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The Flavours of Life

Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Varusha Pirappu or Puthandu in Tamil Nadu and Vishu in Kerala…it is time for traditional New Year celebrations.

Famous temple cities in Tamil Nadu like Madurai, Kumbakonam and Kanjeevaram organize celebrations, often with local deities being taken out in car festivals after the year’s panchangam or calendar is ceremoniously read out to them.

The days being public holidays in the respective states, communities observe the occasion with much feasting and socializing.

Nature joins in the festivity – during this bright, sunny season, neem trees burst into blossom; the first mangoes hang temptingly, a blush of pink against their green skins. Neem flowers and mangoes are used in rituals as symbols of prosperity.

Nature’s bounty appears in the day’s feast as a Pachadi, consisting of six flavours, each signifying a life experience – sweet jaggery/ripe bananas (happiness), bitter neem flowers (sorrow), spicy green chillies (anger), sour tamarind juice (disgust), salt (fear) and tangy, raw mango (surprise). This smorgasbord of flavours is savoured to remind oneself that life is an amalgam of dichotomous experiences, all of which should be confronted with equanimity. Each state, each family have their own version of the dish.

The celebrations would be incomplete without new attire for the whole family. Silk, which is considered as an auspicious, ritually pure fabric is a must have for the women of the house, who wear saris in deep, sacred colours, complemented with gold jewellery and sweetly perfumed jasmine for their hair.

Kanjeevaram saris are especially favoured on this occasion and offer a stunning range of shades that match the colours of the season, like the pale green of neem blossom and the blended green-and-rose of manthulir, the Tamil term that best describes the tender beauty of young mango leaves.

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