Saraswati Puja at home Pooja decoration


A simple method of offering Puja at home for Goddess Saraswathi which is celebrated during Navratri festivals and usually is performed on the ninth day of the nine day long festival.   
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A plank called manai is cleaned well and a traditional kolam with lines and with kaavi border is drawn on both sides.  At the centre we can draw a free hand rangoli or Puja room rangoli like Hridaya kamalam or Aishwarya kolam

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Prepare sandalwood paste, apply on the forehead of the Goddess followed by turmeric powder and kumkum, a traditional method of applying tilak or tilagam for decoration.
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Offer white flower garland to the Goddess,  I make the garland at home ,  we can also buy it from a flower vendor.  When we do it ourselves we get lot of mental satisfaction.
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White lotus flowers are offered,  I did not get white lotus so I offered pink  lotus 
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We can add more decorations like different flowers and cotton vastra also.
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Clean another plank and draw a kolam , these simple and traditional rangoli are called manai kolam in Tamil.
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Place the books on this plank,  books of school or college going children, any books we use.  I place my kolam book in which I practice and create designs !
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Offer two to four betel leaves of good quality, areca nut and plantains.
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A coconut is also offered
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Aarthi is prepared with ghee and cotton wicks and is offered to the Goddess
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Of course a pair of lamps are to be lit before Goddess Saraswathi Ma

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We can do our prarthana , sing slokas and songs we know - they can be in any language,  Telugu, Kannada, Hindi or Tamil.  Camphor is offered to the Goddess to complete the Puja
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The next day on Vijayadasami day which is considered auspicious for beginning any new venture ,  children are asked to take the books from Puja and study for some time.  

Learn kolam 21 dots step by step


 21 dots big kolam for Pongal kolam designs with dots | Sankranti rangoli designs with dots

After placing the 21 by 11 dot idukku pulli or udu pulli dot grid .  Identify the six places where the pattern as shown in the first two images is to be drawn.

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The distance between the dots decides the size of the dot grid.  So we can adjust depending upon the space available.  If we have more space we can place them far apart.

Then around the central pattern draw the connecting the dots as shown in the next four images

Kola podi used by me is that usually available with the vendor, I answer this question in many posts because many readers and viewers have asked this question.  I add rice flour to kola podi and the ratio is for one part rice flour , 3 parts kola podi.
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Now connect the dots as shown to form the Tiger's claws patterns.  If formed with curved lines the claws will look naturalistic , if we are comfortable with straight lines also we can draw so
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After forming the six Tiger claws and the patterns at the centre , the remaining dots are connected to form rhombus like shapes to complete the kolam.


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White kolam or white muggulu is ready

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Add colours to complete the kolam .  Filling colours for this kolam needs at least one hour.  Hence such designs are reserved for festivals like Pongal or Sankranti.  They are rarely drawn for Diwali when we have different kind of rangoli.  
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I have tried to add as many images as possible to make the steps easy to learn and practice.  Still if there are some doubts , this full length video from my YouTube  channel  may also be useful. 

                

This is one of the most popular rangoli designs drawn in our family for Pongal kolam or Sankranti muggulu.  Just like they have family songs in movies, this kolam or muggu as my mother used to say is a must for Sankranti festival decoration.  My mother learnt this from her mother and so we can see how old this kolam is .  Probably more than a hundred years old.  My mother used to say that there was a lot of competition as to who used to draw big and beautiful kolam for Sankranti in her place ( Vizianagaram near Vishakapattinam ).  So she and here brother used to spy the houses in their streets and the adjacent streets to see what others were drawing early in the morning.  In fact I understand that it was my grandmother who sent them on that mission , so that she could decide what she wanted to draw for the festival.  She invariably chose this one .  Though it uses a big dot grid 21 dots to 11 dots it is a very simple rangoli design because it uses the basic geometric shapes of rhombus, and straight lines.  It is called Mandrakappa in Telugu because it represents the claws of a scorpion.  The beauty of the kolam depends of the smoothness of the claws or curved lines because all other lines are straight.  This rangoli is suitable  for filling up of colours also as is evident from the picture showing the kolam with colours filled.  While filling colours we have to do it patiently and carefully. 
Mrs. Uma Chandrasekar from Mumbai sent me a mail asking about "Puli nagam " kolam.  I understood it as pulli naagam and serpent drawn with dots for Naga Chaturthi and sent her the link to that kolam .  She clarified that it was "Tiger's claws " that she was referring to. Since I was not aware of a kolam with that name,  I asked my elder sister also living in Mumbai, Ghatkopar and she told me that this muggu Mandrakappa is also called Tiger's claws in Tamil.  

For this kolam muggu , we cannot change the claws  patterns , six of them in the kolam.  We can change the remaining patterns at the centre and other dots .  We can have various combinations of patterns and the result is hundreds of kolam with the same theme.  

These "family kolam " no one knows when they came into existence.  We have no recorded version in the notebook or book.  Just as the Vedas were handed over from generation to generation from scholars to the students only through the audio format.  I understand that they were made to repeat the stanzas again and again the memorise .  Similarly these kolam were probably memorised by seeing the mothers or elders draw the kolam .  Our mother and grandmother drew many very big rangoli with dots for Sankranti or Pongal but we have not recorded them in any note book consequently my sisters and I try to record what we remember and recollect


Old temples in Chennai Siva and Perumal

For those living in and around Chennai there are many old temple that are 500 to 1000 years old.  Some  are there for more than 1000 years.  

