Ugadi in India: Hindus celebrate New Year with stories, special foods

Hand scooping mixture onto rice, atop a large leaf

A lunch served for Ugadi. Most traditional dishes contain sweet spring flavors; alternatively, a symbolic dish contains six separate tastes and represents the varying emotions of life. Photo in public domain

THURSDAY, APRIL 11: The intoxicating fragrance of ripe mangoes complements fresh jasmine across India today, as young and old rejoice in Ugadi, a New Year’s Day tradition that stretches back thousands of years.

Particularly for the Deccan region of India, Yugadi (spellings vary) signifies a new beginning and an auspicious time for ventures. From the Sanskrit words yuga (age) and adi (beginning), Yugadi literally signifies the beginning of a new age. Hindus believe the current age to be Kali Yuga, an era that began the moment Lord Krishna left the world. Kali Yuga began in 3102 BCE.

A ritual bath begins the day before sunrise, and prayers give way to the symbolic decoration of houses with mango leaves, a custom often practiced on auspicious days in India. It’s said that green mango leaves on the doorway encourage the well being to those within. (Wikipedia has details.)

After braiding their hair with garlands of jasmine flowers, women prepare the symbolic dish partaken by all on Ugadi: a mixture of six tastes that represents varying experiences of life, all of which should be accepted throughout the new year. Most dishes—though names vary—consist of jiggery (happiness), salt (fear), neem buds (sadness), chili pepper (anger), tamarind juice (disgust) and unripe mango (surprise). (Read more at TajOnline.) Sweet treats often accompany the day’s fare, and in the evening, family and friends gather for chanted mantras and priest-scholar predictions for the new year.

Various legends are associated with Yugadi, but most Hindus hold that Lord Brahma started creation on this day. With the onset of spring, new life breaks out of plants in shoots and leaves.

UGADI GIFT: ‘DIAL 100’

In a similar fashion to America’s “911” emergency service, chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has announced the launch of “Dial 100” in time for Ugadi in Kompally, India. (The Times of India reported.) Once in action, the service will allow citizens across the state—in rural areas as well as urban—to dial “100” for immediate police assistance. Personnel will locate callers using GPS systems, and localized centers will be contacted in less than 60 seconds.

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