The name 'Ugadi' is the Telugu variation for the Sanskrit word 'Yugadi'.
The very fact that the festival does not fall on one single day on the Gregorian calendar makes one wonder how Hindu festivals are decided and how and when exactly the festival is celebrated. As with other Hindu festivals, Ugadi is synchronised with lunar cycles. So, let us take a look at history and tradition to find out how exactly the process of determination of the 'auspicious' time is established. This may also help us understand the nature of Hindu festivals.
Yuga adi (Lit. a beginning of an era): According to tradition, this day commemorates the day when Brahma created this world. The firsts that are relevant on this day are:
Note: Though the festival itself may not fall on a Sunday on the Gregorian calendar. May be a final adjustment is due on the Gregorian calendar! See 'Almanac' - September 2 and October 4.
The rituals that are prescribed by the scriptures for practice on specific festivals have been eroded over centuries due to attempts by invading rulers who wanted to impose their own practices over the local populace. The festivals themselves were (and continue to be) relegated to 'social functions.' It is time we take a look at the very reason these festivals were established and the original prescriptions thereof.
It is the Hindu Almanac - Panchangam - that establishes the moment when Ugadi takes place. As such, it is customary to extrapolate (from the positions and transitions of nine prime constellations) and predict the events for the onsetting year.
The first step in the rituals is to have a head bath before the sun rises, but within the Paudyami Tidhi - even if it is lasts for only twenty minutes! In Hyderabad, the time frame that one should finish this task would be before (sunrise time).
The bath is supposedly to be taken after massaging the entire body using sesame oil. 'Kunkudu kaaya' (Hindi - Rita) juice, Amla seed flour or Shikakai in warm water should be used for shampooing. And, of course, as with every major festival, new clothes should be worn.
The next step is to offer prayers to the Sun, before accepting the Vepapoota pachhadi (Neem flower pickle) on an empty stomach.
The ingredients that go into the Vepapoota pachchadi are (approximately equal parts):
Before reading out the annual forecasts as predicted in the Panchanga, the officiating priest reminds the participants of the creator - Brahma, and the span of creation of the universe. It is said that out of a hundred of Brahma's 'years', fifty have already passed, and out the balance we are now at the fifty first year, first month, waxing phase, first day, thirteen hours, forty ghadiyas, three veesas and just over forty four viliptakalas. In solar year terms, about 432,000 years are considered equivalent to half a day of Brahma!
The reading of the Panchanga then involves reading of other Tidhis during the year, signifying their correlation with nature. The Tidhis cover the entire range of yugas, seasons, dashavataras and their symbolic representation in a day.
The reading then ends with a forecast for various sectors of the social life and the strengths and effects of various constellations and their transitions.
All the above information is traditionally updated in an official Panchanga annually. As such, it is an excellent source to trace history that no other document epitomises.
The following are the purported benefits that one can avail of by adopting and following various limbs of a Panchanga:
'Benefits of listening to a Panchanga reading' (on Ugadi.)
The scriptures state that the benefits reaped by the listener as well as the reader, are equivalent to having a dip in the holy river Ganges. The individuals hearing the Panchanga should respectfully 'thank' the reader and offer him new clothes and seek his blessings.
References in Mahabharata to Dharma Raja, establish the fact that these rituals were practiced even before December 18, 3102, when Lord Krishna 'departed' from this world and when Kaliyuga has supposed to have begun.
At the end of the list, the cycle starts all over again, just like a week.