Vijay Kumar, Director IT, Akshaya Patra Foundation, talks about the cultural and spiritual significance of this festival, and why it’s close to his heart. By Satyaki Sarkar
With over 40 years of experience and a long and illustrious career in the IT industry, Vijay Kumar has worked with the likes of International Instruments and Himalaya Drug Company. He believes strongly in social service and giving back to the society, which has led to him taking on the role of IT head at the Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO that uses technology to aid social causes. Vijay is also a believer in cultural traditions and feel they are an important part of our heritage. On Ugadi, he talks to us about the significance of the festival and the role it plays in his life.
“For people from the southern part of India, especially Karnataka, Ugadi is one of the biggest festivals of all. It marks the beginning of a new year as per our calendar. Ugadi denotes the beginning of something and always brings with it a new chapter in one’s life. From listening to Panchanga Sravanam in the morning, to the meditation and puja that follows, Ugadi has quite a few traditions and customs. One of the most important among them is Bevu Bella, a unique dish comprising of a mixture of six different tastes, which represent the different experiences in life that every individual needs to respect, accept, and then move forward. It’s the first dish to be had on this day and is made using neem buds, jaggery, green chilli or pepper, salt, tamarind juice, and raw mango. The different tastes, like bitterness, sweetness, spiciness, saltiness, sourness, and tanginess denote the feelings of sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise that we all must face and accept in life.”
“Right from my childhood till now, I have made it a point to celebrate the festival with family. We were a huge joint family of four brothers and sisters, and would celebrate the festival together with much aplomb. Nowadays, not all of us live close by any more, and so close relatives who still stay nearby meet together for dinner, to spend time together. We take turns meeting at each other’s houses.
“As far as food is concerned, the most important dish on Ugadi is Holige, made either with jaggery and dal, or with jaggery and coconut. Traditionally, it is always made at home. Nowadays, everything is available in shops, but earlier these dishes would be made specially only during these festivals. There was a sense of waiting and anxious expectation associated with the festival, which made the moment when we would finally have the dishes all the more enjoyable. This is why we have always continued the tradition, and Holige is made at our home, instead of being bought from outside. Kadubu and Kodubale are two other special dishes made for Ugadi, which I absolutely love.”
A festival close to his heart
“The thing I look forward to most about Ugadi, however, is the feeling of a fresh start that it brings. As the beginning of a new year it brings with it new resolutions, new goals, and new achievements, leaving the past behind. It is about letting go of the past and looking towards the future. Elders in the family are presented with gifts and acknowledged for all that they have done for us. It is also a festival of charity, and we gift new clothes to our caretakers and attendants, as well as the less fortunate. This year, the celebrations will take place at my daughter’s house, and the entire family, including relatives, and anyone who stays nearby, will be present for it. Not only is it an opportunity to spend time with the people who are important to us, it is a way of honouring our traditions and customs. It is only when you leave the country that you realise the importance of these festivals, and the charm that they have.”
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