We bought a new house! Hooray. And we happily moved in before my third trimester, and I didn’t even have to lift a box. I’m so happy!
One of the main things people do around the world after they get a new place is to throw a housewarming party! I’m still making the invites for a good ol’ American housewarming. However, there is also a special housewarming ceremony in India too.
Hinduism is rich with ceremonial activities. There is a ceremony for basically anything you might do in life. There are also auspicious dates and times (e.g. super early in the morning) with which to perform these activities, all coordinated around a very-detailed calendar.
The housewarming ceremony is called “Griha Pravesh,” and the most basic version is to boil milk in a new pot so that it flows over (so that the home may overflow with wealth), to burn incense around the house (to purify it) and to perform a Ganesh puja (Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, is the remover of obstacles). The most complicated ceremonies can get quite intense, including walking a cow around your house. We opted for the more basic one.
My husband was not as concerned with all of this detail, but I still found it interesting. His amma (mom) told us we should not cook in our home prior to doing the Griha Pravesh ceremony. Some sources even said that you should perform the housewarming prior to moving in, or spending the first night, or only after construction, etc. etc.– but it seemed to be highly variable. Superstitious, but flexible… no problem.
We woke up early and took our showers. I wrestled with a saree (and broke a sweat for the effort) and then wandered to the kitchen to setup. I plucked some flowers from our garden and situated Ganesh facing east. We gave him a little miniature garland and applied some kumkum powder to his head.
Prasada, or food offerings, are always important in Hindu rituals. So, we gave our Ganesh some fruits, some sweets, and a coconut. You shouldn’t give meat during these offerings and shouldn’t eat the offerings prior to giving them (no banana peels for Ganesh). However, all the food should be returned with the rest of the food and eaten afterwards.
A fire is always an essential part of Hindu ceremonies and is the medium with which to convey an offering during the ceremony. Large housewarming ceremonies actually build the fire in your home, but seeing as our home is not made of concrete (wood), we went for the more modest camphor block. If you’ve ever been in an ancient temple in India, the statues of the gods are often too dark to see (and are sometimes even in caves), but they become illuminated as a fire is passed clockwise in front of them–so it is easy to understand the importance of fire during these rituals.
Next, we needed to boil the milk. You can add sugar or rice to the new pot along with the milk as well. Once the milk has boiled over, and your home is accordingly blessed, you should offer some to Ganesh as well. As with all other prasada, you can return the offering to the main pot, as the food should not go to waste. We turned our milk into Kheer, but some friends said they have also made milk tea. We burned incense throughout the house, and then ate some breakfast–as we were getting very hungry.
While this tradition was wholly new to me, I enjoyed it. I quizzed my friends about how to perform it, and my Tamil mentor/sister came through (as usual) with full details. Google provided the more nitty-gritty answers to the “why” that I wanted to learn about. I think it was a good ceremonial way to start a new beginning in our new home. Simple and nice. I still plan on throwing the standard American housewarming party, but this was good to do before this time. Also, I may now cook in my kitchen–hooray!
Our puppy Ambu even joined us.