Saturday, March 29, 2014

Telugu New Year----Ugadi Festival - Ugadi Pachadi

What is Ugadi?

Ugadi is the New Year's Day for most of the southern Indians. People of South India celebrate their new year according to the sixty-years-based Calendar with a particular name allotted to each of the sixty years. After completion of the sixty years, the cycle again re-starts in the same sequence. So, on the first day of each year, they celebrate the new year's day by exchanging greetings and enjoying special dishes and going on outings with friends/ relatives.

Literally, Ugadi or Yugadi means the start of an age or generation.

Generally, the calendar's cycle of sixty years is one age. Yug resembles this cycle. Adi means starting point. So, the first day of each cycle of 60 years can be considered as Yugadi. But, Each year and each cycle of 60 years are considered to be bringing some changes in our lives for betterment and so each starting day of the year, as well as the cycle, is celebrated with new hopes and new determinations as Ugadi.

The Date for Celebrating Ugadi Festival

Normally, this festival falls in the second half of March, (or sometimes in the first week of April) on the first day of the Telugu Calendar, ie. on Chaitra suddha Padyami. The actual English Dates may change each year.

There are twelve months in Telugu Calendar also like the English Calendar. The Telugu Calendar starts with Chaitra Masam (the month of Chaitra). Each month ends with the whole New Moon day and starts with the Day-After the New Moon Day.

On this first day of the first month of the Telugu calendar of each year, this Ugadi festival is celebrated. It is the period of the Spring Season in India with greenery spread all over the environment making it very beautiful to enjoy outings and picnics.

How to Celebrate Ugadi Festival

On this Ugadi day, people get up early in the morning and take a full bath; most people applying some oil to their heads and all over the body. They normally take bath with hot water and shampoo and soaps nowadays.

Traditional people give their children a very healthy bath by applying the shikakai powder to their heads and applying black grams or green grams flour to their entire body. It is believed that this kind of bath keeps them healthy and strong.

After taking the bath, they wear new clothes or best available clean clothes and prepare the Ugadi Pachadi, a kind of chutney with several tastes and offer it to God before eating it. Then they go to temples and take the blessings of God.

Ingredients for Ugadi Pachadi 

Ugadi Pachchadi

This Ugadi Festival recipe is prepared by mixing the pieces of raw unripe mango, ripe banana pieces, neem flowers/ buds, jaggery, green chili pieces and a little bit of salt- all mixed in the liquid paste of tamarind. All ingredients can be seen in the above image. The tamarind is soaked in a cup of water and the paste-like juice is extracted for mixing all ingredients.

It is a mixture of all the tastes representing the varying moods and feelings of life.

It is a kind of importing the lesson to the newer generations that life is a mixture of varying tastes which they should face with equal patience to live happily in this world.

So, people eat this dish first before eating anything else on this day.

It is a belief that life will be well-balanced throughout the year if this Ugadi Pachadi is consumed at first on this day.

For a more detailed knowledge regarding the preparation of this Ugadi Pachadi, you may view my article at the following link:

Celebrating Ugadi Festival Day

People enjoy throughout this day happily with their family and friends by exchanging new year greetings and sweets. Newly married sons and daughters will be especially spending this festival day with their parents along with their spouses and children. The Sons-in-law will be the most welcome persons on this festival with special treats and gifts to them by their in-laws. They enjoy this festival with free liberty and great respect from their in-laws.

The neem tree with small white flowers
Temples get overcrowded on this day with devotees thronging continuously to get the blessings of God and to hear to the "Panchanga SravaNam" by the temple purohit. It is a kind of studying and knowing about the happenings of good or bad events that may occur during that year and about the rashiphal and effects of stars on human life during that particular year. It is a customary practice of people on this day to read or listen to this almanac and predictions of good or bad results of the year.

Many cultural events are also organized on this festival continuously for 3 days or 9 days according to practices. The 9-day celebrations culminate with Sri Rama Navami.

Stage dramas and musical programs are held at many important temples and cultural centers in both urban and rural areas also. National level artists also give performances. People throng the venues with great enthusiasm and interest and whole evenings and nights are spent at these venues enjoying the fine melodies of life.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Holi: A Festival of Colors and Emotional Bondage

Holi is known as the 'Festival of Colours'. It is one of the most popular Hindu festivals celebrated all over the world nowadays. But mostly it is celebrated by all Hindus in India and Nepal through social gatherings on a large scale by playing with colors and offering sweets and spending with friends and relatives in great joy and happiness. 
Colors for Holi

Holi festival starts with the burning of Holika on the eve of phalgun Purnima each year which is treated as the last day of the year as per the solar based Hindu calendar followed mostly by North Indians. The new year begins for them on the next day itself. So it is celebrated as a festival of Spring and colors to mark the end of gloomy winter and beginning of a new year with new hopes and joy.

As per English Gregorian calendar, this festival normally falls in the first half of March every year.  

The Stories Behind Holi Festival

There are many stories associated with the celebration of this festival.

