With traditional songs and classical and folk dances spiced with a touch of Bollywood and plenty of food, the Quad-City Telugu Sangham, or Telugu Association, celebrated Ugadi at Pleasant Valley High School on Saturday.
As Bhogalingeswara Rao Chimpidi explains, Ugadi is the New Year for those of Telugu and Kannadigas heritage in India.
“But it is more than just the celebration of the New Year,” Chimpidi said. “It is a celebration of a new era, a new beginning, a new life.”
There is much religious significance tied to the celebration, he said.
The celebration falls on different days each year at the end of March or early April because the Hindi calendar is lunisolar, Chimpidi said. This year, the day fell on April 8, but the celebration could not be held until now because this is the first time a place for the celebration was open.
There are about 250 families of Telugu heritage in the Quad-Cities who are members of the association, but many people from outside the area attended the celebration, he said.
Telugu is a south-central Dravidian language primarily spoken by 75 million people in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in India, he said.
Padmaja Pillutla, an associate professor of finance at Western Illinois University, said she and her husband, Arun, who is a business professor at St. Ambrose University, understand Hindi but their native language is Telugu.
“Both languages have Sanskrit as a base, but they are different,” she said. “Telugu is one of the oldest languages spoken.”
Pillutla’s daughter Amulya, 14, said she is learning to read and write Telugu, but they do watch a lot of Bollywood at home. Because those movies are in Hindi, she said, Amulya turns to Mom and Dad for translation because they speak both languages.
As the celebration continued, performers young and old took the stage to entertain the crowd that topped 500 people.
Nisha Karthik, who choreographed many of the performances, kept an eye on the stage. While many of the dances were traditional, there was a contemporary touch, along with some Bollywood.
“I always have a blend of dances,” Karthik said. “The three main areas this time were Indian folk, rock ‘n' roll with Indian folk and classical and Bollywood. We’ve got a crowd here that loves Bollywood.”
Aruna Annavajjula was one of two people overseeing the food. Each packet came with what is known as Ugadi Pachadi.
“This sauce has the six flavors the tongue can distinguish, and each is a symbol of the emotions, the joys and the sorrows of life,” Annavajjula said. There is bitterness for sadness, sweetness for happiness, pepper for its heat signifying anger, salt for fear, sourness for disgust and tang for surprise, she said.
Ramagopal Vedula, a project manager at Deere & Co., has two sons ages 12 and 15. It is important they understand the culture and history, which is why attending celebrations such as Ugadi is so important.
“Otherwise, the culture eventually will be lost,” he said.
Moline neurosurgeon Vasan Purighalla has provided many opportunities to the Telugu community’s youth, including sponsoring a school where the children can learn the language.
“It’s not just for the youth but for the grandparents,” Purighalla said. “When our children go back to our home to visit, their grandparents need to be able to understand them, and the children need to be able to understand their grandparents. It makes the experience with grandma and grandpa that much more special.”
Arun Pillutla said that knowing one’s history and language is important to one’s future.
“If you don’t know your history, you’re unhinged,” he said. “By knowing our history, everyone here knows what is expected of them, now and in the future.”