Ugadi: A Celebration of Life!
Towards the end of winter this year I found myself in Vizag on official work. My colleague Aadithya, knowing that I would be missing Gudi Padwa festivities back home and of my keen interest in studying different cultures and traditions, invited me over to his home for Ugadi celebrations. I went calling a day prior and found myself being ushered into a large living room abuzz with life, all his family members busy with preparations for the festival. There was a heap of marigold flowers in one corner with a pile of mango leaves alongside, several ladies sitting around it weaving these into garlands. Packets of coloured rangoli powder sat in one corner besides stacks of neem leaves, coconuts, raw mangoes, and assorted vegetables which were undoubtedly meant for the feast.
Introductions and welcomes done, Aadithya led me to his granny, a grand old lady probably in her early eighties, who appeared to be supervising the activities around her. “This looks so much like preparations for Gudi Padwa back home!” I remarked. “Yes my child”, smiled granny, “call it Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra and Goa, or Yugadi in Karnataka, or Ugadi in Telangana and Andhra – all these festivals celebrate the beginning of the new year or the first day of the first month of Chaitra in our Hindu lunar calendar. The word Yugadi itself – “Yug” or period/era and “Adi” or beginning – celebrates the beginning of a new era.”
“Mythology has it that it was on this day that Brahma began to create the universe. Celestially, this is the day when the sun passes the equator signifying the spring equinox and moves into the northern hemisphere. It marks the onset of the spring festival when the earth sprouts tender new buds and leaves. And there is one more significant aspect of the festival which you will see tomorrow morning”, granny smiled mysteriously. The next morning the entire household woke up before sunrise. We applied sesame oil on our bodies followed by a bath with hot water. Dressed in all their finery, the ladies of the house then drew colourful rangolis outside the main entrance, decorating these with small earthen diyas. The men hung garlands of marigold and mango leaves, called thorana, over the doors and windows.
Everyone then gathered in the small puja room where Aadithya’s grandfather bathed the idols of the family deities with sesame oil and hot water followed by adorning them with garlands and flowers. Granny then went into the kitchen and came back with a small earthen pot, which was placed before the idols as naivedhya or offering to the Gods. Granny called me over and explained, “This is a special dish called Ugadi Pachadi and is a very important part of today’s celebrations. It has ingredients of six different flavours – Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Spicy, Tangy and Salty, signifying Joy, Disgust, Sorrow, Anger, Surprise and Fear, which represent the phases and flavours of life that an individual experiences starting with his/her birth and ending in his/her death. We should learn to accept and acknowledge the presence of these and more emotions in our lives; only then would we have lived a fulfilling life.”
After seeking blessings of the divine for good health, prosperity, success and happiness in everyone’s lives in the forthcoming year, the Ugadi Pachadi was then served as prasad. Finally everyone sat down to a scrumptious traditional Andhra meal served on a banana leaf with delicacies befitting a royal feast.
I returned from Vizag with a treasure trove of knowledge and fond memories of those wonderful celebrations. But occupying the pride of place in my heart was the Ugadi Pachadi, a dish so simple and yet immensely significant in its symbolism as the essence of life; a dish which teaches us that life is full of experiences which are diverse and transient, and we should rise above our prejudices to live life in its entirety.
So here is the recipe for this amazing dish as made by Aadithya’s granny for you to make and enjoy.
Ugadi Pachadi Recipe
(Sour to signify Disgust) tamarind pulp:1 tbsp
(Sweet to signify Joy) jaggery, grated: 3 tbsp
(Tangy to signify Surprise) raw mango, finely chopped: 2 tbsp
(Bitter to signify Sorrow) neem flowers: 6 to 8 nos.
(Spicy to signify Anger) green chilli, minced:1
(Salty to signify Fear) salt: ¼ tsp
water: 1 cup/240 ml
ripe elaichi banana, minced (optional): 1
coconut, finely chopped (optional): 1 tbsp
roasted chana dal (optional):1 tsp
1) Place water in a bowl. Add tamarind pulp. Stir till pulp dissolves.
2) Add jaggery. Stir till jaggery dissolves.
3) Add remaining ingredients. Stir.
4) Offer to the Gods as naivedhya before serving.
Team - Food Stylist - Bijal Jobanputra, Photographer - Mansi Jesrani, Assistant stylist - Dereeka Adhikary