The Story of Female Demon Holika

It was a belief that Holika was the sister of a great demon king Hiranyakashipu, the father of Prahlada. Prahlada was a devotee of Lord Narayana. Hiranyakashipu did not like this. He had conquered all world with his strength and forced all to worship him and got destroyed all temples and beheaded those not following his orders. Prahlada was not afraid of him and continued his devotion to Lord Narayana. So after trying all kinds of punishments to change his mind, he orders his sister Holika to burn him in fire by sitting herself in a pyre of fire holding him on her lap. Holika had a gift of fire not destroying her. But due to Prahlad' s devotion towards God, when she sits in the fire holding him, he gets saved and she dies as her magical power gets lost. The demon king also gets killed after some period by the God in the shape of Narasimha ( half Lion and half Human shaped God). To celebrate this victory of good over evil, the festival of Holi started to be celebrated by all people.

The Story of Putana, Another Female Demon 

It is believed that Lord Krishna's maternal uncle Kansa was a demon and Krishna took birth to kill him and other demons. So Kansa tried all his means to kill Krishna even when he was a child. He sent the demoness Putana to feed poisonous milk to Krishna to kill him. But Lord Krishna knew her intention and when she came in a human form to breastfeed him, he sucked out all her blood along with the milk and killed her. So to mark this death of evil demons, Holi came to be celebrated.

The Story of Kamadeva or Manmatha (The Cupid or Love God)

It is said that once Kamadeva tried to unite Lord Shiva and Parvathi by using his cupid arrows when Lord Shiva was depressed and left all his duties in the aftermath of being ill-treated at Daksha Yagna by His consort Sati's father. As the whole world was in danger, Kamadeva used his cupid arrows. But Shiva got very angry and burnt him into ashes. Thereafter, he cools down on Kamadeva wife's request and gives rebirth to him. Later Shiva marries Parvati who was Sati in a previous life. So Holi is celebrated as a cupid festival.

The Story of (fair) Radha and (black) Krishna 

According to another story, Lord Krishna became black due to the drinking of the poisonous milk and as he was a naughty child, he used to question his mother Yashoda repeatedly regarding the reason for his being black and Radha being very soft and fair.She got frustrated with his repeated questions and told him to go to Radha, if he is so worried at her being beautiful, and apply any kind of color to her face to satisfy himself. Accordingly, Krishna went to her and played colors with her. This incident also gave rise to the celebration of Holi with colors for many days by young women and couples.

How to Celebrate Holi

Burning the Holika Bonfire

The previous night celebration is known as "Holika Dahan". 
Dry leaves and branches of trees and bushes are collected at some empty centers of roads and colonies and a replica of demon Holika is placed on them. These huge pyres are normally kept ready by starting the collection of material from 15 days prior to Holi itself so that the pyre becomes big by the day of Bonfire. They may even add some dry shrubs and branches so as to make it a big fire with high flames visible to all around. The pyre is lit on the evening before midnight of Purnima falling prior to the actual day of Holi festival. People experience the joy of burning the demon Holika and shout the slogans of "Ra..Ra..Ra... Holi Hi..." and some of them may dance against the play of erotic songs around the fire. They eat sweets also to mark the end of bad days and evil.

Playing With the Colors

The next day, which is the actual day of Holi, people get ready early in the morning to play with colors. Women also are free to enjoy this day without any restrictions to play color along with men. By 8'o clock or even earlier in the morning, they start from their houses to play the colors on the streets and in their neighborhood houses.

Most people go around in groups and mobs with buckets of colors mixed in water and with the pumping sprays to sprinkle the color water over the bodies of people.

People wear old clothes for this purpose of playing with colors. Some women and children keep buckets of colored waters at their doorsteps or on terraces and balconies and sprinkle water on passers-by and enjoy the occasion. Some people avoid colors and stay back at homes. But they play with dry colors by applying the colors, mostly called avir or abir on the foreheads and sprinkle dry gulal powder slightly on bodies as a custom. (The red powder is "avir" and the rose one is "gulal" in the above image.) The play with colors continues normally up to noon. Then they return homes and take full bath washing those colors from bodies. Some people used to play with paints and oils and grease also previously. But they have become civilized nowadays and stopped from doing so even though some close acquaintances take pleasure in playing with paints even now.

Celebrating the Festival

A famous sweet "Gujiya"
People wear new clothes after taking bath and take food along with sweets. Many special dishes are prepared on this occasion. The most important of them being gujiya, matari, potato chips and papads, ordinary salt puri and sweet puri, kheer and many other dishes of veg and non-veg as per their likings.

Many people attend temples along with children and family and the temples will be overcrowded with devotees mostly at evening wearing colorful dazzling clothes. Then they pay visits to their neighbors and friends' houses and those people also come to their homes and meet each other with love and joy, eat sweets and savories at each other's house and enjoy the occasion fully up to midnight. When they go for visits, they take the avir also with them and apply it to the foreheads of family members there. In return, they also do the same thing.

The "Holi Milan" as it is called, the visiting of each other's house, continues for many days after the festive day is over as it will not be possible to pay visits to all the homes in one single day. So they pay visits as per their convenience and exchange greetings.