Friday, September 23, 2011

Sashtiabdhapoorthi

Sashtiabdhapoorthi Materials - Leica M9, 50 Noct, f/0.95, 1/90s, ISO 640
Sashtiabdhapoorthi is the Sanskrit name for a ceremony performed on the 60th birthday.  It is significant in the Hindu culture because the Tamil calendar (used in both north and south India) is based on a 60 year cycle (interestingly, the 60 year cycle also shows up in the Chinese calendar).  Due to this 60 year cycle, the 60th birthday is considered something of a rebirth.

untitled - Leica M9, 21 Summilux, f/1.4, 1/25s, ISO 400
The number of ceremonies performed of course tends to vary and can go anywhere from a couple of hours to filling an entire day.  It is typically the job of the children to organize the Sashtiabdhapoorthi of their parents (its done for both the mother and the father).

untitled - Leica M9, 35 'lux II, f/1.4, 1/30s, ISO 200
This past Wednesday was my father's 60th birthday on the Tamil calendar (its today on the Gregorian calendar) and so we celebrated this special occasion.  In addition to aunts and uncles, many of my parents' closest friends also came out to join us even though it was on a weekday and started at 7:30 AM.

Aarthi - Leica M9, 35 'lux II, ~f/2.8, 1/45s, ISO 640
My mom had been planning the day for the last couple of months and the preparation and work involved would be rivaled only by a wedding.  We cleared out all the furniture in both family rooms to have enough room to fit all the materials for the ceremonies as well as the guests.

Sashtiabdhapoorthi - Leica M9, 21 'lux, f/1.4, 1/30s, ISO 200
One of the fascinating things about the Sashtiabdhapoorthi is that the couple will typically re-do a portion of their wedding rituals (kind of like a renewal of vows), so even though its my dad's Sashtiabdhapoorthi, my mom plays pretty major role in it as well.

Abhishekam -Leica M9, 35 'lux II, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 160
Homam - Leica M9, 35 'lux II, f/1.4, 1/30s, ISO 200
There are many different kinds of prayers and ceremonies in Hindu tradition.  One of the most common is the Homam, which involves making offerings into fire (and is part of a set of vedic rituals involving fire).  The fire is always held in a square shaped assembly which my father and I assembled out of bricks, the fireplace was a convenient and safe location. 

Homam - Leica M9, 35 'lux II, f/1.4, 1/60s, ISO 500
There were many different homams that were performed that day, each of which has specific purposes.  Some were performed only by the main priest and my dad and others included my mom.  What I didn't discover until I did some reading later on was that homa are performed in Japanese Buddhism as well.  Near the end, they ask for blessings from their elders and confer upon us their blessings.

Blessings - Leica M9, 35 'lux II, f/1.4, 1/30s, ISO 400
Of course, I don't know of any celebration in any culture that doesn't involve food and this case is no different.  The big meal is done last after all the religious functions have been completed.

Yum - Leica M9, 35 'lux II, f/5.6, 1/45s, ISO 1250
I was very happy to see my parents' house filled with family and their closest friends.
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