Monday, March 16, 2009

Karadaiyan Nonmbu

Satyavan Savitri painting By Ardendu Banerjee
Karadaiyan Nombu and its myth
Courtesy: Blogger-Casement
One person’s truth is another’s fiction. Similarly, one person’s myth is another’s religious belief.The religious belief of ‘Karadaiyan Nombu’, has its roots in the myth of Satyavan & Savitri, which is about love, devotion, death and life, in the same order. Savitri, daughter of a king, was wise and beautiful. She was granted permission to find her own groom and she selected Satyavan, who was destined to die in a year. But, Savitri did not want to marry anyone except him and entered into the wedlock with courage and confidence. When Satyavan’s impending death arrived, she observed an austere fast to seek the blessing of Gods and Goddesses. Finally, when the God of Death, Yama arrived to perform his duty, she won the life of Satyavan with her devotion and intellect.Based on this legend, South Indian women observe fast and pray for the well-being of their husband, in the culmination of Masi(a month in Tamil calendar, approximately Feb 14th- March 14th). ‘Kara Adai’ is a delicious recipe, made with rice flour and black peas (Sidenote1: My mom makes excellent karadais). It has no particular nexus with the story, but its preparation has been a custom. When the auspicious time arrives, a banana leaf is placed in front of the lady with karadais and butter, along with a yellow thread, called saradu. The women, then take a vow (referred to as ‘nombu’) uttering the words "Urugada vennaiyum, oradaiyum naan thanden, orunaalum en kanavar piriyadirukka vendum." A crude translation would mean, I make this offer of Adai and butter; May my husband stay with me always. (Sidenote 2: I have never taken the vow without a giggle, at the equation of adai and husband and not a single nombu has passed without a lecture from my mom. A fragment of the lecture in the next paragraph). After the vow, the women tie the saradu around their neck and break the fast with the karadai and vennai, with prayers for their husband’s/future husband’s longevity."There will always be myths we are unable to understand or appreciate, or that has been distorted in translation or retelling. A few myths survived the tests of time, a few others changed with time and many have vanished leaving behind only traces of their existence. Perhaps, the obscure remains are the reason for the lack of complete understanding of such myths. But, in its essence, there is a wise lesson to learn, notwithstanding its void appearance. A nonbelieiver will not be able to fathom the depth of the myth by explaining them away, while a believer experiences the joy of its true meaning by acceptance and practice."I have successfully recalled my mother’s lecture about the obscurity of the connection between husband and Adai. It is left to be seen if I can successfully recall her recipe of Karadai, which seems to be more important after the daylong fast, than its connection with my husband

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