Mrs. Lakshmi’s diary and account of her religious practices


Age: mid-50s, 5 adult daughters (3 still living at home), two sons (one living at home), non-Brahmin. Educated to completion of secondary school. Husband retired civil servant


Good morning! It was 4.30 am [when] I got up from bed after saying prayers for 5 minutes. It took me 25 minutes for cleaning my teeth etc. then I entered the kitchen at 5 o’clock.

First I prepared coffee, then idli and chutney. By that time all the members of my family (husband, 2 daughters and one son) got up and we all have our morning coffee at 5.45 am, then I began to prepare for the lunch[1]. Rice brinjal (with aubergines), drumstick sambar, beans poriyal and rasam and of course we have curd as last time (thing) daily. I finished preparing both tiffin[2] and lunch by 9.30 am. We all took tiffin (idly and chutney) at 7.30 am. Children won’t take coffee again but I always take another cup of coffee after tiffin.

After breakfast, my daughter went to college to write exams, taking [her] meals with her. The maid servant comes at about 5.45 or 6 o’clock daily. After cleaning and putting (spraying) water in front of the house she puts (draws) kolam[3] first, then she comes in and cleans the vessels of the house and goes away to do work in another house. Then [she] comes back at 11 o’clock, washes the clothes, grinds for idly (twice a week), cleans the cooking vessels and goes away. Again she comes at 3 o’clock, cleans the house and the vessels used for coffee and tiffin and puts [a fresh] kolam. This is her daily routine. The milk boy brings 2 bottles of milk between 5 and 6 am.

After breakfast, my husband, who is a retired person, goes shopping. He buys vegetables and other requirements for the house. So I have nothing to do either with shopping or to look after children as they are grown up and are studying in college.

I finished all my minor items of work such as cleaning and putting things in their places etc. had bath and relaxed at 10.45 am. I am free from 10.45 or 11 am to 12.30 most days when I am able to some straw work[4] or stitching the old clothes or attending the ladies club or reading or taking rest, anything I like.

Today after reading the newspaper I went and supervised the midday meals for the preschool children [of the women’s club crèche] as I am in charge of it. I sent the meals in a tiffin carrier to my son at 12.30[5].

Then we (that is myself, my husband and a daughter who is already having holidays) had our lunch at 12.45. We played cards till 2.30 pm. then I prepared coffee and omapodi[6] for evening tea. Usually we prefer coffee in the evenings also. Sometimes I prepare tea also. 

My daughter returned from college and we had coffee at 4.30 pm. Myself and my last daughter went to Annanagar and stayed in one of our relation’s houses for the night; for my eldest daughter, who is married, has built a new house and the ‘Grahapravesam’[7] is on the 16th morning. So I went there the previous night itself to help her. The [rented] furniture, cooking vessels and the provisions all arrived at 11 am. The [hired] cook arrived at 12 o’clock and began to make cashew nut cake for the morning breakfast, the function is between 6 and 7 am[8] on 16th. We went to sleep at 2.30 am and got up at 4.30 am.


We had our bath and began to prepare for the function. We washed the whole house and put a big, beautiful kolam. Tied plantain (banana) trees on both sides of the entrance and the tape-recorder began to play ‘molam’. We awaited the arrival of my daughter and her husband, the owners of the house. They arrived at 5.30 after bathing and performing puja in their [old] house in Royapettah. A cow and a calf were brought and puja was performed to the cow at the entrance by my daughter and then they took dhall, salt, rice and pepper on a platter, water in a vessel and pictures of Lord Muruga and Lord Vinayaka[9]  and the photo of my son in law’s father in their hands and entered the house.

In the middle of the hall, Iyar [the Brahmin priest] prepared for the puja. I put there 7 trays of fruits, garlands, new clothes as mother’s ‘varisai’ for my daughter. Iyar blessed the couple and gave the new clothes to them from the varisai. They changed into new clothes and came and sat with garlands before the holy fire lit by the Iyar. Their son, 5 years old, sat between them with garland on. The puja went on for an hour. After the puja, milk was boiled first[10] in the kitchen. About 200 people, both friends and relatives attended the function. Many of them gave presents and blessed them. Then we all had a grand breakfast with cashew nut cake, kasari, pongal, vadai with chutney and idly with sambar[11] and coffee.

