The first day of the year according to the National Calendar of Bharat (in some parts, the Shalivahana Shaka and in the rest, the Vikrama Samvat—corresponding to the era beginning 78 AD and 57 BC respectively) is significant both for its historical significance and for the advent of bountiful nature. The day falls in the beginning of spring – Vasanta Ritu—When the Goddess of Nature gets bedecked as a divine bride.
Since Bharat is a culturally rich and diverse country every State in Bharat celebrates its own new year. A view of how it is celebrated in different states:
Gudi Padwa marks the New Year for Maharashtrians and Konkanis. Lord Brahma is worshipped on this day and the gudi, Brahma’s flag (also called Brahmadhvaj), is hoisted in every house as a symbolic representation of Sri Ram’s victory over Ravan. The gudi is a bright yellow or green cloth adorned with brocade tied to the tip of a long pole of bamboo over which gathi or sugar crystals, neem leaves, a garland of red flowers and a twig of mango leave is tied. A copper or silver pot is placed in the inverted position over it. It is usually hoisted outside the house or on a window so that everybody can see it. Gudi is regarded as a symbol of victory and is believed to ward off evil, invite good luck and prosperity into the house.
Ugadi is derived from the name Yuga Adi which means ‘the beginning of a new age’.This day falls in the month of March–April (Chaitra).It is New Year’s day for people of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which marks the onset of spring. It is believed that Lord Brahma began creation of the universe on this day. A special prayer Panchanga Shravanam is performed at the temples. Traditional food called Ugadi Pachchadi (a dish with six grains) is served. The food symbolises happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear and surprise.
Rongali Bihu is celebrated as the Assamese New Year (around April 14–15). This marks the first day of the Hindu solar calendar. The first day of the Bihu is called Goru Bihu or Cow Bihu, where the cows are worshipped. The second day is called Manuh Bihu (human in Assamese). The third day is Gosai (Gods) Bihu. Bihu is the most important festival to the Assamese. This festival marks the change of season.
Puthandu also known as Varuda pirappu, is celebrated as New Year's Day in Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month Chithirai, which falls on April 14. It is said that on this day Goddess Meenakshi got married to Lord Sundareswar. Maanga Pachadi, a traditional delicacy made of raw mangoes, jaggery and neem flowers is eaten on this day. Other popular tradition of this festival is viewing Kanni at dawn. Kanni means ‘auspicious sight’ and by doing this, they believe they will receive good luck. People also start the day by watching auspicious items like jewelry, nuts, fruits, betel leaves, vegetables and flowers.
Vishu celebrated by people in Kerala and falls on the first day of the Malayalam month of Medam (mid-April). The word Vishu means ‘equal’. The most important aspect of Vishu is the first thing to see on the day of Vishu on waking up. They believe that what they see on Vishu in the morning is an indication of what they can expect in the year to come.
Cheiraoba also known as Sajibu Cheiraoba is a new year for the Meiteis in Manipur. It is celebrated every year on the first day of Sajibu month. Cheiraoba is celebrated on two different days – Sajibu Nongma Panba (first day of Sajibu by traditional Sanamahi Laeninglup) and on the day of Charak Pujah of Bengal (introduced by king Bhaeigyachandra Maharaja). The first one follows lunar calendar while the second one follows solar year astrologically. On this special day, they believe that Sidaba Laininthou will be staying on the altar of the house.
Navreh is the new year celebrated by people in Kashmir. They celebrate it on Chaitra Shukla Pratipada (first day of Chaitra month). On the eve of Navreh they keep a thali filled with rice, a silver coin, some walnuts, a cup of curds, an inkpot and a pen, a bread, and the Panchanga of the New Year, as their first objects to be seen at the Brahma Muhurta or the wee hours.
Mahabishuba Sankranti,is celebrated as the Oriya New Year. On this day, people offer Pana – a drink made of water, milk, curd and sugar or jaggery – to the Tulsi Plant, Lord Shiva and Shalagram and their deities in various temples of the State. During the festival one finds water pots placed on the roadsides to help the thirsty souls. Water is as also offered to animals and birds with equal enthusiasm. This Sankranti is also known as Jala Sankranti. Mahabishuba Sankranti generally falls on 13 or 14 April.
Bestu Varas is the New Year's Day for Gujaratis and falls on the day after Deepavali. Traditional Gujaratis follow Vikram Samwat. The day starts with heavy fire works. Houses are decorated with torans (door hangings) made from leaves of the mango tree and marigold flowers and make rangoli at the entrance to the house.
Cheti Chand is the Sindhi New Year which is celebrated on the 2nd day of Chaitra month. This auspicious day is also celebrated as the birth anniversary of Jhulelal – the patron saint of Sindhis. People visit Jhulelal temple in the morning. Traders like to open their new account books or ledgers on this auspicious day. People also worship water – the elixir of life.
Chaitti and Basoa are New Year festivals celebrated in Himachal Pradesh. Basoa is celebrated on the first day of Baisakh month and Chaitti is celebrated on April 14th. Little cakes are made with Kodra flour (a coarse grain) three days before the festival and are left to ferment. These cakes are eaten on first day of New Year along with honey.
Baisakhi falls on the April 13 each year (and 14 in every 36 years) – the first day of the year in the Nanakshahi Calendar. For the Sikh community, Baisakhi commemorates the day when the Guru eliminated caste differences and Khalsa Panth was founded in 1689 byGuru Gobind Singh.
Chaitra Pratipada Celebrated in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh on the first day of Chaitra i.e. the beginning of the Hindu New Year. It is said that Lord Brahma created the universe on this day.
Juir Sheetal also known as Pahil Baisakh is the celebration of the Maithili new year. This day usually falls on April 14th. This is also called Nirayana Mesh Sankranti in some regions of Mithila.
Pohela Boishakh falls on April 14th,the first day of Bengali calendar. This festival is celebrated in Bengal. It is celebrated in the hilly areas of Tripura too.
Losoong Sikkimese is the most popular festival of Sikkim, celebrated in the month of December. It marks as the end of harvesting season and the New Year for people of Sikkim. Chham Dance is one of the major attraction of festival.
Children, it is essential that we understand the religious fervor of our new years rather than blindly follow the western system. n Aniket Raja