Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Raksha Bandhan Special: The Tradition of Sooun Maandana or Sooun Jimana

Prelude: A sister speaks...

20 / 21 August 2013:
Today marks one of my favorite days of the entire year. It’s a date I had made a quick mental note of, months before... just like every year, at the time when the new calendar year had begun and then had waited eagerly for it to dawn. For I knew, on that day, I could throw all my silly tantrums and still get away with my word.
For I knew, on that day, I could ask anything, which means simply anything that I wish for and be affectionately assured to have it presented one day. For I knew, on that day ... I could playfully fight and fight harder only to be cosseted and pampered in return. For I knew, that that day was mine.

Which sister wouldn’t long for such a day?
And, I am no exception.

Raksha Bandhan tradition - red thread or moli
Moli: The sacred thread binding love, trust and affection on Raksha Bandhan

So, yes! Today, I woke up with a joy in my heart and a spring in my steps. Because, ‘That day’ was here - Today! Shravani Purnima, the day popularly celebrated as Raksha Bandhan all over the country, a unique festival promising to tightly secure the unconditional, selfless and innocent love between my bhaiyya and me in a sacred thread of trust, protection, joy and affection not only in this life of ours but also beyond ...

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Words, for me, are not easy to play with but this is one occasion when I can go on and on... such are the feelings wrapped in this day. It’s simply magical. However today, I won’t since I already wrote about the festival last year (Happy Raksha Bandhan). So, allow me to take a slight detour from the main festive course this year and instead focus on something that is not much talked about – a Raksha Bandhan tradition that we, in my family, observe and a tradition that holds a significant part of festivities in our house. Let’s have a look at something peculiar called, Sooun Maandana or the inscription of Good luck! Come, follow me!

Sooun (Soan, Sooan, Shagun) Maandana/ Good Luck stickers, Raksha Bandhan


What are soouns and what is their significance?

'Soouns' refer to pictures, simple or intricate, representing auspicious symbols believed to protect us from bad energy and welcome good forces and guardian spirits in the house – reflecting the very soul of Raksha Bandhan. In Hinduism, these auspicious symbols can constitute the Swastik, the Sun God, Ram Ram, etc. amongst many others. 'Maandana' is the process of drawing pictures on the walls or the floors of the house and is a custom native to the state of Rajasthan.


Sooun Maandana: Making of the soouns

If you really wish to see how it’s done, travel to the villages of Rajasthan. Like most other things, the villagers do it traditionally, in the most authentic manner, in a way it was always meant to be done. Dried cow dung (considered a symbol of purity) or geru (red colored powder) are directly spread on the house and haveli walls such that they remain stamped for the rest of the annual year.

Raksha Bandhan celebration - Swastika Sooun made of cow dung
Raksha Bandhan celebration, sooun made of cow dung
Swastik and symbolic sun sooun made of cow dung,
outside a village house in Rajasthan

'Sooun Mandana' or the drawing of auspicious designs is generally done before fesivals or other auspicious events to welcome Gods or guests in the house.

Such a traditional way of sooun making ensures that the essence of goodwill shines the year round and not just for a few days after the festival. Now, come to the cities and you see a visible contrast. Here, cow dung is absent and so is direct engraving. Instead, paper steps in for the canvas and geru for the ink. Sooun drawings are made on these papers with a red colored powder called geru and these picture papers are then stuck on the walls and entrance.

Raksha Bandhan celebration - Sooun drawing and geru
Raksha Bandhan celebration - Soouns of swastik symbols
Raksha Bandhan tradition - sooun mandana
"Sooun Mandana" (Sooun designs) during Raksha Bandhan

The patterns for the Sooun Mandana ritual can be varied
depending on one's choices but we prefer to keep it simple.

Besides the hand painted ones, today, one can also find ready made soouns easily available in the markets.

The Pooja: Offerings to the soouns or “Sooun Jimana”

Guess who gets precedence over the brothers
on the day of the festival? It is them - the soouns! Similar to the Hindu belief of offering prayers to Lord Ganesha for good luck before the start of any auspicious activity, sooun jimana or the sooun pooja, done prior to rakhi tying ceremony, is considered an act of good luck and prosperity. As part of sooun jimana, the soouns are offered jaggery or any other sweet along with roli, chawal (rice), the red sacred thread - moli, drops of water coupled with wishes for a happy and prosperous life for the entire family.