Those who are (were) in a hurry to get to the office left the place but others stayed and [we] had very interesting games and sang many songs, too. Sitting in groups and chatting merrily, the time passed on very quickly. We all had our lunch at 12.30 with many items.

Then most of the visitors left the place. Even my husband and two daughters returned home, but I stayed there till 6 pm helping my daughter to close the accounts to (for) various items such as furniture hired, big vessels hired, cook and other [temporary] servants.

Many friends came in the evening also [and] we gave them cashew nut cake, karaboonthi[12] and coffee. Then I left the place in my brother’s car, visited many friends’ houses and returned home at 9pm. We (myself and my daughter) prepared chappati and dhall. Had supper are 8.45 and retired to bed at 9.15 after having a cup of milk as usual. Of course we slept after saying our prayers [as] individuals in their (our) own beds. As for me I sat and wrote this diary before going to bed. Good night!! 


Got up at 5.30 am. had bath etc. and entered the kitchen at 6.15. A bit late today. Hurriedly I prepared coffee. Had our coffee at 6.45. prepared ‘uppuma’ with rava and vegetable kuruma, plantain (raw) fry and applam[13] for lunch. Had our breakfast at 7.30 am.

I finished all these by 10.45. The maid servant helped me in grinding [spices] for ‘kuruma’[14] (sauce) etc. My sister who came (had come) from Bangalore for the ‘grahapravasam’ came to my house at 10 o’clock. My daughter went and bought mutton[15]. So I began to prepare mutton chops which took me nearly to 11.30. We all had our lunch at 12.30 with my sister. In between I went and supervised the [Ladies’ Club] pre-school (nursery) and returned.

Till 2.30 rest. Sat and chatted. After tea and light tiffin, both myself and my sister went to our relations’ house in Mylapore and returned about 8.45 pm. After meals (prepared by my daughter) and night milk, we retired to bed about 10 o’clock.


Got up at 5.30 am. Coffee at 6 am. had tiffin (dosai and chutney) at 7.30 am. Finished cooking by 10 o’clock. Menu – vadai merged in curd, kudulkola puttu, egg omlet (sic), rasam[16] and curd. Since today is Friday[17] we bathed and prepared puja for 1 hr.

Lunch at 12.30. Read newspaper and magazines in between. Rest till 2.30. Very hot today. Had tea at 3.

I went out with my sister at 3.30 to some of our relations’ house in Kilpauk. Since she had come from Bangalore, she wanted to visit all our relations. We returned at 9 pm. After dinner we retired to bed at 10 o’clock


Got up at 5.45 am coffee at 6.10. tiffin 7.30, menu puri and potato. For supper – drumstick, tomato and brinjal sambar, raw plantain fry, rasam and curd. I finished these by 9.30. Since colleges are closed both my daughters are in the house today. My Bangalore sister went to my elder sister’s house in Abiramapuram. I sat and sieved the rice and picked out all the stones[18] from it with the help of the servant girl. It took me 2 hours. About 12 o’clock I went to the Ladies Club to supervise the midday meals for the children of the preschool. Then I returned about 12.45 and had my meals. 

From 1-3 pm I was busy with my hobby – the straw [picture] work. Then prepared murukoo[19] and tea. After tea (about 4.30) we all went into the garden. My husband drew water from the well; myself and my daughter took water in buckets and poured [it on] to the plants. If my son comes earlier from the college he too will help us. it take 2 hours in the evenings daily. I join when I am free. Otherwise anyone of them who is free will help my husband in garden work.

At 6 pm we lit the lamp in the puja room first and then we [put on the} lights in the house (this is done every day, myself or any one of my daughter will lit [light] the lamp).

Prepared and had our lunch earlier today at 7.30 pm. My brother’s family, my two sisters, myself and my two daughters all went to cinema at 8 pm and returned at 2 am after seeing 2 cinemas [films]. And then returned to bed


Sunday. Got up at 5.30. had coffee at 6 and tiffin (idly) at 7.30. Started preparing meals of different varieties: kootu, poriyal, sambar, rasam[20], mutton etc; since I expected my married daughters and their husbands for lunch. My eldest daughter, her husband and her son arrived at 10 o’clock. My second daughter and her husband with their daughter arrived about 10.30 closely followed by my third daughter and her husband. We all had a good time. I had work in the kitchen till 12 o’clock, but I played with my grand children in between. We all had our lunch at 12.30. After chatting for a while, they all slept till 3 pm. I never sleep during day time. So I utilized that time to prepare vegetable puffs and coffee for all. 

