KAARADAIYAN NONBU – VATA SAAVITRI VRAT
(I-DISCOURSE BY N.R. SRINIVASAN, MARCH 2012)
Among the many festivals that have religious or philosophical connotations Kaaradiyan nonbu is observed more as a ritual than a festival. The ritual derives its name from the sweet cake made out of Black-eyed pea called Kaaraamani in Tamil. Kaaradai means Kaaramani adai. (kaaraamani=blackeyed pea; adai=cake). This festival is celebrated in all States of South India—Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. This festival is celebrated on Meena Sankramanam, ending of the Tamil Month of Maasi and the beginning of Panguni.
Traditionally one has to avoid curd or buttermilk totally, for the whole day intheir food. Womenfolk get ready for the ritual (puja) after a sacred bath. The place where we normally worship at home (puja room) is lit with the traditional lamp. Some households follow the tradition of placing a Kalasam with coconut and mango leaves on top of it to initiate (aavahanam) the Goddess Gouri in it. On the small kolams (with rice-flour) drawn in front of the puja, plantain leaves will be placed in order according to the number of women children in the household. If the number is an odd one, one more leaf will be placed for the Goddess. On the right corner of the plantain leaves will be placed the thamboolam (betel leaves and areca-nut) along with a banana. The main item is the sacred yellow cotton string - Saradu (tied in the middle with some flower), which the purohits normally give to every household well in advance. So, when the time arrives two of the Karadais are placed on each of the leaves along with butter. (Karadais are specially made for the occasion with rice flour, jaggery and Kaaramani – red eyed colored dry beans. Steamed like idlis, they taste well along with butter though the preparation is time consuming). Then, everyone has to take a sort of vow in front of their offering to offer the same ("Urugada Vennaiyum oradaiyum naan tharuven - orukaalum en kanavar ennai piriyadirukkanum"), year after year - their only wish being that of a long life for their spouse. "I offer to Thee Goddess! Solid butter and one cake—please guarantee that my husband will not leave me alone at any time!"
After symbolically offering the Naivedyam to the Goddess, the older woman in the house ties one of the Saradu placed in front of her to the Kalasam (or the Ambal picture in the puja). Others tie the Saradu around their neck and can now break the nonbu (Vratam) by eating the adais (cakes). Two of the sweets, which are offered to the Goddess, will be given to a cow the next day. Younger women offer their respects to the elders to get their blessings. This nonbu may have parallels (on a different day, perhaps!) to it in other parts of India, where the sentiments are the same. But, the rituals may vary. It is the same thread of belief that sustains. Women folk also chant the following sloka in Sanskrit while tying the sacred thread:
"Throram krishnaami subhake sahaareetam dharaami aham | Bhartru-aayushya sidhyaartham supreetabhava sarvada"
Oh Goddess! I am tying this yellow colored sacred thread around my neck praying for long life for my husband. Be pleased with my prayers and bless me always!
VATA SAVITRI VRAT
This festival is observed as Vata Savitiri Vrat with the same intention and similar story behind it in the month of Jyeshta (little earlier in Orissa and other parts of Eastern India) in the North. As per the belief it is on this day Satyavaan died in the arms of Savitri before being restored to life, under a banyan tree. Banyan tree is therefore worshiped with flowers, incense and sweets on this day. Women go round the tree seven times and tie threads round it in the hope that their husbands will live as long as the banyan tree, which is one of the longest living trees.
Different Regions, different customs, different dates but the motive force behind all is Devi, Mother Goddess--Brahman in its functional form of Primordial Energy.
It is not very clear how Lord Yama chose different times for Satyavan's death in different regions? For a religious person these different days indicated by Hindu Panchangams are quite puzzling particularly in countries like USA where people from different traditions (Sampradayas) go to the same temple complex to participate or worship? In India it has become a fashion to have a Pooja-room in every house at the instance of elders or to avoid embarrassment from the community, whether the busy executive has time or not to spend few minutes at least in prayers on special occasions! So individuals confine to their homes or follow the Sampradaya of the State in which they are settled if they have moved out of their home town. In countries like America that is not built into the tradition and invariably the religious minded rush to temples and get disappointed. Even in countries like USA Gujarati Community being rich and affluent have their own temples and go by the dictates from Gujarat of their Homeland. Probably in due course we may also have multitude of temples to cater to the religious needs of particular Sampradaya as we grow rich and affluent if we do not wish to focus on spirituality and integrated worship.
