Yugadi Habbada Shubhashayagalu! (Kannada for “Greetings for the festival of Ugadi”)
What is Ugadi?
Ugadi is New Years Day and falls on 18th March (in 2018) and is a public holiday. Ugadi literally means “the beginning of a new age”. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar so signifies a change in the moon’s orbit.
How is it celebrated?
It is celebrated with gatherings of the extended family with lots of food and feasting. The day begins with a ritual shower or ‘oil bath’ followed by prayers. Mantras are chanted and predictions are made for the new year.
What are the preparations for the festival?
Preparations begin a week before the festival with houses given a thorough wash, shopping for new clothes and buying other festival items. On the morning of Ugadi people wake up before dawn and take a head bath after which their house door / entrance is decorated with fresh mango leaves (to signify good crops and general well being). People also splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their house (can you imagine the smell!) as well as drawing colourful floral designs.
On the day of Ugadi
People perform the ritual worship to god invoking his blessings before they start off the new year. They pray for health, wealth and prosperity and success in business -it’s a good time to start new businesses.
There is a symbolic eating of a dish with six tastes called ‘Bevu-Bella’. It symbolises that life is a different mix of different experiences: sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. These experiences should all be accepted equally throughout the new year. The six tastes are: sour (tamarind juice), sweet (jaggery), salt, bitter (Neem buds), astringent (unripened mango) and spicy hot (green chilli) or pungent and are called Ugadi Pachhadi. It is only served during this festival.
In Karnataka (the state in which Bangalore is) there is a special dish called Obbattu (or Holige) which is a filling of jaggery and boiled sugar to make a paste which is stuffed inside a roti. It is eaten with ghee, milk or coconut milk and can be eaten hot or cold.
Holi is the Festival of Colours. This is when people spray and throw colours (powder and coloured water) on each other, dance, party and eat festival delicacies. It is the time when everyone puts the gloom of winter behind them and celebrate the colours and life of Spring.
When is it?
It is the Hindu spring festival at the full moon (Phalgun Purnima) and is on Friday 2nd March in 2018. The parties started on Friday and carried on throughout the weekend.
How is it celebrated?
With a lot of coloured powder, water guns and a lot of fun!
It’s a party atmosphere and people party with friends and family. People who don’t normally drink will have one or two. People partake of ‘bhaang’ (made from cannabis leaves) – although I’ve not seen this myself so I’m guessing it’s kept away from expats. Non veg people have a great and eat mutton and chicken curry whilst the veg eat spicy ‘katahal’ jackfruit.
The night before is Holika Bonfire with religious rituals in front of the bonfire and pray that their internal evil is destroyed on the bonfire.
We just had a big powder and water throwing party. It’s was such fun.
There is a still a water crisis here but that has not deterred a lot of Holi parties being planned. There was a formal program arranged in our complex but we just a got together on the street with the children – powders and water guns at the ready for a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun in front of the house then we went in search of others celebrating. We knocked on one of our neighbours door on the way and wished him a Happy Holi with a lot of colours too! He took it in good humour (thankfully!) and then joined in the fun. We moved on in a group and then we went in search of our other neighbours to get them. We also encountered other groups we took full part in their celebrations with a lot of water bombs, water pistols and powders being liberally shared. It was such fun and a great atmosphere.
After enjoying the colours and water (a welcome relief to have a water gun fight in 36C), we headed for the shower and the clothes to the washing machine. The dye had gone through everything and has dyed my skin. Scrubbing hard has only faded the colours. I am going to be technicolour for some time. The pink and purple is particularly difficult to remove and I have a purple back and pink chest!
Makar Sankranti, Lohri or Pongal is the harvest festival celebration. It is one of the most auspicious days for Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of India on 13th, 14th and 15th January this year.
What is it?
Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti means movement. It traditionally coincides with the beginning of the sun’s northward journey when it enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. Makar Sankranti is a festival dedicated to the sun, which coincides with the completion of the harvest season and is celebrated with much joy – usually.
