Ugadi, which is one of the important festivals of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, falls on Chaitra Shuddha Pratipada which is considered to be the first day of the month of Chaitra. Every Year this festival is celebrated on a different day. The beginning of the year or New Year is called Ugadi as per the Hindu scripture. It is believed to be the day when the prettiest season of spring starts when nature shows all its beauty with blooming new flowers and fresh leaves. Mango trees get filled with raw mangoes and nightingales start chanting in their sweetest voice. The world looks afresh with an altogether fresh scenic beauty spread all around in nature. Since the Tamil people follow a combined solar and Lunar calendar, they celebrate this day as the beginning of the year and they believe that this is one of the most auspicious days to venture into new projects and ventures.
In the state of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh this festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervor. People on this day start it off by taking an extensive bath in oil and also the house is cleaned as much as it can be. Mango leaves which are called thoranas are used to decorate the doors of the houses and with great love people draw Rangolis in front of their houses. All the members of the family get dressed up in new clothes and pray and worship the almighty for a flourishing and life. Also, the women of the family make delicious food in the honor of the occasion. One of the very famous dishes of the occasion is ‘Ugadi Pachadi’, which people prepare and distribute among each other.
The temple all around gets thronged with devotees and people enjoy this day in each other’s company. One of the major parts of this festival celebration is Panchanga Sravanam which refers to the tradition of the established astrologer reading the prediction for the year in a temple or some religious place. The festival.
Besides Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, it is also celebrated in Maharashtra where it is known with the name of GudiPadwa. People decorate their houses with mango leaves which are related to the story of Lord Kartik and Lord Ganesh. It is believed that the two sons of Lord Shiva and Parvati, Kartik and Lord Ganesh were very much fond of mangoes and so, on Ugadi mango leaves are put as a piece of decoration on the doorways. Besides that, mango leaves signify general well-being and good crop. People, like in all the festivals in India, pray to God for the well-being of their family and friends.
--> Like any other festival in the country, preparations for this festival also begin almost a week in advance with people cleaning and decorating their houses, buying new clothes, sweets, gifts, etc.
--> Cow dung water is splashed outside houses and colorful floral designs are painted on walls.
--> Front doors are decorated with Rangoli, Mango leaves and red earth as a symbol to welcome all friendly passersby.
--> On the day of the festival, the rituals begin right at the break of dawn with each one having a head bath after massaging sesame oil all over the body.
--> Temples and houses are decorated with mango leaves and jasmine flowers
--> This is followed by all members gathering together and praying to the almighty seeking his blessings for a prosperous year ahead. Various other rituals are performed in the puja like:
- Immersing God idols in sesame oil
- Performing aarthi and the senior most lady of the family applying Kumkum on the foreheads of all members.
- Offering flowers of Neem, Tamarind and Jasmine to Gods
- The steps followed in the puja are: Abhisheka, Alankara, Naivedya and Mangalarathi.
- Oota is offered as meals to Gods and then the same is had as Prasad.
- Chanting traditional mantras, conducting havana and asking pundits for future predictions are also common practices followed by many on this day. The Panchanga Sravanam is also done at the temples by the priests.
- Prayers are also offered to the Sun and then Vepapoota Pachadi (pickle made from Neem flowers) is had in an empty stomach.
- Later reading of the traditional Panchanga by the elders and respected members of the society also takes place at an informal social ceremony called Panchanga Sravanam. Traditionally it was done at temples but with the onset of modern technology it can also be heard through radios and televisions in the comfort of one’s houses.
- Food too occupies a special place as sumptuous traditional meals consisting of various dishes are prepared in gatherings and enjoyed by all. Dishes that are prepared often have symbolic significance.
- A dish called Ugadi Pachadi is prepared from the paste of tamarind, neem buds, jiggery and mango. The sweet and sour taste of the dish represents the variety of happy and sad tastes of life.
- Several other dishes are also prepared like the puliogure and holige (obbattu) in Karnataka or similarly pulihora and bobbatlu in Andhra Pradesh and puran polis or sweet rotis in Maharashtra.
All these rituals and activities clubbed together with the vigor of the festival and beautiful weather give many shades to the festival of Ugadi and hence fill hearts of all that are a part of it with contentment and joy.