Ugadi marks the New Year for the people of Karnataka, Andhra and Telengana. This day is observed and Gudi Padwa by Maharashtians. Ugadi or Yugadi is derived from the words ‘Yuga’ which means a new age and ‘Adi’ which means the beginning. Legend has it that Lord Brahma began creating the world on this day. It is celebrated on first day after Amavasya in the Hindu month of Chaitra.
Ugadi preparations include mangoes, mango leaves, jaggery, neem flowers - the things that symbolise spring-summer, prosperity and joys of life. Houses are cleaned and decorated with mango leaves and Muggulu or Rangoli. In Karnataka, people prepare special dishes like Bevu Bella, Obbattu (Holige), Gasgase Payasa, Mavinkai Pachadi and Mavinkai Chitranna. In Andhra, dishes like Ugadi Pachadi, Mamidakaya Pappu, Bobbatlu, Pulihora.
Maharashtrians tie a bright-hued, silk cloth at one end of a long bamboo, string flower garlands, mango and neem leaves around it and cap it with a metal Kalash (pot). This is said to symbolise success. They make dishes like Puran Poli and Shrikhand on this day.
The people of Karnataka eat Bevu Bella, a mixture prepared by crushing neem flowers and jaggery together. Ugadi Pachadi is another highlight of the festival. Both these dishes symbolise the various experiences that life takes us through, such as happiness, sorrow, victory, etc.
Ugadi Pachadi captures six food tastes – sweet (jaggery), two types of sour tastes (raw mangoes and tamarind), salt, spicy (pepper or red chillies) and bitter (neem flowers). It is said that the flavour that first touches one’s taste buds will determine what life holds for the rest of the year. If one senses sweetness, it is said to signify a happy year ahead. However, should one experience the bitterness of neem flowers, the year is believed to bring bitter-sweet experiences.
Needless to say, jaggery is the key ingredient of the Ugadi pachadi. This Pachadi is also consumed in view of the ingredients’ benefits that help counter the changes that come with the onset of summer.
People begin this auspicious day with a ritualistic oil bath, wear new clothes and offer prayers together with their loved ones.