Ugadi Pachadi: History Of Unique Festival Food From South
Image Credit: Ugadi Pachadi | Image Credit:

Ugadi is, of course, a prominent festival in the south of India, especially in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. In fact, we’d wager to say that this is on par with Deepavali even. That’s how huge a deal it is in these states. Depending on when exams are, it is a holiday we look forward to most or least. So, I can already tell you that my feelings about this holiday are gloriously mixed. Not unlike the pachadi that symbolizes the festival. What exactly is it? Let’s find out.  

Yugaadi or Ugadi literally comes from the Sanskrit words Yuga and Aadi, meaning the beginning of a new era. It is the first day of the month of Chaitra, the first month of the Hindu calendar. Chet, Chittirai, and Choitro are all versions of the same word, all symbolizing the beginning of a new year. Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham is the overarching feeling that a lot of cultures across the country have adopted to herald the new year. No wonder then that one of the rituals of most South Indian and Maharashtrian households (where it is celebrated as Gudi Padwa) on Yugaadi day is to eat a mixture of neem flowers (bitter) and jaggery (sweet) to inculcate equanimity with whatever life may throw at us in the new year.  

Pachadi is an extension of this very symbolism. A staple of Telugu households during the festival. As Vasudha Narayanan, professor of religion at the University of Florida, puts it, "The pacchadi festive dish symbolically reminds the people that the following year—as all of life—will consist of not just sweet experiences but a combination of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter episodes. Just as the different substances are bound together, one is reminded that no event or episode is wholly good or bad. Even in the midst of bitter experiences, there are sweet moments. 

One is also reminded that the experience of taste is transitory and ephemeral; so too is life, and one has to learn to put pain and pleasure in proper temporal perspective." It is a chutney-like dish that incorporates ‘shadruchulu,' meaning six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter, and astringence (or what they call vagaru). It is made from tamarind paste (sour), neem flowers (bitter), brown sugar or sweet jaggery (sweet), table salt (salt), green chilies (spicy), and raw mango (astringent)—a culinary reminder of what to expect from the rest of the year. The sourness of the tamarind is a reminder of the unpleasantness in life that may be inevitable; the sweetness of the jaggery indicates the opposite, which is joy and happiness. The astringent taste of the raw mango is for surprise, while the bitterness of the neem is for sadness. Salt indicates fear and black pepper the anger that we may all feel for reasons justified or unjustified. 

The point is that we experience a complex tapestry of emotions, however mundane our lives might be, and pachadi is a reminder of that, and an even bigger reminder for us all to take all these emotions in our stride.

Here is an easy recipe from Dassana’s for you to try out this Ugadi staple: 


    1 teaspoon tamarind 

    Half a cup of water—for soaking the tamarind—and a quarter cup to add later 

    Quarter cup grated or chopped jaggery 

    1 raw mango cup, finely chopped 

    1 tablespoon of neem flowers 

    A big pinch of black pepper powder  

    A big pinch of salt  


Soak tamarind in water for about an hour. Then squeeze the tamarind pulp and keep it aside. In a bowl, add this tamarind pulp. Add another third of a cup of water to the bowl containing the tamarind extract or pulp. Add the chopped jaggery. Mix very well with a spoon so that all of the jaggery dissolves. Then add the finely chopped raw mangoes and neem flowers. Season with salt and black pepper powder. Mix very well. Your pachadi is ready.  

Yugadi is the beginning of a new year, and Pachadi is its most balanced metaphor. We at Slurrp hope that you will consume all the interesting recipes from around the world that we bring to you—the sour and spicy, the sweet and salty. The new year is also a reminder to all of us that life goes on and that each year is what we make of it. We cannot let one taste be the dominant theme of our palates, and so it is that we cannot let one emotion dominate our lives. All taste is transient, and so is emotion. This too shall pass, for there will only be something else, perhaps something more interesting. Just like every bite of the pachadi you take. Who knows what you’ll bite into? And that’s the fun of it all.