Little Rituals Part I : Deepavali - On The Eve
Experience the Little Rituals of Deepavali with Kanakavalli — the traditions and emotions that bring families together in South India for the festival of light. This year, we focus on the little things that go into making the festival what it is. The elaborate preparations and family customs in the lead up to Deepavali are accompanied by a growing sense of excitement and delight. Kanakavalli follows along as these Little Rituals unfold…
Celebrated in so many beautiful ways in different parts of India, the festival of light means so many things to different people. It is about families coming together, the excitement of new silk saris, preparing delicious sweets and savouries … and so much more.
Join us as the rituals unfold in a household, beginning the evening before Deepavali and continuing as dawn breaks. We explore these age-old festive customs of South Indian families, delving into their detail and significance, and celebrating the joy and build up to the big day.
The evening before Deepavali, the house is buzzing with excitement and preparations are well underway. The women make a special rice paste to draw yezhakolams, decorating the threshold of the house and courtyard. Daughters learn from their mothers, and the kolam has become a joyful tradition that is deeply entrenched in South Indian families.
Welcoming prosperity into the home, these gorgeous line drawings also signify generosity, as the rice powder attracts ants and all manner of insects.
Grandmothers, as the keepers of family recipes, are often at the centre of the kitchen’s bustling activity on the evening before the festival. First, the oil for the hair and body is prepared, heating nallennai (gingelly oil) with fresh peppercorns and crushed ginger. It is left to infuse overnight, for the family to use in the morning.
Next, an assortment of ingredients is gathered for the lehiyam, a traditional herbal digestive. The house fills with the aroma of roasting spices, seeds and herbs, which are then ground into a paste. The lehiyam will be consumed in the morning, in anticipation of the feasting to follow.
Finally, fresh marudhani or henna leaves are ground in a traditional stone grinder, with a squeeze of lime juice or puli (tamarind extract).
The girls of the house gather around as their grandmother applies a paste of fresh marudhani leaves to their fingertips, the soles of their feet, and as dramatic dots in the centre of their palms. They will let the paste dry overnight, hoping that the patterns turn a dark shade of red by morning. As beautiful as the marudhani looks, it also serves another purpose—relieving stress and cooling the nerve endings in the hands and feet.
With the early preparations complete, the household settles in for the night, awaiting a morning of festivities.
Featured here, on the evening before the festival, is a selection of gorgeous mangalgiri saris from Kanakavalli’s Cotton Collective, paired with striking handcrafted fabric lengths from The Blouse Studio. Browse these and more in our Deepavali edition of Perfectly Paired.
We next turn to the early morning of Deepavali. It's dark outside, but the house is bustling, and familiar smells and sounds fill the air....join us for Deepavali's Dawn, Part II in this trilogy.