Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rangoli, Yakshagana, Jog Falls, and Murudeshwar

I can't believe I have been here for a month. It feels like forever has passed, and I also feel like I just was stepping off the plane in Mumbai. I have learned so much as my journey is coming to four weeks, and am shocked that it is one-fourth of the way done already. Time, don't go so fast!

This week features learning the basics in Hindi, Rangoli, Yakshagana, Jog Falls, Murudeshwar, and Shri Krishna's Birthday! (See links to the side for more information on some of these topics).

I forgot how much I have loved learning Spanish throughout the years, and taking Hindi has made me fall in love with language-learning all over again. Taking this class has motivated me further to have the goal to become fluent in Spanish one day soon, and I am so glad I am getting the basics of speaking, reading and writing Hindi because language is integral to understanding a country and culture.

On Thursday, we were introduced to Rangoli, an Indian art form that uses brightly colored powders and used for decoration and good luck. In Karnataka, the state which I am in, it is called Rangoli, though in other states, such as Tamil Nadu, it is called Kolam. Even though I was not the best artist, I had a ton of fun and even Rangoli could not escape my inner band geek (see pictures below).

Disclaimer: This beautiful Rangoli was not made by me, but is an example of what years of practice can do!

A little rougher around the edges...still fun though and I somehow managed to get powder all over my face.

Like I said, even Rangoli couldn't escape my affection for music and band.

Ashlin is so amused with my blue hands so close to her face!

A Rangoli high five with Sarah!
On Friday, we visited an Anganwadi Center, a child care center for 20-40 of the most socioeconomically disadvantaged children per 1 lakh (1000 people). The Anganwadi, or woman who takes care and teaches the children, at Kalmadi seemed to love her job and also seemed to be doing an amazing job at it. The town of Kalmadi we visited is a local village with an economy dependent mostly on rice cultivation and fishing. The Anganwadi Center we went to was described as one of the best of its kind and the children were adorable! The center is great for nutrition education, preventing malnutrition, and primary education. We did find out, sadly, that these centers are receiving a 50% budget cut within the next couple of years, which is disturbing and frustrating to think about. Pictures below.

The main room of the Anganwadi Center in Kalmadi, India.

The wonderful Anganwadi Worker (left) weighing one of the little ones!

Also on Friday, some new friends we made in the Department of Geopolitics invited us to a Yakshagana performance. Yakshagana is a folk performance that features grandiose costumes, dramatic music, and forms of Indian classical dance. In this Yakshagana, part of the Indian epic, Ramayana, was performed. I was lucky enough to have read this epic before going to India, and so it was amazing to see the story played out in front of me. All the actors were male, even the female parts; they were scarily convincing and I was shocked when the female character had a deep voice at the end of the performance! The singer was equally amazing and sang almost non stop for an hour and had a great voice. Pictures below.

The beginning of the performance. (See a video of a Yakshagana performance by clicking link to right!)

A dance between two of the characters from the Yakshagana.

Lastly, on Friday, some of us went to a dinner party hosted by the MPH students we met in epidemiology and played football (soccer) at the beach with! Although I have no pictures, I think it is worth mentioning that they were extremely gracious, welcoming, and polite hosts.
Saturday was a huge day (so get ready for a bombardment of pictures and text, hehe).

We had to meet at our van at 7:00 a.m. to make the 4 hour journey to Jog Falls. Jog Falls are the second highest falls in India, and one of the highest in all of Asia. On the way there, we were able to view some mountains from a lookout point. Because there has been drought here lately, the falls were a little skinnier than expected, but still a beautiful view nonetheless. Pictures below.

The Lookout Point on the way to the falls. I am glad we got out of the car for a minute because the roads were wild and I get car sick easily!

Jog Falls itself.

Emilie, Tanzeela, and I at Jog Falls! All we are missing from Apt. #611 is Katie Lu.


