New Age Festival Greetings!
Exactly a year back, I wrote one of my first blogs on Naturopathyoga.org about Ugadi. We’ve come such a long way through Manmatha Samvathsara (The Year of Love that has just passed, 2015-2016) and have just entered the Durmukhi Samvathsara, literally meaning the ‘Year of the Ugly Face’. (another blog on this coming up soon! Subscribe to our newsletter below to be the first to receive it!)
What is Ugadi?
For those unfamiliar with the festival, Yugadi is the Deccan festival that celebrates beginning (Adi) of the new age (Yuga). Why April, and not January? Because this is the first New Moon after the Sun appears to cross the equator (on Spring Equinox) and move towards India. For the next 21 days be prepared to face the brightest, hottest 3 weeks of the entire year. Different Indian cultures have a slightly different date for celebrating the new year depending on whether they follow the lunar or solar calendar, all of which fall in mid April.
Every newspaper, every magazine has articles on how to beat the heat this summer. In Bangalore, we have sweating through one of the hottest summers yet! Let’s take a look how our grandparents cooled off, with the traditions of Ugadi.
Ugadi celebrations begin early in the morning, with a ritual cleaning of the house and the body. An oil bath is mandatory today, to ‘cool down’ the body. I hope you had one! It really does cool you down. 🙂
The hallmark preparation of Ugadi, one that most of us know, is Bevu Bella, or Maanga Pacchadi.
Why do we make Bevu Bella or Ugadi Pacchadi or Maanga Pachadi?
Any Kannadiga would split into a smile of recognition when he hears the phrase ‘Bevu Bella‘, or Ugadi Pacchadi in Telugu. At the peak of the Spring season, there are some important trees that burst into bloom and bear fruit. Important among these are the neem tree and the mango tree. Also, this is the time when a fresh season of sugarcane crop is harvested. To ensure that these trees and crops are protected through the ages, the custom of preparing and eating Bevu Bella was introduced. Cleverly, a special significance was attached to it, as a story to aid people to remember the custom. The word rasa means two things: taste and emotion. Bevu Bella is a preparation of the six rasas. It is made from:
- Neem buds or flowers for bitterness, signifying Sadness
- Jaggery and ripe banana for sweetness, signifying Happiness
- Green chili or pepper for the pungent or hot taste (I cant say hotness, now, can I? Hehe), signifying Anger
- Salt for saltiness, signifying Fear
- Tamarind for sourness, signifying Disgust
- Raw, unripe mango for its tang, signifying Surprise
(Image courtesy: LadiesLounge)
Eating Bevu Bella with the six tastes equally mixed together is a resolution to face every situation in your life with equanimity, and to overcome to individual emotions of sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise.
What a wonderful custom! In one shot, it ensures the protection of species of trees and plants that are very important to the survival of our race, and transforms that custom into a beautiful mental exercise that helps you evolve into a better human being!
Unfortunately, the bevu bella most people make today aren’t necessarily doing either of these. The jaggery used is highly refined, and it is eaten only as a tradition, forgetting the lesson we can learn from it.
Jaggery is made by boiling sugarcane juice for many hours in large, 12-foot wide vessels. By the end of this process, the tastiest and best jaggery one can eat is ‘Joni Bella‘, or liquid jaggery. It is boiled further and some natural substances are added to it to make it harden. Without these additions, it would not become a powder.
Then, it goes to the refinery and is split into two parts:
- White sugar, which only contains sucrose, the sugar from the sugarcane
- Molasses, which contains all the actual nutrition the sugarcane
Do you know what happens to the molasses? It is the raw material for most of the commercial alcohol produced worldwide. Bacteria feast and grow abundantly on all the nutrition from our sugarcane, while we are deprived of the nutrition and think we are feasting on sugar – ending up with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, cancers… the list goes on and on.
Have you noticed, white sugar is much cheaper than jaggery? Even though you have to put jaggery through a lot of processing to extract sugar from it? The secret behind this is the high profitability of molasses – as alcohol.
Molasses isn’t a by product of sugar manufacturing. Molasses is the main product. White sugar – the by product – is what many of us are eating. Let’s not put waste into our bodies, otherwise they will only end up becoming a diseased dumping yard. Let’s put only the highest quality ingredients for our bodies to stay at its healthiest for the rest of our life. Sugar at one third the price of jaggery will cost us lakhs in medical treatment – and less years of life that no amount of money can extend. Paying 50 rupees or so extra once a week can save all of this trouble.
Let us prepare for a Healthier Year Ahead!
This Ugadi, let us take one simple step towards a healthier year ahead. Visit an organic store near your home and buy a packet of unrefined jaggery. Liquid jaggery is the best. If you don’t find this, you could get a packet of the least refined jaggery block or powder that is available. It is much better than the refined jaggery you find in most provision stores.
The bevu bella or the pacchadi you make from this unrefined jaggery will be much tastier than one made with refined jaggery, and will be a great start to a happier, healthier year ahead 🙂
Let’s Get Started!
The simplest form of Bevu Bella is powdered neem leaves mixed with powdered jaggery. Our favourite version is a recipe with all six tastes. Click on this button to get started:
Happy Ugadi once again, to you and your family. May the traditions and customs you follow during this festival, along with the power of the festival bless you and your family with good health, long life, enough wealth, peace, wisdom and fame.