February 14, 2016: Ratha Saptami, Suryachandra Vratam
February 15, 2016: Bheeshmashtami, Bheeshma Tarpanam
February 16, 2016: Potti Sriramulu Jayanthi
Indian Hindus celebrate over 50 religious festivals every year, each of them special in their own way and most of them acting as a reminders of the rich culture, heritage and systems of India for the busy Indian lives. Even with so many festivals, Ugadi is regarded as one of the most important festival for the Telugu community.
Ugadi or Gudi Padava is celebrated on Chaitra sukla Padyami as a mark of the beginning of the New Year in Southern part of India. However not all Indians celebrate this festival as a new year. Different people in different places celebrate New Year at different months. In some places, the New Year is celebrated in Vaisakha month, while in others, it is celebrated in Margasira month while others celebrate it in the Phalguna month.
The festival marks the New Year Day for people who follow the Indian Lunar Calendar (particular in South India) when the Moon changes orbit. Hence, the festival is of utmost important for the people of South Indian states. This calendar reckons dates based on the Salivahana era (Salivahana Saka), which begins its count from the supposed date of the founding of the Empire by the legendary hero Salivahana. The Satavahana king Shalivahana (also identified as Gautamiputra Satakarni) is credited with the initiation of this era known as Shalivahana.
If you are interested in making a comparison of this calendar with the modern and more popular Gregorian calendar, here it is. The Salivahana era begins its count of years from the year corresponding to 78 AD of the Gregorian calendar. Thus, the year 2000 AD corresponds to the year 1922 of the Salivahana Era.
While the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka observe this day as Ugadi , Maharashtrians observe as Gudi Padava while the Sindhis celebrate it as Cheti chand. It is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started the creation on this day - the Chaitra suddha padyami day. Spring is considered the first season of the year and hence is a symbol of heralding a new year and a new beginning. The spring marks the beginning of new life with plants acquiring new life, shoots and leaves. The vibrancy of life and verdant fields, meadows full of colorful blossoms signifies growth, prosperity and well-being. With the coming of Ugadi, the naturally perfumed jasmines spread a sweet fragrance which is perhaps unmatched by any other in nature\'s own creation! While large garlands of jasmine are offered to Gods in homes and temples, jasmine flowers woven in clusters adorn the braids of women.
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 Kartika and Ganesh, the two sons of Lord Siva and Parvathi were very fond of mangoes. As the legend goes Kartika 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 Kalasa, 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. Houses are given a thorough wash. This is a common sight in every household. Shopping for new clothes and buying other items that go with the requirements of the festival are done with a lot of excitement.
People perform the ritualistic worship to God invoking his blessings before they start off with the New Year. They pray for their health, wealth, prosperity, and success in business too. Ugadi is also the most auspicious time to start new ventures.
The Telugu and Kannada people celebrate the festival with great fanfare, gatherings of the extended family and sumptuous feast de rigueur. The day, however begins with ritual showers followed by prayers and then the eating of Ugadi Pacchadi.
Hindu festivals always include preparation of special dishes. The Ugadi pachchadi is one such dish that is synonymous with Ugadi festival. The Ugadi Pacchadi is made of Neem buds or flowers, jaggery, raw mango chopped into small pieces and tamarind juice. It is a season for raw mangoes spreading its aroma in the air and the fully blossomed neem tree that makes the air healthy. Also, jaggery made with fresh crop of sugarcane adds a renewed flavor to the typical dishes associated with Ugadi.
Each of the ingradients of the Ugadi Pachhadi has a significance. The jaggery, raw mango pieces, neem flowers, and new tamarind, which truly reflect life - a combination of sweet, sour and bitter tastes! This mixture, called "Ugadi Pachhadi" in Telugu and "Bevu-Bella" in Kannada, symbolizes the fact that life is a mixture of pleasure and pain, which should be accepted together and with equanimity. Certain communities in Andhra Pradesh prepare a more elaborate sauce, called Ugadi Pacchadi, which is a paste of tamarind, jaggery, mango, neem Buds/Flowers etc. The symbolism and significance of the preparation is the same.
It is a day when mantras are chanted and predictions made for the new year. Later, people traditionally gather to listen to the recitation of the religious Panchagam of the coming year, and to the general forecast of the year to come. This is the Panchanga Sravanam, an informal social function where an elderly and respected person opens the new Panchagam pertaining to the coming year and makes a general benediction to all present. Ugadi celebrations are marked by literary discussions, poetry recitations and recognition of authors of literary works through awards and cultural programmes. Recitals of classical carnatic music and dance are held in the evenings.
Kavi Sammelanam is a typical feature of every Telugu Ugadi day. Many poets come up with new poems written on subjects spanning from the traditional Ugadi to politics; from modern trends of life to lifestyles. The Kavi Sammelanam is often taken as a launch pad for new and budding poets. Kavis (poets) of many hues - political, comic, satirical reformist, literary and melancholic - make an appearance on the Ugadi stage. The literary feast is often telecasted live on Television and followed by "Panchanga Sravanam" when eminent scholars give their annual predictions.
The celebration of Ugadi is marked by religious zeal and social merriment. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion. In Andhra Pradesh, eatables such as "pulihora", "bobbatlu" 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".
Ugadi & Gudi Padwa falls on the following days / dates in the respective years:
2014: March 31
2013: April 11
2012: March 23 Sri Nandana Naama Samvatsara
2011: April 4, 2011
2010: March 16, 2010
2009: Friday, March 27 (Virodhinama Samvastara)
2008: Tuesday, April 1
2007: Tuesday, March 20
2006: Thursday, March 30
2005: Saturday, April 9
2004: Sunday, March 21