The Culture, Art and Rituals of Ugadi

Ugadi, Yugadi or Samvatsarādi, in the state of Andhra Pradesh and parts of Karnataka is the day of the lunar New Year. The inhabitants of Maharashtra, on the same day, celebrate it under the name of Gudi Padwa. Ugadi corresponds to the beginning of spring. Ugadi marks the first day of the new year and according to it, the Shaka Samvat begins with the month of Chaitra, in late March or April.

The word Ugadi means the beginning of a new era. The exact date is celebrated on a different day every year because the Shalivahana Samvat calendar is a lunisolar calendar. In India, there are used two lunar-solar calendars, the Vikram Samvat, begun by Emperor Vikramaditya and Salivahana Samvat, initiated by Shalivahana, king of Saci. While in the Vikrama calendar each month begins with the dark phase of the moon followed by the bright half, in Shalivahana the opposite occurs. The day of Ugadi is considered sacred and auspicious.

Ugadi is, therefore, the first day after the dark moon, after the new moon day. The Vikrama calendar begins with the month of Kartika (October/November) and corresponds to the Deepavali or Divali, the festival of lights and the Shalivahana calendar begins with the month of Chaitra (March/April) and Ugadi celebration marks the new year.

Ugadi is, therefore, the start of a new Vatsaram. Preparations for Ugadi tend to start one week before the official date and resemble the spring rites of cleaning the house and buying new clothes. The threshold of the houses is also decorated with Muggu, drawings made with rice, colored powder, and dried grains. Traditionally, on this day, the people rise before dawn to an Abhyanga, a shower of water just over the head accompanied by a massage with sesame oil.

The Yugadi feast is celebrated for that reason. This is the real celebration of Ugadi. Another highlight of the day is the sharing of the Ugadi Pachadi. This dish is prepared based on six different flavors of bitter, sour, sweet, salty, astringent and spicy. It is a dish made of brown sugar, green mango, tamarind, neem flowers, salt and green pepper, and coconut. After the visit to the temple, it is the hour for a traditional lunch around which the family gather in joy and good humor.

For the Ugadi festival, people consume Bevu Bella (neem fruit jelly) and Mangai Pachadi (mango jam). Ugadi is the occasion to take note of the predictions of the almanac, the Panchangam. Ugadi precedes the arrival of spring and warmer temperatures. It is a joyful festival which symbolizes growth and prosperity. And, like the other New Year celebrations in other cultures, it also represents a chance to eliminate past mistakes and crave new achievements.