Although the festivals are round the year in India, there are some celebrations that signify the beginning of a new year. Each of them bears different names according to the regional preferences and the languages used. Ugadi, also spelled as Yugadi, is the new year festival for people residing in the Deccan region. The name is derived from Sanskrit words - Yuga (age) and adi (beginning). Though it usually appears in spring, the dates are different each year. This day is calculated according to the Hindu calendar which keeps changing as per the position of the moon and the solar year. The calculation is totally based on when there will be a full moon. Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe founded this day. The famous mathematician, Bhaskaracharya also points towards the accuracy of the God's calculation. According to him, the onset of the new year starts from the sunrise.
Since Ugadi is slated during the spring, this festival signifies the growth, prosperity and good health for the people. The spring also blossoms up jasmines. The fragrance of this perfumed flower creates the a refreshing atmosphere. As these beautiful flowers are found on a large scale during this time, devotees offer garlands of jasmines to the gods. Women also use it to tie around their hair which are woven in clusters with the help of thread and a needle.
The Hindu lunar calendar considers Ugadi as the beginning of the new year. As the moon keeps changing her position in the orbit, the dates are also shuffled accordingly. It is celebrated with lots of fanfare in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Maharashtra. Temple priests keep ringing the bells and chant mantras or incantations. It is this time when the prediction about rain and the agricultural production is done.
Indians become particular about cleanliness since they believe that the prosperity lies where there is a peace and a clean environment. Hence, they start polishing their houses a week before. They go for shopping, buy new clothes and get it woven by local tailors so that they wear it for the festival. They even buy other materials that are necessary to perform the puja, and rituals on that day. They wake up early in the morning, take a bath and start preparing garland from mango leaves. After that, they tie it at the door. The mango leaves are used as a symbol for good crop, and good health for the family members.
People also splash paste of cow dung on the verandas outside their door and sprinkle cow urine at all the corners in the house. Rangoli is used for decorating the entrance with colourful designs. Ritual and puja are performed to receive the blessing of God for good harvest and well-being. This day is also special for starting up a new business.
The dishes prepared on Ugadi day just add to the flavour to this festival. Meals are prepared with the the fruits and plants found in this season. Since mangoes are still ripe during this time, and the neem leaves are fully blown, both are used in the meal. In addition, jaggery made of fresh sugar cane is also utilized to make it special. In all, people add six different flavours to their meal. And each of this ingredient carries a lot of meaning behind it. The meal is the medium to enjoy the six elements of lives that are so integral in one's life. All these elements represent different stages of life human beings experience such as sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. The ideal behind using the six tastes in the dish is to make people aware and prepare them to accept whatever life has stored in for them.
The six tastes added in the dish are:
- Neem Buds/Flowers: As the neem is known for its bitterness and nobody eat them, they are used to signify sadness
- Jaggery and ripe Banana: Mixing jaggery and pieces of banana add to the sweetness of the dish. And as sweet things make us happy, these ingredients emote happiness
- Green Chill/Pepper: Chillies and peppers are hot in taste and excess use of them makes people angry. Hence, it signifies anger
- Salt: Without salt there is no flavour. The saltiness of the salt symbolizes fear
- Tamarind Juice: It signifies Disgust because of its sourness
- Unripened Mango: The tangy taste of such mangoes is often surprising. Hence it is used for the surprise element
These dishes are named differently. The Kannada people call it obbattu or Holige. The special dish prepared by the Telegu speaking people in Andhra Pradesh is known as Bhakshyalu or Bobbatlu. Puran Poli is prepared in Maharashtra which is included in all the traditional functions and festivals. First, jaggery is crushed. Sugar is then boiled to make a paste. Then, both these ingredients are stuffed in a roti. It is served with desi ghee and milk.
Ugadi is celebrated with religious zeal by people in India. Many societies and apartments hold a social gathering and cultural programmes to spread the message of unity among diversity. It is the start of the new year which begins with a prediction of good health, growth and great production of agricultural crops.
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