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Archive for September, 2010

Sep
10
2010

Ganesh Chaturthi falls on Saturday, September 11 this year – and given that it’s on a weekend, what’s your excuse for not celebrating the birthday of our pot-bellied pal?

We all know that Ganesh LOVES to eat, so what better way to honor him than with food!  Here’s a tasty snack-time project that’s hands-on fun and learning for the kids:  a Ganesh pizza (using olives) surrounded by things that define him – a bowl of sweets, his mouse-vahana (made with biscuits and raisins) and an axe (made with celery and peanut butter).  Be sure to explain to the kids the symbolism behind the objects.

Sweets – A symbol of what he loved most, and blessings for his devotees (metaphorically speaking they are a symbol of moksha/liberation – the sweetest of all things).

Mouse – The humble (and brave) creature that carries him – his vahana (mode of transportation).

Axe – Ganesh uses this to help clear obstacles.

Pot Belly – A symbol of nature’s plentifulness.  Some also say it represents how Ganesh swallows the sorrows of the world, thereby protecting it.

Elephant Head – Elephants are large, strong and powerful, yet gentle (they’re vegetarian) and superbly smart.  Befitting, no?  (Also, when viewed at a profile, along with his ears, Ganesh morphs into the “AUM” symbol.)

And if you can muster up the energy, here’s the very simple Ganesh Mantra  (audio here):

Vakratunda Mahakaaya, Surya koti Samaprabha:
Nirvighnam Kuru me deva, Sarva karyeshu sarvadaa.

Oh, Lord Ganesha, of large body and curved truck, who shines with the lustre of a million suns, please make my life and my work free of obstacles – forever.

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Sep
8
2010

There are so many stories from India capable of delighting children – stories of princesses and Maharajas and mythic gods and beasts – enough to fill several volumes and to last an entire childhood of storytelling.  But the key word is capable.  Kids these days are used to books with gorgeous illustrations and age-appropriate text – 2 features that many books about Indian and Hindu mythology are seriously devoid of.  (Some books have such poor grammar, I’ve had to unwittingly improvise and basically re-tell the story in my own words…)

But the future of Indian stories for children is looking hopeful.  Lately, we’ve been reading from Indian Children’s Favourite Stories – a collection of 8 stories as retold by Rosemarie Somaiah (Tuttle Publishing).  The stories include The Birth of Krishna, No Ordinary Lad (accounts of Krishna’s childhood), The Story of Rama, and Journey to Heaven (about Akbar and Birbal), among others.  The text reads very smoothly and the illustrations, which remind me of those Kondapalli dolls from Andhra Pradesh, are captivating and whimsical.

My son’s favourite seems to be Tenali Raman – an account of an episode from the famous court-poet’s childhood that features Goddess Kali (his latest interest – she’s a Goddess, but wait, she looks kind of scary…an interesting combination indeed).  It’s told in a way that has just the right amount of silliness – a rarity when it comes to “Indian” stories!

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Sep
6
2010
Mango Pancakes!
Author: Aruna

We’re savouring the tail end of the mango season.  Here’s a yummy way to start your morning and finish off some of those mangoes you may have lying around.  Flavoured with vanilla and just hint of cardamom, they’re good enough for tea time also.

If you don’t have fresh mangoes (or if you’re not really a morning person and don’t want to deal with cutting and peeling mangoes) you can substitute canned mango pulp.  Just cut down on the sugar if it is sweetened and also lessen the amount of milk.

For the flour, I use King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour – you get the fiber and nutrition of whole wheat without the heavy flavour.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour
3 Tbs. sugar
3 tsps. baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups skim milk
3/4 cup peeled, diced and crushed mango
4 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
fresh mango slices + maple syrup

In a large bowl, combine and mix all the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and mix well until batter is smooth  – adding more milk if necessary.  Prepare pancakes on skillet or griddle.  Top with fresh mango and maple syrup.

Yields about 12-15 medium-sized pancakes.

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Sep
3
2010

Girl in Green Wind, by Chihiro Iwasaki
Image by Chihiro Art Museum

In the midst of the tragic floods in Pakistan, we have all been seeing some pretty graphic images on the television.   People, homes and rickshaws are half-immersed in water, and the grief-stricken survivors look utterly dejected helpless.  The news and the visuals can rattle even the most stoic adults.  But what about the kids?

You may be tempted to explain what’s going on to your kids – perhaps in the interest of having them be cognizant of the world around them and empathetic to those affected by the disaster.  Maybe we should have then pen a little note to an aid organization.  Is this a good idea?  Or do we shield our kids from such news and let them relish, for a while longer, the innocence that is childhood?

It seems, as with all things, the answer depends on your child.  Some children by nature tend to worry more and need firm reassurances that that this will not happen to them.

Here are some perspectives and dialogues: 

Dr. Anita Gurian, NYU Child Study Center – Talking to Kids About World Natural Disasters

Sesame Street / Sesame Workshop  – Helping Children Understand Natural Disasters (followed by an interesting discussion by some parents)

Parenting.com – 5 Tips on Talking to Kids About Scary News

And please, send your thoughts, wishes and whatever else you can to Pakistan.

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Sep
1
2010
The Global Gopi
Author: Gnaana

A child dressed as Krishna rides on a motorcylce with her family in Ahmedabad.

It’s the birthday of Hinduism’s favourite child – Lord Krishna – and the celebrations have already begun.  Janmashtami falls on September 1 and September 2 this year (depending on your beliefs), and there are functions and events being staged wherever you are in the world (check with your local temple or ISKCON organization).

Lord Krishna is perhaps the supreme embodiment of joy and hope – and the legends and tales of his birth and childhood antics are a source of inspiration to children and adults alike.  We leave you today with a slideshow of heartwarming pictures published by The Hindu (one of India’s leading newspapers).  From Ahmedabad to Mathura to Katmandu, Nepal, these are real-time snaps that radiate the joy of Sri Krishna’s birthday. View them with your kids.

A Muslim woman carries her son, dressed as Lord Krishna, for a school function in Patna.

Children dressed as Krishna and gopikas vie  for a pot of butter as part of the
Janmashtami celebrations at a school in Visakhapatnam.

A visually challenged child tries to reach the “Dhahi Handi” (an earthen pot filled with curd)
during Janmashtami celebrations at a school for the blind in Mumbai.

Hindu devotees dance and celbrate at a Krishna temple in Katmandu, Nepal.

A child dressed as Krishna plays with a ball outside his house in Khammam, Andhra Pradesh.

Images by The Hindu.  For more pictures and the full slideshow, click here .

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