All had coffee at 4, then some played cards and some carom[21] and others [did] garden work. About 6.30 my daughters left for their houses. I sat to go through the newspaper and other magazines. 7.30 pm I went to the kitchen to prepare for the night meals. Usually we use the same sambar, rasam etc done in the morning with one extra side dish newly made and chappati for my husband. He daily takes only chappati in the nights (at night). 

Had dinner at 8.30 pm, usually all members of our family sit together for meals.  After hearing 9 o’clock news in the radio we all took a cup of milk and went to sleep except myself. I sit now to write this diary [and] after saying my prayers I will go to sleep.


We all had been invited to my elder sister’s house in Abirahampuram for lunch. Just like [a] get together. They invited the newly wedded couple also (my third daughter and her husband).

Got up at 5.30 am as usual. Prepared and had coffee at 6.10 then prepared dosai and chutney for tiffin and for meals: rice tomato, sambar and one side dish [of] yam fry for two people. My son went to college and my husband stayed to look after the house

At 9 o’clock, myself and my daughters went to Abiramapuram. We all had [a] very nice time till 6.30 pm and returned home. 8.30 pm. we had chapatti and went to sleep at 9.15 after taking a cup of milk and saying our prayers.


Got up at 5.45 am a bit late. Said my prayers, cleaned my teeth, went to the kitchen and prepared coffee. Had coffee at 6.15. since all are having holidays we are getting up late otherwise usually during working days of the colleges I get up at 4.45 am and finish up all my work before 8.30 or 9 so that my daughters can take [their] food with them to college ([22]). 7.45. Tiffin [of] puri and potato. Finished simple meal - one sambar, poriyal and rasam by 9.30.

My Bangalore sister came from Abiramapuram. She and myself went to Besant Nagar to our uncle’s (mother’s brother’s) house for lunch. They had invited us. We returned from there at 3 pm. I prepared tea and omapodi for the evening. Had tea at 4. The others went to [do] garden work till 6 pm. I went with the ladies’ club secretary to buy presents (small balls) to (for) all the pre-school children [and] story books [which took) until 7.30. Prepared meals. It takes half an hour as usual. By 8.30 we sat for [our] meal. At 9 pm we heard the news in the radio and one by one returned to bed after taking a cup of milk as usual. My children study text books or story books till ten sometimes.

23-4-75. Alarm shrilling at 3.30 am. Both my husband and myself got up, bathed, had coffee, dressed and went hurriedly to catch the first bus (5.15 am) to Annanagar where my eldest son-in-law’s brother was performing Grahampravasam to (for) his newly built house. We attended the function, had breakfast and returned at 12.30. Had our meals here. 

Then I was busy preparing certificates for the outgoing children (i.e. those leaving) of the preschool. We are closing the school today for the summer. I was running to and from my house to [the] club. I asked all the parents of the children of pre-school to assemble in the evening at 5.30. We were ready by 5.45 with certificates, presents and sweets. One of the committee members came at 6 pm promptly and presided over the function. After my welcome address she spoke in Tamil, giving advice to the parents as to how they should bring up their children and how they must cooperate with the teacher in giving them education and discipline.

Then she distributed sweets, one ball and a certificate to each of the children. They joyfully thanked her. The club secretary gave [the] vote of thanks. Then the children sang the national anthem ‘’Janaganamama’ and dispersed. I returned to the house at 7.45 pm. began at once to prepare meals for the night. Had lunch at 8.30. read books till 9. Heard news in the radio. Took milk and returned to bed after saying prayers for 10 minutes.


Got up at 5.10. said prayers for 5 minutes. Cleaned my teeth and entered kitchen at 5.50. Had morning coffee at 6.10. Tiffin at 7.15 – idly and sambar. For meals, keerai[23] sauce, cabbage poriyal and yam fry. Finished all these by 10. Meanwhile my eldest daughter arrived with her son as today is a holiday for her. I made egg omlet and vathal[24] for my grand son. All my daughters are vegetarians, myself and my son are non-vegetarians. All my sons-in-law are non-vegetarians. I played with my grandson till 12.30 when we had our lunch. They slept till 3 pm. I cut out and stitched a new jacket for my last (youngest) daughter. At usual we had coffee and tiffin – dosai – at 4 pm. then garden work till 6 pm. Some visitors[25] [came]. In between we gave them coffee and sent them [off] after half hour chat.

