Understanding Ugadi and its Rituals

After the hustle and bustle of New Year’s, Holi and the wedding season, it’s time to celebrate the Telugu New Year – Ugadi. The name is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Yug’ and ‘Adi’,meaning ‘age’ and ‘starting’ respectively. Therefore, the word denotes the beginning of a new age. Now, while we know that the festival is celebrated mainly by Telugu people, it has many counterparts, like GudiPadwa in Maharashta, Baisakhi in Punjab, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, and Vishnu in Kerala.

The Legend of Ugadi

As with any other Hindu festival, there are several legends associated with the festival of Ugadi. But one of the most popular is that of Lord Brahma,who is said to have created the universe on this auspicious day, in the month of Chaitra. The occasion is also known as ChaitraSuddhaPadhyami.Since Ugadi also overlaps with the onset of spring and the harvest season, this day is believedto be highly auspicious forstarting new ventures.

Rituals for the Day

Like many of India’s festivals, Ugadi too has many unique traditions and age-old rituals to be performed.These includecleaning the house, purchasing new clothes, taking an oil bath,decorating the house with mango leaves, and rangoli-making. And let’s not forget preparing the customary Ugadipachadiand other delicacies like bobbatlu and pulihora, and of course, offering prayers. After the puja is performed, an important practice is reciting the horoscope for the upcoming year. While these are the best-known Ugadirituals, there are quite a fewlesser known traditions that are performed as well. Take a look!

  • Reflection in ghee: Seeing one’s reflection in a bowl of molten ghee, on Ugadi day, is said to yield fruitful results.
  • EnneShastra: The elderly women of the household applykumkum to the younger members of the family and doan aarti.
  • Abhyangafor Gods: The idols of Gods and Goddesses are also given oil baths on this day, and then given an offering of mango leaves, neem flowers and tamarind.
  • Oota: An offering of a meal to God as prasad is made before it is consumed by anyone else.
  • KaviSammelan: After completing all the customs of Ugadi at home, people visit temples or other venues where special KaviSammelans(poetic recitation events) are organised. Poets and literature lovers take pleasure in listening and reciting poems on topics ranging from ancient times to the present day. That’s probably why, very often, Ugadi is also referred to as the 'festival of poets'.

A Sense of Customs

While most people are familiar with the rituals performed on the day of Ugadi, very little is known about their significance. For instance, the main entrance of the house or office is decorated with mango and neem leaves, and rangoli is drawn outside. Everyone is expected to take oil baths before they begin the day. Let’s take a look at the relevance of someof these customs:

  • Significance of door hangings: Ever wondered why tying a string of mango leaves on the entrance of your house is said to be auspicious? According to myth, Lord Shiva’s sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya, were very fond of mangoes. So Kartikeya once said that decorating the doorway with fresh mango leaves will yield good crops and bring prosperity.
  • The story behind UgadiPachadi: This divine dish is made up of six different ingredients – jaggery, tamarind, salt, neem flowers, chilli powder and raw mango. As a whole, the dish signifies the ups and downs, joys and sorrows of life, each of which should be accepted with an open mind. The individual ingredients used to make this dish too have their own importance. Jaggeryis said to bring happiness, tamarind stands for the unhappy moments, salt adds flavour to life, chilli powder refers to the aggressive moments, neem flowers symbolise unpleasant times, and raw mango signifies sadness.
  • Magic of jasmine: Since Ugadimarks the beginning of springtime, the air atthis time is filled with the delightful fragrance of jasmine. So jasmine flowers are offered to God during puja at home and temples, and worn by women in their hair as ornaments.
  • The practice of PanchangaSravanam: Ugadi marks the beginning of the Hindu lunar calendar, which depicts a change in the moon’s orbit. The traditional practice, wherein an elderly woman reads the Hindu calendar,is doneto predict the future,so as to be prepared for the year’s happenings and come up withsolutions to overcome any upcoming difficulties. The scriptures of the Panchanga state that the readers and the listeners will both benefit from this, and doing this is equal to having a dip in the holy river Ganges.

  • The importanceof green:Ugadi heralds the season of spring, when Mother Nature wakes up from her deep slumber to cover the earth in a blanket of green.Trees giving birth to new leaves and buds open up and transform into beautiful flowers. The aura of jasmine fillsthe air, mango trees becomeladen with fruit, and nightingales fill the sky with theirsong.
  • As spring accompanies new life on earth, this festival is associated with joy and prosperity. The nine day-long spring festival of VasantaNavratri begins on this day and concludes on Ramnavami.

Now that we’ve taken a closer look at Ugadiand its relevance, let’s hope the spirit of the festival carries us through the rest of the year. Live a happy and healthy life, and be sure to learn from any negative experiences that may come your way. Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Ugadi!    -Niharika