Archive for March, 2012

As a 10-year-old growing up in Mumbai, Gudi Padwa meant feasting on puran polis, shrikhand and puri. It was also the time when Aai, my mother, gave me some respite from studies. I could stuff myself with loads and loads of Puran Polis and other savouries my mother used to make.

Gudi Padwa meant feasting on puran polis, shrikhand and puri.

Biting into flaky gram flour flatbread stuffed with jaggery, getting my hands on the luscious boondi laddoos, wearing new clothes and showing it off to my friends, was my idea of celebration. For a long time its religious connotations and the rituals didn’t make any sense to me. Frankly, neither was I interested.

As I grew up, I had to handle a fair share of the preparations for Gudi Padwa. It meant helping my mom in cleaning up the house, procuring the things needed for the puja. Since, I was interested in cooking, it also meant I also helped her in the kitchen preparing the sweets of the festival.

Looking back, I believe it was my mother’s plan to initiate me into the rituals and enlighten me about the importance of the festival. Despite living in Mumbai, rituals were a daily part of our family’s life.

I also remember the times I and my father used to venture out to pluck fresh mango leaves from nearby  trees especially for the rituals. We are not a very religious family to be honest, but we do take our festivals and the procedure quite seriously.

Also called Brahmadhwaj, Gudis were symbols of victory

Before every festival, our house went through a round of exhaustive cleaning. Cleaning the house was fun but I am sure my elation was never shared by my mother. I loved it because it threw up treasures, oft forgotten only to be discovered during the ritual cleaning.
Favourite toys which I had misplaced, pen and other odds and ends which I had dropped into the gap between the wall and the bed after I dozed off while studying, paper cuttings which I had planned to use for my scrap book and then completely forgotten and several other things. Mother was always in a hurry to complete the chore while I, whom she depended the most for helping her out, would wander away to savour the discovery of each treasure.

However, there was one thing which I hated about the festival as a child. Aai used to make a bitter concoction with neem leaves, flowers, soaked dal, cumin seeds, honey or jaggery. It was a must-have for everyone and as a child, I was coaxed to swallow it. As I grew up, coaxing gave way to silent threats. Rituals were followed with unquestioned faith in our house.

So much for making a good start to the new year! Years later, I understood the importance of the ritual. It was symbolic of the fact that life was intertwined with joys and sorrows. One had to accept it with equanimity. Sorrow and joys were transient just as the bitterness of the concoction I was made to swallow.

Gudi Padwa holds importance across Maharashtra. On the festival day, Gudis, festooned with brocade cloth and adorned with marigolds, coconuts, and mango leaves, were displayed in front of our house.

Gudis were hoisted to commemorate the victorious return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after slaying Ravan. Bamboo poles were used to make the Gudis which were then covered with brocade cloth and adorned with leaves of neem and mango and flowers. A silver or copper pot was inverted over the Gudi and it was ready for hoisting outside the house. I learnt later that Gudi was a symbol of victory and it was to reinforce the fact that good shall always triumph over evil.

Gudi Padwa is also the first day of Chaitra, the first month according to the Hindu calendar. Chaitra heralds the advent of vasant rutu or spring. It is believed Lord Brahma created the universe.

Gudi Padwa is considered as one of the sade teen (three and half) auspicious days according to the Hindu calendar. Unlike other days when auspicious time has to be carefully selected, the three and half days have no such restriction. They are auspicious throughout the day. Hence, it is considered the best time for holding several functions like Munj bandhan (thread ceremony), marriage, etc.

Another ritual associated with Gudi Padwa, was the reading of the panchang or the alamanac. The photo on the cover of the panchang was worshipped before reading it.

The festival is celebrated in other parts of India too. It is celebrated as Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh Karnataka. Konkanis celebrate it as Sansar Padvo or Samsar Padwo and Sindhis celebrate it as Cheti Chand.

Over the years, Gudi Padwa celebrations have undergone a change. Swagatyatras have become a part of Gudi Padwa celebrations, especially in cities. Large processions are taken out in which people participate in large numbers.

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