Today is a public holiday on our small island. We have quite a few of these: 15, to be exact. I think after the independence it was all up to 31. Obviously, you can hardly expect a a country to work with 31 days and it has been brought down to 15. That’s still quite a lot!
There is a reason for the many holidays though. Many different religions needs to be taken into account and then the usual national ones/traditional ones. Each big religion or ethnicity has the right for one chosen date every year. So the Muslims have one of the Eid, for example. The Chinese have the Chinese New Year. Catholics have the 15th August or 1st November. Today we celebrate Ugadi: the Hindu Lunar New Year’s day. The Hindu community have a few actually, there different branches of hinduism in Mauritius: Tamil, Telugu and others.
Ugadi is always on the first new moon after the Spring Equinox. Yugadi or Ugadi is derived from the Sanskrit words Yuga (Age) and ādi (Starting): The beginning of a new age.
A bit of history around the festival: Lord Brahma started the creation of the universe on Ugadi. It is a nine day long festival, Vasanta Navratri, it starts today and ends on Ram Navami.
In Bali, that has different type of Hinduism, it was celebrated yesterday 28th March, with Hair Raya Neypi – the Balinese New Year, also know as the silent day – as no electricity is allowed to be used, even the airport is closed!
The preparations for the festival started a few days ago with houses being ‘Spring cleaned’, new clothes and accessories are bought for the occasion. The day begins before dawn with a purifying wash and a head massage with special oils. Houses can be decorated with mango leaves or with ‘Muggu’, drawings made with rice, coloured powder and dried grains. Ugadi Pachadi is shared: it combines 5 savours, sweet, salty, bitter, sour and spicy. This is intended to remind everyone that life is made of happy and sad moments. Offerings are made at temples around the island.
Unlike the other Hindu festivals, where many people are out and about, Ugadi is a family and friends kind of day so there are no widespread public celebrations.
Wishing you all a beautiful and prosperous Ugadi!