Ugadi: Makeover time for nature
There’s a dance of leaves in that aspen bower, There’s titter of winds in that beechen tree, There’s a smile on the fruit, and a smile on the flower, And a laugh from the brook that runs to the sea. When daisies pied and violets blue, And lady-smocks all silver-white, And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue Do paint the meadows with delight,
There’s a dance of leaves in that aspen bower, There’s titter of winds in that beechen tree, There’s a smile on the fruit, and a smile on the flower, And a laugh from the brook that runs to the sea. When daisies pied and violets blue, And lady-smocks all silver-white, And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue Do paint the meadows with delight, The cuckoo then, on every tree, Mocks married men; for thus sings he, Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo!!
That is springtime in a nutshell---the season of the year in which vegetation springs back to life after lying dormant during winter. Man depends upon nature for his survival as the child on its mother. Spring decorates nature, after winter denudes it, symbolising resurrection or rebirth. Ugadi means birth. In Sanskrit it is called Yugadi. In other words it is the dawn of Spring. It is the beginning of nature afresh with its myriad of colourful leaves, flowers and fruits. Man’s behavioural patterns are influenced by major changes in nature.
According to ancient Indian system, the year is divided into six seasons, namely Vasantha, Greeshma, Varsha, Sarat, Hemantha and Sisira. The season of Vasantha starts towards the end of the Spring. The sun passes through the six groups of positive and negative signs of the zodiac during the year.
The cycle of 60 years is taken as a cycle and each year is given a name indicating the most likely results during that 12-month period. The arrangement of 60 years as a cycle has a special significance. The people of North Polar Region have six months as day, and another six months as night at a stretch. This means one day (day and night put together) for them is one year for us. The current New Year is called Manmadha.
It comes close on the heels of Holi. It is said that Lord Brahma started creation on this day---Chaitra Suddha Padyami, which is celebrated as Ugadi. It marks the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon’s orbit. This day is very auspicious as nature looks at the very incarnation of Vasantha Lakshmi i.e. Goddess of Spring coming in the month of Chaitra. This month is also called Madhu Maasa, the month of sweetness and light, and song and dance.
Nature at this particular period of the year looks as though the whole universe is tastefully decorated to welcome Vasantha Lakshmi. People welcome what is all fresh and modern and sweet liberty and unreproved pleasures free, making their adieus to the old and worn-out. Poets describe this as Vasanthaagamana or Manmadhaagamana i.e. the arrival of Cupid (God of love) and welcomed by Vasantha Lakshmi---the thrilling nature.
The nine-day festivities culminate in the celebration of Sri Rama Navami. The custom of celebrating the nine-day Vasanthotsava was first started in South India during the reign of Reddy Rajas. The first Reddy king to celebrate Vasanthotsava with gaiety was Anavema Reddy. This is evident from the historical documents and archaeological studies. They used various sweet-smelling substances like must (Kasturi), camphor (Karpuram), civet (Javvaadi) abundantly during the festivities.
This special practice of Anavema Reddy brought him the title “Karpura Vasantha Rayalu.” There are also evidences that these festivities were in vogue during the Vijaya Nagara empire. In the southern states, a festival of swings called Dola Poornima or Dolika Poornima is celebrated on the Vasantha Poornima day, when people take out the idols of worship in a procession and put them in swings and rock them with great joy and devotion.
Some people soak clean leaves of banyan (Marri), mango, fig (ficus religiosa---Raavi or Ashwattha) and neem (vepa) for some hours or overnight, and take a head bath with that water to prevent skin diseases. The tender leaves and flowers of neem tree are eaten on empty stomach as they prove efficacious in the cure of skin diseases and worm infection of bowels, besides dyspepsia. Therefore people prepare ‘Ugadi Pachchadi’---the New Year chutney---with neem flowers, new jiggery, banana, raw mango slices and new tamarind juice. Some people add sugarcane juice and salt.
Even the Bhavishya Puraana says that one’s health will be radiant if one takes the neem (Margosa or Vepa) flowers and sprouts on the New Year day. On the day of Ugadi, men and women gather around the village Pandit (now they flock to TV sets and radios) and listen to the readings from the Panchangam explaining the things likely to happen during the year. This is known as Panchanga Shraavanam (listening to the readings from Panchangam) i.e. an explanation on the planetary movements and combinations and their likely influence on seasonal changes, crop prospects, atmospheric conditions and price fluctuations of various commodities. People also know about their likely incomes and expenses and plan their yearly household and farm budgets.
It may be mentioned here that there is a cycle of four Yugas called Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwaapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. It is mathematically and astrologically calculated on the basis of transits of planes that Kali Yuga began on Chaitra Shuddha Paadyami. The last phase or end of the Krishna Avatara and the beginning of Kali Yuga occurred at the same time at midnight of the 18th February, 3102 BC. It was marked by the conjunction of all the seven creative planets at one point i.e. the first sign of Zodiac called Aries or Mesha.
It is also said that Ugadi not only marks the beginning of Kali Yuga but also other three Yugas. In the two Telugu States and in Karnataka it is called Ugadi, in Maharashtra it is called Gudi Padwa, and in Kerala ‘Kolla Varsha’. Punjabis celebrate it as ‘Baisakhi’. In Ladakh region of the Himalayas, it is known as ‘Losar’ basing on the Buddhistic tiescale. ‘Lo’ means year and ‘Sar’ means new. They celebrate it twice in a year.Therefore there is nothing religious about Ugadi. Neither does it have any references to any god except to Nature. Ugadi is a universal festival.