Today, 18th March is Telugu New Year’s First Day. On this occasion I wish you all a very happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.
All Telugu festivals (except ‘Sankranti’) are celebrated according to the lunar calendar and hence the Telugu New Year’s Day does not match with the western solar calendar - a fixed date. The Telugu New Year commences from the next day after the new moon in March or April every year.
The Telugu New Year’s first day is celebrated as Ugadi Festival. Ugadi in Sanskrit is Yugadi (Yuga+Adi). Yuga means Era and Adi means New, so Yugadi or Ugadi festival is the celebration of the New Year. Yesterday 17th March was the last new moon day (Amavasya) of the previous year and today 18th March is the first lunar day – Shukla Padyami of the first Telugu lunar month Chaitra Masam and the New Year.
Every Telugu Year has a name, there are sixty such names in a chronological order. At the end of sixty years the names would be repeated once again. The name of this New Year is ‘Vilambi’ and this year would always be called and mentioned as ‘Vilambi Nama Samvatsaram’.
In short, Ugadi Festival which is celebrated on Shukla Padyami of Chaitra Masam is on 18th March this year. And the name of the New Year is Vilambi Nama Samvatsaram.
The festival is celebrated with great fanfare. Ugadi greetings are exchanged with all near and dear ones. Prayers are offered to the deities at home and blessings sought for a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Kankanam/Talisman is tied on to the right wrist of every member. Wheat grains placed in front of the deities are picked up in a small quantity by every family member using just three fingers to foresee how the year ahead is going to be for them. If an even number (Sarri) of grains is picked up, the year is going to be normal and if an odd number (Baesh) of grains are picked it will be an excellent year. Then Ugadi Pachhadi a unique drink offered as Naivedhyam to the deities is consumed. Ugadi Pachhadi is prepared using water, Jaggery, Tamarind, raw Mango, Neem flowers, Salt, Oma/Tymol seeds, dry Coconut, dry fruits – Cashew and Sara palukulu/Chironji. Ugadi Pachhadi has Shadhruchulu - meaning six different tastes that are sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, hot and saltish. This tasty drink which in some houses is prepared as chutney is a symbolic reminder of the myriad facets of life one would be facing in the year ahead. Later, the festive lunch is a sumptuous one with some traditional items like Polelu/Bobbatlu. People also visit a Temple in the neighborhood to seek blessings for a very good year. Either at the Temple or on TV one also listens to Panchanga Shravanam that is listening to the predictions for the year from the Telugu religious almanac which covers all people, occupations, weather, agriculture, calamities and so on.
New Year commences today for Karnataka and Maharashtra States as well. It is celebrated with almost the same rituals and fanfare in Karnataka as Ugadi and in Maharashtra as Gudi Padwa.