It is that time of the year again when spring manifests itself in the myriad colorful blooms all around…trees wear a fresh look with the newly sprouted leaves glinting like little emerald jewels in the glaring sun, crops are ready to be harvested and festivities are just around the corner.
Indian calendar is dotted with numerous festivals all the year round owing to the diverse regional traditions of 29 states of the country. Being an agrarian society, many festivals are related to sowing and harvesting seasons….celebrations are a way of thanking nature and the God for his benevolence.
Western concept of celebrating new year’s eve on 31st December may have long taken deep roots among Indians as well because of its loud revelry and advent of Christianity ages ago but the simpler native festivities heralding a new year according to lunar calendar and harvest time still hold strong. And it is during this spring season that the new year for different communities is celebrated…prayers, rituals, traditional food, new clothes, de-cluttering homes and work spaces mark the joyous celebrations.
While people of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka celebrate ‘Ugadi’, Sindhi community celebrates ‘Cheti-Chand’ on the same day commemorating the birth of their saint Lord Jhulelal. The Kashmiri Hindus celebrate ‘Navreh’ around same time. ‘Baisakhi’ celebrated by Punjabi community and the new year of Bengali people the ‘Poila Baishak’ is around the same time in mid April as is ‘Vishu’ of Kerala and ‘Varsh Pirappu’ of Tamilnadu.
Corresponding to lunar calendar we Maharashtrians celebrate the first day of Chaitra Shukl Pratipada(March-April) as Gudi Padwa and my sister married into a Telugu family celebrates ‘Ugadi’ too on the first day of month of ‘Chaitra’ (spring). This year the celebrations fall on 28th of March.
Doors adorned with tender mango leaves stringed together to make a ‘Torana’, ‘Rangoli’ at the entrance of the home and a ‘Gudi’ hoisted high above are typical sights at Maharashtrian households on Gudi Padwa.
Gudi symbolizes the “Brahmadhwaj” i.e the flag of Lord Brahma who created the universe. It also is believed to be a lucky charm as it wards of any evil. Some believe it to be the victory flag of Lord Ram who vanquished and slayed demon king Ravan and returned to Ayodhya on this day. Some say that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj revived the tradition of hoisting the ‘Gudi‘ in Maharashtrian households.
Usually bright red and green richly decorated cloth is tied on bamboo pole. An inverted brass or silver pot with a ‘swastika’ drawn over it with ‘kumkum’ covers the head of the pole. This is then adorned with marigold garland, a twig each of tender Neem and Mango leaves and ‘gaathi’ or a garland of sugar crystals. The entire assembly is called ‘Gudi’ and is preferably hoisted at the highest point in the right side of the home.
Traditionally the freshly sprouted Neem leaves are consumed with jaggery by the entire family. Neem is medicinal plant and helps in purifying the blood and detox our immune system.
With husband posted in other end of the country, this year, I tied and worshiped the Gudi alone. I hated his absence but the new year needs to be ushered with gaiety and hope….And this was the Gudi I managed to put up this year.
As a kid the home-made sweetmeats were the prime attraction for me and my sweet tooth. The traditional ‘Puran Poli’ (sweet chana dal parotha for the uninitiated) and/or ‘Srikhand’ a kind of sweetened yogurt spiced with nutmeg and cardamom was the only thing I looked forward to.
Now as a mother myself, the responsibility of passing on the traditions lies on me! I might not be a culinary expert but I ain’t bad either!! This year it is ‘Srikhand’ at our home. Let me share my version of this sweet delight.
- Curd made from 1 liter full cream milk, preferably not sour
- Sugar equal to the weight of hung and drained curd
- Nutmeg powder, a pinch
- Cardamom powder, a pinch
- Sliced almonds, cashew nuts
- Saffron fronds
- Put curd in a muslin cloth and hang in a cool place to drain out all the whey.
- Add sugar to the creamy curd left in the muslin cloth and mix thoroughly till it dissolves and is no more grainy.
- Mix rest of the ingredients (I don’t have Saffron at home) and voila! Shrikhand is ready…
The trick is to not let curd turn sour and while it sets, there should be as less whey as possible.
I am not averse to celebrating New Year on 31st December…I do enjoy the evening and wish for happiness of my friends and family and greet them with enthusiasm and fervor. But I believe that our traditions need to be explained well to the next generation. Much of our ancient knowledge has been lost over the centuries. The good part of our culture and traditions need to be preserved lest we lose sight of our roots.
With this belief, I celebrate most of our festivals and try to make my child aware of whatever little traditional knowledge that I could assimilate from watching my mother. I hope my generation is able to raise boys and girls who respect each other and honor our cultural values to discern right from wrong….adopt the right and discard the wrong.
This year let the goodness of simplicity win over rashness. A very happy new year…’Gudi Padawya chya shubhechha’.