Faith Time: Hindu New Year

Mobile, AL (WKRG)

Madhu Chilukuri and Saty Putcha with the Gulf Coast Hindu Society joined us to talk about the Hindu New Year.  Here’s a look at what we talked about:

  1. The Hindu New year is coming up Tuesday, what is that?

A:  The New Year is celebrated with gaiety and pomp around the world where Hindus live, but not on January 1.  India’s ancient faith salutes the annual genesis at the start of spring, when nature comes to life, in early or mid-April.  This festival has different names in different regions Ugadi, Baisakhi, Gudi Padawa, Varusha Pirappu, Puthandu etc.  Hindus traditionally observe the start of New Year with the arrival of spring.  This is when the crops are harvested.  Unlike many people in the world who follow the Gregorian calendar and celebrate New Year on Jan 1, The Hindus follow the solar and lunar system. This Calendar is very significant not just culturally but scientifically because it connects the human body with the movements of the sun, moon and the planets.

  1. How is the Hindu New Year celebrated?

A:  People begin preparations for the festival in advance.  They clean their homes and decorate the entrance and shrine room with beautiful, colorful patterns called Rangoli.   On this day, they wear new clothes after taking a head bath before the break of dawn.  They offer prayers in temples and seek the divine blessings.  The almanac for the New Year is read out by the learned scholars who typically make predictions for the year based on moon signs.  Families feast together with great revelry, enjoying elaborate dishes and good company.

  1. What are some of the traditional foods associated with New Year?

A:  This New Year is connected to nature and arrival of spring, new crops, new blossoms, and fruits of spring.  Special dishes are made with newly harvested crops and produce, such as rice, mangoes, jaggery, neem flowers, cane sugar, and tamarind.

  1. How is Hindu faith tied into and represented in New Year?

A:  Hindus traditionally observe the start of New Year with the arrival of spring.  One of the names of this festival is Ugadi which means the beginning of a new era.  It is believed to be the day Lord Brahma, the creator, commenced the creation.  It is an occasion that also signifies the end of an era and beginning of new era.  People visit temples and seek the blessings of god for the year ahead.   They pray to Ganesha who removes obstacles and goddess Lakshmi to provide wealth.  Ugadi is a sun-centric festival.  Sun is the soul of Kalapurusha (Lord of time).  Without the sun there is no time.  A lot of significance is given to Sun.  On this day the sun sets his journey towards the east and becomes powerful.  Sun worship on this day is sacred and meritorious.

  1. What is your favorite part of these celebrations?

A:  There is a special dish called Ugadi Pachadi which is made only on this day.  This made with all seasonal ingredients such as raw mango, tamarind, jaggery, neem flowers, salt, and peppers.  The six different flavors signify the six varied flavors of life such as sadness, happiness, anger, surprise, bitterness, and fear.  The Ugadi Pachadi is eaten to remind ourselves that life is a mix of all these emotions.  The philosophy of eating this pachadi is to say that life is not a bed of roses, rather a mixture of sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise which has to be accepted together with equanimity.     It adds a more realistic perspective on life. The combination of different flavors symbolizes what to expect in the New Year and gives the courage to face obstacles in life.

  1. What are the basic tenets of faith in Hinduism?

A:  In Hindu dharma, pure thoughts and actions are recommended.  We reap what we sow.  You sow good, you reap good.  A good thought/action has a good result.  We are the makers of our own fate.  Some people say Hinduism is a not a religion, it is a way of life.  It is also called Santana Dharma or eternal order. There is no one single originator, it is what has been handed over and passed on from one to the other for many centuries.  As per karma philosophy, we attain good results from our thoughts and actions. And these actions and thoughts should be good from day one of the New Year.  Let us make it a point to recognize and respect the divinity in every human being.

Vasudaiva Kutumbakam:  The World is all one family

Sarve Jannah Sukhino Bhavanthu:  May everyone be happy

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