According to Indian (Vaishnavite) mythology, the Universe is cyclically created and destroyed. Lord Vishnu, the eternal Supreme Being, creates Lord Brahma by meditation. The life span of Brahma is 120 divine years (Mahakalpamu). Everyday Brahma creates 14 Manus one after the other, who in turn create and regulate the world. Thus, there are fourteen generations of Manu in one day (Kalpamu) of Brahma. Each Manu’s life (Manvantaramu) consists of 71 quartets of eras. Each quartet is composed of four eras: Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali. The span of Krita era is 1,728,000 human years, Treta era is 1,296,000 human years, Dvapara era is 864,000 human years and Kali era is 432,000 human years. When Manu perishes at the end of his life, Brahma creates the next Manu and the cycle continues until all fourteen Manus and the Universe perish by the end of the day. When the night falls, Brahma goes to sleep for a period of time equal to fourteen lives of Manus. The next morning, he begins the creation with first Manu again. The cycle goes on for 120 divine years at the end of which Brahma perishes. Lord Vishnu, after a period of meditation, creates Brahma again. (See Hindu Cosmology)
The present period is Kali era of seventh Manu’s life. This Kali era began 5,101 years ago (3101 BC) at the end of Dvapara era that was marked by the death of lord Krishna, the mortal incarnation of the eternal Lord Vishnu and the birth of Kali, the lord of this era. The beginning of the new era or Yugamu is known as Yugadi or Ugadi, and is celebrated every year on the first day (Paadyami) of the month of the first month (Chaitramu) of 12 month cycle.
This year Ugadi is on March 18, 1999 of the Gregorian calendar, ending the year named Bahudhanya and welcoming the year named Pramadi of the 60 year cycle. This Telugu system of reckoning dates is based on the Sanskrit Brahminical Lunar calendar. Telugus also follow another calendar known as Salivahana era (Salivahana Saka) based on the Empire of Salivahana. According to this Telugu Calender this Ugadi begins the year 1921 of Salivahana era (5101 Kali Era, 1999 AD). The end of the Kali Era is 426,899 years from this year in the beginning of the new Krita era of the 8th Manu's life. But, that doesn't end there! Mankind has spent only half of Brahma's day of his divine 120 years of life! So, those of you who are worried about predictions of doomsday and Y2K may be assured that the cyclical end is far away!
On this day, Telugus wake up before dawn and take special ritual showers (Mangala Snaanaalu) and eat a special sauce called Ugadi Pachchadi (sauce). This sauce is a paste of tamarind that contains jaggery, mango, salt, pepper, and neem flowers etc., representing all tastes, symbolically depicting all the feelings in one's life. Later, religious Telugus gather at temples and listen to the recitation of the calendar (Panchangam) and the forecast of the future by the Brahmin priest. The advent of television changed this routine a little bit in the cities. Nowadays, Telugus turn on the TV to watch the recitation. Ugadi day celebrations are marked by literary discussions, poetry recitations (kavi sammelanam) and recognition of authors of literary works through awards and the cultural programs continue for two weeks merging with the celebrations of Sri Ramnavami (Birthday of Lord Rama).Marathis erect ‘gudhis’ on the first day (Padwa) of the Marathi New Year. 'Gudhi' is a bamboo staff with a colored silk cloth and a garlanded goblet atop, which symbolizes victory or achievement. Hence, this day is known “Gudipadwa” in Maharashtra. Marathis welcome the New Year with gudhi worship and distribute prasad comprising tender neem leaves, gram-pulse and jaggery. Gudhi Padwa heralds the advent of a prosperous new year and is one of the most auspicious days for Maharashtrians. Kannadiagas celebrate Ugadi on the same day. Tamils and Punjabis celebrate New Year Day in April.
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, March 18, 1999