Keeping ‘Deepavali’ tradition alive

S. Harpal Singh
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The household washerwoman is honoured on the festival day with gifts

A washermen couple (right) paying a visit to a household in the early hours according to the Deepavali ‘nomu’ tradition in Adilabad on Wednesday.
A washermen couple (right) paying a visit to a household in the early hours according to the Deepavali ‘nomu’ tradition in Adilabad on Wednesday.

The festival of lights in Adilabad has more to it than just oil lamps and firecrackers. Among the traditions that are connected with Deepavali is the system of honouring the local washermen community as it forms one of the important constituents of society.

No householder refuses to open the door to the washermen couple even if the persons come knocking as early as 2 a.m., just a few hours after the celebrations associated with Laxmi puja. “The washerwoman is considered the ‘aada bidda’ or the daughter of the house. Borrowing fire from her lamp to light the ‘deepams’ in the house is taken to be auspicious,” relates Chikkala Dattu, Adilabad president of the Rajaka Sangham, as he talks about the tradition.

“The Brahma muhurtam visit of the washerfolk is just one of a dozen such functions involving that community in the life of people, though many of these customs are not observed today. The relevance of the washerman community in the society has not been completely done away with as is evident from the honour it receives on Deepavali,” says Kala Ratna award winner and founder of Adilabad’s Kala Ashram, Guruji Ravinder Sharma, who is an acknowledged authority on local customs and traditions.

“In fact, the family washerwoman is considered to be the image of Goddess Mahalaxmi herself when she visits them on Deepavali morning. During other times too, her role in the family is no less important as she carries the haarati during all auspicious ceremonies,” he adds.

Mr. Dattu says, the tradition of the family washerwoman visiting in the small hours has its roots in mythology associated with the festival. He says the washerwomen carrying oil lamps emulate their forebears who had removed darkness that had descended upon the World following the killing of ‘Narakasura’ on Deepavali.

The washermen couple receive ‘katnam’, mostly in the form of money from the family concerned. “The money may not mean much, but the honour accorded by the family is welcome,” the Rajaka Sangham president observes.

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