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Archive for Hinduism

Traditional Hindu Foods and Our Beloved Kitchen Terrorist

Traditional Hindu Foods, oil painter Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar, India, Art

Oil Painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar of Aji Nirmala Kelkar

Post Munja (Thread) Ceremony in Pune, India, Anand’s maternal grandmother (aji) was sitting at the table that was laid out with a feast of traditional Hindu foods. She had waited for the ceremonies to be over so she could see us in our fancy dress and watch us eat the classic Brahmin food that had been specially prepared for the feast over the last three days. Before we sat down to eat, she insisted that Anand’s mother and my “Indian foster mother” who were already exhausted from their early morning efforts, put rangoli in a colorful and decorative design around our plates that we were going to eat from.

Aji got the nickname of “Kitchen Terrorist” from me after we realized that she had driven all the hired help to quitting, and her own children crazy with demands from the kitchen, the pantry, appetizers and meal requests that were out of season and out of the question. In her heyday she had been the most awesome cook according to her family and friends. After she broke her hip and had some other health issues that prevented her from standing up, she became a bedridden dictator much to the sorrow of everyone near and dear to her.

It took me under three minutes to quickly taste my tiny portions, which Anand’s mother thoughtfully placed on my plate, knowing full well that I wouldn’t like or want to eat any of it. My problem with the food in India is difficult for me to explain. I don’t like heavily sweetened foods, especially fruit; I have sensory aversions to the smell and taste of curry leaf and heavy saffron flavors; additionally I do not like lentils, broccoli, cauliflower, okra or eggplant; and at the time I was doing my best not to eat carbs like rice, flour, potatoes, refined grains or other root vegetables. Take a wild guess what traditional Brahmin food is loaded with? Sugars and starches. Aji was at a loss to understand me and why I would not partake in her traditional Hindu foods.

Traditional Hindu foods are used on holy days. They abstain from strong herbs and spices, such as garlic, onions and chilies as they are too stimulating when one is to be in a meditative or prayerful state.

This oil painting is on canvas and measures 12″ x 16″.

Hindu Fire Ceremony As Still Life Painting

Hindu Fire Ceremony, oil painter Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar, Art, India

Hindu Fire Ceremony by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar (signed with her Hindu name “Amrita”)

A Hindu Fire Ceremony is something to behold. The natural ingredients are dried cow patties, mango sticks, ghee (clarified butter), dried grasses and string made from coir, marigolds, rice, copper bowls and basic clay bricks present a lovely collection of textures and harmonious colors.

This oil painting is on cotton canvas and measures 20″x24″.

Personal Story About This Hindu Fire Ceremony

Half way through my husband Anand’s Munja’s Hindu fire ceremony, the fire that was built using dried cow-patties, a few twigs and fueled heavily by ghee started smoking to high heavens. The recreation hall doors were all open, and the wind was changing directions causing the priests to lean left then right in a weak attempt to avoid the smoke as they chanted their lines. I ran around the room closing windows and doors trying to channel the smoke between the gents, but each time the wind outwitted me.

Anand, patient as ever and acting respectful, was completely smoked out as the flames worked to steady themselves in the clocking breeze.

I turned to his Uncle Kumar and said, “I know Anand, as a scientist, must be hating every minute of this and he is probably staying put to make this part of the ceremony end fast. Can’t we do something about the smoke?”

Kumar-mama just laughed and said, “Don’t you know Annie, it is a holy fire making holy smoke that will purify Anand.” Right. All I understood was that my sweetheart had to inhale the ash and smoke from burning cow dung, which motivated me to make one more attempt to channel the draft. When I successfully directed the smoke between the Pandits and away from Anand, sure enough it was all over in another two minutes.

Hindu fire ceremonies are pleasant enough. Between the chanting of the priests to the gods and the simple offerings it is a reflective time. If you ever have a chance to sit through one take it!




Hindu Offering to the Gods – Food for Thought

Food As A Hindu Offering to the Gods

Hindu Offering Oil Painting, Still Life by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar

Hindu Offering at Munja Ceremony

This still life oil painting was inspired by travel to India.

My husband, Anand’s Hindu Munja (Thread) Ceremony was in Pune, India in January of 2002. Foods common to the people become Hindu offerings for the Gods. Coconuts atop a disk of jaggery (raw, unprocessed sugar), oranges, apples, nuts,basmati rice and mangoe leaves for the God Ganesh to eat –his favorite, I’m told by the Brahmin priest.

Precious metals like copper and silver, natural fibers like cotton and silks and other elements like water and fire complete the ceremony items.

There were several photographs that I considered before choosing this one and the fire ceremony. In particular, this Hindu offering is rich in color, texture and has a vitality to it that some still life paintings lack. I was very curious to paint rice. Up close, the brush strokes decompose but at a distance they are quite discernable as rice.

This piece is commemorative for the Thread Ceremony experience and, while just a small painting measuring 9″ x 12″, it holds up well under scrutiny. I take quite a bit of pleasure from others who take a moment to enjoy the textures and colors assembled so casually by the priest.

Hindu offerings, while assembled from common items, and to the best of my knowledge, are not carefully arranged unless the priest is an artist. Rather, there is a studied carelessness to them that I find appealing. Items are stacked or grouped together on a hand-towel or other small piece of natural fiber fabric. The goal of the priest is to appease the gods not create a still life.

On one occasion, I couldn’t help myself and arranged the objects holding the Hindu offering items a bit more carefully to get better photos. The priests were amused, nor did they seem to mind the American girl.