Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fifteen Generations

Yesterday was a holiday here in the state of Karnataka. Most of the holidays here are based on the lunar cycle, like Easter and Passover, so yesterday was a new moon, the beginning of the new year, and there also happened to be a solar eclipse yesterday morning - an auspicious day indeed!

Among the traditions which mark the beginning of the new year, there is a tradition to clean everything - sort of like "Spring Cleaning" in the US. Also, some sweet food is prepared. Shyla made us rice keer (rice pudding). Shymala, the wife of my Sanskrit guru, Suresh, prepared sweet pongal, which is a little similar to rice pudding. I went for a sanskrit lesson yesterday and I asked him about the holiday as we ate lunch. He told me that I should eat the sweet pongal first as a symbol of hope that the new year would be sweet and a reminder that we should first be sweet to others.

Then he said that they would be celebrating the new year again in two weeks. He said that Tamil Nadu (the state just east & south of us) begins their new year on the full moon. He explained that although his family has lived in Karnataka for centuries, 15 generations back, they came from Tamil Nadu, so they celebrate the holidays from both states.

It wasn't until later when I shared that story with Elizabeth that she pointed out just how long 15 generations is. In the Bible, of course, a generation is 40 years long, so 15 generations would be 600 years. For us, I think it is more like 25 years, which is 375 years.

Elizabeth can trace her family roots back to the Mayflower and before that to Germany. My father's family has only been in the US for a few generations (I think I am 5th or so) and before that to Ireland. My mother's father (Crockett), traces back to pre-revolutionary times. My mother's mother's family, though, is Cherokee and Chocktaw. That means that 15 generations ago, my ancestors were born in roughly the same exact place that I was born in - in upstate South Carolina.

I admire Suresh and his family not only for knowing their family history so well, but for continuing to hold on to old traditions as a means to hold on to his ancestral roots. If anyone is out there reading, I hope you will write a comment and maybe even tell us where your family was 15 generations ago and what, if any, traditions you hold onto.

I leave you with this, my own small tribute to my ancestry, although a bit of an anachronistic one. Here is a recording of The Lord's Prayer in Cherokee:


Mom Bannon said...

Holidays, new moon, solar eclipse, spring cleaning AND rice pudding...
Does it get better than that! :)and a Sanskrit lesson with lunch to top it off...and "15 generations
ago" with a learned man, guru even, Suresh:) I think traditions from years past are wonderful to hang on to, and I wish I knew more to pass along to you...Dad did tell me that his Mother's family, Mildred Bruce Leachman's family came over from England, but he is not sure when.
The O'Bannon's were from Ireland like you mentioned, and my Dad, Aulton Eugene Crockett, was Irish and 1/16th Cherokee, and he was born in Camden, Tennessee. David Crockett, frontiersman & politician, was from Eastern Tennessee. Mom was born in Ada, Oklahoma, and I was born in McCurtain, Oklahoma...The Choctaw tribe of Indians had settled in Oklahoma where the Cherokee joined forces with them after the eviction & forced march of the Cherokee nation, in 1838-39, which came to be known as the Trail of Tears...If anyone has not read that, it is history to be known. Andrew Jackson, President, refused to enforce a court's decision protecting the Indian's land...One man can make a difference...If only he had. By the way, did you know that in 1833 Davy Crockett won the U.S. House of Representatives, but suffered defeat in 1835 due to concentrated opposition of the party of Andrew Jackson...He died at the Alamo April 6, 1836. Wouldn't it have been 'neat' had he been President at some point! :)
I loved the Lord's Prayer in Cherokee...Beautiful, thanks for sharing, love mom

Kathrin said...

15 generations ago my family traces back to Germany..surprise. In every generation there were doctors involved, or pharmacists. I guess I had to break out of that one. And tradition wise there isn't really one, kind of sad, yet interesting, so much moving created a whole mix of things from all over. A few cake recipes go back 2 generations, and I speak German.