Yugadi –  a New Year celebration

Mysore Palace lit up for Ugadi

What is Yugadi?

The term Yugadi is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘beginning of a new yuga or a new era’ or the beginning of a new age. The festival of Ugadi is a change in the lunar orbit and the beginning of the Hindu lunar calendar i.e New Years Day.  

In 2017 it falls on Wednesday 29th March and is a public holiday. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar.

It is the beginning of spring, a season associated with joy and prosperity in India.

How is it celebrated?

It is celebrated with gatherings of the extended family with lots of food and feasting. Preparations begin a week before the festival with houses given a thorough wash, shopping for new clothes and buying other festival items. 

On the morning of Ugadi people wake up before dawn and take a ceremonial bath with oil and Bengal gram flour which is believed to purify the body and soul to perform the rituals. New clothes and jewellery are then worn.

The house door / entrance is decorated with fresh mango leaves to signify good crops and general well being. As they also give out oxygen it will bring freshness into the home (and good health).  Neem leaves are also used (which act as a disinfectant). People draw colourful floral designs (rangoli) at the entrance to their homes to signify they are ready to welcome guests.

People perform the ritual worship to god invoking his blessings before they start off the new year. They pray for health, wealth and prosperity and success in business -it’s a good time to start new businesses. Mantras are chanted and puja performed. The most important ritual of the day is the panchanga sravana which is an informal function where elderly and respected person reads out the almanac and predictions are made for the new year. This ritual used to be performed by priests in temple and focussed on the rain forecast for the year.

There is a symbolic eating of a dish (a paste) with six tastes called ‘Bevu-Bella’ which is only served during this festival. It symbolises that life is a different mix of different experiences and human emotions: sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. These experiences should all be accepted equally throughout the new year. The six tastes are: sour (tamarind juice), sweet (jaggery), salt, bitter (Neem buds), astringent (unripened mango) and spicy hot (green chilli) or pungent and are called Ugadi Pachhadi. Eating this dish is believed to subdue the Arishadvargas, the six passions of the mind, desire or emotions attributed to living beings. These are: kama (desire or lust), krodha (anger), lobh or lobha (greed), moha (attachment), mada or ahankar (ego, pride) and matsarya (jealousy). These negative charactersistics are believed to prevent man achieving moksha or salvation. A harmonious blend of ingredients in the pachadi is considered to eventually help to win over self and gain eternal bliss. As a consequence great care and skill is displayed in the preparation of these dishes.

The fragrance of intense sticks waft through the warm air and in homes the aroma of puliogure (tamarind rice) and holige (a sweet dish) fill the air. These dishes are believed to bring peace and prosperity when offered to the goddess Parvathi.
In Karnataka there is a special dish called Obbattu (or Holige) which is a filling of jaggery and boiled sugar to make a paste which is stuffed inside a roti. It is eaten with ghee, milk or coconut milk and can be eaten hot or cold.

Celebrations by our friends

We bought sarees for three of our friends celebrating Ugadi. They were delighted. They are all going to t heir villages to celebrate with their families for a few days. 

Yugadi Habbada Shubhashayagalu! (Kannada for “Greetings for the festival of Ugadi”)


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