Only during nights I [get time to] go through the newspapers leisurely. Then I began to read the story book ‘Death in the Nile’ by Agatha Christie. Dinner at 8.30. my brother’s family came after dinner and we chat till 10 and then we retired to bed.


Got up at 6 am. felt too tired due to extreme heat and felt feverish. After morning coffee at 6.30 I took a pill. I prepared tiffin ‘upuma’. For meals [I cooked] ladies finger sambar, carrot kutoo and appalam. Had tiffin at 7.30.

Finished work by 9 with the help of my daughters and retired to bed and took rest. Practically I didn’t do anything that day, but I finished the story book. My daughters looked after the house. Lunch 12.30, tea 4.30 and then garden work as usual but I didn’t join [in]. Night meals at 8.30 and all retired to bed at 9.30.


Get up at 5.10. Felt better. Today is my last [youngest] daughter’s birthday. We wished her [a happy birthday]. Morning coffee 6.15. tiffin at 7.30 dosai and chutney. For meals vegetable biriani, pakoda kurum[26], potato chops, rice, rasam and curd. Finished all these at 10.30. Took bath and relaxed till 11.30. My husband returned from shopping and brought butter. I boiled it to [make] ghee and kept it. We use one or two teaspoons of ghee daily during meals. Lunch at 12.30. then I sat and fried different dhals: thoor dhall, Bengal gram dhall, black gram dhall, pepper etc. and prepared sambar podi and rasa podi[27] by grinding them in the house itself with the help of the servant maid. It took me to finish till 3.30 pm. then I prepared coffee and ompapodi. Had coffee and tiffin at 4.30 and went to garden work.

Garden work till 6 pm. Took reading magazines. Walked in the balcony till 7.30. then I went to prepare chappati and side dish. Dinner at 8.30. heard news. Retired to bed at 9.30 after taking milk and saying prayers.


Got up at 5.15. tiffin [of] puri and potato at 7.30. meals: vegetable kurum, cabbage poriyal, mutton chops, rasam and appalam and curd. My second daughter came with her husband and daughter.

Finished work at 11. Lunch at 12.30 with my daughter’s family. Tea at 3.30 with tiffin. [of] bonda. They departed at 4 pm. then garden work till 6. then myself and my husband went to my brother’s house nearby and talked till 8.30 pm. Came back and had meals prepared by my daughters, heard news. Took milk and retired to bed at 9.45 after saying prayers for 10 minutes.


Got up at 5.50 am. said prayers for 5 minutes. Cleaned the teeth and entered the kitchen at 5.30. prepared coffee. The milk boy came with milk. Had morning coffee at 6. maid servant came. Tiffin prepared [of] pongal and chutney. Had tiffin at 7.30. For meals I prepared drumstick and tomato sambar and potato fry. Finished by 9 am. Sat and picked out the stones in the rice till 10.45. had bath and came out, when my daughter told me that Mrs. Caplan had come. We talked for about 10 minutes and she left at 11.15. Then I put the meals in the tiffin carrier for my son. Read the newspaper and stitched the old clothes. Meals at 12.30. Played cards till 2.30. tea at 3.30. Cleaned the house a bit, removing all old papers etc. till 5 pm. then garden work till 6.30. 

Lighted the lamp in puja room at 6 pm and continued to water the plans till 6.30. then settled to study. I always like detective stories so I will be reading some book or other.

At 7.30 I went to the kitchen to prepare chappati and a side dish for night meals. Of course during day time, while I was cooking I boil water in a separate stove and filter it in pots for drinking purposes[28]. I use gas stove for cooking [food] and kerosene stove for boiling water. 

We [are] all accustomed to take a cold bath. So no hot water is necessary for bath. Both my husband and my son have their breakfast only after taking bath. But when visitors stay we put [on the] boiler and give them hot water for bath. Had meals at 8.30. Read magazines till 9.30 and went to sleep. 


Got up at 5.15. entered the kitchen at 5.30. Had morning coffee at 6.15, tiffin at 7.30 (idly and chutney). Finished work at 9.30. for meals onion sambar, drumstick and potato fry and nathal. Very simple as it is the end of the month!![29] Of course rasam and curd are there 

Cleaned the wheat and sent to the machine [for grinding into] flour. Neighbours came and had chat for half an hour.