Raksha Bandhan tradition - sooun jimana ritual
Sooun Jimana: Offerings to the soouns

What I like about this ritual is its minimalism and easy style. It requires no elaborate procedures-to-follow, it’s unique, it has drawings and above all, it is purely based on one’s faith, conviction and feelings. Whether you go for cow dung, ready-made market purchase or better still, prefer to do-it-yourself, soouns mean nothing but symbols bearing the reflection of your faith and conviction. The stronger your faith, equally intense will be the goodness in your family!

Do you celebrate any distinct traditions like these during the festival of Raksha Bandhan? In your home, in your village or in your native place, may be? If you do, please share them in the comments section.


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53 comments:

  1. I love to see the following of traditions as they add richness to life in our busy schedules! Beautiful compilation, Arti:)

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    1. Indeed! Traditions, that are carried out from the heart can add so much richness to our busy lives and hectic schedules.

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  2. Arti, Great to read your post. Awesome. ~ da

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  3. What a beautiful post and pictures. Direct from the "desh kee mitti"

    And congratulations on your first post on your own domain. Happy Raksha Bandhan and all the best...

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    1. Thanks a lot, Prasad :) and wish you the same - Happy Raksha Bandhan!

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  4. A fascinating post, thank you ever so much fo taking the time to explain more about this celebration. I seem to remember commenting last year about the Swastika having a totally different meaning for us in that we always think of its connections with Nazi Germany.

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    1. Ah yes, Tracy. That's the reverse swastika and I can understand what that would mean since it's associated with Nazi and Hitler.

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  5. Interesting post Arti, i love your moli, it's realy similiar with mine, i wear it over 4 years. Your brother lucky have you as a sister :)

    I'm not sure if it's conected with the celebration, today i saw full moon in the sky.

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    1. That is wonderful Mareta, 'moli' keeps you protected from evil spirits and other such forces. Raksha Bandhan always falls on a full moon day ('Shravan' month of the Hindu calendar).. so yes, the full moon you saw is related to the festival :)

      And frankly speaking, I am very lucky to have him as my brother, I really trouble him a lot. :)

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  6. Well, I learned something new today! This reminds me of the story in the bible where God was going to send the Angel of Death all around the town during the night, and kill all the firstborn babies. BUT if you put blood on the door threshold, he would pass by and save your family.

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    1. I learned something new as well, Ginny! Thank you very much for sharing the story. It is so fascinating to know about different cultures and the stories wrapped in them, I loved hearing it and I look forward to knowing more about it someday.

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  7. Beautiful post Arti!I Liked the fact that you described the Sooun jimana ritual so beautifully:)

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  8. I loved the ritual Sooun Jimana or Sooun Pooja and the Swastiks and everything. This is all totally new for me. They are so divine and spread the divinity around. I can feel while reading. :) Thanks for sharing with all the beautiful pics. :)

    Here, Purohits tie Rakhi to everybody in a family, to bless their Raksha - Safety. This tradition must be in Puranas. Also we offer Rakhis to Bhagwanji just like we tie the Rakhi on brother's wrist, as Bhagwan is Mata, Pita, Bandhu, Sakha. Also, generally we cook the sweet dish called Naralibhat - Sweet dish of Rice and coconut.

    Also, the worship of Sea is done where there is sea by offering Coconut that's why it's called as Narali - Paurnima. Naral means coconut. :)

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    1. Mohini, truly love to see you here! So happy :) Have been missing you since such a long time. Thank you so much, very glad to see you. :)

      We do something similar, Mohini. We also tie rakhi to Bhagwanji, Lord Shree Krishna and in the temple. But I never heard about the sea worship. You explained everything so beautifully, your Narali Purnima tradition is completely new for me. Loved learning something new and beautiful from the Maharashtrian culture. Thank you for sharing. :)

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  9. Happy Raksha Bandhan Arti! Sounds like a lovely festival - somehow i like these Indian traditions and rituals - and always love to read about them! here. Rituals are a way of celebrating life - enjoy! xx

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    1. Wish you the same, Martina! And no wonder, you love them. Any artist would. Indian traditions and rituals have a color of their own, and as you said, they celebrate life and bring people together.

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  10. How interesting, Arti. Always learning something in your posts. I certainly wish you and your family happiness and prosperity.

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    1. Thanks so much, Barb. I wish the same and more for your family as well.

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  11. wow...love to know about the way you do this...wonderful and different cultures...

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  12. Wonderful post on the details of tradition.

