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SAMSAR PADVO
By Mohan Shenoy

Samsar Padvo, Samvatsara Padya, Yugaadi, A Hindu Religious Festival

Yugaadi is the first day of a year by lunar calendar and celebrated as a festival in most parts of India. Among Gowda Saraswath Brahmin (GSB) families the day is known as Samvatsar Padvo (first day of a year). It is known as Gudi Padva in Maharashtra state and Yugaadi in Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. As the common calendar in India has January 1 of each year as the first day of the year, the lunar calendar does not tally with the common new year day for most of us.

Therefore the practical value of this new year day of the lunar calendar remains only as a festival. However, out of tradition we GSBs prepare special dishes on this day and some of us visit temples to hear the priests narrate the predictions based on the configuration and positions of the heavenly stars and planets during the year. It is also the day for some families to bring in the new harvest and cook rice from the newly harvested paddy. This tradition has been prevalent for over a millennium or more in India.

What is a festival?
Festivals are celebrations held in memory of a historic event every year, or a commemoration of a mythological character. A festival is held to celebrate completion of a harvest, or celebration of the anniversary of inauguration of community halls, temples, etc., or anniversary of birth or death of great personalities belonging to the community.

Festivals bring joy to practically every one in the society. Many of the festivals and functions are necessary for the healthy development of the person, whether the festival is scientifically meaningful or not. Usually it is a task for a person to fulfill the rituals of a festival or a function and the occasion tries his patience and abilities in performance. The man in the family has to provide the supplies and other members have a role to play in implementing the various processes.

The task is a trial for all who take part in the festival.  It is a totally independent matter, however, and how one celebrates the festival in his confines of the home is a personal matter.

There are no compulsions except the deity or the sacred structures meant for the festival are given proper respect in handling the different programs laid down in the rules of the ritual. A certain menu for the feast is recommended under the tradition and a list of decorations for the festival is carried out but there is ample leeway available so that no one is put to hardship. We usually repeat what our parents and other elders did in the past festivals. It is a small challenge to do at least as good or better than our parents. We can also polish the procedures to fit in the modern times and innovate the look and shape of the event.
The festival can be grand with involvement of relatives and friends or it can be converted into a family-only matter. Relatives and friends watch and observe how well one does the festivals in the current year compared to what one did in the previous years. It is a measure of one's current abilities and enthusiasm. It is a measure of one's prosperity and health to know how well a particular festival is carried out in the current year by the descendant. If you have time and money you may turn it into a large-scale extravaganza or if you don't, then you can moan and groan and give excuses to downsize the whole thing. It requires skills of management and liberal religious or social attitude.

In any case how superficial or how deep one participates in the festival is a mood- related subject. But it is a revelation of one's position and exposes him to the open. Many consider that the money spent on a festival is worth more than its value but there are some who cling to excuses in order to celebrate it in a subdued fashion. They might save money, time and toil. They may not save their face well, though. Take for example the Ganesha festival which falls in the month of August or September every year.

My wife Lalitha and I celebrate the Ganesha festival by participating in the grand programmes being held in our GSB community hall in Bangalore. Our Swamy provides the community hall I am referring, head of Parthagali Gokurn Mutt, Dwarakanath Bhavan located in Basavanagudi area of Bangalore.

We take part in the proceedings including receiving the prasada, which is handed out liberally by the organizers. There are poojas from early morning onwards till late in the evening.

There is a santharpana meal for thousands of devotees and evening phalaharas (snacks) accompanied by a variety entertainment programme every day till the Idol is immersed on the next Sunday. We contribute money to the poojas and the money is spent in conducting the festival.

We contribute to the various funds such as the educational fund and health fund, which are maintained by the GSB Society (a registered society of the Mutt).

My father, late Adyar Gopal was Arya Samaji and he discouraged idol worship. I got some exposure in the philosophy of Arya Samaj and this has made me also a person not believing in idol worship. The matter of religion is difficult just like our skin, yes skin. One cannot remove the religious learning taken shape in one's early child-hood from one's life. One can only superimpose the new knowledge and make a hotchpotch picture, a modern artwork. Thank you for getting this read and I thank the reader.
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