Life has become pretty fast. That evening, when I returned home from work exhausted, I realized that I barely find time for myself! ( While I was still pondering over my busy schedule, my cellphone beeped. I almost jumped off the couch feeling elated. A long lost college friend of mine was calling…)
Me: Hey hi! What a pleasant surprise Vishakha! How have you been? I’m so glad you called. (I couldn’t hide my excitement)
Vishakha : (I could visualize her poker face; she spoke with a neutral voice) I called to inform you that our gang; that’s how we lovingly address our friends circle; has planned to crash at your place this Gudi Padwa. Please make sure aunty makes some extra Puranpolis!
(Both of us laughed out loud…The entire gang could resist anything, but food! Gudi Padwa had come like a blessing in disguise. This sweet reunion was all we needed)
As planned, the gang reached my home a day prior to Gudi Padwa. It was 5 am in the morning and we were up and about already.
Let me take you on a tour around the chaotic bustle inside the house. We have Vishakha sitting amidst a heap of marigold flowers; she is struggling to weave the flowers into a garland! She herself volunteered for the difficult task! Kaustubh and Nitin are busy cleaning the pole on which the Gudi will be raised. My mom is in the kitchen; making some fresh offerings for the Pooja. I’m showcasing my best skills with the Rangoli. My dad is grinding the Neem leaves and jaggery; mom has instructed him to make a fine paste.
Vishakha : ( As she cannot stay silent for a long ) “Uncle, why do we celebrate Gudi Padwa”?
Dad: “Well Beta, so that foodies like you can crash at their close-friends place and eat Puran Polis”!
( All the busy heads around paused. Everyone including Vishakha unleashed stomach-hurting laughter!)
Dad : (Ceasing his laughter and interrupting ours) “Jokes apart! Gudi Padwa has an age-old legend that signifies its importance like any other Hindu festival. It is the New Year Day for the people of Maharashtra. Celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month, Gudi Padwa falls sometime at the end of March or the beginning of April according to the Gregorian calendar. It is also the first day of the Marathi Calendar”.
Mom: “Just like all other festivals, Gudi Padwa marks many prehistoric incidences to underline its significance. Mythology calls it a day when Lord Brahma recreated the world after deluge or the Pralaya. So this day symbolizes the beginning of the calendar and initiation of Sat-yuga. This day is very auspicious to begin something fresh. It is that rare occasion when every moment of the day is a ‘Muhurt’”.
Kaustubh : (The most sensible and intelligent of us all gives his valuable inputs) “When gathering information about Gudi Padwa, we must talk about a few other pertinent facets too. The intersection of the equator with the meridians is a major scientific event at the beginning of Chaitra. This intersection is known as Vasant, the pleasant season. When spring begins, nature invigorates itself by spreading a distinct charm and gratifying atmosphere all over. This naturally blissful period is worth a celebration and Gudi Padwa aptly represents this pleasing seasonal alteration.
Nitin : ( Who believes that he embodies Google) “Celebrations are the very essence of India and festivals are the most prospective way for Indians to connect, given their inherent jovial mood. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the festival is celebrated as Ugadi, as Yugadi in Karnataka, as Poila Baisakh in West Bengal and as Bihu in Assam. The Konkanis and the Sindhis observe the occasion as Sanvsar Padvo and Cheti Chand respectively.”
(Mom was lost in her childhood memories and overhearing our banter, hurriedly added)
“When we were kids, on a festive day, people in our village used to rise early in the morning and take an extensive oil bath. Then they swept the courtyards of their houses and plastered it with fresh cow-dung. Women drew beautiful rangoli designs with meticulous detail on their doorsteps. The strikingly colorful patterns captured the mood of the spring season and brightened up the festive ambiance. People wore new clothes, adorned their houses and offered oblations to God, praying to Him for a prosperous new year. So let’s get the Gudi up and let your father do it”.
Dad: “The hoisting of the “Gudi” is the main ritual of the festival. The Gudi is a long bamboo pole at the tip of which bright green or yellow silk cloth with brocade (zari), is tied. Over this is tied gathi (a type of sweet), neem leaves, coconuts, a twig of mango leaves and a garland of marigold flowers that signify a rich harvest. On this is placed an empty, inverted jug of water (tambya), made of brass, copper or silver and held up to the sky. The people of Maharashtra follow a tradition of erecting Gudis next to the right side of the main entrance of their houses. Gudi is a symbol of victory and prosperity. It is believed that hoisting the Gudi outside ones home wards off any evil influences, making way for good luck and prosperity.”
Kaustubh was distributing the paste of neem leaves and jaggery, (one thing I hate about Gudi Padwa is this bitter paste), and added his two bits…
Kaustubh: “Gudi Padwa is considered to be an auspicious day to start new business and ventures. For farmers, it is the time to plough their fields and distribute food to labourers. This day also marks the end of one harvest and the beginning of a new one. Gudi Padwa is celebrated at the end of the Rabi season. Indian society is largely dependent on agriculture and that is the reason that harvests are celebrated with much fun and frolic in the country.”
( By now everybody was looking forward to the Puran Polis. We sat across the dining table and waited for Mom to serve us our fair share of the delicacy)
Mom: “Traditionally, Maharashtrian families prepare Puran Poli and soonth panak to celebrate this occasion. A unique custom related to the festival is eating the bittersweet leaves of the neem tree. Sometimes, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with ajwain, gul (jaggery), and tamarind. The consumption of the bittersweet neem leaves is supposed to begin the festivities and believed to purify the blood and strengthen the body’s immune system against diseases.”
Vishakha : ( Looked at us and yelled at the top of her voice) “Hold it, everybody! The whole point behind knowing the reason to celebrate Gudi Padwa was to know how often can we have Puran Polis. I’m terribly hungry!”
(The whole house lit up with laughter once again. Soon, in no time silence descended across the dining room. We got busy relishing the mouth-watering Puran Polis!)