Slip of the Tongue!

I am no polyglot or linguist and my tongue has really struggled to grasp the new sounds the Marathi language has exposed it to. I’ve been told by native Hindi speakers who live in Maharashtra that it’s hard for them to pronounce some Marathi words as well, which makes me feel a little better. It doesn’t stop the people I meet in Nagpur saying things like, “you should be fluent by now, we can speak English so why can’t you speak Marathi?”. I had never even heard of the Marathi language or Maharashtra before I met my husband, whilst English is one of of India’s many national languages, but that is for another day…

So, anyway, I find Marathi very difficult to speak, my tongue just doesn’t seem to want to accept it, I just cannot form many of the words with my voice (doesn’t mean I don’t samajatha  the jist of what people are saying around me).

Slowly but surely, small bits and pieces are starting to stick. The things that have stuck and I am able to actually say are, logically, things I hear constantly repeated, over and over. For example, when my husband is on the phone he says “baaki chhan” all the time, and that basically means that everything is good. I’ve got that one sussed and locked in the memory bank!

One evening, whilst parking our car, my husband asks me if everything is okay.

“Jackie Chan”, I reply. Oops!

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Lakshmi’s New Head

The Mahalaxmi, otherwise known as Goddess Lakshmi, festival is a festival the within Ganesh Chathurthi festival (the ten day celebration of elephant headed God’s birthday). Mahalaxmi is celebrated in Maharashtra, celebrating the Goddess and Maharashtrian women.

Our recent marriage meant that it was necessary to buy new heads for the idols involved in this festival. Sounds strange right? When the eldest boy of the youngest generation gets married, his wife becomes the Mahalaxmi of the family, bringing the family wealth and prosperity. She also performs the Mahalaxmi pooja (prayer), my husband is the eldest boy, so that wife is me…

Before me, my mother-in-law took charge of the festival and has done for twenty seven years (because she is the eldest daughter in law of that generation). When she was a newly wed, new heads were purchased and now, twenty seven years later, Mahalaxmi will get another new face. These new heads will be used every year until our eldest son marries (this is the tradition in our family, I am sure there are many variations among other families who celebrate). So, I expect these new heads will be used for many many… many many years to come. I wanted to make sure they were perfect.

Ganesh beautiful ghost white

To get to the ‘Mahalaxmi head shop’, we  had to walk into a maze of Ganesh ghosts. Narrow alleys of workshops, craftsmen hard at work preparing for Ganesh Chathurthi. It was a surreal and beautiful experience, I had never seen so many pot bellies in one place. I am excited to return next week, once the painting starts (this time I will bring my camera, these photos were taken with my phone).Ganesh festival in Nagpurganesh no ears

I couldn’t help but smile when we arrived at one of the several Mahalaxmi head shops, which were hidden behind the huge Ganesh workshops. The heads sitting in rows look creepy at first, but then become comical. Anyone with a phobia of porcelain dolls (I do actually know of someone with pediophobia), would run a mile.

Goddess Lakshmi's HeadWe needed four heads in total, two large ones and two smaller ones. Mahalaxmi enters the house as two sisters, elder and younger, accompanied by a daughter and a son. My mother-in-law will dress the elder Mahalaxmi and I will dress the younger one and we will wear sarees to match our respective Mahalaxmi sister.

mahalaxmi heads in a row

ganesh ganesh

The shop also had loads of gorgeous Ganesh statues

modern and traditional Ganesh

Modern (very cute!) and traditional styles

There are so many outfit choices for the idols, you can also get lots of jewelry including mini bangles, nose rings, necklaces and mangalsutras. The little girl in me is really excited about this.

lakshmi head party

The idols have a metal base, acting as a body, which will be filled with grain as a symbol of fertility and prosperity (mice have been known to make Mahalaxmi their temporary home because of this). The top half of her body is placed on top and finally the head is balanced on top of that.

lakshmi finished orange saree

A fully put together Mahalaxmi, next to a metal base body which will contain grains

body clothes lakshmi

Choosing a new face for Mahalaxmi was not difficult, even though they all looked quite similar. The one I chose looked exactly how I imagine Mahalaxmi would look, a soft face with big dark eyes. She kind of ‘spoke’ to me.

What do you think of her (on the right)?

old and new head of lakshmi

The old face on the left (27 years old) and the new face on the right.

mahalaxmi sisters marathi pooja

Here is last years Mahalaxmi celebration, I was still living in England at this point…

There will be lots of rituals, traditions and food during the Mahalaxmi festival. I am excited to learn more about this festival, especially as I will be playing a big part in it as the eldest daughter-in-law. The three day festival starts early next month, wish me luck!