It is still a few more days for Navaratri, and the air is already full of festivities. The markets are flooded with ethnic and rustic apparels, accessories and jewellery, specially for dandiya – garba, the local Kali temple premises are abuzz with pandal preparations for Devi Pooja.
But all these things carry me back in time to a totally different scene and celebration — that of Bhondla or Hadga. It is a Maharashtrian tradition and is celebrated over the nine days of Navaratri.
The place where I grew up (a suburb of Mumbai) had ample space in the form of front courtyard, back courtyard etc. The part immediately inside the entrance gate was paved with stone slabs; with a Tulsi Katta on one side and a huge jack-fruit tree on the other.
We girls would gather at this place for Bhondla. For Bhondla, a picture of an elephant is drawn on a paat or a flat wooden seat and it is decorated with flowers. Why an elephant? Because during Navaratri the Hasta Nakshtra or the constellation in the form of an elephant is seen in the sky; so to celebrate this constellation a picture of elephant is worshipped. Young girls of ten – twelve years hold hands and form a circle around this wooden seat and sing the traditional Bhondla songs.
These songs are passed down the generations and are about some everyday things. ‘Aad bai aadori…’ (a song about well) and another one was about lemons ‘Ek limbu jhelu bai don limba jhelu’ (let us catch one lemon, then two lemons…..so on). I think originally this celebration was for the girls and ladies to come together and enjoy talking about daily things.
We girls did not follow any particular dress code. But sometimes we would decide to dress up in Parkar – Polka, the traditional dress of young Maharashtrian girls, which is an equivalent of South Indian Pavadai and North Indian/Gujarati chaniya – choli.
After the songs, it would be time for Khirapat or a small treat for the females gathered there. It also involved a mini guessing game. Turn by turn each girl would get a treat for those nine days; but the treat would be covered and the others would have to guess it.
For some unknown reasons, my mother was very fond of making Sheera/ Sooji ka halwa (A sweet prepared from semolina) — be it an unexpected guest or a bonus treat for school picnic, it would be same sweet (No complaints, we just loved it). So, she would nicely fill up small paper cups in a plate, cover it with another plate and hand it to me. but the aroma of cardamom, sugar etc. would give out the secret and the girls would guess it even before I could keep the plate.
It gave me a mixed sort of feelings – I would be happy that everyone liked what my mother prepared and at the same time, I would be a bit disappointed that everyone could guess my treat without a slightest effort. Now this memory makes me smile at the naivete of the childhood. 🙂
May be this tradition is still being followed in place like Pune, which the cultural capital of the state; however, I haven’t come across any Bhondla since my childhood.
Our India is a potpourri of so many cultures, I am sure there are many such interesting traditions and customs in each nook and corner of our country. Please do share with us some such novel customs of your region.
Image Source: flickr.com