Society

Ugadi, Puthandu, Bihu, Vaisakhi: How India ushers in a new year

Ugadi Pachchadi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Communities across India are set to usher in the traditional new year, albeit on a low key.

Telugus, Kannadigas, Maharashtrians, Sikhs and Kashmiris celebrate Ugadi, Gudi Padwa, Vaisakhi and Navreh on April 13 and Tamilians, Malayalis, Odiyas and Assamese ring in Puthandu, Vishu, Pana Sankranti and Bohag Bihu on April 14; Bengalis greet their friends and family ‘Pohela Baisakh’ on April 15. Here are the diverse ways communities are celebrating the new year:

Musical Ugadi

Pantula Rama

Pantula Rama   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Pantula Rama, Carnatic musician

Decorating the threshold with mango leaves is the first thing we do on Ugadi. I follow my mother’s recipe to make Ugadi Pacchadi which has nice flavours dominating the bitterness of neem. We will be missing the family get-together and students and friends visiting home this year.

Any festival in my family has limited rituals. Being a family of musicians, our major ritual is music-related to that particular festival. This year, I have been invited to do a special recording of a thematic presentation — ‘Musicality of Telugu in Carnatic Sangeetham’ by the International Music Premier League, an online event for Ugadi.

I remember the Ugadi celebration abroad when we were on a concert tour and took a break to celebrate the festival with my brother’s family at Maryland in the US.

I wish the live concerts resume soon.

Let’s spread the art

Koeli mukherjee ghose

Koeli mukherjee ghose   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Koeli Mukherjee Ghose, artist

Spring cleaning, decorating the home with flowers and alpana on the floor with watered-down rice paste is something that I look forward to every year. This year, we would miss visiting the Hyderabad Kali Bari to offer our nabo borsho puja and enjoy the bhog prasad. We offer fruits and food at a nearby ashram, which houses homeless people.

During childhood, my brother and I would wear new clothes and visit my dad's office in Dalhousie Street in Kolkata. The Stephen House building used to overwhelm us — the smell of the lift, the colonial courtyard with a fountain; everything is a memory now. There would be a little prayer gathering and sweet boxes with yummy goodies would be gifted to all of us. Lunch was at home with a traditional menu and my mother, a wonderful cook, would transform any vegetable, dal, and other eatables into gourmet dishes.

The evening would be spent in musical concerts held in Rabindra Sadan, Birla Sabhaghar or Kala Mandir auditoriums. The pandemic has left a lasting impression on our minds. The art scene has shifted online, and I hope and pray that we have more visitors to the sites and art lovers reach out to the artists and buy their works.

Culture and creativity

Ram mohan Holagundi

Ram mohan Holagundi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Ram Mohan Holagundi, theatre director

The house looks colourful on Ugadi day with rangoli, mango leaves thoranam and marigold flowers. The first thing we do after puja is to eat behu bella, the sweet and sour chutney symbolic of different flavours in life.

Three big mango trees in our house are a special part of festivities. We wait till Ugadi to pluck mangoes and distribute them among our friends, relatives and neighbours.

The festive meal will have Kannada specialities — kosambri, bisibele baat, mavinkayya chutney and chitranna, muddipalya, saaru, holige and mosaru buttey (curd rice with seasoning).

We usually have a family get-together but this time it will be a virtual one. Since we can’t meet the elders in the family to take their blessings, we will connect with them over the phone.

I hope art and culture will break the barriers and go beyond different traditions and communities.

Arts continues to thrive

Vyshnavie Sainath

Vyshnavie Sainath   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Vyshnavie Sainath, dancer

My grandmother instilled excitement in us for Puthandu and would encourage us to buy new clothes. Paati would also make special food and students in my dance centre add extra cheer by wishing ‘Puthandu vazthukal.’

Our celebrations will be intimate this year starting with puja and my mother (dancer Rajeswari Sainath) is already on a long call with paati to get the recipes right. The pandemic has taught me many things and I want to fearlessly implement them. It has shown me that despite the fear and uncertainty, students/parents/practitioners have not given up on their art and have swiftly shifted to the online platform. It only reinforces the belief in me that arts can adapt to every situation. I pray that the year gets better and I can perform live.

Combining traditions

Ashwin Nair and Nikita Kak

Ashwin Nair and Nikita Kak   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Stand-up comedian Ashwin Nair and Nikita Kak

This year we will be combining the traditions of Navreh and Vishu. Interestingly, Kashmiris and Malayalis place a thali type arrangement of food items in front of the image of Krishna

We celebrate Navreh by filling a plate with rice, vegetables and fruits called ‘Thaal bharun’ and cook favourite recipes like Teheri and dum aloo. I miss going to my home town but will connect with them virtually.