Next, we headed 2 hours for Murudeshwar, a coastal town known for its breathtaking Shiva statue and Temple. Some of the views on the way there were absolutely gorgeous, and when we got there, we ate a delicious veg meal near the temple. I think I accidentally ate a spicy pepper that was there only for flavor and I did not know one could sweat so much solely from eating food. Alas, my senses eventually returned to me and and I kept on enjoying the meal. Because the temple is situated directly on the shore, we were first greeted by a flock of colorful boats lazily bobbing up and down in the sea. As we approached the temple, we took our shoes off (as per custom), and were confronted by a massive tower-like structure called a Gopuram. After admiring it for a while, we walked into the actual temple and Smriti explained to us some things about Hinduism. In Hinduism, there are hundreds of gods, and different gods represent different things people can pray for. For instance, there are gods representing astrological symbols (think horoscope kind of) if something is going wrong in your life. Each person also has their own god that they pray to, either by their choosing or because of familial following. For a small fee, we were able to participate in a puja, or Hindu prayer. The priest recited some prayers in Sanskrit and lit incense. Next, we poured water over an ornate stone carving (see pictures below). After we were done pouring, we were supposed to think of something we could pray for/want in life. After that, we placed special leaves on top of it and circled it three times. The priest replaced the stone carving with the head of a deity and said more prayers in Sanskrit. We were all splashed us with holy water and then put a bindi on. I do not know the significance of everything done, and am not doing it proper justice, but it was an interesting experience that maybe the pictures can show in more detail. After participating in the puja, we wandered around the place a bit more and then Smriti treated us to ice cream at a seaside restaurant! On the way home, I caught a stunning picture of the sky during sunset.

Taken during the drive to Murudeshwar!

The veg meal we each ate in Murudeshwar. You eat all the dishes with the roti/chapathi (in the middle) and also mix the rice into the curries/dal/etc.

Colorful boats on the shore near the Shiva Temple.

Gopuram at the Shiva Temple in Murudeshwar, India. It is massive!

In the temple: When you are in a temple, all five of your senses are supposed to be awakened. That is why there is a bell to ring so that your ears can become awakened.

Lord Ganesha, an extremely important god in Hinduism.

Selfie of Emilie, Tom, and I in front of the giant Shiva the Destroyer. Shiva is one of the three main gods in Hinduism, right up there with Vishnu, the Preserver, and Brahma, the Creator.

Shiva from the 18th floor of the Gopuram (and the background of this blog!).

The priests adorning the head of a deity with flowers during the pooja.

The adorned idol!

Incense and oil.

Getting to know the people in the program! From left to right and top to bottom: (Top) Esha, Emilie, Sarah-Anne, Michelle, Me; (bottom) Ashlin, Tanzeela, Sarah, Tom.

Our amazing resident director/mom, Smriti!

After ice cream at an oceanside restaurant.



Thank you for reading!

Shri Krishna's Birthday was celebrated on Sunday, which I was going to go to the temple in Udupi because Smriti offered to take me and watch the festivities, but it was very crowded and I don't exactly blend in here. But I did learn a lot about the festival from talking to people and ended up having a fantastic Sunday afternoon conversation anyway.


Answer to the Question: How many official languages does India have? Two! Hindi and English.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Dadda! I am glad you enjoyed it :) More to come next week!

    2. Enjoyed reading your blog and seeing the pix!! A. Marie

    3. Thank you, Auntie Marie! I am flattered you are reading my blog and that you enjoyed reading/seeing my experiences :)

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  3. Wow, this post is so rich with information and pictures..put in such simple terms! Very well done Kara, loved every bit!

    Making a rangoli, watching yakshagaana, visiting a temple puja at Murdeshwar, eating ice cream at oceanside restaurant-- girl, you have brought back so many fond memories. I feel home sick already :)

    1. Thank you, Ashwini :) I am glad I am doing your home justice in all of its beauty and wonders...when will you be visiting home again? Where precisely are you from? Are you adjusting well to the US? Thank you again! Do you know Kannada and Hindi?

  4. I am happy to answer all of the questions, but not in the public domain here. Do you have a blog email contact?

    1. Yes! Email me at kara.suvada@gmail.com if you have the time/want to answer my questions! Thank you :D