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  13. Very elaborate details!
    Lovely pics!

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  14. Informative piece. Thanks for sharing.
    www.bnomadic.wordpress.com

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  15. Beautiful shots of this lovely tradition.

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  16. Guess you had a nice rakhi....the rituals were a revelation for me...the sun's maandna esp. is very cute.

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  17. Wonderful post :) I'm reading about this for the first time. Happr Raksha Bandhan :)

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  18. Nicely written post. Raksha bandhan is my favourite day too.

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  19. Sweet post Arti..:-)Must appreciate you for introducing the rituals..:-)

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  20. Great Detailed Post on such an auspicious day,The Bond of love between Sister and Brother

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  21. Intense & informative post straight from the heart.Interesting details. Never knew cow dung was used for symbols.Like your strong faith & enthusiasm in Raksha Bandhan.

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  22. Being from the eastern side of India it was unknown for me. I have seen Kayasthas doing this during some puja but am not sure if thats the same. Interesting information as usual :)

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  23. Really awesome and most sweetest post..I want to say thank thanks so much..You used heart touching images very creatively..

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  24. Interesting! I hadn't known of Sooun designs. Thanks Arti.
    I'm sure you had a happy Raksha Bandhan. Belated wishes. :)

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  25. I am so sorry to be late in reading this post and wishing you a happy Raksha Bandhan..... I enjoy reading about your Holy Day celebration and traditions. .

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  26. a beautiful and informative article and lovely pics

    thanks for sharing

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  27. great post... that expresses the Raksha Bandhan

    thanks

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  28. Happy Raksha Bandhan, Arti.
    I remember your writing about this festival last year.
    Here in August, there is one of big annual festivals called Bon Festival.
    Traditionally we welcome and honor the souls of the dead which are believed to be back to this world during this period. This is also the time many people try to return their hometown for family reunion to celebrate the festival. This causes enormous traffic jams and crowded passengers on the public transportation, still on this occasion, with the dead and the living mingling, we have fun together with a sense of gratitude.
    My father is the latest soul to join my ancestors. I welcome my parents with special thanks this year.

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    1. Thank you so much, cosmos. And thank you for explaining about the Bon festival so beautifully :) Bon festival sounds very interesting and a wonderful way to express thanks to all those lovely people who had once meant so much to us but are no longer around (in flesh) anymore.

      I find many similarities between Hinduism and Japanese culture. This festival reminded me of something similar that we observe in Hinduism, it's called 'Shraddh', in which it is believed that our ancestors descend on earth for around 10 days and we offer food to them and pray for the peace of their souls. It's a sacred time for both of our cultures, I guess... here's wishing you a very happy time during the Bon festival :)

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  29. this is an awesome post .. loved the ..pictures of sun and swastik out of dung ... amazing beyond :)

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  30. Very informative post with lovely pictures...

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  31. That’s an interesting tradition which I ever know before... Thanks for sharing this behalf celebrating the festival. I really loved your expression of joy toward the Raksha Bandhan. Hope u feel always happy... my best wishes to you and your bhaiya :)

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  32. Wow, thanks for beautifully explaining the tradition.

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  33. Thank you for your kind comments, everyone. I'm happy to share and very glad to hear from all of you! :-)

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  34. Hi Arti,

    So great to hear of the traditions you have there and thanks for sharing.
    Enjoy this special time.
    Many thanks for visiting me.

    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  35. This is one of the unique attractions of your blog Arti! You bring to life the traditions and also draw your reader to having an emotional connect with them.

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  36. I learnt something I did not know :) Thank you.
    Lovely post

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  37. Sometimes, we tend to forget our traditions.... Thanks for reminding a lot of people...

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  38. Thanks so much, my dear friend, for always sharing with us your wonderful culture and beliefs. I'm joyful reading this.

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  39. Interesting post, Arti! I didn't know about so many rituals...learnt something today! The traditions are, in fact, the biggest part of the fun...:)Lovely pics and amazing write up. Who said, you can't play with words...??!!
    Thanks for sharing.

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  40. This tradition is interesting. I noticed one of pattern on the paper looks like mark of temple in our place.Two religions might be concerned. Thank you for sharing such rare inheritance.
    Have a lovely week ahead!

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  41. Thank you for sharing such a special day to you and how simply it is celebrated. Now I have never seen cow dung used to draw symbols.

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  42. Such an interesting post! Thanks for sharing. It sounds like a very special day :) What is more important than family?

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