Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ugadi – Welcoming the New Year

The festival of Ugadi marks the commencement of the New Year for the people of Deccan region of India. However, many regions in the country celebrate this day as their new year as well, albeit with different names. While in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, people call it as Ugadi or Yugadi, the people of Maharashtra celebrate it as Gudi Padwa. The Marwari people of Rajasthan celebrate call it as Thapna while the Sindhi celebrate this day as their New Year day, Cheti Chand. Sajibu nongma panba in Manipur and Baisakhi in Punjab are observed on the same day. 

The Etymology & Observance
The word, Ugadi has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuga’ and ‘adi’ which means ‘the beginning of a new age’. The festival usually falls during the month of March-April every year and is celebrated with great fanfare in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. 

The Celebration
Celebrations of the Ugadi festival begin weeks before the main event. Houses are cleaned and shopping for new clothes and items related to the festival are done in advance. On the day of Ugadi, people get up at dawn to take bath and the whole house is decorated with mango leaves. As per the legend, Karthik encouraged people to tie green mango leaves to the doorway as it signifies a good crop and general well-being.

The main event of the day is the ‘Ugadi Pachhadi’, which is a symbolic meal consisting of a dish with six different components. The ingredients of this preparation are of different tastes but when mixed in definite proportions, they find perfect harmony resulting in a delicious dish. 

Jaggery is sweet and represents happiness in life. Salt signifies taste while the bitter Neem flowers represent unhappy moments in life. The sourness of Tamarind is the representative of sad moments of life while the hot Chilli powder suggests angry moments. The tangy Raw Mango pieces added in the dish are suggestive of the element of surprise in our lives. These different tastes represent six faces of life that should be handled by and balanced in such a way as to make one’s life on earth, a beautiful and complete experience.

In Andhra Pradesh, a special dish called Bhakshyalu or Puran Poli is prepared. The people of Karnataka make Holige which is gram and jaggery filling stuffed in flat bread and eaten with ghee or milk. People also gather to read the religious Panchagam of the year in congregation. It is a customary practice to attend the temple in the evening of this day where a Siddhanthi (Pandit) recites Panchanga Sravanam.

Other Customs
This is beginning of the mango season and since raw mangoes are available in abundance and people make lot of pickles to last a year. Kavi Sammelanam, which is a literary feast, too is held across many cities in Andhra Pradesh.

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