Today is the first day of the Hindu New Year. In Maharashtra, it is celebrated as Gudhi Padwa. Its also celebrated in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as Yugadi or Ugadi, in, in Kashmir as Navreh and by Sindhis as Cheti Chand.
This is the beginning of the Vasant, the spring. The new harvest is in. And the festival welcomes the new season.
It is also believed that this day Lord Brahma created the universe after the deluge and the Satyayug began. The Gudhi that is erected is the Brahmadhwaj, the banner of lord Brahma. To make a Gudhi, a small round pot is inverted and kept on top of a bamboo stick. This is ritualistically worshipped and hoisted as a flag which is also known as the DharmaDhwaj (as shown in the picture). Over the stick a gathi (sugar crystals), neem leaves, a twig of mango leaves and a garland of flowers is tied. The stick represents the spine and the pot represents the human head. The bamboo also has ‘vertebrae,’ like the human spine. In the human body, the head, which is of the shape of zero and the spine (vertebral column), are important organs.
This is one of the four (actually three and a half) auspicious days on which one doesn’t have to look for an auspicious moment (Muhurat) to start anything new. So this is the day when many people start new things, make new resolutions. This is also considered to be a good day to buy big ticket item like house.
Traditionally, families are supposed to begin the festivities by eating the bittersweet leaves of the neem tree. Sometimes, a paste of neem leaves is prepared and mixed with dhane, gul/gur (known as jaggery in English), and tamarind. All the members of the family consume this paste, which is believed to purify the blood and strengthen the body’s immune system against diseases.
In Andhra Pradesh, this tradition takes a much more elaborate form. A special recipe called Ugadi Pachadi is made. The significance of Ugadi Pachadi is that it has six different flavors – reflecting the different flavors of life itself – sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, salty and spicy. The Ugadipachadi has an ingredient that adds each of these flavors – jaggery, raw mango, neem flowers, tamarind, salt and red chilli powder. Coconut and bananas are often added as garnishing.
The Ugadi Pachadi signifies that the new year that just began would have all kinds of moments. By eating it, we prepare ourselves to face the new year, with all its ups and downs with equanimity. I tasted my Ugadi Pachadi, did you?