Primarily celebrated by the Hindu Telugu and Kannada communities, Ougadi or Ugadi is a public holiday that falls in either late March or early April and signifies the beginning of the Hindu new year. This year it will take place on March 22. It is mainly observed by Hindu communities in India as well as Mauritius, in commemoration of the birth of Brahma, the God of the universe, which denotes the beginning of a new era. Observers celebrate Ougadi through prayers, feasts, and grand cultural celebrations that compel them to reflect on one’s past and devise plans for the future.
History of Ougadi
The story behind Ougadi goes that the Hindu god of the universe Brahma first came into existence on that day and created the whole universe. It is also the day that the great deity of protection Krishna departed from the world. In Hindu lore, the death of Krishna and the birth of Brahma signifies the arrival of a new age, thus making it the Hindu new year.
Ougadi has been a significant and historic event for Hindus since it began in 78 B.C., following the creation of the Hindu ‘Saka’ lunar calendar in India’s Shalivahana era. Inscriptions and manuscripts from the middle ages mention Ougadi celebrations. Additionally, it is a public holiday in several regions of India as well as nations like Mauritius that have substantial Hindu communities.
The word’ Ougadi’ or ‘Ugadi’ is made up of a combination of two words, ‘Yuga,’ meaning age, and ‘Adi,’ meaning the start or beginning. The origins of the date stem back to the 12th century, where Indian astronomer Bhaskaracharya first determined the Ougadi as the beginning of a new year based on calculating the position of the moon after the spring equinox. Because Ougadi falls between late March and early April on the Western calendar, it is seen as a spring festival. Ougadi also takes place within the nine-day-long Hindu spring festival of Vasanta Navratri, which concludes with the celebration of Ram Navami.
On this day, people usually celebrate by cooking meals for their families, praying in temples, holding cultural activities, and visiting with their neighbors. On this day, several traditions are carried out, such as bathing one’s head in coconut oil, a practice known as ‘Abhyang,’ and decorating one’s front door with mango leaves to symbolize purification and welcome wealth. Since it is a new year celebration, Ougadi emphasizes cleansing oneself in preparation for a new dawn. It is a time to reflect on the past as well as plan for the future.
The Saka Era of the Hindu calendar begins.
The exact date for Ougadi is calculated by Indian mathematician and astronomer Bhaskaracharya.
The first Indian Hindus arrive in Mauritius to work in British sugarcane factories on the island, affecting the future makeup of its population.
Mauritius declares independence from the United Kingdom on March 12.
Is Ougadi the same as Gudi Padwa?
Gudi Padwa is a celebration of New Year’s Day. Ougadi also celebrates the first day of the new year according to the lunisolar calendar followed by Hindus.
What is needed for Ougadi?
One of the most important things you need on Ugadi is sweets. You need it for offerings in Puja and also to take it to others’ houses. Sweets are also offered to the guests you have in the evening on Ugadi.
What pooja is made on Ougadi?
Sweet roti is made on this day to be offered to the deity as prasadam.
How to Observe Ougadi
Get together with your loved ones
Get together with your loved ones to reflect on the past year in the spirit of Ougadi. This could also turn into a time for you to connect with them, let the past go, and make goals for the coming year. A new year represents a fresh start. Going into a new year together is the best way to start it off.
Cook and eat some traditional foods
To mark the occasion, serve some traditional Ougadi dishes. The customary ‘ougadi pachadi’ beverage, ‘pulihora,’ ‘bevu bella,’ ‘medu vada,’ ‘poornam boorelu,’ tamarind juice, and mangoes are among the common foods consumed. These diverse cuisines remind you that life is a mixture of emotions and flavors, from the pleasant to the unpleasant.
Take part in cleansing rituals to freshly welcome the new year
Partake in the traditional Ougadi rituals that symbolize cleansing in preparation for the new year. These can include doing the ‘Abhyang’ ritual, which involves massaging your head with coconut oil, or simply cleaning your house for a clean start to the new year.
5 Interesting Facts About Ougadi
Doing ‘Abhyang’ doubles your blessings
The tradition that the Goddess Lakshmi lives in oil and the Goddess Ganga lives in water is the basis for the ‘Abhyang’ oil bath ritual — by performing the ceremony, you can gain the blessings of both deities.
Ougadi is celebrated beyond India and Mauritius
The Hindus of Bali and Indonesia celebrate their own Ougadi on the same day, under the name Nyepi.
The process of cleansing begins with bitterness
Observers tend to start the day by consuming bitter neem leaves, as a way to purify the blood and strengthen the body for the new year.
It coincides with peak mango season
Mangoes are an important symbol of Ougadi and the day coincidentally takes place at the peak of mango harvesting season in India.
It receives the highest amount of sun rays
During Ougadi, the Earth's axis is tilted in a way that the Northern Hemisphere receives the highest amount of sun rays.
Why Ougadi is Important
It is a time for reflection
Ougadi is a time for reflection and new beginnings. It is a time when we look back at our lives in the past and pinpoint the moments where we could do better. Thus, Ougadi encourages us to look deep into ourselves to figure out how we can become better people, which can benefit us in the future.
It helps us form more significant relationships
As a new year's celebration, Ougadi emphasizes the importance of our loved ones in our lives and how we can improve ourselves, for us, and them. It is a moment that brings people together and lets bygones be bygones in the spirit of a new year. In other words, it is a holiday that encourages forgiveness and empathy for others.
It helps us see the world on a grander scale
Ougadi is a celebration of Hindu tradition and its concepts of peace and compassion. It compels us to look at the world from a greater perspective and realize that we as humans are in this life together. Through the recognition of this viewpoint, we can understand life in a deeper capacity and form, which can help improve how we interact with one another.