Tag Archives: Ugadi

Ugadi – Nuthana Samvatsara!

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New Year (Nuthana Samvatsara or Nava Varsha) is extremely significant because it represents CHANGE OF SEASON, from the dry and cold winter to the fresh and warm spring! In most of the States in Bharat, the New Year is a celebration of the Spring Season (Vasanta Ritu) in the month of Chaitra. The New Year tithi varies depending on whether the Lunar or the Solar calendar is followed and is known by different names in different regions: Ugadi (Karnataka, Andhra & Telangana), Puthandu (Tamilnadu), Vishu (Kerala), Gudi Padwa (Maharashtra), Baisakhi (Punjab), Bohag Bihu (North-east), Navreh (Kashmir), Odia Nababarsa (Orissa), Pohela Boishakh (Bengal), etc. A few States celebrate New Year in the month of Kartika. With the arrival of Spring, there is a complete and total change or transformation in Nature. Mother Nature is at her creative best – there is newness and freshness everywhere. All around, there is more greenery which acts as a perfect backdrop for the variety of hues and colours! Mother Nature’s Holi celebration with the colours of life! We in turn reciprocate the same bhava by welcoming, celebrating and expressing our love and gratitude, reverence and respect to Mother Nature with various colours. Agriculture starts. Flowers, Fruits and Vegetables are in plenty. New Year is therefore a socio-cultural and religious utsava. Every region has its own unique customs and traditions.

Nature is nothing but an extension of the human mind – as in Nature, so too in our mind. Therefore, New Year is the best time for each and every one of us to make constructive and positive resolutions and work towards them to change for the better – both in our material and spiritual domain. On the Ugadi day, an early morning oil-bath (removes tamas and increases sattva) is a must and new clothes are welcome (discarding the old and accepting the new). The courtyard is decorated with rangoli patterns. Fresh, new and tender mango leaves, clusters of neem leaves and flowers are used to decorate the main door as well as the puja-room door. Haldi and kumkum, rangoli and flowers are used for decorating the threshold. The seasonal Jasmine (mallige) flowers are used extensively. Everyone collectively participates in the Puja-rituals whether at family level or in the temple at community level. The 9 days starting from Ugadi are known as Chaitra or Vasanta or Rama Navaratri, similar to the Sharannavaratri (Dasara) during the autumn season. Prayers are offered to Adi Sakti, the Mother of the Universe who Creates, Nurtures and Nourishes (Motherhood). Sri Rama is invoked since the Navami tithi is the day of His Avatar. Reading of the panchanga (almanac) is considered very important on Ugadi. The Vasanta Navaratri concludes on the Sri Rama Navami day – the auspicious day of Lord Rama’s Avatar, who is the embodiment of Dharma. We invoke Lord Sri Rama’s grace and blessings upon ourselves for the entire year ahead.

Importance of Mango leaves, Neem leaves and Jasmine flowers: Mango leaves symbolise prosperity. They destroy negative energy and reinforce positive energy. Even after they are cut from the branches, they continue to release oxygen for few days and hence keep the air fresh and purify the surroundings. The mango leaves have antibacterial, antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The green colour signifies balance, tranquility, composure and well-being and have a soothing effect on the mind. The leaves attract insects towards them and hence act as insect repellent. Neem has immense medicinal value. It helps boost the immunity system. Fresh neem leaves and flowers help to fight the seasonal infections (because of change of season) and airborne diseases. The pure white jasmine (mallige) flowers are the seasonal flowers of Spring. During this season, the use of Jasmine flowers is widely encouraged. The white colour and the beautiful fragrance of the fresh jasmine have therapeutic benefits. The positive energy associated with the jasmine soothes the nervous system and calms the mind. Not only for puja, but women are encouraged to adorn their braids with jasmine. In the South, “maggina jade” or “jasmine-flower braid” (braid very artistically decorated with jasmine flowers) is extremely common amongst girls.

Significance of Bevu-Bella (Neem-Jaggery) and Ugadi Pachadi: A mixture of Bevu (Neem Flowers) and Bella (Jaggery) is prepared and offered to the Lord. This is first taken as Prasad at the end of the puja rituals. Life is full of experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, and no one can avoid them. Both these experiences are yet to come to us during the course of the year. Jaggery and Neem signifying these two types of experiences are offered to the Lord. The sloka chanted while taking the bevu-bella is: “shathaayur vajra dehaaya sarva sampath karaayacha, sarvaarishta vinaashaaya nimbakadala bhakshanam” (by consuming the neem leaves or flowers, we develop a healthy and strong body, gain wealth and prosperity, and all our diseases – physical and mental get destroyed). By the Lord’s grace alone can we hope to go through the various vicissitudes of life. 

The Ugadi Habada Oota (Festival Lunch) comprises of many delicacies and all the members of the family sit down and eat together after the rituals – a mini Pankti (community) Bhojana! This brings in a feeling of togetherness and sense of participation. One of the important item is the Ugadi Pachadi. It is a combination of 6 ingredients which stand for the 6 types of tastes (shad-rasas). The shad-rasas denote the 6 types of emotions which an individual goes through in life. The shad-rasas and the corresponding ingredients are: sweet (jaggery), salt (salt), sour (tamrind), hot or spice (pepper), bitter (neem) and astringent or pungent (raw mango). The Pachadi is offered to the Lord and then taken as prasad. In most of the homes, the Habada Oota is served on a plantain (banana) leaf. The rich green colour not only provides a perfect background for the variety of food, but it denotes calmness & equilibrium. The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of the leaf, as well as its unique aroma is released by the hot food served on it. These benefits reach our system when we eat food served on a plantain leaf. The plantain leaf is placed such that when we sit in front of it, the veins of the upper & lower portion of the leaf are in the “>” shape! This is the sign for “increase” according to mathematics & signifies “progress in life!” May the food offered to the Lord (prasad) and taken by us help us to progress and achieve, to succeed and fulfil, at all levels of our personality – physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual !

