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The two big pieces of cotton dipped in kumkum solution are at the top.  They are used to fix the garland on the picture of khalasam of the deity. The video for this decoration is below the image.  It is  called panju thiri malai in Tamil. If you want to see how it is made please view the video  from my YouTube Channel.  

How to make cotton wick / panju thiri / vattulu /Hatti Hirubatti for aarthi or Puja at home.


Two types of cotton wicks can be made, the long wicks and the flower wicks for aarthi or Puja.  The photo above shows the long wick being used for aarthi.  Some lamps can accommodate only flower wicks.
The idea is simple, take a ball of cotton and draw a long and thin thread.  To make it easy I dip my fingers in milk, some use vibuthi or the sacred ash to get a hold on the cotton.  After making a long and fine thread fold it using the fingers as shown in the photo, roll the wick between the palms to get the wick or panju thiri.

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The next type is simpler to form, the flower wick - dip the fingers in milk draw the  cotton to get a thin and small strand with a floral base as shown in the images below.
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kolam at entrance for welcoming Godess Lakshmi on Varalakshmi Puja Day


Varalakshmi-vratham-festival-8.jpgA simple rangoli is also drawn at the doorway on the right hand side, a azhakku ( a vessel used to measure rice) is filled with rice and jaggery is placed on the top.  Above this the khalasam is placed. The azhakku is pushed with the khalasm symbolically representing entry of Lakshmi into our house. Aarthi is performed to the Goddess welcoming her into the house. A song on Lakshmi is played in the background and the Puja is performed placing the khalasam in the mantap.



Varamahalakshmi-vratham-festival-10.jpgyamuna-kalasam.jpgThe image on the left gives an idea how Goddess Lakshmi is welcomed into the house. From the entrance to the mantap two small feet are drawn to depict entry of Goddess into our house. (As we draw for Krishna Jayanthi or Janmashtami )
The actual welcome to Godess Lakshmi khalasam with aarti on the left

The images from this year Varalakshmi vratham and pooja done by me, including Yamuna kalasam, aarti, Pooja and neivedhiyam.

Varmahalskmi Habba / Navratri decoration - aarthi preparation

Friday Puja procedure - Aarthi offering

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The following images show how aarthi is prepared for Navratri kolu .  This aarthi is also performed on Fridays, for Vinayaka Chathurthi and Varalakshmi Vratham.

Add some kukkum in a small plate and mix it with water.  Apply sandalwood paste and kumkum on four sides of an aarthi diva.  Place flower shaped cotton wicks or long wicks depending upon the type of lamps we use.  Add cow's ghee to the wicks, light the lamps and perform aarthi to the golu or kolu.

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Padi kolam for welcoming Goddess Lakshmi inside house


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This kolam that may be categorised as a padi kolam because it has a square pattern ( there are no further extensions).  The main features of this kolam is that there are five lines drawn horizontally and vertically instead of the usual four.  Neli or curved lines - single or double are drawn along the perimeter of the square pattern and also inside as shown in the images that take us through the steps.  Finally the kolam is decorated with a kaavi border.

Aarthi plate for Varlakshmi Vratham decoration - a part of Puja vidhanam

A simple puja plate decoration method

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This is a home made aarti plate decoration.  Use a clean plate.  Draw the rangoli designs with cotton bud dipped in honey.  Sprinkle rangoli powder on the plate.  Tap it to remove excess powder to get the aarti decoration.  A simple easy yet beautiful way of performing a pooja and aarti.  A simple aarti plate decoration like the one above can also be used for Navaratri or Diwali thali decoration.

kolam around a plate for festivals and weddings

For important festivals like Varalakshmi Vratham, Ganesh Chathurti, Navratri there is also a tradition of decorating the banana leaf or plate on which the naivedyam is served to the family members with a kolam made from a mixture of kola podi or rice flour and turmeric powder.  Turmeric powder is mixed till the colour turns yellowish.  Simple decorations are drawn around the leaf.  Some of the designs are shown in the photos below.  This type of kolam can also be used for decorating banana leaves used in marriage.  While the leaves of the bride groom and the bride are decorated with elaborate colourful kolam designs the leaves of others who sit can be decorated and are usually decorated with the kolapodi and turmeric powder mixture.
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 This is a double or rettai ezhai kolam - the two ezhai or lines drawn simultaneously.   Ezhai literally means very thin ( in Tamil nool ezhai is a single strand of the number of strands that twine to form a string or thread ! )- so we should try to draw lines as thin as possible in ezhai kolam.
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Neivedhiyam for this pooja includes, five types of fruits, idli, kozhukattai, amavadai and payasam etc.
Kheer or payasam is also important in celebrating this festival.  The following two items (paruppu urundai morkozhambu and aamaivadai) are also important in the celebration of Varalakshmi Pooja for that matter any festival like Lakshmi Puja, Ugadi, Navaratri, Ganesh Chathurthi and any other vratham .                                  
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Poori payasam or kheer recipe for Varalakshmi Vratham

