Ugadi

Ugadi is the lunar New Year's Day for the people of the Telugu and Kannada communities in India.

Updated: June 7, 2021


Ugadi or Yugadi is celebrated as the first day of the year by people of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Ugadi is celebrated as Gudi Padwa by the people of Maharashtra. Both Ugadi and Gudi Padwa are celebrated on the same day. Ugadi is the lunar New Year's Day for the people of the Telugu and Kannada communities in India. Ugadi falls on "Chaitra Shudhdha Paadyami" or the first day of the bright half of the Indian month of Chaitra. It  usually falls in late march or early April in the Gregorian calendar and this date moon signifies a change in the seasons and essentially means Ugadi is a spring festival.

Significance of Ugadi:

The legend behind this festival is that Lord Brahma created the universe on Ugadi. The name Yugadi or Ugadi is derived from the Sanskrit words yuga means age and adi means beginning. So combinely it means the beginning of a new age. The nine day long spring festival of Vasanta Navratri (Chaitra Navratri) begins on this day and concludes on Ram Navami.

Celebration of Ugadi:

Before the beginning of Chaitra, people clean and whitewash their homes. Temples as well as the deity rooms in their homes are decorated with jasmine flowers and mango leaves. The day is observed by drawing colorful patterns on floor called kolamulus which is known as Muggulu in Telugu and Rangoli in Kannada, mango leaf decorations on doors called toranalu or Torana in Kannada, buying and giving gifts such as new clothes, giving charity to the poor, special bath followed by oil treatment, preparing and sharing a special food called pachadi, and visiting Hindu temples.

On the day of Ugadi, the entire family wakes up before dawn and take a head bath after massaging the whole body with sesame oil and wear new, traditional clothes. Then they clean the idols of gods and goddesses within the house in oil. Neem flowers, mango and tamarind are given up as offering and the enrire family do prayers. The elderly women in the family then apply oil and vermilion to the forehead of the younger members following which all members of the family watch their reflection in a vessel of molten ghee. Panchanga or the new Hindu almanac is read for the first time on this day. The pachanga lists the fortune of the individuals according to their astrological signs, the rainfall for the year, eclipses that may occur in the year, and a general prediction of the country's affairs. It is believed that special blessings are bestowed on those who read and listen to the Panchanga. So everyone worship Pachanga on Ugadi. The temple priest or whosoever is reading the Panchanga is gifted new clothes as a token of thanks. Devotees decorate their front door with red earth and a string of mango and neem leaves. The entrance is also decorated with Rangoli in white chalk and colored powder are used to fill the outlined figure. The "Indra Dhwaja", which is meant to bring in rain, is worshiped. This is also a feature of Gudi Padwa, Maharashtra's New Year. The pachadi called as Bevu Bella is a notable festive food that combines all flavors that include sweet, sour, salty, bitter. This festive Hindu food is made from tamarind paste, neem flowers, brown sugar or sweet jaggery, salt, and sometimes mango. It is a symbolic reminder that one must expect all flavors of experiences in the coming new year in Telugu and Kannada Hindu traditions. It reminds the people that the following year will consist of not just sweet experiences, but a combination of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter episodes. Meals are first offered to the gods before the family eats them. The rest of the day is spent in visiting temples, offering prayers and celebrating with family and friends.

The same day is observed as Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, but sometimes observed a Gregorian day earlier because the lunar day starts and ends in Hindu calendar according to the position of the moon. In Karnataka, the festival is celebrated as Yugadi. 

The Telugu, Kannada, Kodava and the Tulu diaspora in Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala celebrate the festival with great fanfare that include gatherings of the extended family and a sumptuous feast. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, eatables such as pulihora, bobbatlu, New Year Burelu and Pachadi and preparations made with raw mango go well with the occasion.

In Karnataka, jaggery called as bella prepared from the fresh harvest of sugarcane is mixed with the flower buds of the neem tree (bevu) and eaten after the pooja, but before lunch. This is called bevu-bella and is indicative of the fact that life will always be a mixture of sweetness and bitterness. A Sanskrit shloka that explicates the medicinal and spiritual benefits of the neem is also chanted while chewing this sweet-bitter mixture. The meaning of the shloka is that For attaining a strong (diamond hard) body that lasts a hundred years, for obtaining all kinds of wealth, for destroying all negativity, the leaves of neem are to be eaten.

Dishes and Style:

Food is an integral part of Ugadi celebrations and involves preparing many special dishes like Badam Halwa.
  • Obbattu or Bhakshalu/Holigey is prepared on Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Maharashtra states.
  • In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana a special dish called Bobbattu (Polelu/Puran Poli/Oliga) are prepared on this occasion. This special dish is called Bhakshalu, Boorelu which is eaten with fresh ghee in Andhra Pradesh Telangana State. These are eaten along with the Ugadi Pachchadi.
  • In Karnataka a special dish called obbattu, or Holige is prepared. It consists of a filling of gram and jaggery/sugar boiled and made into a paste stuffed in a flat roti like bread. It is usually eaten hot or cold with ghee or milk topping or coconut milk at some places of Karnataka. 
The celebration of Ugadi is marked by religious zeal and social merriment.
In Karnataka, people buy new clothes and ornaments for this day. Traditionally, the men dressed in a white or off-white linen shirt paired with a cotton lungi or long loin cloth that is embellished with gold zari. While visiting the temple, men also don the Angavastram, which is a rectangular cloth of a similar color and embellishment. However, now a days men prefer wearing new shirts and trousers. Both attires are completed with a gold chain with a gold wrist watch to match.

Women wear opulent clothes during this day such as brocade sarees like Bangalore silk or Kanjivaram in rich colors with thick gold zari borders with pure gold necklaces, earrings, and bangles. They also adorn their hair with jasmine flowers. The young girls in the family dress elaborately in silk lehenga cholis with pearl necklaces, maang tikkas and gold earrings. The ensemble is completed with strings of jasmine flowers in the hair.

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