Sent food in tiffin carrier to my son. Had bath and the water came in corporation pipe[30] and we filled all the vessels. Then I sat to write this diary. Lunch will be at 12.30 as usual.

Then I will wash my son’s terylene shirts and pants. Usually I wash myself all good costly clothes. Ironing – [was done] by my daughter’s work. Straw work till 2.45. then prepared tea – dosai.

Had coffee at 4. then garden work till 5.30. Took rest till 6 o’clock. Then I lit the lamp and sat and write this. I am going now to the Ladies Club to attend the committee meeting where I will give this note to Mrs. Caplan.

Ps when I went through my own diary, I found that our life is routine and clockwise (mechanical). Since our financial position is not good we have no recreations often. Anyhow our relatives are numerous. Some function or other crops up and expenses too.

Bye bye.

Mrs Lakshmi. Religious Observances

She writes about her daily and monthly rituals, as well as the following annual rituals: Pongal, Vaikunda Akadhasi, Thaiposam, Vinayaka Chathurthi, Krishna Jayanthi, Navarathri, Vijayadasami Day, Deepavali.

Hindu religion is as old as the civilization itself. There are number of religious customs and festivals which are observed by Hindus, mostly by ladies, to propitiate various Gods and to ensure their own well being. 

As far as I am concerned I observe only some important festivals. Of course, daily we pray at least for half an hour in the morning after taking bath. On Fridays we take oil bath and do special puja for the idol Pilliar (Ganesh) in our house with abishakam[31] and decorate with flowers and light camphor after the puja. Only after lighting the lamp before Pilliar we will begin our prayers.

Every month I observe Amavasai - New Moon Day and Kirithigai. Some will observe Sashti and Ekadasi also every month. On Amavasai Day I get up early and take a bath. Then enter the kitchen which has already [been] washed and cleaned [as has]  the puja room the previous night itself before going to bed.No tiffin that day. I prepare only coffee for other members of my family. I won't take anything till the puja is over. Then I prepare meals with two varieties of vegetable curries, sambar, vadai and payasam. That day the whole house is washed and then we start the puja by doing abishakam to Pilliar and put flowers to all the pictures of God. Then after lighting the lamp, we say slogams (slokas) and prayer songs. This puja is done mainly for those who [have already] departed from us (i.e. died) in our family. We pray on that day for their guidance and blessings. Then we put all the items prepared on a plantain leaf and put them before our deity and light camphor and break coconut and do the puja. 

After the camphor burns down I take a little bit of each item from the plantain leaf and give them to crows. This is a symbolic way of offering food to the departed soul. Only after the crows eat them we will have our meal. We won't touch non-vege food on that day. In the night we take tiffin.

In the same way we observe Kirithigai day also. But on that day we pray to Lord Muruga for His blessings.

Now about [annual] festivals.

In January, I observe only Pongal. Some observe Bogi also (on the previous day to Pongal). Early morning they make a big fire in front of their houses with all the old unwanted things and they eat non-vegetarian food that day. But I observe only Pongal Day. We clean and swab the whole house and put big rangolis[32] all over the house and tie mango leaves in front of our house. All the members in our house should have [a] bath early in the morning and wear new clothes and then take coffee. That day we have to cook many varieties of vegetables, sweet pongal, vadai and payasam. Sometimes poli also I prepare. We offer all these to Sun God. All the puja will be done as I have written before (above). After that we clean a place in the balcony and put a kolam. Then facing [the] sun I offer pongal, vadai, payasam, raw vegetables, turmeric plants, sugar cane, fruits, etc. and then light camphor and do the puja. Thus we celebrate Pongal.

Generally, in the same month, another festival known as Vaikunda Akadhasi falls. Mostly Vaishnavites[33] fast throughout the day [and] stay awake throughout the night by hearing discourses on Lord Vishnu and his various incarnations. But we don't follow all these [practices]. Only we won't take non-vege that day. [We do] puja is as usual.

In February we observe Thaiposam. Like on Kirithigai we do abishagam to Pillair and do the puja Abishagam Padayal, that is offering God food on a plantain leaf with poli, vadai, payasam, etc. and then take our food.

