The Telugu community in the country have been urged to celebrate this year's "Plawa Naama Ugadi' New Year in moderation, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the Telugu Association of Malaysia secretary-general Siva Soorianarayanan said that celebrants should also pray for the nation's well-being to weather the pandemic together and for the return to normalcy the soonest possible.

"All 31 branches of the association nationwide will be having their celebrations on a moderate scale, beginning April 13 to April 24.

"To further facilitate and usher in the New Year celebrations, our association has also initiated nine consecutive days of online celebrations from April 13 to 21, titled 'International Sri Plawa Naama Ugadi Celebrations 2021' with Telugu associations around the world presenting their best cultural performances, fine arts and cultural competitions co-organised by the local national Youth wing," Siva said.

"This blend will further add to the colours of ushering in the New Year," he added.

The Telugu community, which is about 500,000-strong, forms the second largest Indian sub-ethnic group in the country.

Ugadi, which falls tomorrow, April 13, is celebrated on the first moon of the Chaitra month of the lunar calendar. It is believed to be the day when Brahma, The Creator God in the Hindu Trinity, formed the universe.

Besides marking the new year for teh Telugu community, Ugadi also marks the beginning of the "vasanthakalam", where plants sprout new shoots, neem flowers appear and farmers prepare their land for the next crops.

According to Siva, celebrants prepare for the new year at least a week prior, by cleaning and decorating their homes, and buying new clothes.

On the day of the festival, celebrants wake up at dawn for oil bath and Ugadi prayers are conducted afterwards.

Besides submitting to the Divine, Ugadi is also marked by the celebrants indulging in the cultural aspect of the day, via reading literary works, reciting poems, chanting mantras, Vedas, and bhajans, as well as listening to classic Telugu songs.

"However, the most-awaited ritual for Ugadi is the Panchanga Sravanam, the religious almanac predictions for the year to come, which are read at temples on the auspicious day.

"Like in all other festivals, prayers and feasts are an important aspect of celebrations and first on the menu is the Ugadi Pachadi. It is a mixture of ingredients that represent six tastes – neem (bitter), raw mango (tangy), tamarind juice (sour), green chilli/pepper (heat), jaggery (sweet) as well as a pinch of salt," Siva said.

These six tastes, he added, were known as "Satruchi", and symbolises life as a blend of different experiences – sorrow, joy, anger, fear, disgust and surprise – all of which should be accepted, he added.

Astro Ulagam would like to wish all Telugus in the country, and around the world: "Sri Plawa Naama Ugadi Subhakankshalu."

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