Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooran, is celebrated in Thrissur (in Kerela)at Vadakkumnathan in the month of Medam (April) every year where the regaining deity is Lord Shiva. This 200 year old festival this year starts in Thrissur in Kerala on April 16 2008.

Thrissur Pooram, the mother of all temple festivals in the state of Kerala held at the two devaswams- Paramekkavu Bhagavathy temple ( the Devi temple) and Thiruvambadi Sree Krishna temple ( the Krishna Temple). The main part of the Thrissur Festivals include the displays of parasols and processions by the two rival groups form Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi representing the two parts of Thrissur.While the main participants are Paramekkavu and Tiruvambadi, close to the Vadakunnathan temple.Also participating and known as 'Cherupooram' are the suburban temples at Kanimangalam, Karamukku, Choorakkattukara, Laloor, Ayyanthole, Neithilakkavu and Chembukkavu, Panamukkampilly, altogether 8 deities.The sprawling Thekkinkadi maidan, encircling the Vadakumnathan temple, is the main venue of the festival.

This festival is celebrated with a colourful procession and parade of caparisoned elephants, parasols, drums, display of pyro-techniques. During the festival season, Thrissur, popularly known as the temple town in Kerala turns into a town of colour and celebrations.The exhibition of the paraphernalia of elephant decorative, commonly known as ‘Aana Chamayal pradarsanam’, the spectacular show of ‘Kudamattom’ in which parasols of myriad numbers, designs and colours are exchanged by the people atop the elephants. An elephant also carries the "thidambu" ( means image of the deity).

The Pooram programmes begin with the ezhunellippu of the Kanimangalam Shasta in the morning and is followed by the ezhunnellippu of the other six minor temples on the Pooram Day. The ezhunnellippu programme which is considered to be a ritual sybolising the visit of the Devi from the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambadi temples to the Vadakkunnathan temple.

A major event of the Pooram festival is the Panchavadyam in which about 200 artistes from the musical disciplines of Thimila, Maddalam, trumpet, cymbals and Edakka participate. Another major event of the pooram begins with the setting off of the ‘Pandemelam’at noon in which about 200 artistes in the musical disciplines of drums, trumpets, pipe and cymbals participate. The grand finale of this festival of grandeur, music and fire works would be marked with a function of bidding farewell to the deities of the Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devaswams in front of the Western Gate of the Vadakkunnathan Temple.

The Pooram festival is concluded with a spectacular fire works display, which is held in the wee
hours of the day after the Pooram. The Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu Devaswams present many innovative patterns and varieties of fire works festival.

The religious significance of Pooram -

The legend behind this festival is that the word "pooram" literally means a group or a meeting, it was believed that every year the dynastic gods and goddesses of neighbouring province met together for a day of celebration. This usually happened on the pooram asterism of one of the spring months. The gods and their entourage arrived for the meeting on colourfully decorated tuskers/elephants. Accordingly the two most prominent opposing groups from the Krishna temple at Thiruvambadi and the Devi temple at Paramekkavu display their parasols and elephants in what symbolises an assemblage of suburban deities before the presiding deity at the Siva temple in Thrissur.

At the close of the Pooram both these rival groups enter the temple through the western gate and come out through the southern gate to array hemselves, face to face, one from the round and other form the Municipal Office road. Although this grand festival is known as Thrissur Pooram, it is in fact the conclusion of the eight - day Utsavam of nine temples.

The historical significance of Pooram -

Before the advent of Thrissur Pooram, the largest temple festival during summer in central Kerala was the one-day festival held at Aarattupuzha, 12 km south of Thrissur. Temples in and around Thrissur were regular participants of this religious exercise until they were once denied entry by the responsible chief of the Peruvanam area of Cherpu, known for its Namboodiri supremacy. As an act of reprisal, Prince Rama Varma (1751-1805), also known as Sakthan Thampuran who was then the ruler of the erstwhile Cochin state invited all these temples to bring their deities to Thrissur where they could pay obeisance to Lord (Sri) Vakunnathan ( Lord Shiva), the deity of the Vadakunnathan temple. It was he who made the sprawling Thekkinkadu Maidan the major venue of Thrissur Pooram. He entrusted the onus of holding the festival to the two public temples- Tthiruvampadi and Paramekkavu temples .He himself is said to have drawn up the 36-hour hectic schedule of the Pooram festival.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ugadi Festival

The New year festival or Ugadi ( as it is known in Andhra Pradesh) comes along with Vasant Navratra. The name Ugadi has been derived from Yuga Aadi (Yuga + Aadi means "Beginning of New age"). The ages starting from a major reference point are Golden age, Silver age, Copper age and Iron age and also known in Hindi as Satyuga or Krutha yuga, Treta yuga, Dwapar yuga and Kaliyuga. The very end of Iron age i.e. the Kaliyuga is refer to hell or "Naraka" or the age of ignorance, which our Puranas or even in Srimath Bhagavath Gita mentioned that the Kaliyuga is "the night of the Brahma, the creator of new world and the Satyuga is the Day of Brahma".Ugadi marks the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon's orbit. On this day, people chant mantras and the pundits make predictions for the coming year.