Neela Varna Perumal temple , Nanmangalam


Nanmangalam a suburb near Chennai has two such very old temples.  We went to Neela Varna Perumal temple situated on Elumalai Street .  It is a small temple .  The archaka  there was kind enough to explain about the temple.  He told  us that this temple is a Rahu Ketu Parihara Stalam .  The Lord is in the main  sanctum sanctorum.  Idols of Lord Anjaneya are on both sides of the wallsnear  outside the entrance to the sannidhi of  Perumal .

A separate  sannidhi for Goddess Mahalakshmi  is there inside the temple as also for Chakrathalwar who represents Sudharshan Chakra held by Him.  The day we  went special Pooja preparations were being made for Lord Hanuman because it was Moola star.    It appears He is also famous in this area for granting boons for those who pray assiduously offering betel  leaf garlands with 108 betel leaves for six weeks. During  circumambulation we noticed that there is a Lakshmi Hyagreeva idol on the wall.  A small and beautiful temple .  

A board outside the temple shows the temple timings as below

The temple is open between 7 am and 11 am in the morning
                                         and 5 pm and 8 pm in the morning

Another board has the following information in Tamil

It says the holy temple of Neela Varna Perumal ( Neela Varna means dark complexion and literally it means of blue colour ) 

"This temple is 1200 years old.  It is a parihara stalam for Rahu - Ketu , a temple for prarthana and "Abhimana stalam " for the famous Thiruneermalai temple "

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There is also a stone pillar for lighting lamps at the top of the pillar.  It is understood that this was done in those days when there was no electricity.  This is found in very old temples.  I saw this arrangement in Lord Lakshmi Narayana temple in Pallikaranai also.  The priest told us that nowadays this pillar is used to light lamps during Karthigai Deepam festival.  

Interestingly there is a stone inscription which is said to  be 800 years old.

Old Siva temple in Nanmangalam - Lord Ekambareswarar and Goddess Kamakshi, Nanmangalam


Hardly 50 metres from this temple is an old temple of Lord Ekambareswarar and Goddess Kamakshi.  We were very happy to go this temple because we thought of going to Kancheepuram the previous day and dropped it due to some reasons.   An idol of His Holiness Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi is also present  in  the temple .   Behind the main sanctum sanctorum is an idol of Lingodhava.  

So we actually go the satisfaction of going to Kancheepuram itself.  Actually it was a remarkable  coincidence because as I said earlier we wanted to go to Kanchi the previous day.  So the next day we went to Neela Varna Perumal  temple but were not aware of this temple before we went there.

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The board above shows that the temple is open between 7 am and 10.30am in the morning , 5pm and 8.30 pm in the evening.

We offered rice, dhal and oil for Annadhana and oil for the temple lamps.  

In  my opinion the best method going to these temples is using a GPRS based cab service so that we can reach the place without much difficulty.

Pallikaranai Siva temple - one of the famous and ancient temples

An ancient temple for Siva is situated opposite to the temple pond in Pallikaranai.   The Lord is Adhipuriswarar and Goddess is Santha Nayaki.  A beautiful temple right in the city.  Pallikaranai was a suburb once and as the city developed people became aware of the ancient temples in those areas also.  

In my opinion since we have many old architecturally beautiful temples and other structures in Kancheepuram and Mahabalipuram, there must be some of them between these two places also. I am giving my opinion as a layperson .  I have no knowledge of archaeology.

Coming to the temple the special features of this Sivan temple are

a) It is said that sun rays fall on the Siva linga during the month of Maasi particularly on Mahashivratri day.  Photos showing the path of sun rays are there in the temple.

b)  Lord Hanuman and Lord Ganesha shrines are situated opposite to each other and this it is said is rare.

c) There are five trees/shrubs in the temple  for "sthala vruksham " .  They are Tusli, Arasa maram ,
Vanni maram , Vilvam or Bilva and Veppa maram ( Holy Basil , Bael tree,  Neem tree , Shami tree, Peepul tree )

d) There is Rudraksha tree behind these trees in the temple.

A board placed before the temple says that "'......Krishna Deva Raya visited the temple and performed Puja.  Those who cannot go to Sri Kalahasti can come to this temple for Rahu ketu parihara.... "


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Lakshmi Narayana temple in Pallikaranai 

There is a street called Lakshmi Narayana temple street just adjacent to the Siva temple.  At the end of the road we can see the temple.  The stone pillar for lighting lamps shows that this is a very ancient temple.  Goddess Lakshmi seated on Lord Narayana , both blessing us .  This type of temple is rare in South , I think.  There are separate sannidhis for Lord Venkateswara and Lord Hanuman.  There is also a sannidhi for Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Seetha.

Information in the temple shows that there is reference to this temple in Tiurmala .


Muruganatheeswarar temple near Mambakkam


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 The temple gets income from the Chief Ministers Finance scheme for temples .
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The holy temple of Murugadeeswarar with Goddess Deivanayagi in Mambakkam, Tiruporur Circle says the board in Tamil

Two old stone pillars outside the temple, do not know what they signify
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A very old , small and beautiful temple near Mambakkam. On the Vandalur -Kelambakkam road take a left near Mambakkam if you are coming from Vandalur .  The road goes to Ponmar, Chitalapakkam and Medavakkam.

On the right near SBI construction site there is the temple on the right.  It is understood that the temple is a few centuries old.  We were blessed when the priest asked us to donate aarthi plate, bell with nandi for the temple Puja.  We purchased and offered them before the next Pradosham.

The Goddess the locals say resembles Goddess Abhirami.  The temple is always open .  The priests probably live nearby.