Ugadi: The Hindu New Year

KolamThe New Year is an event that happens when a culture celebrates the end of one year and the beginning of the next year. Cultures that measure yearly calendars all have New Year celebrations. On January 1, 1600 Scotland, was the first country to adopt January 1 as the first day of the New Year. Now, many countries celebrate the New Year on that day. The Panchang, the calendar used in India, uses a different reckoning to the Gregorian Calendar. This day is reckoned as the New Year in many states in India: it marks the entry of the Sun into Aries.

Various Solar calendars followed in India e.g. Oriya calendar, Tamil Calendar, Malayalam Calendar and Bengali Calendar mark the first day of the year (or Vishu Kani for Malayalam calendar) based on Mesha Sankranti. Solar calendars follow different rules to mark the first day of the year depending on exact time of the Sankranti.

The New Year in Odisha is calculated based on solar system of calendar calculation. The Sun enters Aries on this day. Vishuba means Equator and Sun is over the Equator on this day. The special drink Pana is served on the day. It is made of pulp of Bilva (wood apple or bela), coconut gratings, and cottage cheese. The drink is seasoned with ginger and black pepper.

The Tamil New Year, Varsha Pirappu or Puthandu, is observed on the first day of Tamil month Chithirai, the first month as per traditional Tamil Calendar. In 2018, the date of Varsha Pirappu or Tamil New Year is April 14. Chitirai 1 is an auspicious day for Tamil speaking people in India (Tamil Nadu) and across the world, especially in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa.

A major highlight of the Tamil New Year is the viewing of ‘Kanni’ – meaning auspicious things. Legend has it that viewing auspicious things on this day will bring good fortune throughout the year. After viewing the Kanni, it is time for a ritualistic bath. After the bath, it is time to draw the ‘Kolam’ or Rangoli (Tamil New Year Kolams). The ‘kolam’ is believed to bring good fortune to the family members. Then, the doorways are decorated with mango leaves.


Kolam – a sacred decoration before the entry to the home

On day of Ugadi (a movable date, based on the lunar calendar)(13 April 2021) will commence the Vedic New Year. It will begin on a day called Pratipada, in the month of Chaitra, with Shukla Paksha (birght half of the month), and the year will be 1943 Plava, Shaka Samvat. Those born in the coming year called Plava may be voluptuous, bound by their desires and perhaps, spend their lives trying to catch the fish and put it in the fish basket. Training such a child to delay gratification presents challenges.

The challenges of the year 2021 appear to be many. Our world is at a junction; artificial intelligence is taking over many human tasks and thus, proper human activity called work will change; jobs will disappear, and Universities will be training students for jobs that do not exist at the time you read this. The future is more than uncertain; as the Earth sloughs off the skin called the Industrial Revolution, and the new skin of the Electro/Techno Revolution emerges. The pandemic with vaccination hestancy is a matter of risk for many. While the panchang says the pandemic will take some time to come to an end, end it will. Moreover, the Sixth Mass Extinction Event – the Holocene event, is in progress. Our world is changing in ways never seen before.

The real challenges that confront humankind is verily human life itself. We have children, both parents have to work, how do we raise a good child? “Good”, meaning morally good child with meaning and purpose and self-confidence that goes beyond the day-to-day humdrum of life? The broadcast media puts out crime and violence; the visual media puts out violence and people as objects of desire; social media disconnects from immediate day-to-day interactions of family, friends, culture and spirituality. Podcasts and ear buds disconnect us from the humdrum of daily life. The challenges that sit before us are moral: the survival of the family, the society, the culture, goodness, beauty and truth.

Some say human advance is they make their nuclear bombs; Some say human advance is they acquire their digital currency; others say human advance is they can have their cake and eat it too. True progress as human beings, society, culture and nation depends on the development of the five human values within: Truth, Love, Peace, Right Conduct and Non-violence. As Gandhi told, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


MK Gandhi - be the change




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