Harbinger of good tidings

Chaitra Suddha Padhyami is a day of excitement as it is termed the New Day of the New Year as per the Hindu calendar. The day marks the onset of spring with plants withered in harsh winter springing back to life.

The festival is also a harbinger of hope for the agrarian community in Malnad region, with stacks of newly harvested crops, ready-for-sale piled up on one side of the verandah. The community, unperturbed by the losses that might have been caused due to natural vagaries or fluctuation of prices for their crops in the market, waits for Ugadi day with a hope and anxiety. The day begins with decorating house with garlands of mango leaves that is believed to ward off evil and usher in prosperity in the New Year.

In some regions, all the family members are supposed to see their face in the mirror kept on a ‘kalasha’ (coconut kept on the brass vessel) with a mound of rice and mango leaves. Women, having cleaned the front courtyard with cow dung, draw colourful designs with ‘rangoli’. Following an oil bath and pooja, members of a typical family in Malnad share ‘bevu-bella’ along with sugar cane, raw mango and tamarind – a mixture of neem leaves and jiggery. It symbolically implies that sorrows and joy of life should be experienced with equanimity. 

Predictions

Panchanga Shravana, the most significant feature of the festival, follows the grand feast and siesta in the afternoon. Young members, who eagerly await their elders to bring home a new almanac, make attempts to read the predictions for the year secretly even before the pooja. But, the elders, who believe that the almanac should be read only after worshipping it, thwart the children’s attempts by wrapping it up in a sacred cloth.

Since the dawn on Ugadi day, the ‘panchanga’ sits amid idols of gods and goddesses, like a bundle of mystery. Both elders and youth wait for the session of reading Panchanga by the elder of the family to know how the New Year would unfold and what it holds for them. Years ago, the ‘Panchanga Shravana’ was ritual conducted in temples, where the whole village would assemble and priest would read out the ‘Panchanga’.

There is a method to read Panchanga: After reciting hymns, the benefits of listening to Panchanga are explained. It is believed to relieve the listeners of their diseases and sorrows and bring them success and fame.

Later come predictions for the ‘Samvastara’, the lunar year which starts from the Ugadi day and for each zodiac sign. Vikrama and Sakabda are the two samvatsaras, each grouped under a cycle of 60 years, which is also called Jovian cycle.

Nandana Samvastara for this year, for example, is expected to have some of the following features: copious rains, abundant crop and bumper dairy farming; incidents of corruption, robbery and crimes will rise.

The scariest part of Panchanga Shravana is the reading of ‘Sankranti Purusha’ – a character in charge of the year. His shape, adobe, personality traits, travel and appearance are believed to have ominous signs.

Sankranti Purusha is said to have possess three heads, two faces, five mouths, three eyes, four large ears,bloody and dropping red teeth, long nose, eight limbs, two legs, dark complexion, ugly-looking, half-man and half-woman. These physical characteristics vary each year depending upon astrological factors. Each year, Sankranti Purusha is called by different names such as Rakshas, Mandakini, Manda and Dhwankshi.

This year, Dwankshi, will bathe in Saraswati River, wear red clothe, smear mud and wear hibiscus flower. He will have food in silver vessel, ride an elephant, wear black beads, and he will in sleeping posture. The price of articles such as silver he uses is expected to go up.

Discussing the predictions for the year, family members walk up the hills to watch crescent moon in the evening. It is believed that the evils acquired by watching moon on the day of Ganesha Chaturti festival will be warded off by watching Ugadi moon. The celebration, thus, concludes on a positive note.

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