Saturday, April 18, 2020

P is for Prabhat Pheri #AtoZChallenge

A Hindi phrase today: Prabhat means morning and Pheri means walkabout
Photo clicked in Maunda, Uttarakhand, October 2018

The yawns. I remember the yawns clearly. Ubaasiaan, Papaji used to call them.

Cold and foggy, sleepy and groggy, I'd get bundled up inside Papaji's arms as he'd carry me through the metal gate out into the gully. My body would adjust to his warmth and his gentle nudging words, "puttar, utho hun...chalo apne aap...ukhaan kholo puttar." (child, wake up...walk on your own...come on...open your eyes) would make my heavy eyelids open up a little, just a little, just enough to notice the up, down, up, down of our gait for Papaji had a limp and he always put his right foot more forcefully than his left when he walked.

I'd adjust in my palki (planquin) of Papaji's arms and peek out of his warm shawl like an inchworm--slowly, sleepily.

Ting-ting of cymbals and  chunn-chunn 0f chimta and dhuum-dhum of dholok would mix with  faint notes of 'Hare Krishna' and float down the dark gully and reach me like a cloud--muffled and distant; trying to tease me to let go of my sleep and join in. I'd resist and grab my arms even more tightly around Papaji's neck to ensure he didn't put me down to walk on my own on account of my recently opened eyes.

No one and nobody had forced me to wake up an hour before sunrise on a chilly October morning. It had been entirely my idea aka zidd to go with Papaji on prabhat pheri. I had pestered him beyond his patience the previous night to wake me up at 4 am and bring me with him. 

Apart from his warm shawl and the sounds of kirtan, I don't remember much about our pre-dawn walkabouts with people and sangat of the neighbourhood. But, my food memories of those prabhat pheris are as clear as day. 

Prabhat pheris are an early morning walkabout organised by local temples and Gurudwaras. A gathering of devotees meet at an assigned spot before dawn, sing devotional songs while walking and head to the family who've offered to host them for breakfast/prasad that morning.

I think it was Papaji's descriptions of the divine tastes of various varieties of prasad he'd eaten: the pooris, the halwa, the chanas and even pakore sometimes that salivated my childish need to seek salvation by waking up that early and join him. You see, Papaji wasn't just fond of cooking and feeding delicious food, even when he spoke about food or described it, he's do it chathkarre le le kar (with such relish that one could taste what he'd eaten).

As I type this line out today, on Ekadashi, a day I normally fast, I can feel the floodgates of food memories threatening to burst open and deluge this page! Suffice to say: those warm plates of halwa, puri, chana, samose, pakore, and even the not so warm balushahis and laddos, followed by sips of chai from Papaji's glass/cup can deliver me to my Nirvana even today - more than forty years later- just as easily as they did back then -- when I was four or five years old.

After all the food had been eaten and the plates had been licked clean with fingers and after hands had been washed and after my chief motive of joining Papaji on his morning walkabouts had been accomplished, I'd walk back with him happily, on my own two feet. 

The sun would rise languidly, drawing back the stage curtains of orange, red and purple before revealing a bright blue sky.  

Bhajan- kirtan (Hindu devotional songs) would resume; the songs sounding louder in light. Faint sounds of Shabad-kirtan (Sikh devotional songs) would reach us. And as we carried on walking, the shabad sounds would get louder and louder.

"Sat naam--sat naam- sat naam ji--wahe Guru--wahe Guru--wahe Guru ji' would blend with "Jai Radhe Radhe bolo jai Radhe Radhe" under clear October skies in a gully in Doon.

Devotees with tilaks and  devotees in turbans would exchange smiles and wave to each other. Their different tunes would mingle and start sounding like one song. They'd carry on walking and singing on their path and we'd keep walking and singing and playing chimta, cymbals and  dholok on the path that we knew led us home.

I'd reach home tript (satiated): in purpose and in soul.

Papaji would instruct Mummy: "Sond de kuddi nu thoda chir." (Let her sleep in for a bit.)
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While I was letting all my memories of prabhat pheris visit me so I could write about it today, I realised that the only sound that reverberates inside me; of those foggy, blissful morning is shabad kirtan and not bhajan!

"Sat naam--sat naam- sat naam ji--wahe Guru--wahe Guru--wahe Guru ji--bolo.." 

Funny, I think as I type and smile.

Religions, languages, clothes, food, memories, habits, opinions, nations: all man made; all transient; all the same under our One Big Blue Sky.
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A couple of notes:
The Hindu month of Kartik, roughly mid-October to mid-November, is very dear to Krishna and it is his doing, I think, that I'm writing this post today, on the day of Ekadshi
For Sikhs, the months of October and November carry many days of importance, too. I will have to ask my Sikh friends to give me more details.

This video is a perfect example of the soundscape of prabhat pheris of my childhood. Notice all the instruments? Papaji used to love playing the cymbals.
Do you remember ever waking up really early when you were little? Why did you have to do it? 
Do you recall any sunrises from your early years? If you'd like to share, I'd love to find out.

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and peaceful Sunday.

32 comments:

  1. Lovely childhood memory, it's nice to be able to remember the sounds, smells, and so many details!
    P is for Pojagi

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    1. Thank you Frederique. Some of the 'remembering' is thanks to my grandparents' recall of what we got up to as little ones when we were older.

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  2. For me my prabhat pheri was something totally different. Very nostalgic memories of my days in school when I had to report for physical training session at 6 am. The gentle rays of the morning sun, quiet environment, dew drops, fresh air ...

