April 29, 2002
Ringing in the New Year
By Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
They didn't blow paper horns, clink champagne glasses or set off glittery fireworks. Still, a group of local residents celebrated the New Year this April just the same. On Saturday, April 13, 20,000-plus Indian American and Asian-Indian residents living on the Eastside ushered in Ugadi (pronounced Yu-ga-dee), the Indian New Year. According to the Hindu lunar calendar, the day signifies the onset of spring and new life.
In an effort to continue their close ties with East Indian culture and holidays, many Indian Americans observe the New Year holiday with festivities. One local group, the Kannada Sangha of Greater Seattle, honored the holiday by holding a festival at Woodinville High School (WHS) on April 27. "We are a group of people who are all from Karnataka (a southern state in India) and who want to let our kids know about our culture and why we have such events," says Chitra Mandyam, one of the festival organizers. The majority of people who attended the event were of Indian descent, but Americans of other descents also attended. Mandyam, who immigrated to America 10 years ago, emphasizes the purpose of the event. "The main purpose is to celebrate our festival and to let our kids know about our culture," she says "The bottom line is to have fun."
The festival began with a social hour. The adults chatted and munched on snacks as the children learned Indian artwork. One art corner involved jasmine flowers created out of paper. "The children were taught how to string a garland with flowers," says Mandyam, explaining that jasmine is a springtime flower that grows in southern India and associated with being festive. She also mentions that Hindu is India's predominant religion and the garlands adorn picture and statue idols in an Indian temple or home.
In addition, she says another tropical plant serves as decoration during the Indian New Year. Mango leaves, strung together in clusters, hang like Christmas ornaments in a house's entryway. Locating mango leaves in America is not that easy however. Mandyam explains that Indian Americans resort to improvisation, using plastic leaves or making their own. During the kid's art time at the New Year festival in Woodinville, the children designed paper mango leaves in one of their art activities.
Following the parents' social hour, folk dances, comedy skits and Indian songs provided entertainment for both the kids and adults. In one expressive dance, young girls wore long Indian skirts representing the seven colors of the rainbow and Mandyam adds, "They wore a shimmery white sash around their waist." She says that the children who attended the festival wore new clothing, as is the tradition in India. Some dressed in costumes made in India, such as saris or long skirts. "They're very colorful and hand-woven, handwork," she says, describing the fabrics.
At 7:30 pm, the festival concluded with a traditional Indian dinner highlighted by a dish called bisi (meaning hot) bele (lentils) bhat (rice).
Jay Haripriyan, another organizer of the New Year celebration, expressed appreciation to those responsible. "The show was a grand success due to the efforts of the eight organizing committee families who have taken the time and interest to make this happen. Thanks to Woodinville High School for having provided us their school facility."