Let hope spring from the old lines

What is your first impression of Ugadi? Customary bevu-bella of course, holige may be, the thoranas of mango leaves and neem leaves, new clothes, temple, pachadi… the list goes on and on. Along with all these, one song which is an integral part of Ugadi has been adopted from a poem by Da Ra Bendre, “Yuga Ugadi Kaledaroo Ugadi Marali Barutide” – the song means the festival returns bringing new year and a new happiness. My association with this song goes back to the radio days.

Since then, tape recorder replaced the radio, TV replaced the tape recorder, electronic gadgets have now brought the world inside our homes, but even today the festival is not complete without this song. When I started looking for other poems on the festival, I came across the poems of Kuvempu, Pu Ti Na, Gopalakrishna Adiga, K S Narasimha Swamy, H S Venkatesha Murthy and Nissar Ahmed.

From nature’s lens

Bendre’s Ugadi juxtaposes the short life span of people to that of the eternality of nature, which takes a new life every spring. He sees the immortal (nature), through the eyes of a mortal (human being). When Kuvempu writes “Gathavarshada mruthapaapava sudu, tore / apajaya avamanagalanu bidu, mare / kalachali beelali baalina halepore, nava samvatsaravanu koogi kare” (burn and let go the dead sin of the bygone year / leave and forget the defeats and humiliations / remove and discard the old skin of the life / welcome the new year) he sees the mortal through the eyes of the immortal and says new life is not just a physical concept but more of a metaphysical one. For K S Narasimha Swamy, Ugadi comes in “Maandalirinalli, mugivirada cheluvinalli, hoobisilinalli, upavanagalalli, ede tumbidolavinalli” (freshly bloomed mango leaves, the beauty that is never-ending, warm summer, flower beds and the love that fills one’s heart).

Pu Ti Na writes, “Hosavarshavu bahudendige? Mahapurusha taruvandige” (New Year comes when the mahapurusha brings it to us). Here, we should note that all these poets belong to the Navodaya period of Kannada literature. As Kannada writer Amaresh Nugadoni points out, the pre-Independence period had this idea of nationality where our culture was our identity too. Hence, most poets of that time have written about the festival as part of our culture on a broader level and identity at the individual level.

After Navodaya comes the Navya period. By now, Ugadi seems to have lost some of its lustre and reality. Poet Adiga describes Ugadi as something that brings in, “Olage ado kanutide cheluvirada, nalavirada koleya bele” (Inside, you see the crop of dirt which has no beauty and happiness). For G S Shivarudrappa, the time has come when we know that Ugadi may not bring any new hopes, but he consoles us saying, “uga Ugadige hosatu harushavu barali, barade hogali, banda chaitra chigurinandada mandahasave uliyali” (Whether Ugadi brings happiness or not, let the spring bring a smile on your face). H S Venkatesha Murthy has seen how many of our dreams are broken and hopes wilted away. He also notices Ugadi as a mere date when he says, Navu nammoorininda nimma oorige horata dariyalli idu ondu mailigallu! Sirivanta kaarinali, badava barigalinali nadedu bandudu ide dariyalli (This is just a milestone between my place and yours, rich in his car, poor by walk came through the same milestone).

No boundaries attached

If this is one journey of Ugadi, there is another politics which is very subtle. Ugadi is not just a festival of bevu, bella, holige and chitranna. But the next day, all the non-vegetarians celebrate a festival called “varshada thodaku” where non-vegetarian food is prepared and friends and relatives are invited. Strangely, I could find no mention of this festival in any of these poems. Meanwhile, I came across a poem by Nissar Ahmed, which has lines saying, “Eradu dinada habbadandu, belakinalli balu mind,” (In this festival of two days, let the life immerse in the light), there is a brief mention of two days festival.

It is not just history that belongs to those who write it, but even to those outside the culture. Post Navya, I could not find any poem on Ugadi in the Dalit and Bandaya period! Finally, Rajakumar Madiwalar, who runs a book shop in Dharwad, mentioned a poem by poet L Hanumanthiah. The poet was gracious to share the poems with me. He remembers his childhood days and explains how Ugadi was special, and how people would work hard and save money as the festival drew near, go to temple to offer puja. “It was only on this day we would be served obbattu at temples,” he says. On one hand, the festival is a celebration and on the other, it speaks of our long suffering. And this is very much reflected in the bevu-bella tradition.

It is only Hanumanthiah’s poems on Ugadi that speaks of the sufferings and pains of life. He writes, “Ugadi hadiyuddakkoo kahiya lepanada harake, gaviya garbhada olage gante nadada moda”  For him, the festival of Ugadi has lined with many bitter memories and the puja is not a religious ceremony but a call to hope for those who have undergone suffering. His poem narrates Ugadi with the similes of the soil and farming. In rural India, Ugadi is considered as the festival of farmers.

In any poem, words do not carry the meaning by themselves, but it is the context that gives them the meaning. I came across a recent poem by Dhananjaya Kumble “Only if the mobile keeps mum this Ugadi...”explains how intimate the festival would be in the absence of mobiles and what all we have lost in the journey. The poet also explains how the advancement in technology has undermined the spirit and essence of Ugadi! The question that lingers at the end of the day is, where did all our Ugadis go?

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Let hope spring from the old lines

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