Pongal is the three day long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated in honour of the rain god Indra as well as the sun god and the holy cow. ‘Bhogi Pongal’ is the first day of Pongal and the lord Indra is worshipped. Sisters also pray for the welfare of their brothers. On the second day the sun god is worshipped for imparting heat and energy to the fields. The third day is Mattul Pongal and cattle is worshipped. A portion of pudding is kept aside in the open to feed birds and insects. A special dish called Pongal is prepared by ladies to commemorate the festival.
Jallikatu is a bullfight organised by every town and village on the third and last day of Pongal. This ‘game’ is traditionally ‘played’ by young men who try to grab the money tied to the horns of the bull. It is a centuries old tradition. It is a bull taming event which is supposed to preserve the indigenous breeds of cattle such as the Jellicut. The untamed bull is used for breeding. The event can be traced as far back as 400-100BC.
Lohri is the North Indian harvest festival on 13th January each year, usually observed in Punjab and Haryana. It is celebrated to bring good luck to celebrate to obtain a better harvest and to prepare for the next sowing season. During the day children fly kites. Mainly though it is an evening festival with bonfires upon which sugar cane and parched rice goods are thrown. Both men and women wear bright clothes and dance around the bonfire. The men perform Bhangra and the ladies perform Gidda. Everyone exchanges gifts of peanuts, popcorn, prodded rice and other sweets.
Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated with much gusto here in India. Fireworks (or firecrackers as they are known here) are set off everywhere by everyone. I imagine it’s what a battlefield would sound like. The booms and bangs are loud and relentless as people celebrate. Businesses are also booming at this time of year.
When is it?
Deepavali falls on the darkest moonless night of Amavasya on the fifteenth day of the month of Kartik. In 2017 this is 19th October. Deepavali begins from the the thirteenth day of Kartik, known as Dhanteras. In south India the fourteenth day is celebrated as Narka Chaturdashi. It’s called Choti Diwali by children.
What is it?
In Hindi Deepavali means ‘row of lamps’ and it is for this reason that the festival is known as the festival of light. It is celebrated by Hindus the world over and markets the beginning of the new year in North India.
. How is it celebrated?
There are a LOT of fireworks! There are also oil lamps, candles and tea lights placed at the entrance of houses and also inside. Coloured lights decorate homes and streets. There are lots of sweets and chocolates, big feasts and much celebrating. Gifts and cards are exchanged and more money is supposed to come to people. (It is traditional for every worker to receive a months salary as a bonus at Deepavali). In fact the celebrations are very similar to Christian Christmas celebrations but here people also buy new utensils, metal objects and ‘holy’ items during this period. The belief is that these things will wards off ill health and evil for a whole year.
It is a festival that celebrates the conquer of good over evil. In north India it is celebrated as ‘Navratri’and is observed in the nine days preceding Dussehra. It is also known as Durga Pooja, Vijayadashmi and Dasahara.
In Karnataka it means the start of 2 weeks of celebrations in Mysore ending with a great elephant parade.
When is it?
It is on the 10th day in the bright half (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Ashwin. Ashwin is the seventh month in the Hindu calendar starting on 17th September and ending on 16th October. (Ashwin means ‘light’ in Hindi and the Sanskrit translates as ‘possessor of horse’ or ‘horse tamer’.)
In 2017, Dusserha falls on Saturday 30th September. The start of Dassara festival in Bangalore is marked by a government holiday on Monday 18th September.
History and legend
Dussehra is celebrated as the victory of the lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of lord Vishnu. His birth was to overpower the powerful ruler of Lanka, the ten-headed demon king Ravana. The story is that Lakshmana, the brother of lord Rama, cut off Surpanakha’s nose, the beloved sister of Ravana. Full of revenge, Ravana, disguised as a sage, kidnapped Sita. Later lord Rama declared a war against Ravana and brought Sita back.
Mythology states that goddess Durga killed demon Mahishasura after a long period of cruelty and oppression. Another story involves gold coins. The lord Kuber rained coins on the city of Ayodhya following Kautsa asking King Raghu for 140 million coins to give to his guru in exchange for knowledge. After giving 140 million coins to his guru, Kautsa distributed the rest to the people of Ayodhya.