In August we observe Vinayaka Chaturthi[34]. We swab the whole house with water and put rangoli. We won't fast that day. We take tiffin to a raised platform. Then we do all the abishagams with milk, curd, [cover] both the idols with lots of flowers. We decorate them with our ornaments also. Then we put padayal with vadai, pori kadalai, sundal, kozukattai sugarcane, all kinds of fruits, nuts and worship Him. After all our prayers are over, we light camphor and break coconut. We keep the idol of Lord Vinayaka bought for three days and each day we offer some sweet palagaram and do puja. The third day evening we immerse it in our well.

In September, most of us observe Krishna Jayanthi, the birthday of Lord Krishna. They fast the whole day and in the evening they decorate idol of Lord Krishna and offer him butter which is considered to be his very favourite. They also offer lots of palagarams like muruka, cheelai, somasi, ladoo, etc and worship Him. After that they take food. This is done in my daughter's house. But we are doing just puja as usual and [we] attend (go to) their house [for their different celebrations]. 

In October, they celebrate Navarathri for nine days (actually 9 nights). This begins on the third day of new moon day, but we in our house celebrate the 9th day only.  That is Saraswati Puja[35] day. On that day, after cleaning [the house] and putting rangoli, we clean all the useful articles in our house like  knife, scissors, sickle, spade, hammer, tailoring (sewing) machine cycle (bicycle) etc. We put sandalwood paste and kumkum on all of them and put (place) them before the Deity. We also put [there our] books, pens, pencils, etc. Then after Abishagam and prayers are over, we put padayal with vadai, payasam, pori kathalai, fruits, etc and light camphor and break a coconut.  Thus we do Saraswathi puja requesting the Goddess to continue to bestow on us and our family members the wisdom to learn and strength to use the implements.

Next day is Vijayadasami Day. If we have small children who have reached the age of eligibilty to attend school, they are admitted in the school on that [auspicious] day after doing puja in the house. Slate pencils and pori kadalai are given to all the children who are attending that class. Of course, the child must take a bath and wear new clothes. After the Pillaiyar puja is over in our house we spread some rice on the puja room floor and make the child write OM with his or her finger with the help of his or her father. Then we will take the child to the school. 

Then comes Deepavali - the Festival of Lights. The tradition is that demon Naragasura treated people very harshly [so] Lord Vishnu killed him and saved the world from his tyranny. We celebrate that day just for enjoyment. People make it a point to buy new clothes and wear [them] on that day. But we never buy new clothes in our house. We wake up very early at about 4:00 and have [an] oil bath. After [their] bath children enjoy all sorts of crackers (fireworks). I prepare coffee, idly, dosai, vadai, vegetable kuruma, etc. Most of my relations cook mutton, chicken, etc. but I won't cook non-vege on that day. Then we all have heavy tiffin. Before that, my husband would have finished [doing the] Pillaiyar Puja. As I said before we have the idol of Lord Vinayaka who is also known as Pillaiyar in our house.  For puja on special days we give a bath to that idol, wear (put on him a) new strip of cloth, put sandal paste and flour on Him, and after lighting the lamp and Agarbathi (incense stick), we do the prayers and then light camphor. We do this Pillaiyar puja on every Friday and on all above mentioned festivals.

We prepare many sweet palagarams, like Athirasam, Muroku, Mysorepak, jammin, gosa, etc. Usually we pay a visit to our neighbours and relatives' houses and give them these palagarams. They in turn give their palagarams to us. In the evening we all enjoy [letting off] crackers (fireworks), after lighting lamps. On that day we give inams (gifts) to postmen, sweepers, cleaners, dhobi, maid servants, etc. For [our] maid servant we give [her a] new sari and blouse along with inam and palagaram. Thus ends Deepavalli Day happily.

Next day we have Kathari Amman Nambu on new moon day. This puja is only for ladies who pray for their husbands’ and other members' welfare in the family and tie sacred threads on their hands. On that day I wake up early in the morning and after taking bath I soak some rice in water. After one hour I take this rice, strain [off] the water, and then I myself pound it and make athirasam with jaggery. Then I make vadai and payasam. I fill these athirasams in a new pot which has already been cleaned and smeared with turmeric and kumkum. I buy cotton yellow threads (some silk red threads) which I tie round the pot and put it beside Pillaiyar and put padayal with all kinds of fruits, vadai, payasam and then do the prayers. After the camphor burns down. I take the sacred threads and kumkum and give [them] to all the members in our family. We even send [them] through the post to our children who are in other places. This puja I finish by 1:00 or 2:00 and [only] take meals after that. Till then I won't take anything. Other members will take only coffee. This puja varies in our family itself. In my mother's house they will fast till night and do the puja in the temple where they erect kalasam and some people erect kalasam in their own houses and do puja. 

