Besides the above acclaimed festivals, there is yet another religious ceremony amongst a section of the Hindus which is not popularly known. During the month of Shravan many a keen observer may have wondered at the tiny bouquets of flowers tucked in the hair buns of married ladies. These tiny bouquets of flowers are termed as ‘Chudis’ in Konkani language.
It is nothing but the sign of a religious custom prevalent among the Konkani speaking Chitrapur Saraswats and Gaud Saraswat Brahmin community from South, and is called the ‘Chudi’ Puja. The origin of this community is actually traced to the Saraswati river in the north from where they had to migrate south during foreign invasions.
The Chudi Puja mainly relates to worshipping of the Tulsi plant. With the commencement of the Shravan month, every Friday and Sunday married ladies are seen worshipping the Tulsi Plant (Ocimum Sanctum) by offering the tiny bouquets of chudis. This puja is restricted mainly to married ‘suhagan’ ladies but young girls also participate in the puja with enthusiasm.
On Fridays and Sundays of Shravan from early morning the womenfolk are engrossed preparing for the Tulsi puja. The subtle fingers of the women are busy in tying the chudis or the small bouquets made from myriad of coloured flowers of the monsoon season collected from the gardens. The improvisation of different colour schemes combined with artistic ingenuity enhance the beauty of the flowers in the tiny chudis. However, no Chudi can be complete unless the blade or sprig of ‘Durva’ grass (Cynodon dactylon) is mixed with it which strikingly gives a magic glow to the colourful chudis.
Prior to the Puja, the doorsteps of the house are wiped and decorated with designs from stones of lime or chalk. All important items like rice containers, the buttermilk churning pole and treasury chests are shaded with chalk. Then a tray elegantly arranged with the Chudis (minimum five), loose flowers, vermillion, incense, grains of rice, betel leaves and nuts, a fruit, a sweet and a bowl of water is placed before the Tulsi plant for making offerings to it. A symbolic diagram is drawn on a small wooden board or on the floor with the chalk on which the offerings are made to the Tulsi plant.
The short ceremony commences with application of vermillion to the Tulsi plant, the wooden board and the bowl of water which is said to represent the Holy Ganges. All the five Chudis or bouquet of flowers is rinsed with the ‘holy’ water and together with betel leaves and nuts are offered to the Tulsi plant. Offerings of fruits and sweets are also made and waving performed with the lighted incense. Then the grains of rice are showered on the sacred plant with a few towards the sun as a mark of salutation and circumambulation finally by the ladies.
To round up the Tulsi Puja, flowers or petals are placed on the either sides of the decorated threshold and vermillion applied. Again all the items shaded with chalk look now brighter with the smearing of vermillion. The function gets over with offering of Chudis together with betel leaf and nut, and vermillion to at least five elderly married ladies and seeking their blessings. The same is repeated between the younger ladies. On this auspicious occasion, the first offering of the Chudi by the newly wedded bride or girl to her elders is rewarded with gifts.
All Mondays in the month of Shravan are looked upon as holy and fasts observed. Every woman takes pride in fasting during the month of Shravan for peace and prosperity of her family. Every married woman performing the Tulsi puja prays that she may be able to continue this for ever for her happiness of a married life.
This month carries an air of solemnity and heralds the important festivals to come. The Tulsi plant bedecked with multicoloured pretty little Chudis or bouquets looks gorgeous. The Chudi Puja ceremony though not elaborate in itself, reflects the intricate blending of art, culture and aesthetics with religion of the community.
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