It is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started creation on this day - Chaitra suddha padhyami or the Ugadi day. Also the great Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya's calculations proclaimed the Ugadi day from the sunrise on as the beginning of the new year, new month and new day. The onset of spring also marks a beginning of new life with new plants, shoots and leaves.

Traditionally, on this day the panchangasravanam or listening to the yearly calendar was done at the temples but now one can get to hear the priest-scholar on television sets right in one's living room.

Like any festival it brings with it special recipes and food prepared for this day. "Ugadi pachchadi" is one such dish that has become synonymous with Ugadi. It is made of new jaggery, raw mango pieces and neem flowers and new tanarind which truly reflect life - a combination of sweet, sour and bitter tastes! See the recipe at www.desifoodtv.blogspot.com.
Jaggery represents Krutayuga and Tretayuga which is full of purity, prosperity and peace. Neem leaves represents Dwaparyuga and Kaliyuga which consists of sorrow, chaos and impurity.

The inner significance of Ugadi Pachadi is to indicate that life is a mixture of good and bad, joy and sorrow and all of them have to be treated alike. All experiences have to be treated with equanimity. Every one should make a resolve that he will face calmly whatever happens in this year, accepting it with good grace. Welcome everything. Consider everything as for one’s own good. Men should rise above sorrow and happiness, success and failure. This is the primary message of the Ugadi festival.

Also eaten on this dau id Raw Mango Rice or Mammadikaya Pulihora. In Andhra Pradesh, eatables such as "pulihora", "bobbatlu"( similar to the maharashtrian "puran poli") and other dishes with raw mango are made.

While this festival is called Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, in Maharashtra it is known as "Gudipadava".

Prior to Ugadi, houses are cleaned thoroughly, new clothes and other puja and festival requirements are bought. On Ugadi day, people wake up before the break of dawn and take a head bath after which they decorate the entrance of their houses with fresh mango leaves.ugadi Pachadi is eaten. Ugadi is also the most auspicious time to start new ventures.

As per legend it is said that Kartik (or Subramanya or Kumara Swamy) and Ganesha, the two sons of Lord Siva and Parvathi were very fond of mangoes. As the legend goes Kartik exhorted people to tie green mango leaves to the doorway signifying a good crop and general well-being.

Another Ugadi tradition has become the Kavi Sammelanam or poetry recitation and is a typical Telugu Ugadi feature.Ugadi Kavi Sammelanam is also a launch pad for new and budding poets. It is generally carried live on All India Radio's Hyderabad "A" station and the Doordarshan,(TV) Hyderabad following "panchanga sravanam" (New year calendar) narrating the way the new year would shape up in the lives of people and the State in general.

Ugadi Subhakankshulu! Wishing you all a great year ahead!

The photos are of a Sammelan, an Ugadi rangoli, Sai Ashram decorated on Ugadi and Sri Sathya Sai's Ugadi darshan.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Gudi Padva

Gudi Padwa, also known as Ugadi, is celebrated on the first day of the Hindu month of Chaitra. This year it falls on April 6th 2008.

According to legend, this is the day on which Brahma created the world after the deluge and time began to tick from this day forth.

India is still largely an agrarian community and there is a theory that the word 'padwa' might have its roots in the Sanskrit word for crop, which is 'Pradurbhu.' The word 'padwa' as used contemporarily means 'New Year', but this day also marks the end of one harvest and the beginning of a new one, which for an agricultural community would signify the beginning of a New Year. Gudi stands for the Gudi that is hoisted outside most Maharashtrian homes. A 'gudi' is a pole on top of which an upturned brass or silver pot called a kalash is placed. A bright green or yellow cloth adorned with brocade (zari) is tied to the tip of a long bamboo over which gathi (a type of sweet), neem leaves, a twig of mango leaves and a garland of red flowers is tied. This is then hoisted by placing a silver or copper pot placed in the inverted position over it. it is also known as Brahms's flag or Brahmadwaj Some also refer to it as ‘the flag of Indra’ (Indradhvaj). On Gudi Padwa, you will find gudis hanging out of windows or otherwise prominently displayed in traditional Maharashtrian households.

Typically like most of our festivals prior to Gudi Padwa house spring cleaning is a must. On the day itself a bath early in the morning, wearing new clothes and meeting and eating meals and prasad with relatives and friends is tradition.

This festival is predominantly celebrated by Maharashtrians as "Gudi Padwa" and special festival foos like puran poli, shrikand puri and soonth phanak are eaten on this day.

Traditionally, the festival begins also by eating the bittersweet leaves of the neem tree. Sometimes, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with ajwain (carrom seeds), gram pulse, tamarind (imli) and gudh (jaggery).

Gudi Padwa also represents auspiciousness and is one of the best muhurats of the year to start anything important. The day is in particular considered auspicious for building or entering a new house, putting a child to school, or starting a business. With this day begins the new season, the spring.

It is believed as per legend that on 'Gudi Padva' :

* The Universe was created by Brahma.
* Satyuga (The Age of Truth and Justice) began.
* King Vali was killed by Rama.Shri Rama returned to Ayodhya victorious.

This festival is known as Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra and Ugadi in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It has become a custom to hold Kavi Sammelans (Poetry recitals) this day.