Karthigai Deepam - When Kirithigai falls in Karthigai month (ie between November end or December) we observe it by fasting throughout the day and do puja after lighting small lamps all over the house and decorate with lamps in front of the house. After prayers are over we put padayal with rice, dhal, ghee, poriyals, vegetables, vadai and payasams, poli, etc After this puja is over we take our meals.

These are the only festivals I myself observe.

After the sun or moon eclipses we wash our houses and do puja after taking head bath.

During the month of Margarjhi, that is between December 15th to January 29th or so, I get up earlier than usual and take bath and do Pillaiyar puja before starting to do other household works. The whole month of Margarhi I am doing this apart from our daily prayers. 

During the month of Purutasi (between September and October) we won't take any non-vege items.

I think I have covered everything. Even my relations observe many more festivals than these; but I follow these above festivals only. 

* The banner photograph is of a group of women belonging to one of the organisations studied. It is not a photograph of diarists.


[1] Cooked meal taken during the morning, usually consisting of rice, sambar (curry), sometimes dahl (lentils)

[2] Tiffin refers to food which while cooked is more of a snack and not considered a meal. Most households take tiffin in the early morning, and again in the later afternoon.

[3] Kolam – geometrical designs drawn with rice flour in front of the house in the early morning

[4] Making pictures from pieces of straw

[5] Note that she does this through a boy who delivers a number of tiffin carriers – they pay him Rs. 10 per month because her son ‘feels shy to carry it himself’, whereas the daughters carry their own.

[6] Omapodi - savoury snack prepared during special or festive occasions, with ajwain (caraway seeds) being the key ingredient

[7] The religious ritual held as a house-warming

[8] The timing would have been decided by the astrologer

[9] Muruga is also known as Skanda. Vinayaka is also known as Ganesh or Pillayar. They are brothers and the sons of Shiva and Parvathi

[10] She means that this was the first boiling of milk, which was treated as a ritual

[11] Kasari or kesari – pudding often made from semolina, pongal is rice cooked in milk and sweetened, vadai are fried snacks, iddlies are rice flour dumplings.

[12] Karaboonthi - Boondi is a fried snack made from chick pea flour or besan

[13] Uppma or Uppuma is a common Tamil breakfast dish, cooked as a thick porridge from dry roasted semolina; appalam – (also known as poppadum or papad elsewhere in India) thin fried crispy snack made from black gram flour

[14] Kuruma is a kind of curry, known as korma in north India

[15] This was a non-Brahmin household in which some members ate meat such as mutton.

[16] Vadai are fried snacks, kudulkola puttu is a breakfast dish of steamed cylinders of ground rice layered with coconut, rasam is a spicy watery soup.

[17] Friday is a holy day for Hindus

[18] Often found in rice, which was bought in large quantities, at that time

[19] Murukuu - savoury crunchy twists made from rice and urad dal (black lentil) flour

[20] Kootu – dish made from both vegetables and lentils, poriyal – vegetables fried with ground coconut, sambar - curry, rasam – spicy thin soup

[21] Carom (also known as Karrom) is a "strike and pocket" table game of Eastern origin similar to billiards and table shuffleboard. It is very popular in India.

[22] While the daughters carry their own tiffin carrier, the son has his sent.

[23] Keerai – a leafy vegetables

[24] A kind of vadam or pappad

[25] Family of daughter of her mother’s brother who is married and lives in Mylapore

[26] Pakoda are fried snacks with a batter around a vegetable

[27] She and her maid ground up the spices to make sambar and rasam

[28] This was the usual method of purifying water at that time. It has largely been superseded by bottled water and water filters.

[29] This was not an affluent household – retired husband, non-employed wife, and several children studying in college.

[30] Madras had acute water shortages and the piped water supplied by the Corporation was more often off than on during this period.

[31] In abishekam (the more usual spelling) the statue of the deity is sprinkled

[32] Rangoli are similar to kolam but use coloured powders

[33] There are two main divisions in Hinduism - Vaishnavites primarily worship Vishnu, while Saivites mostly worship Siva.

[34] Vinayaka is also known as Ganesh or Pillaiyar.

[35] Saraswati is the Goddess of Learning and Wisdom. The day of her puja, tools of all kinds are decorated and blessed.