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13 Apr

Celebrating Gudi Padwa on a responsible note

With talks of a lockdown underway, here’s how people are planning to make the most of the occasion whilst retaining its spirit

Gudi Padwa celebrations in Mumbai are known for their traditional grandeur that’s accompanied by lively music, exuberant Shobha Yatras and cheerful revellers dressed in festive attires. However, all of this will be missed this year, given the current situation. With that said, here’s how the city is celebrating Gudi Padwa this year whilst maintaining safety measures.

Riding on nostalgia

One of the major highlights of the celebrations in Mumbai is the eagerly anticipated Shobha Yatras and the dhol-taasha that attract thousands of visitors from across the city. The ones held in Girgaum, Dadar, Thane and Dombivali are particularly known for their ebullience and grandeur. Men and women from different communities participate in these Shobha Yatras that see women dress up in traditional nauvari saris and ride bikes as part of the bike rallies. Over the years, these Shobha Yatras have also begun to include float trucks showcasing various popular personalities. Girgaum is known to host one of the oldest Shobha Yatras in the city, however, this year, there will be no procession due to the lockdown.

For the last 18 years, the Swami Vivekananda Yuva Pratishthan (SVYP), Girgaum, has been organising the popular Hindu Nav Varsha Swagat Yatra that is otherwise commonly known as the ‘Girgaum Shobha Yatra’. In order to keep up the festive spirit this year, the SVYP has decided to release a nostalgic video about the yatra, a few days prior to Gudi Padwa. This online video will also feature a public interest message requesting revellers to abide by the lockdown rules. Shedding more light on this, Gaurav Bhave, president, Swami Vivekananda Yuva Pratishthan, shares, “We have put together a video that will showcase the procession in all its glory—from the bike rally to the dhol-taasha performances and the rich Marathi culture—though the years. We want people to stay connected to what they cherish the most—our unity and love for this festival. The video we believe, will bring back fond memories and encourage those at home to stay cheerful.”

Mangirish Dhume, a communications professional, thoroughly misses attending the Girgaum Shobha Yatra along with his friends. He shares, “It is at this time of the year that we really feel like dressing up and riding our bikes as part of the rally with our friends, and I miss this a lot.” But it isn’t all gloomy, he feels, as he adds, “One can still enjoy simple traditions like performing the puja and arti in the morning, hoisting the gudi, making the rangoli, preparing traditional sweets and spending time with your loved ones.”

True to tradition

On the morning of Gudi Padwa, Maharashtrian families wake up early and start the day with prayers and offerings of food in the temple. This is followed by day-long festivities and visits to the homes of family and relatives. This year, however, Gudi Padwa celebrations will be different because of the lockdown. For Sukhada Deshpande, a media professional who moved to Mumbai eight years ago, the lockdown won’t necessarily dampen the festive spirit, and/as she explains why, “The Shobha Yatras are an urban expression of the festival and they do not define Gudi Padwa celebrations. In smaller towns like Aurangabad, from where I hail, people celebrate it without the exuberance. Everyone visits the temple, spends time with family, performs traditional pujas, prepares traditional sweets and foods, and later, meets the elders to seek their blessings.”

Gaurangi Veshvikar, a public relations professional, too, agrees with Deshpande’s view and believes that the lockdown has made everyone rethink the way they celebrate the festival. “Thanks to the restrictions, we will be spending more time on this day, with our families—a tradition that was vanishing gradually. We will now be able to connect with our families more meaningfully.”

Festivities go digital

Every year, Dhume has celebrated Gudi Padwa along with his family and cousins, who attend the Shobha Yatra and follow it with a festive lunch. With most of his cousins now living abroad and with the lockdown restrictions in place, this year, Dhume has decided to connect with his family members over a video call. Dhume, along with his father, also plan to host a fun online quiz that will focus on the festival’s significance and traditions. Dhume elucidates, “The quiz is a great way to emphasise and convey the importance of tradition to the younger generation, especially my younger cousins, nieces and nephews. One of the main reasons for us deciding to host a quiz is because it would allow us to connect with all our family members (irrespective of their age) even during the lockdown.” For Dhume and his family, the idea of celebrating this New Year digitally has become a comfortable and acceptable notion, thanks to the forced transition imposed by the lockdown.

A celebration of simplicity

Give your home a refreshing look, even if you’re celebrating all by yourself. Put your creativity to test and rearrange your room furniture to give it an instant makeover. Nothing adds festive charm as much as fresh floral decorations and ambient lighting. You can use tea lights in mason jars or coloured bottles lit with fairy lights along with diyas at the entrance of your home and the puja area. With the restrictions in place, not all décor materials might be available, so make the best use of what’s at hand. Veshvikar shares, “For now, we will only be decorating the entrance of our home with mango leaf torans as they will be easily available. Rangoli and florals help the house look festive. Since celebrating indoors is imperative, we bought a readymade gudi that is compact in size and can be kept in the mandir of our home.”

At the heart of it, every festive celebration evokes a feeling of belonging and community spirit. With time, traditions too, undergo a transition. This Gudi Padwa, ring in the new as you forge a new family tradition or introduce an innovative celebratory idea that enables you to have a safe celebration.

Photos Courtesy: iStock

Irene Fernandes / [email protected]
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