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Required ingredients
1. Chiroti rava or sooji (else use standard rava ) - 200 gram
2. Milk - 3/4 litre
3. Sugar -as desired
4. Cardamom
5. Cashew nuts
6. Raisins
7. Optional (almonds and saffron)
Take required quantity of chirroti rava in a vessel and mix water to obtain a dough similar to poori dough.  
Let the dough settle for at least two hours.  Knead the dough and using a rolling pin flatten as we do for poori or roti.  Cut the dough  with a suitable cutter in two directions to obtain square or rhombus shaped pieces and fry them in ghee (if you dont have objection to calories ) else use cooking oil. Boil milk  and use flame in "sim" position. Add cardomom powder, saffron to it.  Now add the fried dough pieces to the milk and stir for a few minutes. Add required quantity of sugar.  Fry cashewnuts, raisins and add them to the kheer.  Your special kheer as shown in the photo below is ready to serve (and eat!). If standard rava is used grind it in a mixer for a few seconds to make it fine

Rice and gram dhall kheer ( arisi kadalai paruppu payasam ) for Varalakshmi Vratham



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Fry rice and gram dhall in little ghee separately. For one cup rice take quarter cup gram dhal.  Mix them and cook in a pressure cooker.
Add half cup jaggery and cardamom powder to little water in a vessel and heat it.
When the jaggery melts add the rice and gram dhal mixture and continue cooking for two to three minutes.
Once cooking is complete add grated coconut ( optional ). Remove the vessel from the stove and add fried cashew nuts. One more neivedhiyam or offering is ready for Puja.

Hyagreeva sweet dish for Varamahalakshmi festival


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This is a sweet dish that is used as an offering or neivedhiyam for Puja particularly on Thursdays.
for Lord Hyagreeva  (for children's education).
 It can also be prepared and offered for auspicious occasions and festivals like Varalakshmi Vratha Pooja instead of kheer or payasam..

Method of preparation

Gram dhall ( kadalai paruppu ) is cooked with little water in a cooker.  Using a ladle break the dhall so that some are whole and some are broken.   Add powdered jaggery and mix well.  In a vessel add ghee and heat it.  Now add cashew nuts, raisins  and the mixture of gram dhall and jaggery to the heated ghee.  Stir well till jaggery melts completely.  Add cardamom powder to it.  The neivedhiyam is ready. Usually it is prepared in small quantity since it is for offering.  Adding  grated coconut is optional.

Varamahalakshmi vratham  recipes - Ambode for naivedyam


Ambode ( amaivadai in Tamil ) in an important recipe for Ugadi festival. The following pics show the steps in making this traditional dish for this festival.   Soak gram dhall and red chillies in water for 45 minutes.   Drain the water,. Grind it coarsely as shown in the second photo. Add salt to taste while grinding.  Then add asofoetida, finely chopped coriander leaves and curry leaves. I have used grated coconut.  It is optional.  Make a medium sized  ball , flatten it with your palm and fry to get the ambode shown in the third photo.  On auspicious days and festivals some do not add onion.   ( If onion is added it  becomes masal vadai ! and we don't add onion or garlic for festivals  ) This is one of the Thanjavur Marathi recipes along with poli for festivals.

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Navratri and other festival recipes-Pitla-recipe for the Varamalakshmi festival

This variety of pitla as it called can be prepared for festivals like Navratri, Varalakshmi Vratham or Ugadi.
The ingredients required are
Two teaspoons of urad dhall
One teaspoon of gram  dhall
Pepper , red chillies
Asafoetida and curry leaves.

All the ingredients are roasted in a little oil, curry leaves can be roasted separately also.  Then grated coconut is added and the mixture is ground into a fine paste.

Saute with mustard seeds, urad dhall in a tava, add solution of tamarind soaked in water, allow it to boil.
Then add the cooked vegetables - peanuts, beans and carrot slices and let the solution boil.
Finally add already cooked thoor dhall and add salt to taste and boil for a few minutes . We can use different vegetable combinations like yam and chick peas, bittergourd ( pavakkai ) and peanuts or ground nuts to make this delicious dish.  

Pepper gives a fine flavour to the pitla

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Varalakshmi Vratham sweet recipe - Puran Poli

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Puran poli is an important recipe for Varalakshmi vratham.  Puran is prepared using gram dhal, jaggery in the ratio 1: 0.3 (approximately, according to one's taste), very little nutmeg  (powder). Gram dhal is cooked well and ground in a mixer after draining the excess water. Place a kadai on a stove, add a teaspoon  ghee, add the mashed gram dhal and powdered jaggery and cook on a low/medium flame.  Add nutmeg powder.  Stir well till  it reaches a stage where it does not stick to the kadai.  Remove it from the stove and keep aside.

