Ugadi is a festival marking the New Year’s Day in certain parts of India. It is mainly celebrated by the Hindus in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra states. The festival can be considered as the New Year’s Day for the Hindus living between Kaveri River and Vindhya Mountains who follow the southern lunisolar calendar. Thus Ugadi marks the astrological new year for the people of these regions and is celebrated with huge fanfare. It is known as Yugadi in Karnataka and Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra.
The date of Ugadi festival is determined by calculating the position of the moon. It begins on the first new moon after the Spring Equinox and is celebrated the next morning as an Indian day starts with the sunrise. In 2020, both Ugadi and Gudi Padwa fall on 25th March, Wednesday. Ugadi 2020 is a public holiday in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana regions. Gudi Padwa is the traditional New Year of Marathi Hindus.
Astrological relevance of Ugadi
The Ugadi festival falls on the day 1 of the Chaitra month – the first month of Hindu lunisolar calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, it typically falls on March or April. The term Ugadi / Yugadi means ‘the beginning of a new age’. It is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘yuga’ which means age and ‘adi’ which means beginning.
Ugadi marks the first day of the first Shukla paksha (waxing phase) of the astrological new year. This same occasion is observed as New Year by certain communities in North India too. For example, the Sindhis observe this occasion as ‘Cheti Chand’, their new year festival. The lunar day in a region starts and ends according to the positions of the Moon with respect to that region. Being so, the Ugadi festival, known as GudiPadwa in Maharashtra, is sometimes observed a Gregorian day earlier.
Luni-Solar calendars, unlike the Solar calendars, consider the positions of the Moon and the Sun to divide the year into months and days. Thus the New Year falls twice in the Luni-Solar calendars and is celebrated in different names and with different traditions in various regions in India.
The legend behind Ugadi
The common legend behind these festivals is related to creation. It is believed that the God Brahma started creation on this occasion. To some, the occasion commemorates the coronation of Rama in Ayodhya after his victory over Ravana. The nine-day long spring festival of Vasanta Navratri begins on this day and concludes on Ram Navami.
The festival is celebrated by Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Kodava, Tulu and Konkani diaspora in various parts of India with great fanfare. They make it an occasion for family gatherings and have sumptuous feasts. The celebrations include drawing colourful patterns on the floor called Kolamulus (Kannada: Rangoli), decorating entrance doors with mango leaves called Toranalu (Kannada: Toranagalu), buying and giving new clothes, having a special bath followed by oil treatment, visiting temples, giving charity to the poor and preparing and sharing some special food items.
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On Ugadi, it’s a tradition to clean the front of their houses with water, apply cow dung paste and draw colourful floral designs. Also, people decorate their front doors with mango leaves. Preparing special dishes such as pulihora, bobbatlu (bhakshalu/polelu/oligalu), burelu and pachadi is a major tradition. Raw mango which will be available in plenty during this time of the year may form an important ingredient to these food items.
Among the special Ugadi dishes, Pachadi or pachadi is the most notable one. It’s a chutney-like dish with ingredients providing all flavours/tastes – sweet, sour, tangy and bitter. It is a symbolic reminder that one must expect complex phases of life and face all types of experiences in the coming new year. Jaggery or brown sugar, neem flowers, salt, tamarind or raw mango form the ingredients of pachadi which give all the different tastes.
Importance of Gudi Padwa
The Gudi padwa celebrations in Maharashtra are similar to the Ugadi or Yugadi celebrations. The term Gudi Padwa was coined from the words ‘gudi’ which means flag and ‘pāḍavā’ which is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘pratipad’ meaning the first day of the lunar fortnight. A special Gudhi flag garlanded with flowers, mango and neem leaves and topped with an upturned silver or copper vessel will be erected on this day. The Gudi Padwa festival signifies the approach of spring and the harvest of rabi crops.
Ugadi or Gudi Padwa is a colourful event celebrating the new year in the Hindu lunisolar calendar. Though the Hindus all over India follow the lunisolar calendar, many states have their own regional calendars following the solar cycle. Thus, the festival marking the astrological new year varies with different states and occurs at different times of the year. For example, the astrological new year celebrations of the southern state of Kerala falls on April 14 or 15 marked by the festival of Vishu.