Yugadi (Ugadi)
Friday the 27th March 2009
By Mohan Shenoy
     The New Year of Virodhi Samvatsara
begins on the 27th of March 2009. Friday
the 27th March 2009 is the Hindu New
Year. This Virodhi Samvatsara lasts from
the 27th March 2009 to 15th March 2010.
            
Learn more about Hindu Calendar.
            
    This New Year Day every year is known
as the festival of Yugadi.
           
    Yugadi is also known as Samvatsara
Padvo and Gudi Padvo. It 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 Samsarpadvo
(Samvatsara Padvo).

    It is known as Gudi Padvo in
Maharashtra state and Yugadi in
Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and
Tamil Nadu The common New Year day in
the common calendar all over the world is
January 1 of each year. Hindu festivals are
not based on the common calendar and the
festival of Yugadi does not correspond with
the New Year day. Lunar calendar, on
which the Hindu festivals are based, does
not tally with the common calendar.
Therefore the practical value of Yugadi
festival being celebrated as the first day of
the lunar calendar remains only in
observing this day as a festival. However,
out of tradition Hindus prepare special
dishes on this day and some of us visit
temples to hear the priests narrate the
predictions for the coming year. The
predictions are based on the configuration
and positions of the heavenly stars and
planets during the year, the Panchaanga
book for which is read and released on this
day. 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 few millennia
or more in India.

    Among Hindus in India, rice has been an
important part of their meals, especially in
the southern part of India. Rice is also used
in many different ceremonies as an
accompaniment to an offering and it is
required for sprinkling on the heads of
those who attend the function; rice
sprinkled on the heads is called Akshatha.

    Since about the year 1950 there have
been many discoveries in the field of
cultivation of rice. Varieties of rice have
been named that yield a better crop. For
cultivation of rice, water is required in large
quantities.

    Rice plants are like grass with about 5
large elongated narrow oval leaves that
have stems, which produce flowers. The
flowers turn into paddy, after pollination.
The plants produce one crop, then dry up
and die. Bunches of plants with the seeds
are thrashed on net-stands to separate the
seeds from the plants. The dried plants are
excellent fodder for the cattle. This fodder
is stored in the form of silos for use
throughout the rest of the year. The seeds
have an outer husk and an inner hull. The
hull is thin and brown and has nutrients in it
like vitamin B1. When the rice is milled this
inner cover is lost and the rice turns white.
On the other hand if the paddy is first
soaked in boiling water in a pot for a while
and then the outer husk is removed by
milling, a portion of the inner cover remains
attached to the rice.  The boiled rice takes
longer to cook but it is more nutritious than
the white rice.

    On Yugadi festival day, two dishes are
traditionally cooked; one is Cheppe Kheer
(made of newly harvested rice grains) and
the other is Madganay (made of Bengal
gram and jaggery). The ingredients for
Cheppe Kheer are rice, coconut shreds,
and haldi (turmeric) leaves.

    The coconuts are an important part of
the diet of the Gowda Saraswath Brahmins
(GSBs). The GSBs also use coconut oil for
cooking. In the western countries the GSBs
have a high incidence of heart attack
because of coronary artery disease. The
GSBs back in India throughout history,
were eating quite a lot of coconuts and
using quite an amount of coconut oil. Some
one said that there is a relation between
the coconuts and the cholesterol, the C-C
relation. They suggested that the use of
coconuts and coconut oils should be
stopped to reduce the incidence of heart
attack among the GSBs in America.
However, the research done by Indian
scientists at the University of Kerala has
revealed why the GSBs in India do not
have a higher incidence of heart attack
than the average population. The
scientists, Padmakumaran, Rajamohan and
Kurup have discovered that the coconut
kernel contains a good protein that reduces
formation of fat in the liver and in the
intestines. If the coconut kernel is not
consumed and only the coconut oil is
consumed then there is an adverse effect.
There will be increase in cholesterol level in
blood. But if the coconut kernel is also
consumed then there is a significant
decrease in the total cholesterol level,
increase in the HDL and decrease in LDL;
there is also decrease in the level of
Triglycerides according to the Kerala
scientists. Coconut kernel causes increase
in the cholesterol degradation in the liver to
produce bile acids. Esterification of
cholesterol is decreased also. Coconut
kernel fed to rats reduced the serum levels
of cholesterol, phospholipids and
triglycerides.
High levels of cholesterol, phospholipids
and triglycerides are not desirable in
humans because it leads to atherosclerosis
and later to heart disease and stroke. The
coconut kernel is rich in fibres and provides
an ideal dietary constituent for man and
therefore GSBs who consume plenty of
coconut kernels are benefited. Those
GSBs who live in the coastal regions of
south India use a lot of coconut in their
cooking.
Yugadi (Ugadi)
By Mohan Shenoy
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ACoconut provides good health to these
people with its properties of reducing the
cholesterol level in blood and acting as
roughage in the intestines. The
coconut-cholesterol (C-C) relation is good
for all people if they consume limited
quantity of coconut oil and plenty of
coconut kernel.
   
