Today is the Hindu New Year day for the people in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Celebrated as Ugadi or Yugadi, today is the first day of the first month of a new Samvatsara (year) on Hindu calendar. In Maharastrians the day is celebrated as Gudi Padwa, while for Kashmiri Pandits, it is Navreh.
According to Vedic astrology, time rolls out through the cycle of 60 Samvatsaras, each comprising 12 months of roughly 30 days divided into two fortnights.
A Hindu calendar, Panchanga, is basically a tabulation of the five main limbs contained in a day, which are Tithi, Nakshatra, Yoga, Karana, and Vaara, tabulated, based on the celestial positions of the sun, moon, the planets and 27 stars.
Accordingly, today is Pratipada or Padya (the first day) of Shukla Paksha (fortnight of waxing moon) in the month of Chaitra (the first month) of the new Samvatsara, Vikari.
The day is as much celebrated to welcome the new year as to prepare oneself for the year ahead. In some places, the festivity includes a Vedic scholar formally opening the new Panchanga in a community assembly and reading out the important predictions through the year.
These predictions are interpretations of a symbolic depiction of Ugadi Purusha (the god of time) in Panchanga. The predictions are general in nature, on an array of matters that affect people’s lives during the year – from climate to commerce to politics.
At the individual level, every person is required to consume bitter neem leaves with sweet jaggery, a symbolic resolve to accept both good and bad things as they come in one’s life through the year. The two ingredients are put together in different ways in different places and among different communities, sometimes with additional things like tamarind to, perhaps, mitigate the bitterness.
Keeping with the spirit of newness of the day, people wear new clothes, buy new stuff, and launch new ventures, just like the nature around dons a new look with fresh leaves and flowers. For, the day marks the beginning of the spring season, Vasant Ritu on Hindu calendar.
In some of parts of India, the day heralds the auspicious Navaratri (an observation for nine nights), leading up to the celebration of Lord Ram’s birthday, which falls on the Navami tithi (the ninth day) of Shukla Paksha in the month of Chaitra.
Rituals observed to celebrate the Ugadi festival may vary from place to place, but the day celebrated in the spirit of shedding lethargy and ringing in happiness and joy.
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