MONDAY, MARCH 31: Some of the world’s oldest cultures start a new year with the return of the sun to the Northern Hemisphere, as many did around the Equinox. But, millions of men and women across India celebrate Ugadi (or Yugadi) based on the start of the Saka or Indian national calendar, an ancient system of marking time that balances both lunar and solar cycles. This year, the Saka calendar places Ugadi, which literally means “the beginning of an age,” on March 31.
In India, families clean their homes, make decorations of fresh mango leaves, prepare special foods and offer traditional prayers for the new year. In some communities, there may be a public reading of a thoughtful forecast for the new year.
The Hindu newspaper has been reporting on a wide range of public programs tied to the holiday: Sports and traditional dance festivals, plus an essay contest about ways young people can contribute in a positive way to Indian society.
The most common holiday food is Ugadi Pachadi (spelling varies), a sweet and tart blend of at least a half dozen ingredients that are popular in India and symbolize sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. It’s not an easy dish to prepare in most American homes, since ingredients such as neem buds (from a tree in the mahogany family) and jaggery (a dark brown, unrefined form of sugar) aren’t common in the US.