On Ugadi, A Taste Of The Future
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CULTURES across the world have some form of traditional fortune-telling that is connected with a common beverage. You may have heard of tea leaf readings, or coffee cup divinations, or ‘seeing’ by interpreting wine sediments. There’s even a name for it: “tasseomancy”. The roots of these practices are ancient and there is a significant overlap in the way various communities have channelled it. Yet even amongst all these, the fortune-telling drink of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana stands out. 

On Ugadi, that is the Hindu new year, Telugu families observe a custom steeped in a similar sentiment as types of tasseomancy. Sipping a drink made traditionally on this day is said to foretell what types of experiences the new year will bring to you. For this reason, Ugadi Pachadi is the first drink for many in the community once they awaken on the festive morning. 

What is Ugadi Pachadi? The name evokes divided reactions. On the one hand, the preparation of the Ugadi Pachadi itself triggers a type of Pavlovian response of joy, signifying as it does the start of summer, school holidays, and all the hope and optimism a new beginning unfolds. On the other hand, the taste of the Ugadi Pachadi is not everyone’s cup of tea. A look at the ingredients that go into the drink will quickly demonstrate why.

Briefly, these include raw mango, neem flower, jaggery, tamarind, salt and chilli — six ingredients that represent six different tastes, ranging from sour, bitter, sweet, tangy, salty and spicy respectively. Each of these ingredients is available in abundance during this season. 

Beyond the flavours, the ingredients also denote something more profound: the emotions that life evokes in us. Thus, jaggery represents happiness, neem flowers sorrow, tamarind denotes disgust while mango signals a surprise, green chillies indicate anger and salt fear. When you take a sip of the Ugadi Pachadi, the flavour or ingredient you taste first is said to signify the kind of year you will have. 

Everyone hopes for a taste of the sweet jaggery of course (and some parents cleverly prepare and serve the Pachadi in a way that the raw mango or jaggery is what their child will experience first). But even tasting the bitter or spicy notes should not be taken as a sign of impending misfortune — after all, life is about finding a balance between enduring these unpleasant experiences and savouring the blissful ones. Of cherishing love even amidst grief and sorrow.


To prepare the Ugadi Pachadi, you need:

1 teaspoon fresh or dry neem flowers.

1 small raw green mango, peeled and grated

1 small jaggery ball the size of a lemon.

1 tablespoon of tamarind paste or a small piece of tamarind soaked in water.

2-3 green chilies, chopped finely.

Pinch of salt (to taste)

1 cup of water

Start by preparing the neem flowers for use. In case of fresh flowers, wash thoroughly until clean, and then pat dry. If using dry flowers, soak them in water for a few minutes. 

Dissolve jaggery in a cup of water so it forms a syrup. Strain through a fine sieve until it is clear, without any impurities, and set aside.

Soak the tamarind in hot water for 10 minutes. Then, squeeze and strain the tamarind pulp to get the juice.

In a mixing/heat-proof bowl, add the mango pulp, green chillies, and half the neem flowers. Also add the tamarind water and jaggery syrup, then whisk to combine.

Set the bowl on the stove and let the mixture come to a boil. Season with salt, then take it off the flame and let the Pachadi sit for half an hour to infuse all the flavours.

Serve your loved ones, and share your best wishes for a fulfilling new year!