Recently, social networking sites were full of pictures of organic dried cow dung cakes being sold online. These induced much laughter and witty comments. Later, however, it set me thinking. Some of us who own agricultural land are fortunate to have access to unadulterated cow dung but are shying away from the cow dung wash outside the home. Despite the strong smell, this is a practice I like to follow at least once a year.
Spring cleaning is used to denote any time of major cleaning and is not always particularly related to the season. Many homes in India undertake a spring cleaning before Diwali. There are several reasons for this. The religious belief is that Goddess Lakshmi pays a visit on this day and must be welcomed into a clean environment. Another school of thought suggests that it is wise to do away with clutter as open spaces allow a free flow of energy. Whatever the reason, a yearly airing makes for healthy living.
The practice of pre-festival cleaning — be it Diwali or Pongal — can be as elaborate or basic as you want. Personally I prefer to clean the home thoroughly in a manner passed on to me by my elders. The first thing is to get rid of all the unwanted objects. Rearranging crockery cabinets helps one take stock of what you actually need. There are many jumble sales that will take those off your hands. Dusting the corners that are otherwise ignored is a good place to start. I use this time to rearrange furniture so that the space gets a new look.
Clean the silver, brass and copper items is with the time-tested vibhuti or lemon rind. Nothing matches that sparkle and it does no damage to one’s skin either. Hang pouches of potpourri — available at home stores — inside the wardrobe to banish musty odours. Or try pachai karpuram (edible camphor), which also has a lovely lingering fragrance. Once the dusting, vacuuming and mopping is done, the home needs to look, smell and feel squeaky clean.
Benzoin resin, or sambrani, is effective in warding off mosquitoes. But ensure that you get it from a reliable source. When the powder is sprinkled over hot coals, it accelerates the process of drying out moisture. Mildew and wet spots can be minimised by infusing the home with these heavy fumes.
Agarbathis are instrumental in keeping bugs at bay. The best ones are organic incense sticks in flavours like lemongrass, patchouli, sandal and rose. These natural scents repel tiny insects and lizards. Fresh mint leaves in jars with water are great to deal with the fly menace.
A rice flour kolam not only helps beautify the front but also keeps hungry ants from feasting on the goodies inside. Fresh mango leaves contain anti-bacterial properties and the thoranam made of fresh leaves helps carry these cleansing scents inside. A bouquet of neem leaves tied at the four corners of the home are greatly beneficial due to the prevalence of anti fungal properties.
These are the basic rituals that give the home a freshly scrubbed look. Then come the options of fussing over decor and adding other pretty touches in keeping with one’s individual sense of style. I have a special affinity to candles with spice-scented ones being a favourite. Cinnamon, clove and vanilla-scented candles allow the olfactory senses to get in on the Diwali feasting. Brighten your upholstery with vibrant cushions or add a jewel-toned sari or dupatta as a throw. A fabric with metallic accents is ideal for the festive look.
Fresh flowers, aromatic oil diffusers and floating tea lights are simple ways to add a sparkle to the clean house. Vetiver is a wonderful grass that imparts an amazing fragrance for many weeks. A great way of using it is to have your local flower-seller make garlands and hang it on a doorway. Spray it water every day and you will be rewarded with a aroma. Whatever your cleaning ritual, give a thought to going the natural way.
Giri Trading at R S Puram sells pure sambrani Contact nr :2541523 .
A.Rangasami Chettiar & Sons situated on D B road keep stock of good quality pachai karpuram Contact nr: 3357661. www.rengasgroceryonline.com