Ugadi, the nuthana samvatsaradhi or the New Year Day, is celebrated on Chaitra Shudda Pratipada or the first day of Chaitra Masam (Chait month) in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. There is a great significance and cultural importance behind celebrating Telugu New Year and Kannada New Year on Chaitra Pratipada. This day is also celebrated as Gudi Padwa or Marathi New Year in Maharashtra.
In 2014, Ugadi or Gudi Padwa will be celebrated on March 31.
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Rituals observed on Ugadi signify many things – leaving behind turbulence of past, commencement of new phase in life with renewed vigour and energy. ‘Bevu-bella – combination of bitter and sweet reminds us of pleasure and pain to be accepted with equanimity.
Indians are famous for celebrating their festivals in style and grand manner. All festivals have their own purpose and significance. They could symbolise seasonal change, a new year, signify a value or stand for a great occasion. Thus Sankranti indicates onset of harvest season, Ugadi implies heralding of the New Year, and Deepavali signifies the victory of the good over evil. The festivals coupled with specific rituals add a zest to life.
The word Ugadi is derived from Sanskrit, which means beginning of a new year. (Yuga – era, aadi – beginning). Coming close on the heels of Holi, the festival of colours, this day marks the beginning of the new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon’s orbit.
It also heralds the onset of the spring – synonymous with ushering in of new life on earth. Spring is considered as the first season of the year indicating a new beginning. The trees shed old leaves paving way for the new one.
The verdant trees stand as a metaphor to vibrancy of life, proclaiming the truth that change is the only permanent thing in the world. The occasion signifies commencement of a new phase in life with renewed vigour and energy, past the defeats and unpleasant moments of the bygone year.
Ugadi is observed on Chaitra Shuddha Padyami of the Hindu calendar. It is believed that Lord Brahma began his creation on this day. The great Indian mathematician Bhaskaracharya proclaimed the commencement of the New Year from Ugadi day. It is said that Lord Rama began his rule in Ayodhya after killing Ravana on this day.
Mythology says Lord Vishnu donned Matsyavatara on Ugadi and the south Indian King Shaalivahana commenced Shaalivahana Shake (era) from this day to register his victory. While it is called Ugadi in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, in Maharashtra the festival is known as Gudi Padwa.
Symbolism of Ugadi:
Various rituals mark the ushering in of the new era. Temples and homes are decorated on this day. The entrances are decorated with fresh mango leaves. The significance of tying mango leaves relates to a legend. Karthika and Ganesha, the two sons of Lord Shiva and Parvathi were said to be fond of mangoes. According to mythology, Karthika exhorted people to tie mango leaves to the doorway signifying a bumper crop and general wellbeing of the household. Colourful rangolis are drawn in front of the houses to welcome the New Year.
The rituals observed on the Ugadi day signify moving ahead in life leaving the turbulence of the past. The day begins with a ceremonial bath. Elders and children alike wear new clothes and pray for a prosperous new year.
A paste of Bevu-Bella (neem and jaggery) is served on this day. The paste has a special significance; it denotes the tastes that the life would offer to an individual in his or her course.
The combination of bitter and sweet reminds us that there would be pleasure and pain in life and one should accept both with equanimity of mind. Neem, though tastes bitter, has medicinal properties as well. Thus consumption of neem also signifies that bitterness or pain refines a human being.
In Andhra Pradesh, “Ugadi Pachadi” is prepared with neem leaves, jaggery, raw mango, tamarind juice, green chilli and a pinch of salt. The ingredients symbolise six tastes – bitterness, sweet, tang, sourness, heat and saltiness corresponding to six experiences of anger, happiness, disgust, sadness, fear and surprise. Obbattu or holige is the principal dish for the occasion in Karnataka.
The 60-year cycle brings us Nandana nama samvatsara this year. ‘Panchanga shravana‘ (reading of the Panchanga) is usually held in the evenings. The predictions on rain, the crops, the auspicious and inauspicious period, the loss and the gain for the year are read aloud as a sort of preparing the people for the life ahead. Children and the young seek blessings from the elders on the occasion.
In Maharashtra, the festival is observed as Gudi Padwa. A bamboo pole (Gudi) covered by a garland-adorned goblet and a silk cloth is worshipped on the occasion. The pole signifies success.
Ugadi, a celebration of life, thus announces the beginning of all that is new under the sun – the plant and the animal kingdom. While the festive spirit has dwarfed over time for various reasons, the festival provides an occasion to herald change in one’s life, together.