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Lesson 1: Welcoming the New Year

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Happy New Year!  The day after the New Moon of this month is the traditional New Year in many regions of India, including Kashmir (Navreh), Maharashtra (Guḍhī Pāḍavā), Andhra Pradesh (Ugādi), and Karnataka (Yugādi).  It is the dawning of a new age - the time for a fresh and sacred beginning.  In fact, the idea of a new age, a new yuga in Sanskrit, is where the names for Ug.ādi and Yugādi come from

For most of us, even though as a globe we celebrate the New Year on January 1, it never actually feels like new year until spring rolls around.  The warmer weather, fresh green sprouts, and lush blossoms can't help but fill us with joy and inspiration.  There's optimism and a sense that light once again reigns supreme.

Many regions also honor it as the day we celebrate the triumphant return of Śrī Rāma to Āyodhyā.  This event symbolizes the victory of goodness and dharma over the forces of darkness.  Āyodhyā isn't just a physical place - this represents the power of dharma returning to take its rightful place as the sovereign power of our hearts, and our lives.

In Maharashtra, people make guḍhīs, which are symbolic structures and place them prominently outside of their homes.  The guḍhī is a copper pot that is suspended on a long bamboo stick, over red orange or red fabric, and adorned with kumkum, a flower garland, neem garland, and a sugary garland.  Each of these elements represents a blessing of dharmic life, including good health, consciousness, vibrancy, equanimity, sweetness, and abundance.

In Andhra Pradesh, a key part of the celebration of Ugādi is to taste all six flavors - sweet, salty, sour, spicy, bitter, and astringent - so that we are prepared to receive - and even enjoy - whatever the New Year has to offer us.  What beautiful wisdom in this simple practice!

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All over, people also clean and decorate their homes with colorful raṅgolīs and intricate kolams.  We adorn our space with fresh flowers, do charity, and recommit to living a sacred and auspicious life.

This celebration is also the beginning of practices for Bhagavān Rāma.  As an incarnation of the divine, he embodies the qualities of purity, integrity, loyalty, courage, and goodness.  His birthday is celebrated on Rāma Navamī (nine days after the New Moon).

The week after that, on the full moon, we celebrate Hanumān Jayanti, which is Lord Hanuman's day.  Naturally, his day follows immediately after Lord Rāma's, just as he himself does.  He is Śrī Rāma's ardent devotee and embodies the qualities of courage, service, humility, and devotion.

So on this day, if nothing else, take some time to clean your space and adorn it with fresh flowers.  Let yourself experience the cleansing and newness of spring.

You can also make the traditional prasāda for today, which is neem.  This incredible plant has a whole cornucopia of beneficial uses, which you can learn more about in Lesson 2, and other courses!

It is also a good time to set up an altar for Śrī Rāma, Sīta-devī, and Hanumān, and start practicing for them by performing pūjā, singing their names or hymns, and meditating on their forms.

Most of all, this celebration is an opportunity to let yourself experience the beginning of a new age - within time, and also within yourself.  Commit to a life of dharma, and welcome whatever it brings with a courageous and open heart.

Teacher: Shivani Hawkins

CONTINUE TO LESSON 2

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