Grandma is at the forefront of all celebrations. We turn to her to know more about what should be traditionally done or eaten on that special day. Her reservoir of knowledge, experience and practice is what we rely on. Today, living in nuclear families, most often faraway from home, we know Ugadi is round the corner, but how many of us know what we should do on that day, why we celebrate it and why we eat what we eat on that day?
The Telugu and Kannadiga new year is called Ugadi. Literally translated, it means the beginning of an era". The Saka calendar begins with the month of Chaitra and Ugadi is celebrated on the first day of this month.
It is believed that Lord Brahma created the Universe on this day, it marks the beginning of the new Hindu lunar calendar, with a change in the moon`s orbit. Lord Brahma is believed to have created the days, nights, weeks, months, seasons and years to count time.
Ugadi heralds the beginning of spring: the season of joy, plenty, growth and prosperity. Spring ushers in new life on earth.Vasanta Navratri ( the nine day spring festival) commences on this day and ends on Ramnavami, nine days later.
Ugadi is an auspicious time to start new ventures. Around this time, New Year`s day is also celebrated in Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Punjab.
On this day temples are decorated, and most homes and puja rooms are decorated with fresh flowers, especially with jasmine, and fresh mango leaves.
The significance of tying mango leaves relates to a legend. It is said that Kartik and Ganesha, the two sons of Lord Siva and Parvati were very fond of mangoes. As the legend goes Kartik exhorted people to tie green mango leaves to the doorway signifying a good crop and general wellbeing for the household.
The day begins with the ceremonial bath, followed by prayers. The family congregates amidst fanfare and savours traditional cuisine on Ugadi day.
The family gathers together to hear the recitation of the religious almanac, the Panchangam, which is a general forecast of the coming year. Traditionally a family elder opens the Panchangam and pronounces the forecast.
Neem buds, jaggery, raw mango and tamarind juice are ground together to make a fine paste. Called Ugadi Pachadi" in Telugu, it is called Bevu Bella" in Kannada. This paste has a very special significance: it denotes all the tastes life has to offer viz. bitter, sweet and sour. Eating this reminds us that life is a mixture of plesure and pain, and we should be prepared to accept whatever life offers.The importance of it lies in it`s symbolism. All members of the family taste this paste / chutney and it acts as a reminder to them that nothing in life is constant.
Other special dishes are also prepared for the occasion. In Andhra Pradesh, eatables such as "pulihora, bobbatlu" and dishes made with raw mango go well with the occasion. In Karnataka too, similar preparations are made but called "puliogure" and "holige". The Maharashtrians make "puran poli" or sweet rotis.