Saturday, April 4, 2009

UGADI-Our New Year Day

Friends recently that is on March 27th I celebrated New Year day. It is celebrated by the people from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The New Year Day is called as UGADI in my mother tongue:Telugu and Kannada, the language spoken in the state of Karnataka and as GUDIPADAVA in Marathi, language spoken in the state of Maharashtra. 

Ugadi is a combination of two words Yuga meaning year and Adi meaning beginning. That is it means the beginning of the year. We follow the Hindu Vedic Calender known as Panchanga which is based on the transit of the moon. We have a sixty year cycle, each year having a name which suggests what is in store for us in the year. This year the name is Virodhi or enmity.

This being the first day in the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated with great enthusiasm and by doing good deeds as it is believed that whatever we do today it is repeated through out the year. 

The main door of the house is adorned with Mango and Neem leaves string known as “thorana”. The base of the threshold is decorated with turmeric and vermilon.

In front of the main door the floor is decorated with beautiful Rangavalli- patterns drawn using white chalk powder and filled in with colours.

We wake up before sunrise to witness the sunrise and take an elaborate bath-first applying oil, then applying body pack using some herbs and chickpea flour . Neem leaves are added to the bath water. After the traditional bath special prayers are offered to our Gods/Goddess. Along with other dishes like rice, curries chutneys, sweets and other savouries specially made on the occasion, we also offer a special dish (chutney) made only on this day. Then first the chutney is eaten.

The special chutney(something like a dip) is made with Neem flowers, jaggery, tamarind pulp, grated raw mango, grated fresh coconut, chillies and salt etc. These are the basic ingredients mixed together to form a thick sauce like or a little bit watery (I prefer this) dish.
Neem flowers, raw mangoes, sugar cane, grapes and bananas


Tamarind pulp and jaggery

Then it is seasoned with asafoetida, mustard seeds etc fried in a little bit of Ghee(clarified butter).Apart from these people add different things like coconut milk, honey, ghee(clarified butter), fruits-banana, peaches, grapes etc and dry fruits like fried cashews, almonds, pistachios,raisins, etc. Recipes differ from family to family and are handed down over generations.

This shloka/verse is chanted at the time of consuming the mixture.
“Shathaayur vajra dehaya sarvasampath karaayacha
Sarvarishtha vinaashaaya nimbakadala bhakshanam”

meaning “consume Neem leaves to attain a healthy body, gain wealth, destroy negativity”.


This chutney contains all the six tastes-sweet, sour, bitter, hot(Chillies) salt etc. This indicates that like the chutney our life is a mixture of all good and difficult moments- laughter and tears. One should not always want only sweet things(Good times) but also welcome sour/bitter(difficult times). Unless one faces adversities in life one cannot know the value of the happier times. Medicinally, since this marks the starting of spring time- transition from winter to summer in order to strengthen our body we eat Neem flowers (for purifying blood and building resistance) jaggery (strength) etc which all give us good health. Similarly all other ingredients have some medicinal properties and help strengthening our immunity system for the summer.

India is a country of villages (was?) basically dependent on agriculture. So all of our festivals are related to agriculture. This is spring time when nature is beautiful and colourful. We get Neem flowers, raw mangoes, sugar cane etc. Mother Nature is at its best with colourful and scented flowers like Jasmine, Chrysanthemum, Hibiscus and other flowers. Cuckoos call out for their mates. It is said that they eat the Neem friut-which is suprisingly sweet not bitter which gives them sweetest voice.

The New Panchangam is worshiped, opened and read for the first time. It tells us how the ensuing year would be for the world, or coutry and 12 Moon Signs of Aries to Pisces. It also tells us which crops would be good, which would fail, which commodities would be cheaper, how much rainfall, eclipses, natural calamities and auspicious times for celebrating marriages etc, remedies to be done for warding off bad times.

All the family members wear new clothes on this day and take the blessings of the elders by touching their feet. Gifts are exchanged. Specially elders give gifts or money to the younger members of the family as blessings. Various dishes are made and a sumptuous feast is served at lunch time. It contains rice, curries, chutneys, curd, rasam, pulusu, lentils, sweet dishes and other special dishes. In the evenings we visit friends, relations and temples. In temples the New Panchangam is read out. Those who do not know how to read it hear out what is in store for them in the year ahead.

1 comment:

nagashree said...

nice pictures Sailaja. I like the the doorway (hosthilu as I say) decor. it looks so traditional. Wish I could do to my home so, but the damn polish, my MIL would not let that happen. i just love to see entry doors with that turmeric and kumkum applied and a pair of stone or wood carved pillars will also be pretty (too much right?).