Ugadi is the New Year's Day for the people of the Kannada and Telugu communities in India. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar. This holiday is one of the most auspicious days for Kannadigas and Telugus. The Saka calendar begins with the month of Chaitra (March–April) and Ugadi marks the first day of the new year. Chaitra is the first month in Panchanga which is the Indian calendar. In some parts of India it is known as Vikram Samvat or Bhartiya Nav Varsh. This holiday is mostly prevalent in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Maharashtra. Gudi Padwa, which is the Marathi new year, is also celebrated on the same day.
The festival marks the new year day for people between Vindhyas and Kaveri river who follow the South Indian lunar calendar, pervasively adhered to in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa.
The Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Kodava and the Konkani diaspora in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala celebrate the festival with great fanfare; gatherings of the extended family and a sumptuous feast are 'de rigueur'. The day begins with ritual showers with oil, followed by prayers. This tri-state festival could be the result of the common rulers from the Satavahana Dynasty.
While the people of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana use the term Ugadi and Karnataka use the term Yugadi for this festival, the people of Maharashtra term the same festival, observed on the same day, Gudi Padwa.
The Marwari of Rajasthan celebrate the same day as their new year day Thapna.
The Sindhis, people from Sindh, celebrate the same day as Cheti Chand, which is the beginning of their calendar year.
Manipuris also celebrate their New Year as Sajibu Nongma Panba on the same day.
The Hindus of Bali and Indonesia also celebrate their new year on the same day as Nyepi.
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 significance of tying mango leaves relates to a legend. It is said that Kartik (or Subramanya or Kumara Swamy) and Ganesha, the two sons of Lord Siva and Parvathi were very fond of mangoes. As the legend goes Kartik exhorted people to tie green mango leaves to the doorway signifying a good crop and general well-being.
It is noteworthy that we use mango leaves and coconuts (as in a Kalasam, to initiate any pooja) only on auspicious occasions to propitiate gods. People also splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their house and draw colorful floral designs. This is a common sight in every household. People perform the ritualistic worship to God invoking his blessings before they start off with the new year. They pray for their health, wealth and prosperity and success in business too.Ugadi is also the most auspicious time to start new ventures.
The celebration of Ugadi is marked by religious zeal and social merriment. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, eatables such as "pulihora, bobbatlu (Bhakshalu/ polelu/ oligalu), New Year Burelu and Pachadi" and preparations made with raw mango go well with the occasion. In Karnataka too, similar preparations are made but called "puliogure" and "holige". The Maharashtrians make "puran poli" or sweet rotis.
Ugadi pachchadi is a dish synonymous with Ugadi. It is made of new jaggery, raw mango pieces, neem flowers, and new tamarind which truly reflect life — a combination of six different tastes (Shut-Ruchi)(sweet, sour, spicy or pungent, salty, astringent and bitter) symbolizing happiness, disgust, anger, fear, surprise, and sadness. Bevu-Bella in Kannada, symbolizes the fact that life is a mixture of different experiences - sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, surprise - which should be accepted altogether with equanimity through the New Year. The eating of a sauce composed of six tastes - sourness by a raw mango and from tamarind, sweetness with molasses or jaggery, salt, bitterness from neem flowers, astringent from neem flowers as well as from a small amount taken of tender mango seed or skin, spicy/hot/pungent from black pepper or chilli powder - mixed in water, called Ugadi Pachhadi in Telugu symbolizes this. The ingredients of this 'Pachchadi' may vary slightly in different regions but the symbolic meaning is the same in each case.
The special mixture consists of all the flavours which the tongue can perceive, and one could say that each flavour symbolizes a feeling or emotion which is natural in life :
- Neem Buds/Flowers for its bitterness, signifying sadness
- Jaggery for sweetness, signifying happiness
- Green Chilli/Pepper for its hot taste, signifying anger
- Salt for saltiness, signifying fear
- Tamarind Juice for its sourness, signifying disgust
- Neem Flowers and small amount of tender mango seed for making it astringent adding an element of surprise