As children, we were always excited to see the Vishu kani (a beautiful platter of vegetables, fruits, grains, flowers, gold, cash and clothes and jewellery in front of a photo or statue of Vishnu) and receive money from our grandparents. Growing up we realise the pleasure of seeing such prosperity and receive such gifts at the start of the year. Vishu is a time to celebrate the year, the summer solstice and usher in joy and prosperity.

The pandemic has limited our interaction with family back in Kerala but we still look forward to celebrating a smaller version of Vishu at home with my wife and mother. Our sweetest memories of Vishu were being surrounded by cousins and extended family and waking up to the Vishu kani with our grandmother and receiving the kaineetam and eating a rich sadhya as children.

It was a time of celebrating in every way — beautiful sights, food and the joy of receiving pocket money

Subdued festivities

Mayanand Thakur

Mayanand Thakur   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Mayanand Thakur, theatre actor

We hoist Gudi (stick, flag, garland of flowers, mango leaves, neem tree leaves and upturned silver or copper vessel on the top) on top of a building or apartment balcony. Gudi padwa is a festival of rituals and traditional food especially a tangy chutney prepared with neem leaves and flowers, grated raw mango, jaggery, pepper and chilli powder with a seasoning of hing and cumin and mustard seeds. This chutney is tasty and also good for health as it improves digestion. Another ritual is to bathe with neem leaves- soaked water that keeps our body cool.

We missed grand celebrations due to the pandemic last year and unfortunately, the celebrations will be subdued considering the situation now and keeping each others safety as a priority. My most loved quote during the pandemic is: ‘We isolate now, so when we gather again, no one is missing.”

New beginnings

Nidarshana Saikia Das

Nidarshana Saikia Das   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Nidarshana Saikia Das, entrepreneur

Rongali Bihu is a celebration of spring and of youth, hence the Bihu dance takes centre stage. Young and old sing, dance and play instruments like the ‘dhol’ and ‘pepa’ mostly in the fields and underneath the trees. Thankfully, some Bihu functions still make room for ‘mukoli Bihu’ (where everyone can dance together). And dancing underneath peepal trees have tiptoed into verandahs and drawing rooms during private home parties.

This time of the year is ritualistically spent in Assam but these two pandemic-struck years have been exceptions and we miss the fun of Rongali Bihu in our homeland. We usually plan a get-together with our Assamese friends in Hyderabad but with rising cases, it will be a traditional meal with just the family.

In Assam too, my aged parents will be home as the situation is aggravating.

I belong to Nagaon, a small town and we used to make a ritualistic trip to the village to soak in traditions and make and savour traditional foods. The whole day we’d have these small groups of children and young adults, dressed in traditional attires, flocking from a home to another, singing and performing Bihu dance, collecting money to have a feast at the end. Many a time the hosts would join in.

It is quite a sight to soak in — be it Bihu songs celebrating spring, exquisite dance moves, unique musical instruments and of course the food. These become very important windows for our children to a culture they’re fast getting detached from.

Foster friendships

Tejdeep Kaur Menon

Tejdeep Kaur Menon   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Tejdeep Kaur Menon, IPS (Retd)

We usually have a huge congregation of 10,000 people during Vaisakhi; Singers from different parts of Punjab come here to perform shabd kirtan but we will be missing it this year. The celebrations have become a personal affair. People may visit the Gurudwara on their own but congregations and huge celebrations are not allowed. During this time, I usually have a blue salwar kurta ready for the festival as blue is the colour we wear on the day to go to Gurudwara. I plan to make kadha parshad at home and share it with neighbours.

My big wish is for normalcy to return lessons learnt from the pandemic. We should realise life is fleeting and spend good quality time with each other and foster friendships at home and outside.

I long to see my granddaughter too play with her friends with the freedom with which we played outside.

Every year I get kirpan on Vaisakhi day from the community. It is a rare honour for a woman to receive it but this year I am going to miss it.

Moving forward

Mrunalini Rao

Mrunalini Rao   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Designer Mrunalini Rao

Ugadi reminds me of raw mangoes. This year we are restricting festivities to just our family home. Every occasion in this last one year has been at home, unlike earlier when we celebrated with family and friends.

We are wishing everyone through video calls, sending out goodies, spreading the cheer and ensuring the festival is as bright as it was earlier and reminding ourselves that everything’s going to be better

Fashion is one of the most affected industries and there are so many craftsmen dependent on this industry. I am standing by all my people, putting in our best efforts to move forward. There has been a huge amount of drop in sales as everything is uncertain because eddings have been pushed from April to August and WFH started again. We are just figuring out ways to keep things moving.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 11:39:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/communities-across-india-usher-in-the-new-year/article34302113.ece

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