नववर्षस्य शुभाशयाः — HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Hindu Calendar: Chaitra to Phalguna: A Spiritual Yatra!

Lord Surya

Life is a series of experiences – an eternal journey from birth to death riddled with ups and downs: pain and pleasure, profit and loss, success and failure. Man is so preoccupied with his outer journey that he completely misses out the inner journey. In fact, every step taken outside should carry the stamp of a beautiful step taken within. Each one of our life’s journey – YAANA, must become a YATRA: a movement which helps one to cross the ocean of samsara. If the inner life is taken care of, the outer journey is automatically taken care of. This inner reorientation and transformation is the content of the Scriptures and the theme of the Puranas. Fulfillment is in “living” the words of the Scriptures and Realized Masters.

However, in and through life’s journey, constant reminders and guides are essential to keep us on the right path. The whole WORLD as an open UNIVERSITY provides us with these reminders. The entire VISHWA is a VIDYALAYA!! Everything around and about us are silent reminders of the great grand spiritual pilgrimage to be accomplished within each one of us – a rich culture and glorious tradition indeed!

The Hindu Calendar Year, known as SAMVATSARA has twelve months: CHAITRA to PHALGUNA. And throughout the year there are numerous festivals celebrated: UGADI to SHIVARATRI. Every month or rather the NAME of the month indicates where we are and what we should do on the path of self-improvement. It is equivalent to twelve graded exercises or steps in the scheme of spiritual evolution: from MANAVA to becoming MADHAVA – from the state of NARA to the State of NARAYANA: from BONDAGE to ABSOLUTE FREEDOM. Similarly with the FESTIVALS too!

The first month CHAITRA, indicates “many” or “variegated” (chitra – vichitra). It denotes our present individual state in the space-time world in a cause-effect relationship. VAISHAKA means more or excessive branching. It suggests our outer and inner world of multiplicity, diversity and plurality – the realm of change. Once identification and relationships become predominant, JYESHTA arrives! Jyeshtha means elder, big, or superior. Their opposites then automatically become evident. Comparison, contradiction and conflict starts! There is “I or ME” and the “OTHER”. The individual is then in a state of ASHADA! ‘Shad’ means ‘to sit’. ‘A-shad’ is its opposite, and hence ‘A-shad’ denotes an inner state of restlessness – a state which is not at all comfortable. An individual may have everything in life, but still can come to experience dissatisfaction, discontentment and unfulfillment. It is then that one starts enquiring into the ‘why’, ‘wherefore’, ‘how’, and ‘what’ of life. This is when Introspection starts. This month is also known as AA-SHADA, which means to “continuously sit” and introspect, take stock of one’s life and investigate into it. Guru Purnima comes in this month which signifies that one is ready for the Guru to enter into one’s life – a major turning point! When the Guru enters our life, SHRAVANA or ‘listening’ to the scriptures begins. Having heard the scriptural declarations, they have to be now reflected upon again and again, so that the knowledge gets well-rooted in the mind. This is BHADRAPADA: the state of ‘well-securing’ the knowledge within oneself. It denotes a sense of inner well-being (bhadratva). The next stage is Nidhidhyasana or Contemplation, represented by ASWAYUJA. ‘Yuj’ means to connect, unite or identify with. ‘Swa’ means tomorrow. ‘Aswa’ means ‘not-tomorrow’ and therefore signifies TODAY or the PRESENT. ASWAYUJA therefore represents contemplation. It also represents ‘pervasiveness’ or ‘expansion’, wherein the attempt is to include and accommodate everything and every being within oneself: to connect the micro with the macro; the individual with the Universal.

The next stage is KARTHIKA: invoking the Light of Knowledge, with the help of which the seeker can discriminate between the Real and unreal, the Permanent and impermanent. MARGASHIRSHA: ‘marga’ means path; ‘shira’ means ‘head’ or ‘higher’. Therefore, Margashirsha denotes ‘path leading to the Highest’ – negating and rejecting the lower and the false; and asserting and identifying with the Higher and the Real. PUSHYA means to nurture, nourish and maintain. When the seeker starts getting glimpses of the Higher within himself, he must consistently, constantly and totally identify and maintain that Higher State within himself. MAGHA means “don’t fall or don’t slip”. The seeker must not lose his hold of that Higher State. Inadvertedness can cause a spiritual fall which can be disastrous. The seeker should be alert and vigilant on the spiritual path. PHALGUNA denotes ‘not this….not this’. It denotes the Highest State of “That Am I” – the Absolute State of Realization.

The names of the twelve months of a Samvatsara through suggestion, significance and implication represent one’s Spiritual Evolution – the inner Spiritual Yatra leading the seeker from the realm of ignorance, change and mortality to the State of Absolute Knowledge, Changelessness and Immortality: the State of Jeevanmukti (Liberated-in-Life).

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