How is it celebrated?
It is believed that the celebration of Dussehra commenced in the 17th century when the King of Mysore ordered a celebration of the day on a grand scale. The celebrations at Mysore Palace attracts thousands of visitors each year – it’s a real crush. Children are lifted on to shoulders of parents to see the great parade of elephants at the palace. The Karnataka State government arranges 10 days of festival celebrations with a program of music and arts. Major buildings are decorated with lights and colour across the city of Mysore.
Episodes from Rama’s life are staged in the form of ‘Ram Leela’. In the evening of Dussehra big effigies filled with crackers (fireworks) are installed in grounds. The figures are the embodiment of Ravana, his brother Kumbkarna, and son Megahnatha, which are burnt later in the evening.
People visit the Pooja Pandals wearing new clothes, prepare traditional food at home and celebrate the festival with their friends and families.
The day also coincides with the immersion of the idol of goddess Durga.
The Dussehra celebrations spread the message of victory of good over evil. It is also start of the festival season with Deepavali / Diwali next month and national holidays to mark Anniversary of Gandhi.
There are lots of adverts appering at this time of year as it is the start of the festival season. Here are a selection from the newspapers.
St. Mary’s Feast celebrates the birth of Mother Mary is the most important festival celebrated in St Mary’s basilica and is attended by thousands of people.
St. Mary’s Basilica is a basilica located in the Archdiocese of Bangalore. It is among the oldest churches in Bangalore and is the only church in the state that has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica. It really is a beautiful piece of architecture and is busy with visitors all day.
. When is it?
The festivities go on for 10 days beginning on Tuesday 29th August and end on Friday 8th September; the day on which the Mother Mary was born. The first mass began at 5:30am with masses every 30 minutes in three different languages. At 6:30am the Archbishop offered a thanksgiving mass.
How is it celebrated?
The festivities begin with the masses. In the evening of the first day, the first novena flag is blessed and hoisted (it’s a traditional flag). The flag with the image of “Our Lady” was blessed by Archbishop Bernard Moras and was hoisted by Sri KJ George (a former Home Minister for Karnataka state).
A Novena ( a form of worship in the Roman Catholic Church consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days) is held on the first nine days from Tuesday 29th August to Thursday 7th September.
On Friday 8th September, the day on which Mother Mary was born, a Holy feast is celebrated. Holy Mass is offered in different languages and mass marriages are conducted for those in need. A thanksgiving mass is also organized for couples who have completed 50 years of marriage. Eucharistic celebrations (mass with bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus Christ) are held on the day of the feast. The day culminates with a grand chariot procession with a decorated chariot with the image of Mother Mary drawn by devotees along the various streets of Bangalore.
Afterwards food is distributed to the thousand of people who have joined in the celebrations. This throng of people consists of all religions with Hindus joining Christians in the celebrations. It is a great time of enjoyment and feasting together.
Bonalu is a folk festival celebrated in the Telangana region, Andhra Pradesh. This century-old tradition is observed with gaiety and devotional fervour.
When is it?
It is during the month of Asadh. This is Sunday 25th June to Sunday 16th July in 2017.
How is it celebrated?
This month long festival is marked by devotional singing and ritualistic worship of the village deities. The ‘Ghatams’ or decorated pots, filled with flowers, are the main attraction of the festival. The flower pots are carried on the heads of women in a procession. Similarly cooked rice is also carried by women on their heads to the local goddess accompanied by male drummers. Every Sunday from the end of June throughout July there are colourful celebrations ongoing.
Bonalu is celebrated chiefly in the cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad ( where we happen to be on holiday at the moment). Saree Jagadambika Temple located on the top of the Golconda Fort attracts the most devotees from the region. The state government also performs puja officially on behalf of the people. Temples are decorated.
In Hyderabad the newspapers reported low attendance at work from female employees who were celebrating Bonalu. Some employers are allowing female staff to leave early to visit temples for puja. Office are reported to be in a festive atmosphere as ladies distribute sweets to colleagues dressed for the occasion.