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    1. Early mornings are magical Pradeep and your memories sound so too:)

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  3. Oh, how beautiful!
    For us, Kartika maasam is for Lord Shiva. We keep fast on Ekadasi, Poornima, or Mondays (or all three). The temples are filled with people and Shiv mandirs are packed full.

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    1. Thank you Srivalli.
      Beji used to fast a lot, just like you mentioned.
      I had no idea Kartik month is Lord Shiva's favourite too. Good to know.
      I'm curious to find out if you fast on all three days too.

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  4. Our school started at 730am so waking up early was the rule! We had a Jain temple near our home and we would meet devotees walking to the temple as we walked to school. I think food memories are very strong.. both in a good and bad way.. Lovely post Arti!

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  5. Your words really brought this to life. What great memories, I only wish I had something as wonderful to share.

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    1. Thank you Keith. Those were the golden days! I sound like my grandparents now.

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  6. Your descriptions of heavy loaded sleepy eyelids reminded me of the days before Covid-19, where early morning waking was such an effort........it feels really long. We are still doing all, infact more chores than before, but no time pressure takes away the load from the eyelids.Strange!
    Waking up early was never a problem as i used to be up even before the sun,would eagerly wait for him to rise and family to get up. Been a bit of an insomniac from very little.
    We couldn't go to any temple without bath, so that was a tuffer task, plus one bathroom to share so all had to take turns.Between we sisters,who will go first and who will have the privilege to be the last. Almost always my sister succeeded in being the last. We almost always wore the traditional pawadai & blouse. (Kanjeevaram silk materials stitched as a long skirt & a regular puff sleeved contrast top)
    M.S.Subhalaksmis Suprabhatam, nadaswarams muscians,Fragrance of Chandan,Jasmine flowers,multiple lamps around the temple with one huge brass lamp in the centre,few handing brass lamps,brass copper pooja kits,impressive kolams, aroma of Naipayyasam (Jaggery flavoured rice dominated by ghee) aunties in gorgeous sarees, uncles in mundu (with their shirt hung on one shoulder)...my memory of temples.... oops the multiple gods (almost forgot).

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    1. I chuckled at that 'oops....' bit. Funny, how when we were little, temples and gurudwaras were about all the sensory treats you mention and not much to do with all the gods!
      You took me back to Meenakshi temple with your comment Vidya.
      Do share a picture of you in a pawadai if you have one. Would love to see little, over-energetic Vidya:)

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  7. Beautiful. I think I have already said this somewhere in my earlier comments- that I m traveling Doon through your posts.

    Never knew Morning walk can be called Prabaat Pheri

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    1. Thank you Vimoya. The idea to write about Doon of my childhood occurred to me when I was visiting Chakrata last year. The savage speed of progress has turned Dehra of old into a modern capital city. Where once there were orchards and wild spaces, there are malls and shops. I'm happy, therefore, that you are able to travel to the Dehra of late 70s and early 80s.

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  8. I go for prabhat pheris now and much as I love the aroma of kada prasad and chola, samosa and kulhad chai and...list is endless..i can never eat it so early in the morning. As a child we had early morning school 7:15 a.m. and I hated getting up early !
    Nice one..I walked along with you through the post :-)

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    1. Thank you.
      Lovely to read that prabhat pheris are alive and well even today.
      Strangely, I struggled to wake up for school too. Perhaps if the school bus came with garam garam puri chole, my greed would've made me be on time! HA!

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  9. This post again makes me nostalgic and reminds me of my childhood vacations at my grandparents place... Everday in the morning I used to wake up to sounds of morning chantings of my grandfather.... And all I was interested in as a 4/5 yr old was the delicious Prasad bhog which I would get once the morning chants are done... :)

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    1. Thank you for sharing this beautiful snippet of your childhood Ira.
      Bhogs and prasads were such crowd pullers. No?

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  10. What beautiful memories from your childhood. It sounds like a wonderful experience. Weekends In Maine

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  11. Oh this is so lovely. Your descriptions are so vivid and infused with love, I can't help but feel wrapped up and slowly waking to beautiful sounds. And I'm laughing at this adventure begged for on the promise of delicious food.

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    1. Thank you Deborah.
      As I've gone through the A to Z, a realisation has dawned on me--food was my chief motivator to visit all homes of God--from temples to gurudwaras:)

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  12. I enjoyed the top photo, the story you share, and the music video. All ring with spirituality.

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  13. The very mention of halwa, puri, chana, samose, pakore, and even the not so warm balushahis and laddos made my mouth water too! Loved to read about this trip down your memory lane. :)

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    1. Thank you Shweta. Happy to see you here:)

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  14. I am now struggling hard to find any early morning memories but no luck. However, loved walking along with your ‘prabhat feri’ post with chhoti si Arti 🤗.

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    1. I'm happy you came along Pinkz. Much love. xx

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  15. This one is a mix of flavors, ringing the bells of different sounds. Beautiful post. :-)

    The title took me to my school days. :-)

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  16. As a childhood, I have memories of waking up at 5 am during summer vacations to join my parents in morning walks, on the way back home, I used to collect pods from cotton plants from the plants on the roadside, and such was my determination that I really made (with my mother's help ofcourse) a soft pillow from the cotton extracted. It was real soft pillow, oh gosh! how much I used to adore my pillow. Thanks for reminding me of this little story from my morning walks. Love Nisha

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    1. This is such a sweet story Nisha. I loved reading it. How precious to collect cotton for your own pillow--I feel like borrowing your story for one of Artemis's adventures--will ask your permission when I do.
      Thank you.

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