Ugadi 2024: How Karnataka Celebrates Hosatodaku
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In the Deccan region of India, Ugadi  is celebrated as the New Year according to the Hindu calendar every year in states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra. The celebrations for this festival begin weeks in advance and this year it is celebrated on the 9th of April. For the kannada-speaking and meat-eating communities, especially the Gowdas, this festival is celebrated for two days where elaborate vegetarian meals are savoured along with the summer season's first batch of mangoes on Ugaadi, which is followed by Hosatodaku on the next day, which features an array of non-vegetarian meaty delicacies.

Ugadi Beyond Bevu Bella

In Karnataka, the festivities begin with the cleaning of houses, shopping for new clothes and more weeks in advance. On Ugadi, however, colourful rangolis are drawn in front of the house, mango leaves are tied at the door as a sign of inviting prosperity and a good harvest, and this is  followed by a ritual of an early morning oil bath in Hindu households across the state.

What begins by invoking the blessings of God and eating the 'bevu-bella' on Ugadi culminates in a hosatodaku feast of mutton and free-range country chicken delicacies the next day. Ugadi stresses the importance of the six-taste philosophy and the feast is prepared accordingly.

'Bevu-bella' is a mixture of bitter neem, jaggery, soaked dal, and raw mango, which is traditionally the first thing consumed on Ugadi, symbolising the belief that life encompasses a mixture of emotions, each akin to a different taste, and that these flavours must be equally savoured in a balanced way throughout the year ahead. 

Hosatodaku is a Kannada word that means new beginnings. And in Karnataka, it also calls for meaty celebrations at the beginning of a new year, a day after Ugadi every year. The non-vegetarian feast is a prominent aspect of this festival for the Vokkaligas and the Gowda communities. The hosatodaku feast is usually a lunch affair and features delicacies made from mutton, free-range country chicken, eggs, and fish, with rice and ragi being the staple accompaniments. The dishes are prepared using 'nati-style' or country-style cooking methods that incorporate spices and herbs heavily into these preparations. 

What is Gudde Maamsa?

People across the many villages of the state around Mandya, Mysore, Shimoga, Chitradurga, and Hassan save up money as a community months in advance to line up the goats for the festival. The leader of the village panchayat often takes the lead and assigns a team to make 'gudde maamsa' and distribute the meat equally to everyone in the village.

'Gudde maamsa' means heap of meat in Kannada. According to the tradition, the slaughtered goat is cut into pieces of equal size, nose-to-tail and piled up as many portions in a heap, which is later distributed to the villagers for their hosatodaku preparations. Each heap will have equal quantities of mutton and organs like the liver, intestines, etc. "At our village near Hiriyur, gudde maamsa is available for hosatodaku. Instead of contributing in advance for the meat, we split the expenses when the meat is distributed. We get about 1.5 to 2.5 kg of meat by spending about Rs. 1000–1500 that is fresh and used to prepare mutton curry, khaima unde, and more," says Gagan Gowda, who owns coconut farms in Hiriyur.

The jhataka-cut mutton is not only popular in rural areas but also in cities. While a one-kilo heap of mutton is available for around ₹850, people line up at popular meat stalls in the early hours of the morning on hosatodaku and wait for hours to buy their share of meat. In the villages around Mysore and Mandya, they are crazy about the Bannur mutton, which is a local breed that is packed with flavour and a lot of fat.

And on hosatodaku, just before lunch time, you can get an aromatic whiff of mutton curry or palav in almost every household that you can get by in the passing. "My mother has a standard menu for Hosatodaku's baadoota. She prepares a spicy mutton curry to go with steamed rice, naati-koli fry, mutton liver pepper fry, and rasam rice. The mutton liver pepper fry is my favourite from childhood," says Shweta Harish from Mysore.

The Hosatodaku Baadoota  

The meaty feast is called 'baadoota' in and around Mandya and the hosatodaku lunch is an elaborate one in the local households. While the aromas can make you salivate instantly, the lunch can comprise an array of meat delicacies. The rich curry can include mutton curry, mutton kaima unde saaru (minced meatball curry), naati koli saaru (free-range country chicken curry), or thale maamsa saaru, which is a curry made from the goat's head meat. The curry is accompanied by steamed rice, thatte idli or ragi balls. 

The meal further includes kaal soup (totters soup), mutton donne biryani, naati-koli fry or a free-range country chicken fry, deep-fried chicken kebab, pepper chicken fry,  freshwater fish fry in a red masala, liver pepper roast, kaima gojju made from minced meat ball, egg-boti fry or boti gojju, which is made from goat's intestines, a slice of boiled egg and a glass of spiced buttermilk.

If you can still go on, there might be a sago payasam or sabbakki payasa, holige, or gasa gase payasa (poppyseed payasam), followed by a banana and a paan to finish off the meal. After a lunch as big as this, one might find it hard to fight a nap or siesta. The aromas of the spices and meat linger not only on your finger tips for a day or two but on your palate for weeks after this hearty meal.

"When we visit the local farmers' houses in Pandavapura upon invitation for hosatodaku lunch, I make sure that I do not eat breakfast that day. The mutton curry they prepare goes well with white rice or thatte idly. The hospitality of the people is overwhelming and the portions they serve are generous to all guests that visit their homes on this day. We walk out not only with full bellies but also with a full heart," says Jeeth, a ranger forest officer in the Mandya region.

Hosatodaku's baadoota is usually served on a sal or plantain leaf and is enjoyed by all the senses. The glossy meat fries, biryani and mutton curry are a sight to see for sore eyes. The aroma from the curries, fry and other delicacies of the spread causes salivation while stomachs begin to churn in anticipation. The sound of the gravies boiling or the crunch of the crispy kebab may seem like music to anybody's ears. The cooked mutton pieces falling off the bone while the steam escapes when the meat separates to the touch makes the baadoota a complete sensory experience that could leave you in a food coma for the rest of the day.

Even in the cities where it is as easy as placing an order online to source the mutton on the day of the festival, one can see people queing up at the meat stalls from 7 AM in the morning to purchase meat upon careful inspection and giving specific instructions to get the cut and quality of their choice. And those who have no time to purchase and prepare can still visit or take their families for a nati-style meal at various restaurants like Hosatodaku or Karnatic in Bengaluru; RRR or Hanumanthu in Mysore, and so on.