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 – everything is new and fresh! There is greenery all around which acts as a perfect backdrop for the variety of hues and colours! Mother Nature’s colourful Holi celebrations! 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 celebration (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. New, fresh 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. 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 eyes as well as 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 neem 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. 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.
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. 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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