Saturday, March 29, 2014

Telugu New Year----UGADI Festival

What is Ugadi?
Ugadi is the New Year's Day for most of the southern Indians. People of Southern India celebrate their new year according to a 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 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 and cycle is celebrated with new hopes and new determinations.

When is this festival celebrated
Normally, this festival falls in the second half of March, (or sometimes in first week of April) on the first day of the Telugu calendar, ie. on Chaitra suddha padyami. In 2014, this festival falls on 31st March.
There are twelve months in Telugu calendar also like the English calendar. The 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. So on this first day of the first month of the Telugu calendar of each year, this festival is celebrated. This is the period of spring season in India with greenery spread all over the environment making it very beautiful to enjoy outings and picnics.

How it is celebrated
On this Ugadi day, people get up early in the morning and take 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 flour made from black grams or green grams to their whole body. This kind of bath keeps them healthy and strong.

After taking 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 blessings of God.

The Ugadi Pachchadi is prepared by mixing the pieces of raw unripe mango, ripe banana pieces, neem flowers/ buds, jaggery, green chilli pieces and a little salt all mixed in a liquid paste of tamarind. It is a mixture of all the tastes representing the varying moods and feelings of life. It is a kind of 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 balanced throughout the year if this Ugadi Pachadi is consumed first on this day.

For detailed knowledge regarding preparation of the UGADI Pachadi view my article at following link:

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. Son-in-laws 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.

Temples get over crowded on this day with devotees thronging continuously to get 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 organised on this festival continuously for 3 days or 9 days according to practices. 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 COLOURS and Emotional Bondage

HOLI, Hi !!!

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 the festival

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

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 through 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.

Story of Putana, another 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 (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.

Story of (fair) Radha and (black) Krishna 
According to another story, Lord Krishna became black due to 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 it is celebrated

Burning Holika bonfire
It is known as "Holika Dahan". Dry leaves and branches of trees and bushes are collected at 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. Daily they 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 colors
The next day, which is the actual day of Holi festival, 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 so in the morning they start from the houses to play with colors on the streets and in the neighborhood.

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