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Yugadi
Monday the 4th April 2011
By Mohan Shenoy

              
      The New Year of Kara Samvatsara begins on the 4th of April 2011. Monday the 4th April
2010 is the Hindu New Year.
              
Learn more about Hindu Calendar.                         
      This New Year Day every year is known as the festival of Yugadi (often spelt as Ugadi).
Note: In the Indian government calendar of festivals in which the years are counted from the
famous kings Vikramaditya and Shalivaahana, the year is named Kara just as in the lunar
Hindu calendar, but the new year Shalivaahana Shaka 1933 starts on 22nd March 2011. This
calendar is known as the National Calendar of India.
  The other Year-systems practiced in India are Kollam Year 1186-87, Hijari year 1432-33,
Vikrama Shaka year 2067-2068, Phasali (or Fasali) year 2537-2538. In the Kali Yuga the
running year is 5113th year.
             
      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. Other items in the menu are Tendlen-Bibbo Upkari, Ambata curry, Poudi fritters, Rice
and Udad Dal Kotte. Tendlen is a kind of vegetable known as Thonde in Kannada. Bibbo is
raw shelled cashew nut. Upkari is the name of the dish. Ambata is a thick soup like curry made
out of ground fresh shredded coconut cooked with many kinds of vegetables. Poudi (Podi) are
various kinds of sliced vegetables dipped in a spicy batter of gram flour deep fried in coconut
oil. Kotte are steamed batter of rice and urad dal in pockets made from jackfruit 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. Coconut 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.



Concluded.
              
More about Yugadi