Beginning of all times
It is believed that the Lord Brahma started creation of the universe on Ugadi day. Also the great Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya's calculations proclaimed the Ugadi day from the sunrise on as the beginning of the New Year, new month and new day. The onset of spring also marks a beginning of new life with plants acquiring new life, new shoots and leaves. Spring is considered the first season of the year hence also heralding a new year and a new beginning.
Along with Ugadi comes jasmines (mallepulu) spread a sweet and distinct fragrance which is perhaps unmatched by any other in nature's own creation! While large garlands of jasmine are offered to Gods in homes and temples, jasmine flowers woven in clusters adorn the braids of women.
Ugadi marks the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon's orbit. It is a day when mantras are chanted and predictions made for the New Year. Traditionally, the panchangasravanam or listening to the yearly calendar was done at the temples or at the Town square but with the onset of modern technology; one can get to hear the priest-scholar on television sets right in one's living room. Every year the state government organizes the main event of Pancahnga Shravanam where the Asthana Purohit foretells the future of the state.
There is no Ugadi without tasting the quintessential Udgadi Pachachadi. "Ugadi pachchadi" is one such dish that has become synonymous with Ugadi. It is made of new jaggery, raw mango pieces and neem flowers and new tamarind which truly reflect life - a combination of sweet, sour and bitter tastes.
Preparations for the festival begin a week ahead. Houses are given a thorough wash. Shopping for new clothes and buying other items that go with the requirements of the festival are done with a lot of excitement. On Ugadi day, people wake up before the break of dawn and take a head bath after which they decorate the entrance of their houses with fresh mango leaves.
The celebration of Ugadi is marked by religious zeal and social merriment. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion. In Andhra Pradesh, eatables such as "pulihora", "bobbatlu" and preparations made with raw mango go well with the occasion.
Season of Avakai
With the raw mango available in abundance only during the two months (of April/May), people in Andhra Pradesh make good use of mangoes to last them until the next season. They pickle the mangoes with salt, powdered mustard and powdered dry red Guntur chilli and a lot of groundnut oil to float over the mangoes. This preparation is called "avakai" and lasts for a whole year.
Ugadi also marks the beginning of summer which coincides with the school vacations. For the young ones, therefore, Ugadi is characterized by new clothes, sumptuous food and reveling. The air is filled with joy, enthusiasm and gaiety. Some people participate in social community gatherings and enjoy a tranquil evening with devotional songs (bhajans).
Ugadi is also a time when people look forward to a literary feast in the form of Kavi Sammelanam. Many poets come up with new poems written on subjects ranging - from Ugadi - to politics to modern trends and lifestyles. These literary meetings are launch pads for new and budding poets.
Ugadi is thus a festival of many shades. It ushers in the New Year, brings a rich bounce of flora and fills the hearts of people with joy and contentment.