   Cholesterol is formed in the liver from
fats absorbed from intestines. There is
need for bile acids to be formed from
cholesterol to send them back to the
intestines to facilitate digestion of food
substances. This is done by the liver,
which by degrading cholesterol converts
them into bile acids. Cholesterol esters
are also formed in the liver and travel to
various parts of the body.

   Nowadays, the cholesterol level in the
serum is estimated by a chemical
reaction. Blood is collected from a vein in
the forearm. Serum is obtained after
allowing the blood to clot and separating
the clot to obtain what is left, i.e. serum.
This serum is subjected to enzyme
reaction and development of a colour.
The intensity of the colour is measured. If
the cholesterol level is high then the
colour is dark; if low, light. This is the
total cholesterol estimation. After total
cholesterol, we have to give attention to
the two kinds of cholesterol viz. the High
Density cholesterol (heavy cholesterol,
HDL) and Low Density cholesterol (light
cholesterol, LDL). The HDL does not
rush itself to form plaques in the arteries
while the LDL does. The plaque
formation is easy with LDL. More the
LDL, the quicker the plaque formation.
Plaques harden the arteries and thickens
the wall of the arteries leading to a block
in the blood-flow. If the coronary arteries
of the heart get blocked the patient may
die. Therefore it is better to have enough
HDL and low levels of LDL.

   The benefits of coconut kernel are
always there whether coconut oil is
consumed at the same time or not. But if
the oil is consumed then it is likely that it
might increase the level of cholesterol
unless coconut kernel is also consumed
along with the oil. There is plenty of oil in
the coconut kernel. Regular consumption
of Coconut kernel keeps the cholesterol
level down in all people including those
people who otherwise have raised levels
of cholesterol.
The rise in cholesterol in the blood could
be due to intake of either coconut oil or
any other fatty diet. In all cases the
coconut kernel reduces the cholesterol
levels to normal. Coconut kernel is best
used as a masala ingredient. When we
use any masala powder to make any
side-dish, then we add the powder
directly to the dish either in the beginning
or at the end of the cooking. But if we
grind the masala powder with twice or
thrice the quantity of coconut kernel, then
the mixture gives a thickness and
consistency to the dish that is
indescribable. Add this mixture to the dish
instead of the masala alone. There is no
need to add wheat flour or corn flour to
give body to the dish if coconut is used.
This is one of the ways to use coconut
kernel in our cooking.

   Coconut milk obtained by grinding the
coconut shreds and then straining it
through a cloth contains fibres but the
milk is rich enough in kernel protein.

   Cheppe Kheer is prepared by boiling
rice in water and adding coconut milk to it
and boiling again. Coconut milk is
prepared by grinding coconut shreds in a
mixie and squeezing out the milk from the
product, through a thin cloth. A couple of
whole turmeric leaves are added while
boiling the mixture to give a pleasant
smell. Turmeric leaves have a pleasant
smell and flavour. The turmeric leaves
are first washed and cleaned and then
rolled up before adding to the boiling
mixture and cooked for another two
minutes. The leaves are left in the kheer
until served. This dish is tasty and
delicious even though no sugar or salt is
added to it. The lip-smacking nature of
this dish is due to the flavours of coconut
and the turmeric leaves.

   The ingredients for Madganay are
Bengal gram daal, jaggery, cashew
kernels, fresh and raw, coconut milk,
cardamom powder, turmeric powder, rice
and ghee. Madganay is prepared by first
boiling the Bengal gram daal (splits) in a
sufficient quantity of water until soft (30
mts.). Prepare coconut milk as described
above. Add jaggery (quantity equal to
Bengal Gram daal) to the cooked Bengal
gram daal and stir. Bring to boil. Add
coconut milk and stir. Bring to boil. Add a
pinch of turmeric powder and a
tablespoonful of washed rice to the
mixture while boiling and stir a bit.

   The cashew kernels are processed
first as follows: place tender cashew
kernels (about one tenth the quantity of
Bengal Gram daal) in water and bring to
boil. Allow to cool. Peel off the brown skin
of the kernels. Split the kernels in halves
and add to the daal-jaggery-coconut milk
mixture. Stir well and bring to boil.
Powder a few seeds of cardamom and
add the powder to the mixture. Add one
or two spoons of ghee. Madganay is now
ready to be served.

    On Yugadi festival people send gifts of
various eatables, such as jaggery,
roasted sesame seeds, roasted ground
nuts, rocky sugar, sugar molds, etc., to
friends and relatives. These are items
that are available in plenty following the
harvest. Small quantities of these
eatables are put in little plastic bags and
distributed, on a plate along with some
neem leaves. Neem leaves are very
bitter. The bitter neem leaves accompany
the sweet jaggery because the message
to convey is that the life in the New Year
is going to be not always sweet, but there
will be bitter moments too.
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