The term Ugadi is derived from the Sanskrit word Yugadi, meaning “beginning of an age” or “beginning of an era”. Ugadi is celebrated as the New Year's Day by Telugus, Kannadigas and Konkanis. It falls on the first day of of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April timeframe). Maharashtrians also celebrate this day and call it Gudhi Padwa.
Ugadi (start of new year) is based on the 12th century lunar calculations of Bhaskara II. It starts on the first new moon after Sun crosses equator from south to north on Spring Equinox. However, people celebrate Ugadi on the next morning as Indian day starts from sun rise. According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that Lord Brahma started creating this world on the day of Ugadi. The festival also signifies the beginning of Srping.
Preparations for the festival begin well ahead of the actual day. Houses are given a thorough wash and people buy new clothes. On Ugadi day, people wake up before the break of dawn and take a head bath after which they decorate, the entrance of their houses with fresh mango leaves. The green mango leaves tied to the doorway signify a good crop and general well-being. In rural areas, people splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their house and draw colorful rangolis. People perform the ritualistic worship to God invoking his blessings before they start off with the New Year. They pray for their health, wealth, prosperity and success. Ugadi is considered the most auspicious time to start new ventures.
Neem leaves and raw mango have a special significance for Ugadi. It is customary to eat a chutney or pachchadi called the Ugadi Pachhadi in Telugu and Bevu-Bella in Kannada. The pachchadi has specific mixture of six tastes and symbolizes the fact that life is a mixture of different experiences (sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, surprise), which should be accepted together and with equanimity through the New Year.
The ingredients in the pachchadi are Neem leaves or flowers for bitterness signifying sadness, jaggery and ripe banana pieces for sweetness signifying happiness, green chilli pepper for its hot taste signifying anger, salt for saltiness signifying fear, tamarind juice for its sourness signifying disgust, and unripened mango for its tang signifying surprise. Bobbattu or Holigey, a special sweet containing puran filling made with chana dal and jaggery/sugar is made on this day. It can be eaten hot or cold with ghee or milk, and even eaten with coconut milk in some parts of Karnataka.
Almanac Recitation or Panchanga Sravanam at temples is a widely followed tradition on Ugadi. It is an informal social function where a priest or an elderly person provides a general forecast of the year to come. Ugadi celebrations are also marked by literary discussions, poetry recitations and recognition of authors of literary works through awards and cultural programs. Recitals of classical Carnatic music and dance are held in the evenings.
Ugadi is a festival of many flavors. It not only has religious importance but also cultural and social significance. It brings tremendous joy as it ushers in the season of Spring and the New Year.