Add 2.5 measure wheat flour to 1 measure maida, turmeric powder and a pinch of salt, mix water to prepare dough.  It should be semi-solid and should not  have the same consistency as that of  chappathi dough.  Immerse it in oil for three hours.  Take a rolling pin and board, cover the rolling board with a thin white cloth.  Roll the dough as you do for roti.  Add some pooran on the dough, close the dough on all sides and again roll after dipping in rice flour, making the poli as thin as possible.  Heat on a tava with ghee.  Pooran poli is ready.

Some videos that may be useful for decoration ideas for this festival and celebrating Varalakshmi Vratha are in the play list Varalakshmi Vratham alankaram 

What to do the next day after Varalakshmi Pooja or 

How to do Varalakshmi Vratham Punar Puja 

The next day a brief pooja is  performed (called Punar Pooja), the khalasam is moved a little from its original position.  We pray that Goddess should bless us to perform the Pooja every year.  We place the khalasam inside a rice container (any container where we usually store rice).  The coconut is removed the kernel is used to make a sweet - coconut burfi on any other sweet and is distributed to the family along with the dry fruits that we place inside the khalasam.   The jewels that adorn the Goddess are removed and worn by the lady members of the family

Sweet - coconut burfi


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The coconut kernel is grated and ground fine in a mixer in a few seconds.  One measure of grated kernel needs one measure of sugar.  Take some water (50ml approx)  in a vanali ( a flat vessel) and add sugar.  Wait till the sugar dissolves and then add the grated coconut.  Keep stirring.  Add two teaspoons ghee and cardamom (elakkai) powder. Cashew nuts are optional.  Almonds have been shown above only for plating.  They are not needed.  Continue stirring upto the stage the burfi does not stick to the vessel.  Medium flame is recommended.  Take a plate and grease it with ghee, pour the semi-solid burfi on the plate and tap gently.  Cut when it is hot to get the rhombus shaped (or any other shape) burfi.

Another important festival celebrated Sravan month for the welfare of children is Jivthi Puja or Jeevthi Pooja.

Festival - Jeevthi Pooja in Sravan Sukruvar

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This Pooja is performed mainly in Western India.  Jeevathi literally means life.  Since She gives life She is worshipped during all Fridays of Sravan month.  Pictures of Jeevathi are available.  Pooja is performed by decorating with garlands made from cotton and from betel leaves.  While the betel leaf garland is changed the cotton garlands are added one above the other.
   


 Neivedhiyam  is mainly fruits, kheer.


 The mother performing the pooja prays to Goddess to take care of all her children where ever they are.  Then she performs aarti to all her children ( and grand children) irrespective of their age.   Finally aarti  with camphor is done to Jeevathi.  A beautiful tradition that ensures that the mother-children bonding lasts for ever.

An elderly lady is invited, thamboolam is offered to her and the mother takes her blessings.  This pooja is performed by many ladies  throughout their lives. They do it with joy and out of love and affection for their children.

           

 Paal Poli or Milk Poli Fridays   


How to prepare ?

For one measure of maida ( refined wheat flour ) add one table spoon fine sooji ( or rava ).  Mix thoroughly to get dough.After 30 minutes,  make small balls of dough as we do with poori.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into circular or triangle shapes.  Boil the milk well , stir continuously to prevent milk from boling over. Add required quantity of sugar according to individual's taste, cardamom powder, saffron while stirring the milk.   Remove from the stove , to reduce the heat - however the milk should not become cool.

Fry the pooris in oil.  Using a fork prick the dough in one or two places so that air is not trapped inside ( so pooris will not puff ).  It is important in this recipe that puris do not get inflated (!). After frying , soak the pooris in the boiled milk for a few seconds ( till the next poori is fried ) and remove it. Place it on a plate. If you soak it for a long time, the pooris will become soggy and may tear into pieces.

Optional - Almonds, cashews and pistachios are made into a coarse powder using a mixer and added to the paal poli or milk poli when served to the guests, for members of our family.  It is a simple and interesting option for festivals like Diwali, Navaratri and occasions.
We do it for an auspicious day called "Sravan Sukravar " ( Friday in the month of Sravan - Aavani in Tamil ). This recipe can also be prepared for Varalakshmi Vratham or Pooja..
Another method of doing this sweet (!) dish is by using chiroti rava instead of maida.

How to make a simple betel leaf garland



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Betel leaf garland can be made using a banana stem fibre ( vazhai naaru ) or a string on which turmeric powder is applied.  The betel leaves are placed on the string and stapled.  The number of leaves depends upon the size of Jeevthi Maa photo.  Some prefer to have odd number of leaves in the garland.