Chudi pooja in the changing times

Flowers and leaves used for preparing chudi.

As the month of Shravana draws to a close, it also brings to an end the festivities surrounding the ‘chudi pooja’, observed by women from the Goud Saraswath Brahmin, Saraswaths, Vysya and Daivajna communities.

Chudi pooja is a way of worshipping nature but the preparation of 'chudi' has not remained the same, especially in cities as the native floral species are rarely available. 

In Konkani, ‘chudi’ means an arrangement where vivid flowers are tied into a bunch to form a colourful combination. This is prepared and worn by married women as part of the 'chudi pooja', observed for chastity and prosperity. The festival is observed in the auspicious month of Shravana, the season which marks the onset of festivities as per the Hindu almanac. 

According to legend, Jalandhara, a demon king, terrorised the pious and the righteous people of the world. And he was beyond destruction as his wife Vrinda's chastity protected him from any harm. 

To destroy Jalandhara, one had to destroy Vrinda's chastity. Lord Vishnu then took the form of Jalandhara to fulfil the prayers of the pious people.

Vrinda, however, was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and sought forgiveness, though she was innocent. The lord then advised her to perform the 'chudi pooja' to cleanse her of her "sin".

A 'chudi' usually comprises of locally available flowers like  ‘Rathnagandhi’ (Peacock Flower), ‘Sugandhi’ (Ginger Lilly), ‘Shankha Pushpa’ (Butterfly Pea), ‘Karavira’ Yellow Oleander) and ‘Ratha Pushpa’ (pagoda flower). Herbs like ‘Durve’, ‘Pacch Kanas’, ’Anvali’, ‘Majranakut’ and ‘Laye Maddo’ are combined with these flowers and are wrapped with a single ‘Kedage’ (fragrant screwpine) into the bunch, before tying it with a plantain yarn. The combination of flowers may vary from region to region.

'Chudi' offerings are made to the "Sun god" in the mornings on Fridays and Sundays, during the month of Shravana. Worship is offered to Tulasi, the house well (Ganga Pooja), the threshold of the house and coconut. 'Chudis' are then exchanged between women and are also presented to husband and elders in the family as a mark of respect. 'Chudis' are also sent through post to relatives residing in distant locations.

A rarity

Speaking to DH, cultural enthusiast G Lathika Shenoy lamented the difficulty in finding these flowers. Earlier, the flowers were easily available. A flower like 'Kedage' is very rare now. ‘Kedage’ or 'Kewda shrub' grows along the banks of a pond. Kedage shrubs have almost vanished due to the loss of habitat. 

'Mithai Hoovu' (Golden Trumpet) is used as a substitute for 'Karavira' flower. 'Ratha Pushpa', which normally grows in the coastal region and in the Malnad areas, is also rare to find in cities. So, Shoe Flower and Button Roses are used in 'chudi' instead. 

Readymade chudis

To cater to the present day needs, readymade 'chudis' are now available in the market, Lathika said.  Writer Shakunthala R Kini says that there are other aspects behind the ritual, apart from the religious ones.

The tradition, Shakunthala, says ensures that the next generation is aware of the significance of the flowers and herbs used in a ‘chudi’. Shravana season is known for hot weather and 'chudi' provides a cooling effect. The readymade 'chudis' are prepared and sold in the market by people from different communities, a mark of communal harmony

 

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Chudi pooja in the changing times

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