Since there were no rooms to be had in Bangalore for tonight (ok, at the two hotels I tried, but given that it’s a festival weekend – Onum in Kerala, Lakshmi in Mysore – it wasn’t looking too good for me to find a place. And anyway, I was just planning on sleeping, so I figured I might as well come to Mysore straight away. Here I am staying with my friend and Bharatanatyam teacher’s mother. Her sister and nephew also happen to be here on holiday from Dubai, where they live.
It is a festival for Lakshmi today, evidently not a big one (and not the same as Onum which is a big festival in Kerala at this time). It seems what happens is that people set up altars to Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) at home, and then neighbors and friends stop by to receive tikka (women placed powder on their Lakshmi necklaces which consist of two breasts – worn just for today’s occasion?) and everyone places it over the bridge of the nose, between the eyebrows. They are then offered Prasad, which consisted two houses down of a small plastic cup of a rice dish, a coconut, a lemon, and small banana leaves with something on it – a sweet? These people also had fancy plastic bags for everyone to take their goodies home. Then we went over to Krishnaveni’s house, who was my Bharatanatyam teacher’s first teacher, with whom I will be studying while I am in Mysore. When we arrived, we did the Lakshmi rituals. They had an electric mandala going on the altar, which was pretty cool, and “Christmas” lights which always reminds me of 6th St in New York. After most of the people left (these are pretty quick visits – say 15 minutes each), we got down to business. Krishnaveni says that I must come every day for 2 hours, for 15 days. She will teach me a Ganapatti piece, a padawarna, and a javali, which seems like a lot. I can record each day, and practice (in Aparna’s old practice room!), and at the end she will give me a recording of the full pieces. It will be a lot of hard work! She declared that we must start today, because today is a good day to start (I assume connected with Lakshmi). She had me pay her a nominal amount today, and present it to her on a banana leaf along with the tikka powders. Then we did namaskaram, prayers, and she started the Ganapatti stuti. Her daughter and granddaughter were there, and she had her granddaughter demonstrate for me, perhaps 10 minutes altogether. I was in a skirt, so aramundi was impossible. Prasad here was a small plastic cup of a rice and dal dish (very yummy!), a sweet, and small bananas. I noticed some people got a coin on their banana leaf. Then we came back home where two people were waiting for the Lakshmi thing. Here Priti’s son Arnava transformed into Mr. Ritual, dressed in traditional clothing and wearing the smears of sandalwood paste. He even rang the bell and circled the lamp like we did in that piece of Viji’s I learned. He was very cute, as you can see for yourself!