Discovering Pathare Prabhu Traditions
The Pathare Prabhu community celebrates the Adhik Maas or the extra month in the leap year with a Haldi Kunku Programme.This year being the centenary year of the PP Mahila Samaj,they had a special function in their community hall in Khar,Mumbai.This Marathi speaking community was known to own large parts of land in Girgaon.They gave a lot of importance to education and consequently were known for their knowledge,reforms and Western thought.Amongst the most famous from this community was Raobahadur Narayan Dinanath Velkar who had an important role in the institution of the Central Library at the Town Hall,Mumbai.Mukandrao Jaykar started the Aryan Education Society and set up Sharda Sadan,a school for girls in Girgaon.Today the community gives interest free loans to children in their community so that they may complete their education.In December,the Pathare Prabhu Charities function provides vegetarian and nonvegetarian food to the entire community
Today (21st June 2015) the women from the community dressed up in traditional PP finery and performed skits which were written years ago.......Saubhadra,Bhaubandaki,Lagnachi Bedi,Sharda,Saunshaykalol and Hunda.The last was against dowry and was in Pathare Prabhu Dialect which has words from the Gujarati and Marwari language.Pathare Prabhus have links with Parsis and Kolis as well.
Jewellery worn by Pathare Prabhu Women includes the Sari (necklace),Kaap(earrings) and Nath(nose ring)
The armbands have pictures of ancestors on them
A nine yard saree is worn with a special border called Kazbi which is made of gold and silver and passed on through generations.Patterns such as peacock and butterfly are typical.Bimba Nayak pointed out to the similarity with the Parsi Gara.Shela (shawl) used to be worn every time a woman stepped outside her home.
Some Pathare Prabhus have their family deity in Gujarat and Rajasthan and some in Mahalaxmi Temple and Prabhadevi Temple.
The programme started with a small Pooja followed by songs.Here there was accompanying music and the participants sang and enacted as was done in yesteryears.
Then the women came one by one and enacted characters from skits of the yesteryears.Their expressions were priceless and dialogue delivery astounding!
Everyone was excellent but the person that stole the show was the adorable and gracious Mrs Vandana Navalkar who had the audience in splits with her play on husbands and what the women need to do about them :D
Hunda was another phenomenal skit which had a important message for society on dowry,presented in a very pleasant way.The endearing grandma explained why dowry should not be taken.
In older days,men used to dress up as women and act.There was also a famous PP drama company called the Chittaranjan Dance Company.
This Haldi Kunku function was to celebrate Adhik Maas or extra month in the Leap year.Occuring every three years,the significance of the month is that is a period to wash away sins committed in the previous months.Rituals and poojas done in this period is said to bring a lot of peace and happiness and remove obstacles.Another ritual that Mrs Navalkar told me about was the Kokila Vrath.This year th period for that is 30th July 2015 to 29th August wherein the participant takes a special bath everyday and worships the cuckoo and fasts and eats only after hearing the call of the cuckoo.If the cuckoo does not sing,one has to delay breaking the fast.
We had special treats in the form of Moong (cooked by Bimba Nayak) in ghee with black pepper,salt and green chillies.This was delicious! The other treat was the Mesoor,a dark brown sweet roasted well with holes (like a jalli/net) made by Phutanebai of Thakurdwar,known to all Pathare Prabhus! This is distributed with a mogra gajra,traditionally to 33 married women with haldi and kunku anointed on the forehead.Here,everyone received them.
It was a lovely afternoon spent discovering traditions of this lovely community! We were blessed by the Rain Gods as the heavy downpour seen in the two previous days, that stopped the city,had eased magically today, enabling two hundred women to be there