Kaaradiyin Nonbu falls on March 14 this year 2015 for Hindus in USA. For those living in USA CST Zone it is 6 A.M. in the morning though it is tied to one's convenience in its observance. Karadaiyin Nonbu is observed on the day of the conjunction of the Tamil months Maasi and Panguni. It is to remember the great battle won by Savithri - a mythological character - over the God of Death - Yama, not by arms or ammunition but by her clever arguments to regain her husband's life. Married women observe fast till the auspicious time arrives, whether it is late evening or midday or afternoon. The fast for Karadayan Vritham is observed from sunrise on the transition day when God Surya moves from Kumbha Rashi to Meena Rashi. Fast breaking time for Savitri Nombu might fall any time between current day’s Sunrise to next day Sunrise depending on time of Meena Sankramana. Please note that duration of fast depends on local Sunrise and Sankramana moment and varies for all locations. Kaaradayin Nonbu is similar to that of Soubhagya Gauri Vratam or Gauri Tritiya vratam of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Gangaur vrat of Rajasthan, Jyeshta Gauri Vrat of Maharashtra, Jitiya Puja of Bihar, Karva Chauth of all other North Indian states’ festivals celebrated on different months and dates of the Hindu Calendar year. This vratam is the same as Vat Savitri vrat observed in Raajasthan, Bengal, Orissa and some other places of India, the date for which is not the same as Kaaradiyan Nonbu.
Married women worship Mahalakshmi, Goddess Gauri or Parvathi or Shakti for marital bliss and better health of husband and children. Unmarried girls perform the vratam to get ideal person as their husband. Tamil ladies wear the sacred thread called Saradu in Tamil at the auspicious time determined by the astrologers for the day, usually morning hours. It is also generally practice to continue wearing saradu after the ritual for the rest of the year till next Kaaradiyan festival and then change over to new Saradu just as men change their holy threads on Upakarma Day.
I do not know why Puranas do not agree on the death date of Satyavan while religious authorities are very particular about the auspicious date and time as per Hindu calendar? This shows again how astrologers mislead us about astronomical facts. Similarly Hindu confused astrologers also do not agree on the birth day of Hanuman. Hanuman Jaynthi is celebrated on Poornima day on April 4, 2015 in USA by North Indians while South Indians celebrate it on Amavasya day in the Hindu calendar month of Dhanus. South Indians claim Hanuman is the son of the soil of South India and they are right while North Indians say Hanuman is Rama Bhakta and Rama knows better and celebrate it immediately after Rama Navami. Vata Savitri Vrat in the North falls on the previous New moon day in the month of Jyeshth. The Tamil festival derives its name from the special sweet cake made out of black-eyed pea lentils and jaggery by Tamils. Kaaradai means kaaraamani (blackeyed pea) adai meaning cookie or cake. Probably Yama loves Kaaradai and it is the best way to please Yama or bribe who pardoned Satyavan and restored his life impressed by the devotion of Savitri to her husband. Probably Tamils call Yama as Karadiyan? Hindus know how to please their gods or tempt gods with special mouth-watering dishes for each festive occasion which list is too elaborate and may need a special discourse. Jagannatha of Puri enjoys all these varieties everyday based on Oriyan culinary skills. Even one of the Sankaracharyas has given a detailed spiritual discourse on Tamil food for the festivals and their significance which I sent to you long time back. Tamils often name their festivals after the special food item they prepare and offer to God as Naivedyam, like Pongal and Karadiyan Nonbu. Many do not understand the meaning of Naivedyam but enjoy Prasadam including even the coconut broken on ground for warding off evil when the deity is taken on procession? Such ignorance is unfortunate but we frown when someone says it is all blind belief?
I often wonder why it is also called Saradu Pandigai by Tamils who call the holy yellow three stranded thread tied around their neck as Sharadu? Probably Sharadu comes from the Sanskrit word Sharad means winter. It is customary to bless any one or seek blessings to live for hundred winters--Pasyema Saradassatam. It is the wish of the lady who keeps the Vrata to plead to the deity to grant a life for her husband to survive hundred winters! Puranas say she wished to have hundred children when her husband gets back to life but that does not go with “Saradu”.
