For most agrarian societies, harvest festivals are an integral part of their culture, and India is no different. Often, each community has a different name for the celebrations, but there is a lot that is common in the intent and festivities. Here we look at three—Ugadi, Gudi Padwa and Mopin—that kick-off a long list of such events in April. (Photo Source: Abhijit Tembhekar/Wikimedia Commons)
In many cultures around the world, especially those that are traditionally agrarian, the month of April is a time of joy and festivities. Most of the festivals celebrated during the month have some connection or the other with harvesting. In some cases, they even mark the beginning of the ‘regional’ new year. This is particularly so in India, wherein a majority of the festivals—irrespective of which part of the country we focus on—have an aspect of celebrating a good harvest or the sowing of seeds.
The celebrations and rituals, be it through worship, dance, or music, revolve around thanking the gods for a good harvest, or praying for one in the next crop cycle. They usually fall in January–February (with Pongal, Bihu, etc.), April (Baisakhi, Bihu, etc.), August–September (Onam, Nuakhai, etc.) or November–December (Kut, Tokhu Emong, etc.). Interestingly, in April, these festivals also coincide with the beginning of the regional new year for many communities. While all these occasions are marked with an offering to the gods and community feasting, they also have distinct ceremonies, rituals and customs.
Here we look at three festivals—Mopin from Arunachal Pradesh, Ugadi from Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and Gudi Padwa from Maharashtra—that usually fall in the first week of the month of April.
Mopin Festival (April 5, 2019)
During the Mopin festival, people dress up in white and consume the locally-brewed alcoholic beverage apung/poka (Photo Source: Pancyadams/Wikimedia Commons)
Mopin is a harvest festival celebrated by the Galo tribe of Arunachal Pradesh in the Galo month of Lumi and Luki (March and April, according to the Gregorian calendar). It is celebrated in the East Siang and West Siang districts of Arunachal Pradesh, which are dominated by the Galo tribe. Though the festival officially commences on April 5 this year, in many villages the celebrations begin a month in advance. The presiding deity of the festival is Mopin Ane—the goddess of fertility and prosperity of the animist religion of Donyi-Polo.
During the festival, people dress up in white and consume the locally-brewed alcoholic beverage apung/poka, eat aamin (a dish made of rice, meat and bamboo shoot) and perform popir, a traditional dance. Of late, instead of many small celebrations, the festivities have been streamlined by a formal committee, and a massive joint celebration/event is organised in the state capital of Itanagar. Thousands of people from across Arunachal Pradesh come to celebrate the festival together. The focal point of the festival is the sacrifice of a mithun (a bovine creature), whose blood is then distributed as a blessing.
Ugadi (April 6, 2019)
People celebrate Ugadi by preparing special dishes using jaggery, mangoes and leaves of the neem tree (Photo Source: PrashuKalyan/Wikimedia Commons)
The word Ugadi stems from yuga (age) and adi (beginning), signifying the advent of the new year for the people of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It takes place on the first day of Chaitra, the first month of the Hindu calendar. It is believed that Satyuga (one of the four yugas, or eras, in Hindu religion) started on the day of Ugadi.
This festival is also called Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Cheti Chand by Sindhi Hindus and Meetei Cheiraoba in Manipur. However, the rituals and customs vary from region to region. People celebrate Ugadi by preparing special dishes using jaggery, mangoes and leaves of the neem tree. Bevu-bella, a festive dish which is a mixture of jaggery and neem leaves, signifies the duality of sweetness and bitterness that one experiences in life.
Gudi Padwa (April 6, 2019)
The harvest festival of Gudi Padwa is celebrated in Maharashtra and its neighbouring areas (Photo Source: Abhijit Tembhekar/Wikimedia Commons)
The Marathi harvest festival of Gudi Padwa is also observed on the first day of the month of Chaitra, and marks the beginning of the new year for the people of the region. It is primarily celebrated by those belonging to the state of Maharashtra and its neighbouring areas.
As part of the festivities, a yellow flag called gudi is made, and is swathed with flowers, mangoes and neem leaves. It is then covered with an inverted silver or copper pot and hung outside houses. The flag is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring prosperity. Street processions with music and dance are organised, involving people from all walks of life. Special fare, consisting of dishes such as puran poli and pachras goli, is made in almost every household. These dishes include two basic ingredients—leaves of the neem tree and jaggery.