Festivals in Nellore
Nellore is famous for its paddy farming. In fact, it is especially known for its aquaculture along Bay of Bengal. Often called the cradle of India aquaculture, Nellore is also popular for its religious observances and spirituality. There are some events and festivals that are observed with great fervor in Nellore. These are Pongal, Ugadi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Makara Sankranti and Diwali.
PongalPongal, is the harvest festival which is one of the most popular celebrations in Nellore. The word ‘Ponga’ means overflowing and the events called Pongal marks a time of plenty, happiness and peace. This four-day festival is eagerly waited for throughout the year by the people of Nellore. Since this is a harvest festival, it holds a place f special significance among the natives of Nellore since the state is famous for paddy cultivation. The rural people are chiefly associated with the observance of Pongal. During the four days of this festival, people greet one another every single day and along with the exchange of wishes and greetings among family and friends the celebration continues with spirit. On the first day, called Bhogi people clean their houses and get rid of all the unwanted things which are lit the bonfire. The second day called Perum Pongal is the most important day of the festival. Since people worship the Sun God or Surya, this day is also termed as Surya Pongal. Along with Surya his consorts, Chaya and Samgnya are also offered worships. Women adorn the courtyards of their homes with decorations called ‘kolam’ made of rice flour and having a clay border. Mattu Pongal is the third day, as it is called, when people offer thanks to cows and buffaloes, the chief animals that help in plowing the paddy fields. The fourth day called the Kanum Pongal is special since people go out for picnic. During the Pongal days, people eat sugarcane in plenty. Pongal marks the end of the harvesting season.
UgadiUgadi is the festival that marks the dawn of a New Year in Nellore. The festival of ugadi is locally termed as ‘Telugu Panchang’. 'Yuga' meaning 'era', and 'Aadi' means 'the beginning’ make up the term Ugadi. According to the Hindu traditions, Ugadi is believed to be the day when Lord Brahma, the Supreme Creator formed the Universe. Again it is the time when winter gives way to the spring time and new life is born. Thus the New Year festival is the focus of Ugadi.
The festival is observed in great devotion by the people of Nellore. Homes are cleaned and decorated; new clothes are purchased and also gifted. A special ritual that is done on the day of the festival is to hand strings of mango leaves above doorways; this denotes prosperity and happiness in the New Year. Along with worships, feasting is also done involving friends and family. The most crucial part of the Ugadi celebration in Nellore is the ‘Panchanga Sravanam’ or the religious almanac for the New Year to begin. Temples organize predictions for future. This day is considered to be especially auspicious for any new venture to take off.
The festival of Ugadi turns all the more special with the unique delicacy of the traditional ‘Ugadi Pacchadi’ prepared by the people of Nellore and all over Andhra Pradesh. It is a special mixture of six different tastes since the people observing the festival of Ugadi believe that life is a blend of a variety of emotions such as joy, anger, sorrow, disgust, fear and surprise. This unique mixture consists of the following:
- Neem buds or flowers for bitterness, signifying sadness
- Jaggery for sweetness, signifying happiness
- Green chilli or pepper for its hot taste, signifying anger
- Salt, signifying fear
- Tamarind juice for its sourness, signifying disgust
- Raw mango for its tang, signifying surprise
The rich heritage and culture of the states in the Western and Southern parts of India is famous all over the world. One of the major festivals that Nellore and its people observe is the Ganesh Chaturthi. This festival is observed to mark the birthday of the popular elephant-headed God Ganesh Who is believed to be the Savior of all crises. The people of Nellore celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with great enthusiasm and joy. It is a ten day-long festival. The significance of Lord Ganesh is so high that at the start of any venture, He is offered the first prayers before worshipping the other Gods. Nellore and the rest of Andhra Pradesh are decorated with warm lights and the worship begins with great pomp and splendor. Making sweets out of rice flour and sweetened coconut, the aroma of the incense sticks and the bright and beautiful flowers all over make the festival truly grand! Ganesh Chaturthi ends with the immersion of the larger-than-life idol of Lord Ganesha with great fervor and festivity.
Harvesting of crops determines an increase in wealth which again leads to greater merrymaking. At the time when the sun crosses Sagittarius to reach Capricorn, the transition is known as Makar Sankranti. Harvesting of crops starts a month before this festival. Makar Sankranti is celebrated in Nellore and the rest of Andhra Pradesh as a three-day harvest festival. The first day is called Bhogi, the second day is called Sankranti and the third day is called Kanumu.