Hindu Americans drawn from several traditions may make this festival more broad based and call it Savitri Vratam instead of calling it Kaaradiyan Nonbu, named after a food item. It could also be celebrated in Hindu American Temples on the day earmarked in the North in many States rather than observing it in March which could be left to Tamils to celebrate at homes as they do many such special and exclusive festivals of their own tradition.
In Srivaishnava tradition Nonbu sharadu will be tied by Sumangalis and unmarried girls with the prayer that they should not be separated from their husbands. An offering of sweet adai and karaadai along with butter is offered to Perumal (God) and eaten on banana leaves after the sacred yellow thread has been tied. In some Sri Vaishnava households the adai preparation is not made and some sweet is prepared and offered along with vethilai-paku (Betel nuts and pan leaves) and fruits. After the tying of the thread prostrations are done to the husband and elders. The question arises as to whether a prappana has the right to ask anything from Perumal? According to Stree Dharma rules the housewife has to seek Perumal-Pirrati’s (Goddess) grace mentioning each family member.
When such is the case who else can she turn to for seeking grace except the Divine Duo? The time when Maasi ends and Panguni starts is considered an auspicious hour for tying the Saradu. Tirumangalya saradu can be tied in Maasi itself. This thread unique to Tamil Nadu is a valuable ornament and should be treasured more than the gold chains and necklaces. It should be kept yellow by applying turmeric daily during baths. A bath is not considered valid without the application of turmeric. Sad to say this practice is going out of use. Recent research has shown the effects of turmeric consumption and application and it is beneficial to start using turmeric.
While tying the saradu the following slokam from Sri Padhuka Sahasram Sannivesha Paddhathi the 25th Paddhathi (slokam-6) can be chanted:
Vahanthi rangEshvarapAdharakshE !
DhIrGhAyuShAm DharShitha Bhakthi banDhA ||
mudhrikAm mangaLa hEma sUthraIh||
Meaning: Oh Paaduka! The 8 Direction-guardians enjoy such longevity only because their
damsels wear, in their gold-chain-hung Thirumangalya, Your image. They become thus
Special Notes by V. Sadagopan
1) UtthamUr Swami's explanation: In the earlier slOkams, Swami Desikan stated that the new
brides wear jewelry containing the representation of Paadhukaas on their head. At the high moment of maangalya dhaaranam, the bridegroom ties the auspicious thread around the neck of the bride that contains the PaadhukAs as the centerpiece. Swami Desikan points out that the
wearing of the Mangala soothram is not confined to human beings alone but is also observed by the wives of the Devaas, who wish to have long lives for their husbands. Swami Desikan says in this context: "Oh Ranganaatha Paadhukae! The wives of the long lived Masters of the 8 directions demonstrate their devotion to their husbands by wearing the auspicious golden chain around their necks containing the medallion bearing your representation".
2) Srimath Andavan's explanation: Oh PaadhukE! Every one of the 8 directions has their own
Master. Their wives wear in their sacred necklaces (Thirumaangalyam) an insignia of yours and
There by achieve dheerga Sumangalithvam (Long life as married women).
3) The directions have their Lords like Indhra for the East. They have wives (avaroedhanaaryah).
The wives wish long lives to their husbands (dheergayus). Therefore, they (the wives) adorn
with reverence (darsitha bhakthi bandhaah) Your insignia /representation on their golden
necklaces (mangala hema soothraih thvan-mudhrikam vahanthi)
It seems the tying of Mangal sootra during wedding by sacred three knots comes from Tamil tradition for the same is not mentioned in Ramayana when Rama weds Sits by Vedic Tradition.
Found in “The Book of the Forest” of the Mahabharata, Savitri’s story is of beating all odds in life through true love and devotion. Savitri fell in love with Satyavan, a poor prince whose blind father was a king living in exile in a forest. Satyavan was destined to die within a year but Savitri refused to change her mind and married the prince. When Yama came to take Satyavan’s soul on the day of his death, Savitri begged him not to do so. However, Yama told her that it was inevitable as no one could stop death. Savitri continued to follow them for miles and finally Yama, impressed by her determination, gave her two boons on the condition that she not ask for her husband’s life back.
For the first boon, Savitri asked for the well-being of her father-in-law and for the second one she asked for a hundred sons. Yama, in a hurry, granted her boon without giving a second thought to the implication of her request. At this, Savitri asked how she could be a mother without her husband and Yama had no choice but to give her husband back to her.