Follow the Hindu Moon

                                                                                                         A guide to the festivals of south India

                                                                                              Soumya Aravind Sitaraman

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Pooja Basics

Embracing the Almighty

Getting Organised

Celebrate! Festivals

Hindu Cosmology

Path to God

Festival Food



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Meet the Author



Soumya Aravind Sitaraman

An award winning painter and illustrator, founder of Shakti, a South Asian Women's forum and co-founder of What is India Publishers, an online India Information Network. Soumya Sitaraman's debut as an author has been compared to Fraser's monumantal tome,  The Golden Bough and applauded as a thesis in social and cultural Anthropology. This well researched handy guide to south Indian festivals began as a personal journey of discovery spurred by questions posed to her by her son Maithreya while living in the US. Her quest has culminated in this heritage book that will be the lifeline of all families like hers, removed from their cultural home in South more

About the Author

Other books by Soumya Sitaraman

About the Photographer

Usha Kris


ISBN: 978 81 8400 011 5

Pages: 908 

Hardcover, Two Volumes

Genre: Non Fiction, Culture


Publisher: Random House 

India Limited

Retail: Rs. 3500

Release Date: Nov 1, 07



Richly illustrated with about 1000 photographs.








Inspired to research and document fast disappearing traditional knowledge and practices, Soumya Aravind Sitaraman authored ‘Follow the Hindu Moon:  A guide to the festivals of the South’. In this approximately nine hundred page two volume compendium, richly illustrated with about a thousand photographs by Usha Kris, Sitaraman provides a cultural lifeline for contemporary families. This how- to work is a step-by-step manual for those who wish to embark on an enchanting discovery and understanding of Hindu ideology. Sitaraman captures the essence of tradition in contemporary narrative, providing the modern family easy access to traditional know-how and festival celebration, complimented by Ms. Usha Kris’s evocative photographs.

Sitaraman helps the reader follow complex social nuances, providing the fundamental raison d’etre and insightful observations with subtle finesse. Her approach is practical and tuned to our current lifestyles while simultaneously respectful of tradition and deferent to logical practice. She strikes the right balance between the practical and the practiced, offering her readership a wide range of acceptable options to embrace.

 Jan Rindfleisch, Executive Director, Euphrat Museum of Art, Cupertino CA wrote ‘Soumya Sitaraman’s work directs observation of complex social issues through her subtle narratives and visually bold imagery.  Her singular use of texture and color demand attention to realms that as a society, we are rapidly becoming oblivious…she thinks of the constant reevaluation of life systems, of death and rebirth, her awe of nature, the connection between the individual  and the natural world…’ Soumya Sitaraman has stayed true to this critique, applying a compelling approach and parallel ethic to her latest venture, a work of non-fiction that has taken her seven years of dedicated work to complete. In Follow the Hindu Moon, Soumya Sitaraman brings our attention back to the strong and insistent connections with Nature which as a society we are rapidly becoming oblivious. She has reevaluated our systems and practices with refreshing perspective, pulling ideas together with clarity to bring much more than the obvious to the table. Sitaraman draws her material from diverse resources, ranging from the community elders whom she sees as the storehouses of fast-disappearing know-how, the Puranas, Vedas and several contemporary cross-disciplinary studies.

Sitaraman has presented complex material in an engaging manner. She has woven what could have been dry non-fiction with rich flavour, peppered with humour and interesting personal experiences. She makes you want to read further, know more and try things out for yourself, as she leads step-by-logical-step, reducing the daunting tasks and ideas into easy modules. Her approach is part storyteller when she relates anecdotes, retells legends and shares a community’s experiences. Art critic, Anjali Sircar’s observations that Sitaraman integrates ‘on the one hand, modernism’s most radical pictorial impulses - and on the other, to the pre-modern tradition of painting as an activity that involves deliberation, premeditation and the rational engagement of the artist’, continue to ring true with Sitaraman’s seamless integration of contemporary needs and lifestyles with pre-modern south Indian traditions. The author has written with the conscious awareness of readers’ time constraints and familiarity with technical user manuals to provide concise text aided bullets and numbers to facilitate sequential implementation.

 Follow the Hindu Moon is several books in one. It is a practical handbook with independent and modular sections that delve deep into various facets of the culture. Each section is self-explanatory and complete. Together the two volumes provide an individual access into mini worlds of knowledge, experience and understanding.

The material, presented with crisp simplicity begins with Pooja Basics, a section that defines the basics of south Indian culture. Concepts such as the namaskaram and akshata are defined in detail. There is a complete pooja guide in the section Embracing the Almighty for the spiritually oriented, along with slokas with meanings, a who’s who in the Hindu Pantheon in the section Path to God. Festival food presents the ethos of south Indian cuisine, banana-leaf eating etiquette and has delectable fool-proof neivedya recipes for the epicurean. Etiquette answers a range of queries on practice and protocol such as how and why one should wear the traditional mark on the forehead to more complex and controversial issues concerning ritual purity. The book provides the basics of Hindu Astronomy as relevant to celebration, a well-thought-out Festoons and Decorations guide along with a set of patterns to experiment with, and much more.

 All these elements tie in beautifully to the heart of work, which deals with celebrating festivals with meaning and joy. Sitaraman explains the rationale behind each festival, retells the accompanying legend for children, provides a quick-view cheat sheet for experienced users, and leads the reader through a detailed walkthrough. With a well thought through planning and shopping guide thrown in, Follow the Hindu Moon is the ultimate cultural and festival guide, a must-have manual for every family keen on passing on our living heritage for the generations to come.  


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A Random House India Publication

Soumya Aravind Sitaraman (c) 2007. All Rights Reserved