On Bhogi, the young crowd collects grass, twigs, waste papers even before the sunrise and light a bonfire after making a heap out of their collections. Decorative patterns are drawn with mortar powder on the grounds by women and young girls. Lumps of cowdung are used to make Gobbemmas which are placed on the drawing of the houses. Rubbing some ash out of the Bhogi fire on the forehead is considered to be auspicious. On the Sankranti day, people visit their friends, family and relatives offering pieces of sugarcane, sugar and sesame seeds. Kanumu is the day of cattle festival. The farmers wake up very early and bathe their cattle. The cows are decorated with their horns being colored and bells being hung around their necks.
The whole of Nellore wears a festive look during Makar Sankranti with decorated houses and rural sports like bull fights, cockfights, kite-flying. The women prepare a special dish made of new rice, jaggery and milk called 'chakkara pongal' or rice kheer. The dish is allowed to boil over, which symbolizes abundance.
Diwali or the Festival of Lights celebrated by the Hindus all over the world is one of the biggest celebrations in Nellore. Every single house gets illuminated during this Festival of Lights. The local people of Nellore refill their earthen lamps with oil and light those up. The lighting of the lamps is very significant as it s believed to ward off all vices and mark the victory of good over evil! The lamps remain it throughout the night believing that Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth would visit the house and bless it. Along with lighting the houses with lamps, bursting fire crackers occupies a major share of the Diwali celebration. Wearing new clothes, people prepare sweets and savories which are integral to any festival in Andhra Pradesh and distribute the same among their near and dear ones. For the people of Nellore, Diwali celebration begins from early morning. People visit the temples and offer worships the nocturnal skies are filled with fire crackers and the house are illuminated. People in Nellore believe in the custom of decorating paper figures. Diwali depicts the various aspects of human life, relationships and the ancient traditions.
As per the Indian traditions and culture, the relationship between a ‘Guru’ or the dispeller of darkness and his disciple is given huge importance. Guru Purnima is the auspicious day when a disciple expresses his heartfelt gratitude to his Guru. According to the Hindu beliefs and conventions, a Guru is revered as the embodiment of God and the day of Guru Purnima Puja is the best occasion for the disciples to worship their preceptor.
Nellore observes Guru Purnima with religious fervor. After taking holy dip and offering worship thereafter, umpteen devotees are found to pay tribute to their spiritual leaders. Milk, honey and fruits are some of the fundamental ingredients for performing the rituals of Guru Purnima Puja in Nellore. The temples remain crowded with devotees throughout the day and also in the evening when the full moon or Purnima turns everything around silvery.
Maha Shivratri Puja
Maha Shivratri is an auspicious Hindu festival which is observed with deep devotion and extreme enthusiasm in Nellore. The various temples of Lord Shiva are found to be thronged by umpteen devotes who keep fasting throughout the day in order to offer their worships to Lord Shiva. Along with the fast and the worship, the ritual bath of the Lord is a common feature and found to be fulfilled with great zeal by the devotees. The religious people in Nellore celebrate this festival with gaiety chanting ‘mantras’ in honor of Lord Shiva. There are various kinds of offerings which are presented before the God. The Shiva Linga or the shrine is bathed with water, milk and honey. In order to purify the soul, the God is offered the holy ‘Bilva Patra’ or Stone Apple leaf. After bathing the Shiva Linga, vermillion is smeared on it since it is believed to represent virtue. For symbolizing longevity, a huge variety of fruits are offered in order to get the wishes fulfilled.
Nagula Chavithi is a pre-historic Hindu celebration of the Naga or serpent-worship observed in Andhra Pradesh which comes four days after Diwali. On this day in Andhra Pradesh and its adjoining areas, the cobras are worshipped. It is a three-day festival where Nagula Chavithi is followed by Naga Panchami and Naga Sashti on the following days. The worshipping of cobras reminds humans of living in harmony with Nature. The city of Nellore wears festive attire on this day when devotees worship the Snake God. In several colonies all over the city, snake pits are in great demand during Nagula Chavithi. The Telugu people observe this festival with great devotion and fervor. Before beginning the worship, women bathe the pit and apply turmeric. Next the family members are seen to pour milk and put eggs in the pit. The pit remains the center of attraction and children and youth are seen to burn fire crackers near the pit. A number of Telugu folk songs sung to pay tribute to the Serpent God.